A version of this post originally appeared at the Boston Globe blog Brainiac, on 4/28/08.
I've decided to call those Americans born between 1904 and 1913 "Partisans" after Partisan Review, a journal founded in 1934 in New York by William Phillips (b. 1907) and Philip Rahv (1908). In '38, Partisan Review was relaunched by Rahv, Phillips, and three other members of their generational cohort: Dwight Macdonald (1906), F.W. Dupee (1904), and George L.K. Morris (1905). It became the most influential literary-political journal of both the prewar anti-Stalinist Left (a.k.a. the New York Intellectuals), and the postwar era's chastened liberals and early neoconservatives.
I've identified the following 19th- and 20th-century European and American generational cohorts, each of which gave us important Radium-Age SF authors: Prometheans (1844-53) | Plutonians (1854-63) | Anarcho-Symbolists (1864-73) | Psychonauts (1874-83) | New Kids (1884-93) | Hardboileds (1894-1903) | Partisans (1904-13). I've also reinvented more recent generational cohorts: New Gods (1914-23) | Postmoderns (1924-33) | Anti-Anti-Utopians (1934-43) | Baby Boomers (1944-53) | OGXers (Original Generation X) (1954-63) | PCers (1964-73) | Netters (1974-83) | Millennials (1984-93)
Older Partisans came of age at the height of the Roaring Twenties, a period of economic prosperity; laissez faire capitalism had found its true home in America. Thanks to rapid urbanization, for the first time in American history, the population of cities surpassed the population of rural areas. Nothing seemed impossible: television, talking pictures, nonstop transatlantic flights, new land-speed records, frozen food, color cartoons, long-playing records. Prohibition gave rise to speakeasies, which gave rise to the Jazz Age.
Younger Partisans, however, became adults just as the US stock market collapsed, and the Great Depression began. Communists forecast the Death of Capitalism, while Roosevelt's New Deal used government spending — on programs including the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, the Civil Works Administration, the Public Works Administration, the Works Progress Administration, and the Civilian Conservation Corps — to restore faith in American democracy at a time when many people believed that the only choice left was between communism and fascism. The Social Security Act of 1935 was the beginning of a permanent, expanding national program. Organized labor began unionizing the mass production industries, with great success.
Meanwhile, young Americans enlisted to fight on the side of the socialists, communists, liberals, and anarchists in the Spanish Civil War. As Continental Europe succumbed to authoritarian and totalitarian regimes, European artists and intellectuals fled to America. Two years after Germany's invasion of Poland in 1939 touched off World War II, and just a few days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, America abandoned neutrality. By the end of the Thirties (1943), the US was ready for war.
Thanks to the Partisans, the Thirties and Forties were a kind of apex not only for American intellectual life, but for American pop culture. Most of Hollywood's golden-age directors (of noir, screwball comedies, and more), a number of whom were refugees from WWII Europe, are Partisans. So are everybody's favorite silver-screen apemen and wolfmen, private eyes and fast-talking dames, dancing scarecrows and yodeling cowboys, not to mention most of the actors who would portray villains on the 1960s Batman show. Plus: The early New Yorker's greatest writers and cartoonists.
Radical politics and an autonomous, experimental, American modernist art were only two of the many possibilities championed by members of this generation. Not only were they Abstract Expressionists and New York Intellectuals, the Partisans were pioneers of big band swing, the Dixieland revival, and the Delta blues;; as well as structuralist anthropology and literary theory. Within the Partisan cohort we find the inventors of the atom bomb, the Skinner box, LSD, Scientology, the instant photo, and the perfect popcorn. We also find the creators of such iconic pop culture characters as Daffy Duck, Tom & Jerry, Bugs Bunny, Flash Gordon, Conan the Barbarian, Shrek, and the Grinch.
Radium-Age SF writers from this generation include:
* John W. Campbell Jr. ("The Black Star Passes," "Invaders from the Infinite," became the most influential Golden-Age SF editor)
* Jack Williamson ("The Metal Man," The Girl from Mars)
* Robert E. Howard ("Skull-Face," "The Moon of Skulls")
* Eando Binder (Earl Andrew Binder & Otto Oscar Binder, "The First Martian").
NB: Edmond Hamilton is an honorary Hardboiled.
Golden-Age ONLY SF writers from this generation include:
* Lester Dent (Doc Savage series starts in '33), Robert A. Heinlein, Fritz Lieber, L. Sprague de Camp, L. Ron Hubbard, Fredric Brown, Jack Finney, Nelson S. Bond, Ross Rocklynne, Clifford D. Simak, Alfred Bester, C.L. Moore, A.E. van Vogt, A. Bertram Chandler, Eric Frank Russell, Ayn Rand (Atlas Shrugged, Anthem), Samuel Beckett (Endgame), Hergé (The Shooting Star), Pierre Boulle (Planet of the Apes), Louis L'Amour (The Haunted Mesa), Mervyn Peake (Gormenghast), B.F. Skinner (Walden Two). Honorary Partisan SF writer: George Orwell (1984). Other Partisans include Joseph Campbell, Alex Raymond (Flash Gordon), and Buster Crabbe, without all of whom no Star Wars.
PS: Al Capp's "The Time Capsule," a genuine SF adventure starring Li'l Abner, appeared in Satellite (August 1957).
PS: William S. Burroughs and Donald A. Wollheim, who would push Golden Age SF — by the likes of Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, and Philip José Farmer — into strange new territories, and who decisively influenced the following (postmodern) generation of SF authors, were born immediately after the Partisan cohort, in 1914. Doesn't that seem to prove the usefulness of my periodization scheme?
Meet the Partisans.
1904: S. J. Perelman, Jimmy Dorsey, Count Basie, Isamu Noguchi, Glenn Miller, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Russel Wright, Coleman Hawkins, Ray Bolger, Pretty Boy Floyd, Meyer Schapiro, B. F. Skinner, Joseph Campbell, Clifford D. Simak, Theodor Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss), Fats Waller, Peter Arno, F.W. Dupee, Johnny Weissmuller, George Stevens, Ralph Bellamy, Tricky Sam Nanton, Phil Harris, Robert Oppenheimer, Robert Montgomery, Isaac Bashevis Singer. Elsewhere: Cary Grant, Deng Xiaoping, John Gielgud, Edgar G. Ulmer, Greer Garson, Cecil Beaton, George Balanchine, Willem de Kooning, Ernst Mayr, Pablo Neruda, Earl Andrew Binder (American SF writer). Honorary Hardboileds: James T. Farrell, Graham Greene, Frank Gruber, Joan Crawford, Peter Lorre, Salvador Dali, Edmond Hamilton (SF author).
1905: Lionel Trilling, Lillian Hellman, John O'Hara, Henry Fonda, Eddie Anderson, Bob Wills, Arthur Crudup, Ernie Bushmiller, Howard Hughes, Tommy Dorsey, Jack Teagarden, Robert Penn Warren, Eddie Condon, Diana Trilling, Agnes de Mille, Kenneth Rexroth, Friz Freleng, Barnett Newman, Lois Mailou Jones, Anna May Wong, Myrna Loy, Arthur Lake, Clara Bow, Joseph Cotten, Thelma Ritter. Elsewhere: Ayn Rand, Greta Garbo, Jean-Paul Sartre, Otto Preminger, Robert Donat, Ray Milland, Christian Dior, Maria von Trapp, Albert Speer, Elias Canetti, Anthony Powell, Eric Frank Russell.
1906: Dwight Macdonald, Harold Rosenberg, Anthony Mann, Clifford Odets, Carol Reed, Ed Gein, Grace Hopper, William Bendix, Janet Gaynor, Bugsy Siegel, Janet Gaynor, John Carradine, Josephine Baker, Estée Lauder, Fredric Brown, Louise Brooks, Wild Bill Davison, Nelson Goodman, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Eddie Albert, Lou Costello, Robert E. Howard (SF & Fantasy writer), Lon Chaney, Jr., Satchel Paige, Ozzie Nelson, Victoria Spivey. Elsewhere: Hannah Arendt, Emmanuel Levinas, Aristotle Onassis, Billy Wilder, Roberto Rossellini, Samuel Beckett, Jacques Becker, Albert Hofmann, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Madeleine Carroll, Henny Youngman, Adolf Eichmann, Kurt Godel, T. H. White, John Betjeman, Imam Hassan al Banna, Luchino Visconti, Leonid Brezhnev.
1907: William Phillips, Barbara Stanwyck, Rachel Carson, Cab Calloway, Katharine Hepburn, John Wayne, James A. Michener, Rosalind Russell, Jessamyn West, Cesar Romero, Buster Crabbe, Robert A. Heinlein, Sunnyland Slim, Milton Caniff, William Shawn, Orville Redenbacher, Gene Autry, William Steig, Burgess Meredith, L. Sprague de Camp, Jimmie Foxx, Charles Alston, Don the Beachcomber. Elsewhere: W.H. Auden, Hergé, Frida Kahlo, Mircea Eliade, Jean Hippolyte, Baldur von Schirach, Laurence Olivier, René Char, Fay Wray, Maurice Blanchot, Run Run Shaw, Astrid Lindgren, Jacques Tati, Jacques Barzun, Peggy Ashcroft.
1908: Philip Rahv, Bette Davis, Richard Wright, Lyndon B. Johnson, Jack Williamson (SF writer), Edward R. Murrow, Louis L'Amour, Theodore Roethke, Buddy Ebsen, Lee Krasner, Carole Lombard, Lionel Hampton, William Maxwell, Ethel Merman, C. Vann Woodward, Nelson S. Bond, Joseph Mitchell, Fred MacMurray, James Stewart, Abraham Maslow, Joseph McCarthy, Mel Blanc, Tex Avery, Milton Berle, Leon "Chu" Berry, Thurgood Marshall. Elsewhere: Arthur Adamov, Anna Magnani, Rex Harrison, Simone de Beauvoir, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, David Lean, Edward Teller, Daisy and Violet Hilton, Michael Redgrave, Ian Fleming, Henri Cartier-Bresson, John Kenneth Galbraith, Claude Lévi-Strauss.
1909: Clement Greenberg, Benny Goodman, James Agee, Lester Young, Nelson Algren, Wallace Stegner, Eudora Welty, Herschel Evans, Barry Goldwater, Bukka White, Gene Krupa, Ann Sothern, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, Alex Raymond, Dean Rusk, Art Tatum, Hugh Beaumont, Wallace Stegner, John Fante, Edwin H. Land, Moon Mullican, Mother Maybelle Carter, Burl Ives, Leo Fender, Al Capp (US cartoonist Alfred Gerald Caplin, Li'l Abner), Kay Thompson, Eve Arden, Vivian Vance. Elsewhere: Simone Weil, Isaiah Berlin, Malcolm Lowry, Albert R. Broccoli, Eugène Ionesco, Elia Kazan, Errol Flynn, Stanislaw Ulam, Carmen Miranda, James Mason, Jessica Tandy, Colonel Tom Parker, Michael Rennie, Francis Bacon, Victor Borge.
1910: Lionel Abel, Paul Bowles, Howlin' Wolf, Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker, Louis Prima, Shep Fields, Franz Kline, Wright Morris, Big Joe Turner, Fritz Lieber, Paul Sweezy, Russell Lynes, Dizzy Dean, Joan Bennett, John W. Campbell Jr., Charles Olson, Spade Cooley, Dorothea Tanning, Gloria Stuart, Mae Clarke, Mary Wickes, Scatman Crothers, Artie Shaw, T-Bone Walker, E.G. Marshall, William Hanna, John H. Hammond. Elsewhere: Jean Genet, A.J. Ayer, Akira Kurosawa, Diana Mitford, Eero Saarinen, Django Reinhardt, David Niven, Jacques-Yves Cousteau, Mother Teresa.
1911: Robert Johnson, Tennessee Williams, Paul Goodman, Louise Bourgeois, Buck Clayton, Ronald Reagan, Babe Zaharias, Ginger Rogers, Elizabeth Bishop, Martin Denny, Gypsy Rose Lee, Hugh Marlowe, L. Ron Hubbard, Lucille Ball, Maureen O'Sullivan, Kenneth Patchen, Roy Rogers, John Sturges, Butterfly McQueen, C. L. Moore, Roy Eldridge, Lee Falk, Jack Finney, Jean Harlow, Phil Silvers, Joseph Barbera, Jack Ruby, Hubert H. Humphrey, Vincent Price, Spike Jones, Bernard Herrmann, Mitch Miller, LaVerne Andrews, Jane Wyatt, Romare Bearden, Ruth Hussey, Lee J. Cobb, Kenneth Patchen, Nicholas Ray, Robert Taylor, Otto Oscar Binder (American SF author). Elsewhere: Emil Cioran, Josef Mengele, Flann O'Brien, J.L. Austin, Czeslaw Milosz, Mervyn Peake, Hume Cronyn, Marshall McLuhan, William Golding, Nino Rota.
1912: Woody Guthrie, Mary McCarthy, Jackson Pollock, Milton Friedman, Gene Kelly, Samuel Fuller, John Cheever, Don Siegel, Julia Child, Studs Terkel, Doris Wishman, Charles Addams, Teddy Wilson, Chuck Jones, Lady Bird Johnson, Barbara Tuchman, John Cage, Lightnin' Hopkins, Pat Nixon, Bayard Rustin, Karl Malden, Archibald Cox, Sam Snead, Ben Hogan, Perry Como, Jay Silverheels, Art Linkletter, Minnie Pearl, Gordon Parks, Richard Brooks. Elsewhere: Michelangelo Antonioni, Northrop Frye, Kim Philby, Jacques Ellul, José Ferrer, Eva Braun, Pierre Boulle, Lawrence Durrell, Wernher von Braun, Sonja Henie, Kim Il-sung, A. E. van Vogt, Alan Turing, Pope John Paul I, Franz Jakubowski.
1913: Muddy Waters, Delmore Schwartz, Rosa Parks, William Barrett, Richard Nixon, Frank Tashlin, Danny Kaye, Jimmy Hoffa, Bob Crosby, Jimmy Preston, Lloyd Bridges, Ross Rocklynne, Loretta Young, Jim Backus, William Casey, Richard Helms, Walt Kelly, Frankie Laine, Oleg Cassini, Tyrone Power, Woody Herman, William Reddington Hewlett, David Packard, Dorothy Kilgallen, Red Skelton, W. Mark Felt (Deep Throat), Frances Farmer, John M. Mitchell, Mickey Cohen, Stanley Kramer, Robert Capa, John Garfield, Mary Martin, Victor Mature. Elsewhere: Albert Camus, Anthony Quayle, Max Kaminsky, Philip Guston, Mary Leakey, Paul Ricoeur, Robertson Davies, Menachem Begin, Peter Cushing, Trevor Howard, Vivien Leigh, Benjamin Britten, Hedy Lamarr, Stewart Granger, Lucien Goldmann. Honorary New Gods: Joe Simon, Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush, Alan Ladd, Burt Lancaster, Cordwainer Smith, Vince Lombardi, Jesse Owens, Alfred Bester, maybe Ralph Ellison.
HONORARY PARTISANS: Cornell Woolrich, George Orwell, John Dillinger, Mark Rothko, maybe T.W. Adorno and Cyril Connolly (all 1903). Daniel J. Boorstin, Howard Fast, Marguerite Duras, Julio Cortazar, Dylan Thomas (all 1914).
PARTISANS WHO ARE HONORARY HARDBOILEDS: James T. Farrell, Graham Greene, Edmond Hamilton, Frank Gruber, Joan Crawford, Peter Lorre, Salvador Dali.
PARTISANS WHO ARE HONORARY NEW GODS: Joe Simon, Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush, Alan Ladd, Burt Lancaster, Cordwainer Smith, Vince Lombardi, Jesse Owens, Alfred Bester, maybe Ralph Ellison.