Monday, January 5, 2009

SF authors born 1864-73: 1867

1. A.E. (George William Russell)
2. E.F. Benson
3. Gustave Le Rouge


A.E. (George William Russell, 1867-1935)

George William Russell, who wrote under the pseudonym Æ (sometimes written AE or A.E.), was an Irish nationalist, writer, editor, critic, poet, and painter. He was also a mystical writer, and centre of a group of followers of theosophy in Dublin, for many years.

Russell was born in Lurgan, County Armagh. His family moved to Dublin when he was eleven. He was educated at Rathmines School and the Metropolitan School of Art, where he began a lifelong friendship with William Butler Yeats. He started working as a draper’s clerk. Then worked many years for the Irish Agricultural Organization Society (IAOS), an agricultural co-operative movement founded by Horace Plunkett in 1894. The two came together in 1897 when the co-operative movement was eight years old. Plunkett needed an able organiser and W. B. Yeats suggested Russell, who became Assistant Secretary of the IAOS.

He was an able lieutenant and traveled extensively throughout Ireland as a spokesman for the society, mainly responsible for developing the credit societies and establishing co-operative banks in the south and west of the country whose numbers rose to 234 by 1910. The pair made a good team each gaining much from the association with the other.

Russell was editor from 1905-1923 of The Irish Homestead, the journal of the IAOS, and infused it with vitality that made it famous half the world over. His gifts as a writer and publicist gained him a wide influence in the cause of agricultural co-operation. He was also editor of the The Irish Statesman from 15 September 1923 until 12 April 1930. He used the pseudonym "AE", or more properly, "Æ". This derived from an earlier Æ'on signifying the lifelong quest of man, subsequently shortened.

His first book of poems, Homeward: Songs by the Way (1894), established him in what was known as the Irish Literary Revival, where Æ met the young James Joyce in 1902, and introduced him to other Irish literary figures, including William Butler Yeats, to whom he was close. He appears as a character in the "Scylla and Charybdis" episode of Joyce's Ulysses, where he dismisses Stephen's theories on Shakespeare. His collected poems appeared in 1913, with a second edition in 1926.

His house in Rathgar Avenue in Dublin became a meeting-place at the time for everyone interested in the economic and artistic future of Ireland. His interests were wide-ranging, he became a theosophist and wrote extensively on politics and economics, while continuing to paint and write poetry. Æ claimed to be a clairvoyant, able to view various kinds of spiritual beings, which he illustrated in paintings and drawings. The keynote of his work may be found in a motto from the Bhagavadgita prefixed to one of his earlier poems "I am Beauty itself among beautiful things."

* THE AVATARS: A FUTURIST FANTASY. London: The Macmillan Company, 1933. "set in a future Ireland, [AE's mystical] agenda comes to life in the form of two supernal beings who hauntingly invoke a vision of a world less abandoned to materialism, and thus draw the protagonists to "the margin of the Great Deep", as Monk Gibbon puts it..." (Encyclopedia of SF)


E.F. Benson (1867-1942)

British writer, son of (later) Archbishop of Canterbury. Important Edwardian writer of supernatural fiction.

* "The Superannuation Department A.D. 1945" (Windsor Magazine, January 1906). Because of overpopulation, since 1925 the government has systematically weeded out the old and useless. When an older individual's value to society is questioned, the bureau sends him a Superannuation Form. It asks: Are you useful (productive)? Are you beautiful? Are you morally better than you were a year ago? Are you contributing to happiness in other ways? Are you likely to be an object of beauty? Are you happy? Those who fail to answer affirmatively, and convincingly, are euthanized. Hello, Wild in the Streets and Logan's Run... and also Sol Roth (Edward G. Robinson), the former professor who chooses euthanasia in Soylent Green.

* "'And the Dead Spake—'" (George H. Doran: New York, 1923). Story issued, with "The Horror Horn" in a 1923 edition. During WWI, the surgeon and research psychologist Sir James Horton is working on a needle and amplifying apparatus that will "read" the brain's grooves and notches, thereby retrieving memories.

* "The Horror Horn" (Munsey's Magazine, November 1922). Story issued, with "'And the Dead Spake—'" in a 1923 edition. An Englishman recalls seeing the abominable snowman on a Swiss mountain known as the Horror Horn, some 20 years earlier; he reports that they are quasi-human. Then, he gets chased down the same mountain by a pair of the creatures.


Gustave Le Rouge (1867-1938)

A prolific French writer who embodied the evolution of modern SF at the beginning of the 20th century, by moving it away from the juvenile adventures of Jules Verne and incorporating real people into his stories, thereby bridging the gap between Vernian and Wellsian science fiction.

Le Rouge burst onto the literary scene with La Conspiration des Milliardaires (The Billionaires' Conspiracy, 1899-1900), co-written with Gustave Guitton, in which American billionaire William Boltyn uses Thomas Edison's "Metal Men" and the power of mediums to try to become master of the world. Le Rouge and Guitton produced two more novels in the same vein, La princesse des airs (The Princess of the Skies, 1902) and Le sous-marin Jules Verne (The Submarine Jules Verne, 1903).

After they quarreled and went their separate ways, Le Rouge continued to produce solo fiction such as L'Espionne du Grand Lama (1906), which introduced a Lost World inhabited by prehistoric creatures and La Reine des Éléphants (The Queen of Elephants, 1906), which featured a society of intelligent elephants.

Le Rouge's masterpiece was Le Prisonnier de la Planète Mars (1908) and its sequel, La Guerre des Vampires (1909), a Martian Odyssey in which French engineer Robert Darvel is dispatched to Mars by the psychic powers of Hindu Brahmins. On the Red Planet, Darvel runs afoul of hostile, bat-winged, blood-sucking natives, a once-powerful civilization now ruled by the Great Brain. The entity eventually sends Darvel back to Earth, unfortunately with some of the vampires. The second volume deals with the war of the vampires back on Earth. Planetary romance blends with "cosmic horror" as the characters switch from swashbuckling he-men to helpless bundles of gibbering terror.

Le Rouge's classic mad scientist/conspiracy saga is Le Mystérieux Docteur Cornelius (1912-13). Cornelius Kramm and his brother, Fritz, rule an international criminal empire called the Red Hand. Cornelius is a brilliant cosmetic surgeon nicknamed the "Sculptor of Human Flesh" for his ability to alter people's likenesses. The Red Hand's growing, global, evil influence eventually causes the creation of an alliance of heroes, led by Dr. Prosper Bondonnat, billionaire William Dorgan and Lord Burydan, who band together to fight and, ultimately, defeat them.


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