Thursday, January 1, 2009

SF authors born 1874-83: 1875a

1. John Buchan
2. Maurice Renard
3. Perley Poore Sheehan
4. Arthur Train

For Edgar Rice Burroughs, click here.


John Buchan (1875-1940)

John Buchan, 1st Baron Tweedsmuir GCMG GCVO CH PC, was a British novelist, best known for his novel The Thirty-nine Steps, and Unionist politician who served as Governor General of Canada. He is also noted for his horror fiction, including the novel Witch Wood, and the stories Skule Skerry, The Wind in the Portico and The Green Wildebeest.

After attending Hutchesons' Grammar School, Buchan won a scholarship to the University of Glasgow where he studied Classics and wrote poetry and first became a published author. He then studied Literae Humaniores at Brasenose College, Oxford, winning the Newdigate prize for poetry. He had a genius for friendship which he retained all his life. His friends at Oxford included Hilaire Belloc, Raymond Asquith and Aubrey Herbert.

Buchan at first entered into a career in law in 1901, but almost immediately moved into politics, becoming private secretary to British colonial administrator Alfred Milner, who was High Commissioner for South Africa, Governor of Cape Colony and colonial administrator of Transvaal and the Orange Free State—Buchan gained an acquaintance with the country that was to feature prominently in his writing. On his return to London, he became a partner in a publishing company while he continued to write books. Buchan married Susan Charlotte Grosvenor (1882-1977), cousin of the Duke of Westminster, on July 15, 1907. Together they had four children, two of whom would spend most of their lives in Canada.

In 1910, he wrote Prester John, the first of his adventure novels, set in South Africa. In 1911, he first suffered from duodenal ulcers, an illness he would give to one of his characters in later books. He also entered politics running as a Tory candidate for a Border constituency. During this time Buchan supported Free Trade, woman's suffrage, national insurance and curtailing the power of the House of Lords. However he opposed the Liberal reforms of 1905-1915 and what he considered the "class hatred" fostered by demagogic Liberals like David Lloyd George.

During World War I, he wrote for the War Propaganda Bureau and was a correspondent for The Times in France. In 1915, he published his most famous book The Thirty-nine Steps, a spy thriller set just before the outbreak of World War I, featuring his hero Richard Hannay, who was based on a friend from South African days, Edmund Ironside. The following year he published a sequel Greenmantle. In 1916, he joined the British Army Intelligence Corps where as a 2nd Lieutenant he wrote speeches and communiques for Sir Douglas Haig.

In 1917, he returned to Britain where he became Director of Information under Lord Beaverbrook. After the war he began to write on historical subjects as well as continuing to write thrillers and historical novels. Buchan's 100 works include nearly 30 novels and seven collections of short stories. He also wrote biographies of Sir Walter Scott, Caesar Augustus, and Oliver Cromwell, and was awarded the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for his biography of James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose, but the most famous of his books were the spy thrillers and it is probably for these that he is now best remembered. The "last Buchan" (as Graham Greene entitled his appreciative review) is Sick Heart River (American title: Mountain Meadow), 1941, in which a dying protagonist confronts in the Canadian wilderness the questions of the meaning of life.

The Thirty-nine Steps was filmed by Alfred Hitchcock in 1935 as The 39 Steps, starring Robert Donat as Richard Hannay, but the story was much altered. Later films included a 1959 version (also called The 39 Steps) starring Kenneth More, which took even greater liberties with the story; and a 1978 version (The Thirty Nine Steps), starring Robert Powell, which was the closest to the original novel. In 2008, Rupert Penry-Jones portrayed Hannay in a BBC television movie, set in 1914 and which restored several plot elements ignored by earlier versions (such as the identity of the eponymous steps).

In the mid-1920s, Buchan was living in Elsfield near Oxford - Robert Graves, who was living in nearby Islip, mentions Colonel Buchan recommending him for a lecturing position at the newly founded Cairo University in Egypt. Buchan became president of the Scottish Historical Society. He was twice Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and in a 1927 by-election was elected a Scottish Unionist MP for the Scottish Universities. Politically, he was of the Unionist-Nationalist Tradition that believed in Scotland's promotion as a nation within the British Empire and once remarked "I believe every Scotsman should be a Scottish nationalist. If it could be proved that a Scottish parliament were desirable...Scotsmen should support it". The effects of depression in Scotland and the subsequent high emigration also led him to say "We do not want to be like the Greeks, powerful and prosperous wherever we settle, but with a dead Greece behind us" (Hansard, November 24, 1932). During the early months of the Second World War, Buchan read John Morley's Life of Gladstone, which had a profound impact on him. He believed Gladstone had taught people to combat materialism, complacency and authoritarianism; he wrote to H. A. L. Fisher, Stair Gillon and Gilbert Murray that he was "becoming a Gladstonian Liberal". The insightful quotation "It's a great life, if you don't weaken" is also famously attributed to him. Another memorable quote is "No great cause is ever lost or won, The battle must always be renewed, And the creed must always be restated."

Buchan's branch of the Free Church of Scotland joined the Church of Scotland in 1929. He was an active elder of St Columba's Church, London and of the Oxford Presbyterian parish. In 1933–4 he was lord high commissioner to the church's general assembly.

In 1935 he became Governor General of Canada and was created Baron Tweedsmuir of Elsfield in the County of Oxford. Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King had wanted him to go to Canada as a commoner, but King George V insisted on being represented by a peer.

* The Moon Endureth: Tales and Fancies (Blackwood: Edinburgh, 1912). Stories and poems. Including "Atta's Song — Space." SF?

* The Gap in the Curtain (Hodder Stoughton: London, 1932). It is borderline science fiction. Six stories, interconnected — a novel? At a country house, five guests gather and are chosen by a brilliant scientist to take part in a shocking experiment which will let them glimpse one year into the future. However, when the experiment takes place, two of the guests see their own obituaries in The Times one year after. Will they be able to change their destinies? Part of the action is clearly autobiographical, including featuring the agonies of a contemporary up and coming politician.


Maurice Renard (TK)

French writer, author of many SF books (not all translated into English?). According to some, the most significant French writer in the genre between the Victorians and the moderns.

Maurice Renard was the author of the archetypal mad scientist novel Le Docteur Lerne - Sous-Dieu [Dr. Lerne - Undergod] (1908), which he dedicated to H. G. Wells. In it, a Doctor Moreau-like mad scientist performs organ transplants not between men and animals, but also between plants and even machines.

Renard’s 1912 novel, Le Péril Bleu [The Blue Peril], which many consider to be his masterpiece, postulates the existence of unimaginable, invisible creatures who lived in the upper strata of the atmosphere and fish for men the way men captured fish. These aliens, dubbed “Sarvants” by the human scientists who discover them, feel threatened by our incursions into space the way men would be threatened by an invasion of crabs, and retaliate by capturing men, keeping them in a space zoo and studying them. Eventually, when the Sarvants come to the realization that men are intelligent, they release their captives. Le Péril Bleu predates Charles Fort’s Book of the Damned (1919) and retains a humanistic and tolerant rather than fearful and xenophobic philosophy.

In 1920, Renard wrote the classic Les Mains d'Orlac [The Hands of Orlac], in which a virtuoso pianist receives the transplanted hands of a murderer and turns into a killer himself. The book was thrice adapted to film as Orlacs Hände (1924) with Conrad Veidt, Mad Love (1935) with Colin Clive and Peter Lorre, and The Hands of Orlac (1962) with Mel Ferrer and Christopher Lee.

L'Homme Truqué [The Phony Man] (1923) features the graft of “electroscopic” eyes onto a man blinded during World War I. The result is the strange description of a world perceived through artificial senses.

L'Homme Qui Voulait Être Invisible [The Man Who Wanted To Be Invisible] (1923) deals with the issue of invisibility; in it, Renard exposes the scientific fallacy inherent in Wells’ famous novel. Since, in order to function, the human eye must perform as an opaque dark room, any truly invisible man would also be blind!

In the controversial Le Singe [The Monkey] (1925), written with Albert Jean, Renard imagined the creation of artificial lifeforms through the process of “radiogenesis”, a sort of human electrocopying or cloning process. The novel was ferociously attacked by the Roman Catholic press, which saw it as sacrilegious, and blacklisted by public libraries.

Un Homme chez les Microbes: Scherzo [A Man Amongst The Microbes: Scherzo] (1928) was one of the first scientific novels on the theme of miniaturization, and one of the first to introduce the concept of a micro-world where atoms were microscopic solar systems with planets, etc. Renard’s hero submits himself willingly to a shrinking process that eventually ran out of control. As in Richard Matheson’s 1956 classic, The Incredible Shrinking Man, the hero is then attacked by various insects, etc., before eventually arriving on an electron-size planet, where scientifically-advanced people are able to reverse the process and send him home.

Finally, Le Maître de la Lumière [The Light Master] (1947) anticipated Bob Shaw’s notorious slow glass by introducing the concept of a glass that condenses time.

Because of his understanding and knowledge of the genre, Maurice Renard could have been a major literary breakthrough figure, comparable to Arthur C. Clarke or Isaac Asimov. Instead, because of conservative pressures and the French context, he remained a minor writer, known only to specialists.

[edit] Selected Bibliography

* Fantômes et Fantôches [Ghosts And Puppets] (As Vincent Saint-Vincent) (1905)
* Le Docteur Lerne, Sous-Dieu [Doctor Lerne, Undergod] (1908; transl. as New Bodies for Old, 1923)
* Le Voyage Immobile [The Motionless Journey] (1909; transl. as The Flight Of The Aerofix, 1932)
* Le Péril Bleu [The Blue Peril] (1912)
* M. D'Outremort [Mr. Beyonddeath] (1913)
* Les Mains d'Orlac (1920; transl. as The Hands Of Orlac, 1929)
* L'Homme Qui Voulait Être Invisible [The Man Who Wanted To Be Invisible] (1923)
* Le Singe [The Monkey] (With Albert Jean) (1924; transl. as Blind Circle, 1928)
* L'Invitation à la Peur [The Invitation to Fear] (1926)
* Lui? Histoire d'un Mystère [Him? Tale Of A Mystery] (1927)
* Un Homme chez les Microbes: Scherzo [A Man Amongst The Microbes: Scherzo] (1928)
* Le Carnaval du Mystère [The Merry-Go-Round Of Mystery] (1929)
* La Jeune Fille du Yacht [The Young Girl From The Yacht] (1930)
* Celui Qui n'a pas Tué [He Who Did Not Kill] (1932)
* Le Maître de la Lumière [The Light Master] (1933)

* Le docteur Lerne, sous-dieu (1908). Translated as New Bodies for Old (Macaulay Co.: New York, 1923). TK

* Les mains d'Orlac (1920). Translated as The Hands of Orlac (Dutton: New York, 1929). TK

* With Albert Jean (1892): Le singe (1925). Translated as Blind Circle (Dutton: New York, 1928). Comedy of manners, sex, mystery in the manner of Gaston Leroux. The corpse of jewelry salesman and lothario Richard Ciruguel is found dead outside his apartent door. Then an exactly similar corpse is discovered elsewhere, then a third and a fourth. It transpires that Richard had a secret life: experimenting with matter duplication in a (Gothic) medieval tower outside Paris. He was able to create exact duplicates of humans — but he couldn't animate them. As a publicity stunt, to raise money for more research, he created three (dead) duplicates of himself, deposited them here and there, then boarded a train for Switzerland, where he planned a press announcement. Hélas! He died of a heart attack on his way out of France.


Perley Poore Sheehan (1875-1943)


* The Copper Princess TK

* The Ghost-Mill TK

* Perley Poore Sheehan & Robert H. Davis, Blood and Iron: A Play in One Act (The Strand Magazine, October 1917). A short symbolic play, essentially a political cartoon in dramatic form. A German scientist has perfected a way to replace human body parts with mechanical substitutes, creating what we'd now call cyborgs. He is demonstrating his perfected model, Number 241, to the Kaiser, who hopes to turn hospital cases into supermen. Number 241, who speaks in the disjointed fashion now associated with robots, has been equipped with metal limbs of fantastic strength, together with electric hearing and vision far superior to ordinary senses. The Kaiser questions Number 241, who has not lost human feelings — and, as a result of the suffering of the war, kills the Kaiser. Standing over the body, he quotes Bismarck: "Blood—and—iron!"


Arthur Train (1875-1945)

Arthur Cheney Train was an American lawyer and legal thriller writer, particularly known for his novels of courtroom intrigue and the creation of the fictional lawyer Mr Ephraim Tutt.

rain was born in Boston, Massachusetts. His father was politician and lawyer Charles Russell Train and his mother, Sara Maria Cheney. Train graduated BA from Harvard University in 1896 and LLB from Harvard Law School in 1899.

In 1897, Train married Ethel Kissam and they had four children. Ethel died in 1923 and Train married Helen Coster Gerard with whom he had one child.

In January 1901, Train became assistant in the office of the New York District Attorney and in 1904 he started his literary career with the publication of the short story "The Maximilian Diamond" in Leslie's Monthly. He spent the next decade running the two careers in parallel.

From 1915 to 1922, Train was in private practice as a lawyer with Charles Albert Perkins while continuing to write, not just novels but advertising copy, vaudeville sketch comedy, poetry and journalism. In 1919, he created the popular character of Mr. Ephraim Tutt, a wily old lawyer who supported the common man and always had a trick up his sleeve to right the law's injustices.[1] He also coauthored two science fiction novels with eminent physicist Robert W. Wood.[2] After 1922, Train devoted himself to writing

* The Man Who Rocked the Earth (Doubleday, Page: 1915). Excellent UFO-style cover illustration. An early atomic war novel, originally published as a serial in the SATURDAY EVENING POST, 14-28 November 1914. "The near future course of WWI is interrupted by messages from a mysterious PAX threatening super scientific punishments if war is not stopped. After some demonstrations, featuring rays, a flying ship and atomic energy, the nations obey." - Clute and Nicholls (eds), The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (1993), p. 1236. "Unusual in early science-fiction in paying heed to correct science. Many of Wood's scientific details are still valid, although the extrapolations from them are, of course, fantastic." - Bleiler, Science-Fiction: The Early Years 2199. "Indebted to Wells's THE WORLD SET FREE of a year earlier, to which [the novel] explicitly refers."

# Train, A. C. (1905). McAllister and his Double. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.
# — (2006) [1908]. True Stories of Crime from the District Attorney's Office. Echo Library. ISBN 1406810711.
# — (1912). Courts, Criminals and the Camorra. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.
# — (2005) [1919]. Tutt and Mr. Tutt. Alan Rodgers Books. ISBN 1598186647.
# — (1923a). His Children's Children. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.
# — (1923b). Tut, Tut! Mr. Tutt. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.
# — (1926). Page Mr. Tutt. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.
# — (2005) [1928]. Ambition. Kessinger Publishing. ISBN 1417934050.
# — (1930). The Adventures of Ephraim Tutt, Attorney and Counsellor-at-law. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.

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