Thursday, January 1, 2009

SF authors born 1874-83: 1883

1. Edwin Balmer
2. Sax Rohmer
3. John Taine (Eric Temple Bell)
4. Aleksey Nikolayevich Tolstoy


Edwin Balmer (1883-1959)

Edwin Balmer (Chicago) was an American science fiction and mystery writer. He was editor of Red Book (1927-49). He wrote many short stories and plays and also wrote for motion pictures.

In addition to other novels, together with author Philip Gordon Wylie, he wrote the catastrophe novels When Worlds Collide and After Worlds Collide. Balmer also helped create (with artist Marvin Bradley) the syndicated comic strip Speed Spaulding, partially based on the Worlds Collide series, which ran from 1938 through 1941 in the comic book Famous Funnies.

* Flying Death (New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1927)

* Co-authored When Worlds Collide (1934)

* Co-authored After Worlds Collide (1935)



Sax Rohmer (1883-1959)

Author of the Fu Manchu thrillers. More TK.

* The Day the World Ended (Cassell: London, 1930; Doubleday, Doran, for the Crime Club: Garden City, NY, 1930). Originally in Colliers (May 4—July 20, 1929). Three men — Lonergan, of the American secret service; Gaston Max, a top French police detective; and Brian Woodville, British journalist and soldier of fortune — are on the track of the beautiful, enigmatic Me. Yburg. Because she seems to be connected to strange events: radio silence in the USA, man-bats and vampirism in the Black Forest; the sudden death of every human and animal in a small French village. They track her to a haunted German castle patrolled by seven-foot-tall armored giants, who turn out to be androids. More TK.

* More TK


John Taine (Eric Temple Bell) (1883-1960)

Eric Temple Bell (Scotland) was a mathematician and science fiction author born in Scotland who lived in the U.S. for most of his life. He published his non-fiction under his given name and his fiction as John Taine.

He was influenced by a mathematician of rare distinction, E.M. Langley, and later became a research mathematician. He went to the US in 1902. Bell attended Stanford University and Columbia University (where he was a student of Cassius Jackson Keyser [note below] and was on the faculty first at the University of Washington and later at the California Institute of Technology. He did research in number theory; see in particular Bell series. He attempted — not altogether successfully — to make the traditional umbral calculus (understood at that time to be the same thing as the "symbolic method" of Blissard) logically rigorous. He also did much work using generating functions, treated as formal power series, without concern for convergence. He is the eponym of the Bell polynomials and the Bell numbers of combinatorics. In 1924 he was awarded the Bôcher Memorial Prize for his work in mathematical analysis.

NB: Keyser was one of the first Americans to appreciate the new directions in the foundation of mathematics, heralded by the work of Europeans such as Dedekind, Georg Cantor, Peano, Henri Poincare, Hilbert, Zermelo, Bertrand Russell, and A. N. Whitehead. He was also one of the first to appreciate the mathematical and philosophical importance of his fellow American Charles Peirce. Alfred Korzybski, founder of general semantics, named Keyser as a major influence. While at Columbia, Keyser supervised only three PhDs, but they all proved quite consequential: Eric Temple Bell, the logician Emil Post, and Edward Kasner.

In the early 1920's, Bell wrote several long poems. He also wrote several science fiction novels, which independently invented some of the earliest devices and ideas of science fiction [according to his biographers; this may be an exaggeration]. Only The Purple Sapphire was published at the time, under the pseudonym John Taine; this was before Hugo Gernsback and the genre publication of science fiction. His novels were published later, both in book form and serialized in the magazines.


* The Purple Sapphire (Dutton, 1924). Adventure in the depths of Tibet in the search for the sapphire. Is this SF?

* Quayle's Invention (Dutton, 1927). Process for electrically precipitating gold from sea-water, and the subsequent intrigue.

* Green Fire (Dutton, 1928). Taine's variation on the mad scientist theme — the story of the terrible days in the summer of 1990. It has been produced as a play. The novel concerns two corporations competing to develop the power of atomic energy. Independent Laboratories, is working for the advancement of mankind, and Consolidated Power, is working for personal gain. Nature goes berserk, and James Ferguson, the leader of Independent discovers that Jevic, the Director of Consolidated has achieved his goal. Nebulae in space are marked with a greenish glow and then are obliterated. MacRobert, who has previously refused offers from either corporation is placed in charge of Independent. He disposes of Jevic in time to end the destruction.

* The Iron Star (Dutton, 1930). An immense metallic meteorite causes hallucinations; long exposure reverses evolution in the individual — turning man into ape. (Hello, Altered States.) The novel concerns an African expedition. Swain, a member of the expedition, becomes demented and attempts to exterminate a peculiar species of African ape. The other members of the expedition are befriended by an intelligent ape called the Captain. The expedition discover that the apes are in fact humans that have evolved in reverse due to exposure to a meteor and that the Captain was once human.

* The Crystal Horde ("White Lily," Amazing Stories Quarterly, Winter 1930). Magnificent science-horror type, though science is somewhat dated.

* The Time Stream (Wonder Stories, December 1931-?). It was first published in book form in 1946 by The Buffalo Book Company in an edition of 2,000 copies of which only 500 were ever bound. The novel was originally serialized in four parts in the magazine Wonder Stories beginning in December 1931. It is supposedly the first novel to see time as a flowing stream. The novel concerns time travel and links the world Eos at the beginning of the universe with the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Bleiler says: "High class but involved."

* Seeds of Life (Amazing Stories Quarterly, Fall 1931). It was first published in 1951 by Fantasy Press in an edition of 2,991 copies. The novel concerns who creates a superman using radiation.

* Before the Dawn (Williams Wilkins, Baltimore: 1934). A time-viewing device graphically portrays Earth in the saurian age, ending with a fight of the giants.


Aleksey Nikolayevich Tolstoy (TK)


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