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Saturday, 21 April 2018

Helen Wismer - pulp editor

Helen Wismer was a pulp editor at the time this article was published. She would go on to marry James Thurber, and be the main force behind his writing career in the final 26 years of his life. This article appeared in the June 24, 1933 issue of the El Paso Herald, 2 years before she met Thurber.

Helen Wismer, pulp editor c. 1933
Helen Wismer, pulp editor c. 1933


Slender, delicate, feminine as a bride's bouquet, Helen Wismer edits gutsy, two gun, he-man pulps for Magazine Publishers, Inc., in her boudoir office at 67 W. 44th St.  
 
"those hell-ships struck nine times—yet no one had seen them.. and before he died suddenly, mysteriously — he had only time to babble of green death ships — and scream out a startling warning..." This, from "Flying Aces," is a sample of her muscular muse; and several sonnet sequences from Ronald Elbank that beguiled her in her violet days as a sweet young thing at Mount Holyoke College.  
 
Selects Stories  
 
Besides "Flying Aces" she is also editorially responsible for the gory heroics of "Sky Birds." For these she selects the stories, haggles the authors, needles their stuff when they get too lah-de-dah, (sometimes they write "darn" for "damn") and corrects their terminology in the technics of aircraft and machine guns—her two expert topics.  
 
For this she gave up the lavender life of the Ladies Aid, her father being the Rev. Dr. E. L. Wismer, pastor at the First Congregational Church, Newport. His daughter's career, of which he was ignorant until recently, first amazed, now amuses him.  
 
Likes the Job  
 
Miss Wismer sees no contrast in her early life as violet by a mossy manse in Bristol, Conn., where she was bred, to the Tarzan types she now shoulders into print. Meek, and exceedingly mild, she whispers, argumentative, gently, as though coyly rejecting gallantry in a garden tete-a-tete. "There is no reason why a woman shouldn't edit a man's magazine as well as a love magazine. After all, the masculinity of the stories is the concern of the authors. It is my job to see that their scripts follow standards of structure and action. Feminine reaction in writing, if there is such a thing, doesn't mean anything here. It is a matter or technique." 
 
"I like my job," she went on, her dark luminous eyes lighting up. "The 'pulps' as they are called, need no justification. The occasional criticism of the so-called sophisticates is incorrect." 

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Windy City Pulp and Paper convention 2018 - photos

Visited Windy City Pulp and Paper for the fourth year running, and had a great time there. Some photos:

A few photos of the dealers' room:
Dealer's room at Windy City 2018, held in the Westin, Lombard
Dealer's room at Windy City 2018, held in the Westin, Lombard
Dave Smith of Fantasy Illustrated had his usual array of rare and unique items
Dave Smith of Fantasy Illustrated had his usual array of high grade rare and unique items



Murania Press had a table
Murania Press had a table

Adventure House had more tables and boxes, the wall of pulps was a little smaller this time
Adventure House had more tables and boxes, the wall of pulps was a little smaller this time


Weinberg Books had original art and books
Weinberg Books had original art and books

Comics as well
Comics as well

I forget whose table this was
I forget whose table this was

Another dealer offering books, art and fanzines
Another dealer offering books, art and fanzines

The art show and the art in the dealers' room, which is one of the main reasons to visit:



Anton Otto Fischer frontispiece for Skipper John of the Nimbus
Anton Otto Fischer frontispiece for Skipper John of the Nimbus

The theme this year was aviation art:

Frederick Blakeslee cover for Fighting Aces, September 1941
Frederick Blakeslee cover for Fighting Aces, September 1941

The one on the right is a George Rozen cover for Sky Fighters, Spring 1949
Right: George Rozen cover for Sky Fighters, Spring 1949


Left: George Rozen cover for Sky Fighters, Winter 1947  Right: Rudolph Belarski cover for Aces, Winter 1939/40
Left: George Rozen cover for Sky Fighters, Winter 1947
Right: Rudolph Belarski cover for Aces, Winter 1939/40

Left: George Rozen cover for Sky Fighters, Winter 1948  Right: Rudolph Belarski cover for The Lone Eagle, April 1941
Left: George Rozen cover for Sky Fighters, Winter 1948
Right: Rudolph Belarski cover for The Lone Eagle, April 1941


Art in the dealers' room:

Paperback, men's magazines and digest cover illustrations on sale
Paperback, men's magazines and digest cover illustrations on sale

Left: Walter Baumhofer sports illustration  Right: William Reusswig pulp cover painting
Left: Walter Baumhofer sports illustration
Right: William Reusswig pulp cover painting

More art from Grapefruit Moon Gallery
More art from Grapefruit Moon Gallery

Henry J. Soulen painting
Henry J. Soulen painting


H.L. Parkhurst cover for one of the "spicy" pulps
H.L. Parkhurst cover for one of the "spicy" pulps

Original illustration for Conan the Barbarian book by Robert E. Howard
Original illustration for Conan the Barbarian book by Robert E. Howard

Some unique and rare items in the dealers room and the auctions:

Short Stories 1914 July issue
Short Stories 1914 July issue, with a Sax Rohmer story in it
Unusual photo collage cover for The Popular Magazine, January 1907
Unusual photo collage cover for The Popular Magazine, January 1907
New Detective Magazine, February 1946, Moral of the story: You can't have your cake and eat it too.
New Detective Magazine, February 1946
Moral of the story: You can't have your cake and eat it too.

Robert Bloch letter to Sam Peeples, one of two in the auction
Robert Bloch letter to Sam Peeples, one of two in the auction

Early issue of Illustrated Novelets, soon to become North-West Romances
Early issue of Illustrated Novelets, soon to become North-West Romances 

Amazing Stories issue containing the first Buck Rogers story and one instalment of the Skylark of Space serial
Amazing Stories issue containing the first Buck Rogers story and one instalment of the Skylark of Space serial

Black Aces, the rarely seen, short-lived competition for Black Mask from Fiction House
Black Aces, the rarely seen, short-lived competition for Black Mask from Fiction House 

The Orchidengaarten, first fantasy magazine
The Orchidengaarten, first fantasy magazine

Other highlights


Auction material this year was from the collection of Glenn Lord, and was focused on Robert E. Howard's work. It was impressive to see Howard's lifetime body of work in Weird Tales, Action Stories, Fight Stories and Golden Fleece. I was informed by a reliable source that what we saw in the auction was the tip of the iceberg in a Texas size collection, so perhaps there will be more in future.



Talk: The secret origins of Weird Tales by John Locke - Great talk, new information on the early years of Weird Tales, the partnerships, the people and the feuds. Looking forward to the upcoming book which should have more details.

Book signing: Art of the pulps

Book signing, with all the contributors lined up to sign copies
Book signing, with all the contributors lined up to sign copies


I also met a lot of people, new to me this time were Howard Andrew Jones of Blackgate.com and John C. Hocking Malcolm Edwards and Andy Richards of Cold Tonnage Books from across the pond. And that's it till the next one. Thanks to Doug Ellis, John Gunnison and the rest of the organizers for doing an excellent job.

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Robert Ormond Case - Western Author

One of the big 3 authors of Western Story (others being Max Brand and Robert J. Horton), it seemed in the 1920s till the mid 30s that you couldn’t pick up an issue without coming across a story by one of these three. He was a careful researcher, noted for the accuracy of detail in his entertaining stories.


Robert Ormond Case, western author, in front of a painting for his serial, Wings North, that appeared in the Saturday Evening Post in 1938
Robert Ormond Case, western author, in front of a illustration for his serial, Wings North, that appeared in the Saturday Evening Post in 1938


Saturday, 31 March 2018

F.R. Buckley - biographical article

[This article originally appeared in The Editor, April 1, 1922.]

WRITING ENTERTAINING FICTION By F. R. Buckley

My training as a writer began, at latest, when I was ten. My father was, and still is, a journalist; he was formerly Irish special commissioner for the Birmingham (England) Gazette, and now dean of the English musical critics. It was his idea that, provided the applicant had the goods, no business gave such immediate and permanent rewards as authorship, preferably approached through journalism. He taught me all I know about writing, the text-books being his own and Pope's Essay on Criticism, which contains matter applicable to prose writers as well as to poets. I may say here, without wishing to beckon to the income-tax hounds, that I have found his opinion as to the rewards of the literary business to be singularly just.

In due course I became junior reporter on the Birmingham Gazette; stayed there until the effort to be a reporter and write stories on the side track broke down my health; and then snatched a free sea voyage by becoming secretary to a business man bound for the United States. My health improved, and the war now being on, I tried to get home. But nobody could get to England unless to join the army, for which the medical examiner of the Consulate pronounced me physically unfit. I essayed circumvention, but my eyesight, combined with a ragtime heart left by my illness, marooned me every time. I mention all this because, but for such circumstances, I should probably not have been writing at all. Even had I survived the war, the English editors are much slower to snap up an unknown man than the American. America is without doubt the literary novice’s paradise. In England, Conan Doyle hawked Sherlock Holmes in vain for eighteen months. Out of my experience, I swear he could not have kept the stuff in his hands here eighteen minutes.

Well, left flat in a strange land, I naturally tore my way back into newspaper work —as it happened, in the capacity of reviewer of motion pictures for a New York evening newspaper. I later became editor of a weekly motion picture section of the same paper; then switched to a scenario-staff job with Vitagraph. I cannot emphasize too much the value of this motion picture work. Like most beginners, I had cherished the vague idea that incident in a story was rather crude. The thing was snappy dialogue and lots of style; a Greek quotation every now and then, perhaps, to split the ears of the groundlings, as it were. At Vitagraph, without going to the equally fatal opposite extreme, I was brought to realize that life, which a literary buffer is supposed to portray, in fact consists of incidents, and not of philosophical reflections. I had heretofore sold nothing; I now sold a yarn to the Black Cat Magazine for twenty dollars.

To this extent, I broke my rule against working on the side. When “Getting It” appeared, however, I resigned from my staff job, with about two hundred dollars capital, and started to do the thing in style. I was married; so you see I counted on making my mark pretty quickly.

I didn’t sell anything.

I tore my hair, went out and became an editor again, accumulated more capital, resigned again, and had another slap at the market.

This time I landed a dozen stories with People’s Magazine, which treated me very kindly and wanted more. But I had passed upward and beyond such stuff—I thought. I started a series of intensely emotional, introspective stories which should really be literature—and went bankrupt again.

I had another spell as an editor; and one day, while putting a page to bed, I conceived a momentous idea. It was extremely simple, and absolutely vital. It was simply that a writer is an entertainer of the public, and that it is therefore his job to give the people what will entertain them, and not what will entertain him; and not what will instruct them, elevate them, reform them or give them a permanent wave—unless he is asked for it. Is a grocer, when asked for salt, supposed to force sugar on the customer? And is a writer, in selling his stuff, any less a merchant than a grocer? And is there any difference, in this connection, between stuff which is to be put into the brain and stuff to be put into the stomach?

With this idea, and another chunk of capital, I resigned again and took a flying leap at Western Stories Magazine. I caught on, and have hung on ever since. When I have had an idea which was not suited to this magazine, —a sea story, for instance—I have sold it to some other—Adventure, Short Stories, People’s, The Red Book, The Blue Book, or the movies, thus continually opening up new markets.

I can say with my hand on my heart that, having a holy horror of dictating to people about their personal tastes, I have never— since I realized I was doing that very thing— made the slightest attempt to “uplift the standard of American fiction. ” I have tried to write the type of fiction which is in demand, better than the next fellow, conceiving this to be my duty and to my interest. A grocer is a fool if he does not try to stock a better brand of sugar than his competitor. But better sugar does not mean salt. Nor does better fiction mean material which readers—who pay for it—have stated they do not want.

This sounds self-evident; but I am at present endeavoring to impress it on several acolytes, with surprisingly poor success!

As for “Gold Mounted Guns, ” which appeared in The Red Book for March, I can tell less about that, technically speaking, than any of my stories. I had been writing thirty thousand word stuff, and wanted to do a miniature to show myself I could. I was lying in bed that night, thinking about nothing in particular, when “Gold Mounted Guns'* flashed into my mind complete—beginning, middle, end, title, and everything. I got up, made a note of the last words, which are the whole story; and wrote it the next morning.

Seems to me that’s all I have to say.

Saturday, 24 March 2018

Beautiful covers #3 - N.C Wyeth in the Popular Magazine


One of N.C. Wyeth's cover paintings for The Popular Magazine is up for sale. Root around the sofa cushions, you'll need your spare change for this one - estimated sale price is from $100,000 - $150,000. You won't be getting Wyeth's signature on this one, though, it's signed Pearson Barnes; the explanation from the catalog is interesting:

Christine Podmaniczky explains the inscription on A Hindu Mystic (Seated Arab): "The name Pierson (note variant spelling) Barnes occurs in both the 1900 and the 1920 census of Birmingham Township, and Barnes' presence in Chadds Ford around 1911 is documented in several letters written by historian Chris Sanderson to his mother (Thomas R. Thompson, Chris, Philadelphia, 1973, pp. 180, 182). Barnes worked as a day laborer and boarded with Lydia Archie, an African-American preacher who established a church in a section of Chadds Ford known as 'Little Africa.' According to Andrew Wyeth, his father 'borrowed' the name Barnes as a joke when he encountered a rule at The Popular Magazine that an artist was not permitted two consecutive covers" (N.C. Wyeth: A Catalogue RaisonnĂ©, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, 2008, vol. I, p. 264).


N.C. Wyeth cover painting titled "A Hindu Mystic (Seated Arab) (sic)" from Sotheby's catalog
N.C. Wyeth cover painting titled "A Hindu Mystic (Seated Arab) (sic)" from Sotheby's catalog

N.C. Wyeth cover for The Popular Magazine issue dated January 1, 1913, courtesy the FictionMags Index
N.C. Wyeth cover for The Popular Magazine issue dated January 1, 1913, courtesy the FictionMags Index


The previous cover which the catalog refers to is this one, the December 15, 1912 issue:

N.C. Wyeth cover for The Popular Magazine issue dated December 15, 1912, courtesy the FictionMags Index
N.C. Wyeth cover for The Popular Magazine issue dated December 15, 1912, courtesy the FictionMags Index

And to round these off, his final pulp cover painting for, you guessed it, The Popular Magazine, March 20, 1926.

N.C. Wyeth cover for The Popular Magazine issue dated March 20, 1926, courtesy the FictionMags Index
N.C. Wyeth cover for The Popular Magazine issue dated March 20, 1926, courtesy the FictionMags Index