Gateway to Paradise,
The Collected Stories of Jack Williamson, Volume Six

Leigh Brackett

Captain Future

Edmond Hamilton

Henry Kuttner
& C. L. Moore

Collected Stories of
Jack Williamson

The Hidden World


In Memory of
Wonder's Child

Edited by
Stephen Haffner

Home | Authors

Brackett, Leigh

Hamilton, Edmond

Williamson, Jack

LEIGH BRACKETT (December 7, 1915March 18, 1978)
A writer of science fiction, mystery novels and — best known to the general public — Hollywood screenplays, most notably The Big Sleep (1945), Rio Bravo (1959), The Long Goodbye (1973) and the first draft of The Empire Strikes Back (1980).

Brackett's first published science fiction story was "Martian Quest", which appeared in the February 1940 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. Her earliest years as a writer (1940-1942) were her most productive in numbers of stories written; however, these works show a writer still engaged in mastering her craft. The first of her science fiction stories still attempt to emphasize a quasi-scientific angle, with problems resolved by an appeal to the (usually imaginary) chemical, biological, or physical laws of her invented worlds. As Brackett became more comfortable as an author, this element receded and was replaced by adventure stories with a strong touch of fantasy. Occasional stories have social themes, such as "The Citadel of Lost Ships" (1943), which considers the effects on the native cultures of alien worlds of Earth's expanding trade empire.

Brackett's first novel, No Good from a Corpse, published in 1944, was a hard-boiled mystery novel in the tradition of Raymond Chandler. Hollywood director Howard Hawks was so impressed by this novel that he had his secretary call in "this guy Brackett" to help William Faulkner write the script for The Big Sleep (1946). The film, starring Humphrey Bogart and written by Leigh Brackett, William Faulkner, and Jules Furthman, is considered one of the best movies ever made in the genre.

At the same time, Brackett's science fiction stories were becoming more ambitious.
Shadow Over Mars (1944) was her first novel-length science fiction story, and though still somewhat rough-edged, marked the beginning of a new style, strongly influenced by the characterization of the 1940s detective story and film noir. Brackett's heroes from this period are tough, two-fisted, semi-criminal, ill-fated adventurers. Shadow's Rick Urquhart (reputedly modelled on Humphrey Bogart's shadier film characters) is a ruthless, selfish space drifter, who just happens to be caught in a web of political intrigue that accidentally places the fate of Mars in his hands.

In 1946, the same year that Brackett married science fiction author
Edmond Hamilton, Planet Stories published the novella "Lorelei of the Red Mist". Brackett only finished the first half before turning it over to Planet Stories' other acclaimed author, Ray Bradbury, so that she could leave to work on The Big Sleep. "Lorelei"'s main character is an out-and-out criminal, a thief called Hugh Starke. Though the story was well concluded by Bradbury, Brackett seems to have felt that her ideas in this story were insufficiently addressed, as she returns to them in later stories—particularly "Enchantress of Venus" (1949).
Brackett returned from her break from science-fiction writing, caused by her cinematic endeavors, in 1948. From then on to 1951, she produced a series of science fiction adventure stories that were longer, more ambitious, and better written than her previous work. To this period belong such classic representations of her planetary settings as "The Moon that Vanished" and the novel-length Sea-Kings of Mars (1949), later published as The Sword of Rhiannon, a vivid description of Mars before its oceans evaporated.

With "Queen of the Martian Catacombs" (1949), Brackett found for the first time a character that she cared to return to. Brackett's
Eric John Stark is sometimes compared to Robert E. Howard's Conan, but is in many respects closer to Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan or Rudyard Kipling's Mowgli. Stark, an orphan from Earth, is raised by the semi-sentient aboriginals of Mercury, who are later killed by Earthmen. He is saved from the same fate by a Terran official, who adopts Stark and becomes his mentor. When threatened, however, Eric John Stark frequently reverts to the primitive N'Chaka, the "man without a tribe" that he was on Mercury. Thus, Stark is the archetypical modern man—a beast with a thin veneer of civilization. From 1949 to 1951, Stark (whose name obviously echoes that of the hero in "Lorelei") appeared in three tales, all published in Planet Stories; the aforementioned "Queen", "Enchantress of Venus", and finally "Black Amazon of Mars". With this last story Brackett's period of writing high adventure ends.

Brackett's stories thereafter adopted a more elegiac tone. They no longer celebrate the conflicts of frontier worlds, but lament the passing away of civilizations. The stories now concentrate more upon mood than on plot. The reflective, retrospective nature of these stories is indicated in the titles: "The Last Days of Shandakor"; "Shannach — the Last"; "Last Call from Sector 9G".
This last story was published in the very last issue (Summer 1955) of Planet Stories, always Brackett's most reliable market for science fiction. With the disappearance of Planet Stories and, later in 1955, of Startling Stories and Thrilling Wonder Stories, the market for Brackett's brand of story dried up, and the first phase of her career as a science fiction author ended. A few other stories trickled out over the next decade, and old stories were revised and published as novels. A new production of this period was one of Brackett's most critically acclaimed science fiction novels, The Long Tomorrow (1955). This novel describes an agrarian, deeply technophobic society that develops after a nuclear war.

But most of Brackett's writing after 1955 was for the more lucrative film and television markets. In 1963 and 1964, she briefly returned to her old Martian milieu with a pair of stories; "The Road to Sinharat" can be regarded as an affectionate farewell to the world of "Queen of the Martian Catacombs", while the other – with the intentionally ridiculous title of "Purple Priestess of the Mad Moon" – borders on parody.

After another hiatus of nearly a decade, Brackett returned to science fiction in the seventies with the publication of
The Ginger Star (1974), The Hounds of Skaith (1974), and The Reavers of Skaith (1976), collected as The Book of Skaith in 1976. This trilogy brought Eric John Stark back for adventures upon the extrasolar planet of Skaith (rather than his old haunts of Mars and Venus). A fourth Stark novel was planned with Ballantine Books editor Lester del Rey, but was abandoned (and no actual manuscript was begun) when Brackett was offered the scipting duty for the sequel to Star Wars.

Most of Brackett's science fiction can be characterized as space opera or planetary romance. Almost all of her planetary romances take place within a common invented universe, the Leigh Brackett Solar System, which contains richly detailed fictional versions of the consensus Mars and Venus of science fiction in the 1930s–1950s. Mars thus appears as a marginally habitable desert world, populated by ancient, decadent, and mostly humanoid races; Venus as a primitive, wet jungle planet, occupied by vigorous, primitive tribes and reptilian monsters. Brackett's Skaith combines elements of Brackett's other worlds with fantasy elements.

The fact that the settings of Brackett's stories range from a rocket-crowded interplanetary space to the superstitious backwaters of primitive or decadent planets allows her a great deal of scope for variation in style and subject matter. In a single story, Brackett can veer from space opera to hard-boiled detective fiction to Western to the borders of Celtic-inspired fantasy. Brackett cannot, therefore, be easily classified as a
sword-and-planet science fantasy writer; though swords and spears may show up in the most primitive regions of her planets, guns, blasters and electric-shock generators are more common weapons.

Though the influence of
Edgar Rice Burroughs is apparent in Brackett's Mars stories, the differences between their versions of Mars are great. Brackett's Mars is set firmly in a world of interplanetary commerce and competition, and one of the most prominent themes of Brackett's stories is the clash of planetary civilizations; the stories both illustrate and criticize the effects of colonialism on civilizations which are either older or younger than those of the colonizers, and thus they have relevance to this day. Burroughs' heroes set out to remake entire worlds according to their own codes; Brackett's heroes (often anti-heroes) are at the mercy of trends and movements far bigger than they are.
     —adapted from the Wikipedia entry on Leigh Brackett


(October 21, 1904 - February 1, 1977)
A was a popular author of science fiction stories and novels during the mid-twentieth century. Born in Youngstown, Ohio, he was raised there and in nearby New Castle, Pennsylvania. Something of a child prodigy, he graduated high school and started college (Westminster College, New Wilmington, Pennsylvania) at the age of 14–but washed out at 17.

His career as a science fiction writer began with the publication of the story, "The Monster God of Mamurth," which appeared in the August 1926 issue of the classic magazine of alternative fiction, Weird Tales. Hamilton quickly became a central member of the remarkable group of Weird Tales writers assembled by editor Farnsworth Wright, that included H. P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard. Hamilton would publish 79 works of fiction in Weird Tales between 1926 and 1948, making him one of the most prolific of the magazine's contributors (only Seabury Quinn and August Derleth appeared more frequently). Hamilton became a friend and associate of several Weird Tales veterans, including E. Hoffmann Price and Otis Adelbert Kline; most notably, he struck up a 40-year friendship with close contemporary Jack Williamson, as Williamson records in his 1984 autobiography Wonder's Child. In the late 1930s Weird Tales printed several striking fantasy tales by Hamilton, most notably "He That Hath Wings" (July 1938), one of his most popular and frequently-reprinted pieces.

Through the late 1920s and early '30s Hamilton wrote for all of the SF pulp magazines then publishing, and contributed horror-thriller stories to various other magazines as well. He was very popular as an author of space opera, a sub-genre he created along with E.E. "Doc" Smith. His story "The Island of Unreason" (Wonder Stories, May 1933) won the first Jules Verne Prize as the best SF story of the year (this was the first SF prize awarded by the votes of fans, a precursor of the later Hugo Awards). In the later 1930s, in response to the economic strictures of the Great Depression, he also wrote detective and crime stories. In the 1940s, Hamilton was the primary force behind the "Captain Future" franchise, an SF pulp designed for juvenile readers that won him many fans, but diminished his reputation in later years when science fiction moved away from its space-opera roots. Hamilton was always associated with an extravagant, romantic, high-adventure style of SF, perhaps best represented by his 1947 novel The Star Kings. As the SF field grew more sophisticated, his brand of extreme adventure seemed ever more quaint, corny, and dated

In 1946 Hamilton began writing for DC Comics, specializing in stories for their characters Superman and Batman. One of his best known Superman stories was "Superman Under the Red Sun" which appeared in Action Comics #300 in 1963 and which has numerous elements in common with his novel City At World's End (1951). He wrote other works for DC Comics, including the short-lived science fiction series Chris KL-99 (in Strange Adventures), which was loosely based on his Captain Future character. He retired from comics in 1966.

On December 31, 1946, Hamilton married fellow science fiction author and screen writer Leigh Brackett. Afterward he would produce some of his best work, including his novels The Star of Life (1947), The Valley of Creation (1948), City at World's End, and The Haunted Stars (1960). In this more mature phase of his career, Hamilton moved away from the romantic and fantastic elements of his earlier fiction to create some unsentimental and realistic stories, such as "What's It Like Out There?" (Thrilling Wonder Stories, Dec. 1952), his single most frequently-reprinted and anthologized work.

Though Hamilton and Leigh Brackett worked side by side for a quarter-century, they rarely shared the task of authorship; their single formal collaboration, Stark and the Star Kings, would not appear in print until 2005.

Edmond Hamilton died in 1977 in Lancaster, California, of complications following kidney surgery. A year after his death, Toei Animation in Japan produced 52 animated episodes based on 13 of Hamilton's Captain Future nove
ls. This animated adaptation later played in Europe, winning Hamilton a new and different fan base than the one that had acclaimed him half a century before.
     —adapted from the Wikipedia entry on Edmond Hamilton


JACK WILLIAMSON (April 29, 1908November 10, 2006)
John Stewart Williamson, who wrote as Jack Williamson (and occasionally under the pseudonym Will Stewart) was a U.S. writer often referred to as the "Dean of Science Fiction"

Williamson was born April 29, 1908 in Bisbee, Arizona Territory, and spent his early childhood in western Texas. In search of better pastures, his family migrated to rural New Mexico in a horse-drawn covered wagon in 1915. The farming was difficult there and the family turned to ranching, which they continue to this day.

Williamson received his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees in English in the 1950s from Eastern New Mexico University (ENMU) in Portales (near the Texas panhandle), joining the faculty of that university in 1960. He remained affiliated with the school for the rest of his life. In the late 1990s, he established a permanent trust to fund the publication of El Portal, ENMU's journal of literature and art. In the 1980s, he made a sizable donation of books and original manuscripts to ENMU's library, which resulted in the formation of a Special Collections department; the library now is home to the Jack Williamson Science Fiction Library, which ENMU's website describes as "one of the top science fiction collections in the world." In addition, Williamson hosted the Jack Williamson Lectureship Series, an annual panel discussion in which two science fiction authors were invited to speak to attendees on a set topic. The Jack Williamson Liberal Arts building houses the Mathematics, Art, and Languages & Literature Departments of the university.

Williamson completed his Ph.D. in English literature at the University of Colorado in Boulder, focused on H.G. Wells' earlier works, demonstrating that Wells was not the naive optimist that many believed him to be. In the field of science, Jack Williamson coined the word terraforming in a science-fiction story, "Collision Orbit," published in 1942 in Astounding Science Fiction.

In the mid 1970s, Williamson was named a Grand Master of Science Fiction by the Science Fiction Writers of America. He was only the second person to receive this honor. The first was Robert A. Heinlein.

After retiring from teaching full-time in 1977, Williamson spent some time concentrating on his writing, but after being named Professor Emeritus by ENMU, he was coaxed back to co-teach two evening classes, "Creative Writing" and "Fantasy and Science Fiction" (he pioneered the latter at ENMU during his full-time professorship days). Williamson continued to co-teach these two classes into the 21st century.

In November 2006, Williamson died at his home in Portales, New Mexico at age 98. Despite his age, he had made an appearance at the Spring 2006 Jack Williamson Lectureship and published a 320-page novel, The Stonehenge Gate, in 2005.
  —adapted from the Wikipedia entry on Jack Williamson


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Stark and the
Star Kings

Edmond Hamilton
Leigh Brackett

Seventy-Five: The Diamond Anniversary of a Science FIction Pioneer--Jack Williamson

Edited by
Stephen Haffner
Richard A. Hauptmann