De CAMP, L(yon) Sprague


De CAMP, L(yon) Sprague
(1907-)
   US writer, married from 1939 to Catherine A(delaide) Crook (1907-), who has collaborated on a number of his books, sometimes without printed credit, although always freely acknowledged by LSDC; the two are increasingly seen to have been a creative team for many years (she is referred to below as CACDC). LSDC was educated at the California Institute of Technology, where he studied aeronautical engineering, and at Stevens Institute of Technology, where he gained a master's degree in 1933. He went to work for a company dealing with patenting, and his first published work was a cowritten textbook on the subject. He then met P. Schuyler MILLER, with whom he collaborated on a novel, Genus Homo (1941 Super Science Stories; 1950), which failed to find a publisher for several years. His first published story was "The Isolinguals" (1937) in ASF; this was before the arrival of John W. CAMPBELL Jr as editor, but when that happened the two men proved highly compatible, and LSDC soon became a central figure of the GOLDEN AGE OF SF, writing prolifically for ASF over the next few years (on one occasion using the pseudonym Lyman R. Lyon), his contributions including the Johnny Black series about an intelligent bear: "The Command" (1938), "The Incorrigible" (1939), "The Emancipated" (1940) and "The Exalted" (1940). Some of the better stories from this period were collected in The Best of L. Sprague de Camp (coll 1978).
   It was, however, the appearance in 1939 of ASF's fantasy companion UNKNOWN which stimulated his most notable early work, including LEST DARKNESS FALL (1939 Unknown; 1941; rev 1949), in which an involuntary time-traveller to 6th-century Rome attempts to prevent the onset of the Dark Ages; this was the most accomplished early excursion into HISTORY in magazine sf, and is regarded as a classic. Other contributions to Unknown included "None but Lucifer" (1939) with H.L. GOLD, Solomon's Stone (1942 Unknown; 1956) and the long title stories of Divide and Rule (coll 1948) - the title story alone being republished as Divide and Rule (1939 ASF; 1990 chap dos) - The Wheels of If (coll 1948), an ALTERNATE-WORLDS story, also cited below in reissued form, and The Undesired Princess (coll 1951), the title story alone being republished in The Undesired Princess and The Enchanted Bunny (anth 1990), the second story being by David A. DRAKE. LSDC was most successful in his collaborations with Fletcher PRATT, whom he met in 1939. Pratt conceived the idea behind their successful Incomplete Enchanter series of humorous fantasies in which the protagonist, Harold Shea, is transported into a series of ALTERNATE WORLDS based on various myths and legends. As usual with LSDC, the publication sequence is complex. The main titles are: The Incomplete Enchanter (1940 Unknown; 1941; vt The Incompleat Enchanter 1979 UK), The Castle of Iron (1941 Unknown; 1950) and The Wall of Serpents (fixup 1960; vt The Enchanter Compleated 1980 UK). The first two titles were then assembled as The Compleat Enchanter: The Magical Misadventures of Harold Shea (omni 1975), and all three were eventually put together as The Intrepid Enchanter (omni 1988 UK; vt The Complete Compleat Enchanter 1989 US); Sir Harold and the Gnome King (1991 chap) was subsequently added to the Enchanter canon. Other collaborations with Pratt were The Land of Unreason (1942) and The Carnelian Cube (1948), the latter being published several years after it was written. In 1950, LSDC and Pratt (whom see for details) began their Gavagan's Bar series of CLUB STORIES, assembled in Tales From Gavagan's Bar (coll 1953; exp 1978). LSDC joined the US Naval Reserve in 1942, spending the war working in the Philadelphia Naval Yard alongside Isaac ASIMOV and Robert A. HEINLEIN. Afterwards he published a few articles, but hardly any new fiction until "The Animal Cracker Plot" (1949) introduced his Viagens Interplanetarias stories, a loosely linked series set in a future where Brazil has become the dominant world power, the stories themselves being sited mainly on three worlds which circle the star Tau Ceti and are named after the Hindu gods Vishnu, Ganesha and Krishna; the planet Krishna was a romantically barbarian world on which LSDC could set, as sf, the kind of PLANETARY ROMANCES he had previously written as fantasy, the market for pure fantasy having disappeared with Unknown in 1943. Other planets circling other stars included Osiris, Isis and Thoth. Many of the short stories in the series were included in The Continent Makers and Other Tales of the Viagens (coll 1953); others appeared in Sprague de Camp's New Anthology of Science Fiction (coll 1953 UK), and "The Virgin of Zesh" (1953) was assembled together with The Wheels of If (1940 Unknown; 1990 chap dos) in The Virgin and the Wheels (coll 1976). Rogue Queen (1951), a novel in the series, depicts a matriarchal humanoid society based on a hive structure; it is, with LEST DARKNESS FALL, LSDC's most highly regarded sf work. The remaining novels, an internal series all set on Krishna, were Cosmic Manhunt (1949 ASF as "The Queen of Zamba"; 1954 dos; vt A Planet Called Krishna 1966 UK; with restored text and with "Perpetual Motion" added, rev vt as coll The Queen of Zamba 1977 US); The Search for Zei (1950 ASF as the first half of "The Hand of Zei"; 1962; vt The Floating Continent 1966 UK) and The Hand of Zei (1950 ASF as the second half of "The Hand of Zei"; 1963; cut 1963), both titles finally being superseded by publication of the full original novel, The Hand of Zei (1950 ASF; 1982); The Tower of Zanid (1958 Science Fiction Stories; cut 1958; with "The Virgin of Zesh" added, vt as coll The Virgin of Zesh/The Tower of Zanid 1983); The Hostage of Zir (1977); The Bones of Zora (1983) with CACDC; and The Swords of Zinjaban (1991) with CACDC. They contain a blend of intelligent, exotic adventure and wry humour characteristic of LSDC's better work, though they do not explore any too deeply either the romantic or the human-condition ironies available to aspiring authors of the planetary romance.LSDC was in any case not to write much more sf, his later career increasingly being devoted to outright fantasy and to SWORD AND SORCERY. He had gained an interest in the latter category through reading Robert E. HOWARD's Conan stories, and worked extensively on editing and adding to that series. Tales of Conan (coll 1955; vt The Flame Knife 1981) consists of unfinished Howard manuscripts converted into Conan stories and completed by LSDC (for remaining titles, see listing below). His nonfiction writings on the sword-and-sorcery genre have been published as The Conan Reader (coll 1968), Literary Swordsmen and Sorcerers (1976) and Blond Barbarians and Noble Savages (1975 chap). He also edited the anthologies Swords and Sorcery (anth 1963), The Spell of Seven (anth 1965), The Fantastic Swordsmen (anth 1967) and Warlocks and Warriors (anth 1970), and co-edited the critical anthologies The Conan Swordbook (anth 1969) and The Conan Grimoire (anth 1972), both with George H. SCITHERS. LSDC's own first sword-and-sorcery effort was the Pusadian sequence of tales assembled as The Tritonian Ring and Other Pusadian Tales (coll 1953); the title novel was later published alone as The Tritonian Ring (1951 Two Complete Science-Fiction Adventure Books; 1968). Later he wrote several stories set in the imaginary world of Novaria: The Goblin Tower (1968), which is his most substantial novel of this type, The Clocks of Iraz (1971), The Fallible Fiend (1973), The Unbeheaded King (1983) and The Honorable Barbarian (1989) - the first, second and fourth of these five being assembled as The Reluctant King (omni 1984).LSDC's most notable sf writings after about 1950 were stories like The Glory that Was (1952 Startling Stories; 1960) and the 1956 title story of A Gun for Dinosaur (coll 1963), which also included "Aristotle and the Gun" (1958). The first and third of these tales use history themes, in the case of the third combined with TIME TRAVEL, in a manner similar to LEST DARKNESS FALL; the second is a straightforward time-travel story. LSDC produced one of the earliest books about modern sf, Science Fiction Handbook (1953; rev 1975) with CACDC; a useful compendium of information and advice for aspiring writers in its original edition, it gained little from its subsequent revision - indeed, the revised version omitted some material of interest. Otherwise he wrote historical novels and nonfiction works, including a book on MAGIC with CACDC: Spirits, Stars and Spells (1966). His opinions about the nature of FANTASY and the appropriate decorum necessary to write within the genre were expressed in an energetic, if sometimes reactionary, fashion in his many articles. He also wrote definitive lives of H.P. LOVECRAFT - Lovecraft: A Biography (1975; cut 1976) - and of Robert E. Howard - Dark Valley Destiny: The Life of Robert E. Howard (1983) with CCDC and Jane Whittington Griffin, the latter book having been preceded by The Miscast Barbarian (1975 chap). In the 1980s, and into his own ninth decade, more and more often in explicit collaboration with CACDC, he maintained a remarkable reputation for consistency of output. He was given the Gandalf (Grand Master) Award for 1976 and the Nebula Grand Master Award for 1978. His recent work seems agelessly smiling.
   MJE/JC
   Other works: Lands Beyond (1952) with Willy LEY, nonfiction, awarded an INTERNATIONAL FANTASY AWARD; Lost Continents (1954), nonfiction about ATLANTIS and others; Demons and Dinosaurs (1970), poetry; The Reluctant Shaman and Other Fantastic Tales (coll 1970); 3000 Years of Fantasy and Science Fiction (anth 1972) with CACDC; Scribblings (coll 1972); Tales beyond Time (anth 1973) with CACDC; The Great Fetish (1978); The Purple Pterodactyls: The Adventures of W. Wilson Newbury, Ensorcelled Financier (coll of linked stories 1979); The Ragged Edge of Science (1980), nonfiction; Footprints on Sand (coll 1981) with CACDC; Heroes and Hobgoblins (coll 1981); The Incorporated Knight (fixup 1987) and its sequel, The Pixilated Peeress (1991), both with CACDC; The Stones of Nomuru (1988) with CACDC; The Venom Trees of Sunga (1992); Rivers of Time (coll 1993).Conan: In terms of internal chronology: Conan (coll 1967) with Lin CARTER and Robert E. Howard, Conan of Cimmeria (coll 1969) with Carter and Howard andConan the Freebooter (coll 1968) with Howard, all three being assembled as The Conan Chronicles (omni 1989 UK);Conan the Wanderer (coll 1968) with Carter and Howard, Conan the Adventurer (coll 1966) with Howard, and Conan the Buccaneer (1971) with Carter, all three being assembled as The Conan Chronicles (omni 1990 UK); Conan the Warrior (anth 1967); Conan the Usurper (coll 1967) with Howard; Howard's own Conan the Conqueror (1967 edn) ed LSDP; The Return of Conan (1957; vt Conan the Avenger 1968) with Howard and Bjorn Nyberg; Conan of Aquilonia (coll 1977); Conan of the Isles (1968) with Carter; Conan the Swordsman (coll 1978) with Carter and Nyberg; Conan the Liberator (1979) with Carter; The Blade of Conan (anth 1979); The Spell of Conan (anth 1980); Conan and the Spider God (1980); Treasure of Tranicos (1980) with Howard; Conan the Barbarian * (1982) with Carter, a film tie. (For other Conan books, Robert E. HOWARD.)
   About the author: "Neomythology" by Lin Carter (introduction to LSDC's Literary Swordsmen and Sorcerers); Seekers of Tomorrow (1965) by Sam MOSKOWITZ, Chapter 9; De Camp: An L. Sprague de Camp Bibliography (1983) by Charlotte Laughlin and Daniel J.H. LEVACK.

Science Fiction and Fantasy Encyclopedia. . 2011.


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