HAMILTON, Edmond (Moore)


HAMILTON, Edmond (Moore)
(1904-1977)
   US writer, married to Leigh BRACKETT from 1946. With E.E. "Doc" SMITH and Jack WILLIAMSON, he was one of the prime movers in the development of US sf, sharing with those writers in the creation and popularization of classic SPACE OPERA as it first appeared in PULP MAGAZINES from about 1928. His first story, "The Monster-God of Mamurth"for Weird Tales in 1926, which vulgarized the florid weird-science world of Abraham MERRITT, only hinted at the exploits to come, though EH found SCIENCE FANTASY a fertile vein, collecting this story and others in hisfirst book, The Horror on the Asteroid \& Other Tales of Planetary Horror (coll 1936 UK). Only two years later, with the publication of "CrashingSuns" (1928 Weird Tales), he was writing genuine space opera of the sort with which he soon became identified: the Universe-spanning tale in which an Earthman and his comrades (not necessarily human) discover a cosmic threat to the home Galaxy and successfully - either alone, or with the aid of a space armada, or both-combat the ALIENS responsible for the threat. Science or pseudo-science served as a magically enabling doubletalk forthe easier presentation of interstellar action, and the scope, colour and dynamic clarity of this liberated action did much to define the SENSE OF WONDER for a generation of readers, who rewarded EH with several nicknamesin recognition of his gift, variously "World-Destroyer", "The World Wrecker", or "World-Saver Hamilton".Though not technically part of theseries, "Crashing Suns" is structurally identical to the six Interstellar Patrol stories, which followed immediately; when they were (with theexception of "The Sun People" (1930)) finally reprinted in the 1960s, this story was properly included, giving its title to the second volume. Outside the Universe (1929 Weird Tales; 1964) and Crashing Suns (coll1965) represent, with faults and virtues grandly magnified, the heart of EH's early work - and the heart, therefore, of space opera. Others of his works contributing to the creation of the form include The Metal Giants (1926 Weird Tales; 1932 chap), "The Comet Doom" (1928) and "The UniverseWreckers" (1930). The main failure of EH's work is a lack of cohesion, through the lack of any sense of strategic plotting; that lack would of course be remedied in the work of E.E. Smith. EH persisted with the format through the 1930s, with gradually diminishing success, occasionally under pseudonyms including Robert Castle, Hugh Davidson, Robert Wentworth and the house name Will GARTH; and-dangerously for his career - occupied much of his time in the early 1940s with the smoother but significantly less lively Captain Future series, published 1940-50 by Standard Magazines in CAPTAIN FUTURE (1940-44) and afterwards in Startling Stories (1945-6 and1950-51).Not all the Captain Future stories were by EH. Five were signed with the house name Brett STERLING, of which two were by EH and three - "Worlds to Come" (1943), "Days of Creation" (1944) and The Tenth Planet(1944 CF; 1969) - were by Joseph SAMACHSON, with one further title - The Solar Invasion (1946 Startling Stories; 1969) - being by Manly Wade WELLMAN. Each tale was written to a rigorous formula in which the super-scientist protagonist, backed by three aides (one ROBOT, one ANDROID and one brain in a box), brings an interstellar villain to justice. EH's Captain Future titles eventually released in book form are Danger Planet(1945 Startling Stories as "Red Sun of Danger"; 1968, as by Sterling), Outlaw World (1946 Startling Stories; 1969), Quest Beyond the Stars (1942 Captain Future; 1969), Outlaws of the Moon (1942 Captain Future; 1969), The Comet Kings (1942 Captain Future; 1969) - which was probably the outstanding tale among them - Planets in Peril (1942 Captain Future; 1969), Calling Captain Future (1940 Captain Future; 1969), CaptainFuture's Challenge (1940 Captain Future; 1969), Galaxy Mission (1940 Captain Future as "The Triumph of Captain Future"; 1969), The Tenth Planet (1944 Captain Future as "Magic Moon"; 1969, as by Sterling), The Magician of Mars (1941 Captain Future; 1969) and Captain Future and the Space Emperor (1940 Captain Future; 1969). 11 further novels remain in magazineform: "Captain Future and the Seven Space Stones" (1941), "Star Trail to Glory" (1941), "The Lost World of Time" (1941), "The Face of the Deep"(1943), "The Return of Captain Future" (1950), "Children of the Sun" (1950), "The Harpers of Titan" (1950), "Pardon My Iron Nerves" (1950), "Moon of the Unforgotten" (1951), "Earthmen no More" (1951) and "Birthplace of Creation" (1951). From "The Return of Captain Future" (1950) onwards these tales were novelettes, usually around 10,000 words. The original idea for Captain Future had come from Mort WEISINGER, a senior editor with the Standard Magazines group. Later, in 1941, Weisinger shifted over to DC COMICS, and took many of his top writers with him, including EH, who worked for some time in the mid-1940s as a staff writer on SUPERMAN, along with Henry KUTTNER and others.Unfortunately for EH, his work in comics and his involvement with Captain Future (which was aimed primarily at teenaged boys) made it initially somewhat difficult for him to be accepted after WWII as the competent and versatile professional he had in fact been for years, a writer with a much wider range than was generally realized, one who had already produced several stories whose comparatively sober verisimilitude prefigured post-WWII requirements. After his marriage to Brackett in 1946 his output diminished, but itsquality increased, a fact obscured by the publication in book form over the next years of material from his early career - like Tharkol, Lord of the Unknown (1939 Startling Stories; 1950 UK), in which Martians invade Earth for its water - and by his habitual rehashing of space-operaconventions in old-fashioned epics like The Sun Smasher (1954 Universe; 1959 dos), Battle for the Stars (1956 Imagination as by Alexander BLADE;exp 1961) and Fugitive of the Stars (1957 Imagination; rev 1965 dos). His final series, the Starwolf tales about tough interstellar adventurer Morgan Chane, is similarly antiquated in premise, but told in a clean-cuttrimmed-down language which has won it supporters. The sequence comprises The Weapon from Beyond (1967), The Closed Worlds (1968) and World of theStarwolves (1968), all three being assembled as Starwolf (omni 1982).At the same time, however, EH was writing novels which, though in the space-opera tradition, were more carefully composed and darker in texture. It is for these novels, plus The Monsters of Juntonheim (1941 StartlingStories as "A Yank at Valhalla"; 1950 UK; vt A Yank at Valhalla 1973 dos US), that he is now mainly remembered. The best is probably The Haunted Stars (1960), in which well characterized humans face a shattering mystery on the MOON: the secret of star travel left by long-dead ALIENS, along with dark warnings. The Star Kings (1949; vt Beyond the Moon 1950), whose plot reflects The Prisoner of Zenda (1894) by Anthony Hope (1863-1933) (RURITANIA), is grander in scope but less impressively written; its sequelsare collected in Return to the Stars (coll of linked stories 1970), and both volumes are assembled as Chronicles of the Star Kings (omni 1986 UK). Other titles of interest from this flourishing period are City at World'sEnd (1951), The Star of Life (1947 Startling Stories; rev 1959) and The Valley of Creation (1948 Startling Stories; rev 1964), a strongly written SWORD-AND-SORCERY tale with an sf denouement.EH shared with his long-time colleague Jack Williamson a capable and flexible attitude towards the post-WWII genre and its markets (in contrast to the third great originator of US space opera, E.E. Smith, who was a generation older). Through his ability to evolve a cleaner and more literate style to meet these new demands, and to apply this style to his old generic loves, EH wrote novels at the end of his career that read perfectly idiomatically as novels of the 1960s, as evidenced also in two compendiums of his shorter work: What's It Like Out There? and Other Stories (coll 1974) and the posthumousThe Best of Edmond Hamilton (coll 1977) ed Leigh Brackett. In the end, it can be said of EH that he took space opera seriously enough to make it good.
   JC
   Other works: Tiger Girl (1945 chap UK); Murder in the Clinic (coll 1946 chap UK); Doomstar (1966); The Lake of Life (1937 Weird Tales; 1978 chap).As Editor: The Best of Leigh Brackett (anth 1977).
   About the author: Leigh Douglass Brackett and Edmond Hamilton: A Working Bibliography (1988 chap) by Gordon BENSON Jr.

Science Fiction and Fantasy Encyclopedia. . 2011.

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