Astounding Stories of Super-Science May 1931, by Astounding Stories is part of HackerNoon’s Book Blog Post series. You can jump to any chapter in this book here. VOL. VI, No. 2 - The Readers' Corner
And That's That
May I have just a little room in "The Readers' Corner" to answer Mr. Meek's argument and defend myself from the charge of hasty reading? You will remember that I did not write my letter immediately after the publication of the first Heaviside Layer story, but waited until the appearance of the second, a "cooling-off" period of three months. In that time I re-read the story and considered it at length. I don't call that hasty reading. Besides, the flaw in the story is so obvious that even a "hasty" reading should suffice to find it.
I can't argue about the matter of meteors because Mr. Meek has not given any figures concerning the density or viscosity of his medium. But I can say that to my way of thinking any astronomer could detect the effect of such friction on the action of meteors. They should certainly be consumed much more rapidly than if they merely struck thin air.
That, however, is a minor point and I wouldn't even mind conceding it to Mr. Meek. The point I now wish to make is much more important and in my mind establishes the falsity of Mr. Meek's premises. In the July issue of Astounding Stories, page seven, paragraph four, sentences fourteen and fifteen, he states that the Heaviside Layer is composed of a liquid of high viscosity. By definition a liquid is more dense than a gas. Therefore the Heaviside Layer, according to Mr. Meek, is denser than the atmosphere of the earth since the former is a liquid and the latter is a gas. The increased refraction of light as it entered our atmosphere would then be noticeable. Astronomers can even now detect refraction due to the air. The sun remains visible for some time after it has actually descended below the horizon, due to refraction. If there was a denser substance than air surrounding the earth the refraction would be much greater. Finally, how could the atmosphere support a denser substance like the Heaviside Layer? I'd sure make for cover if I really believed that such a menace existed right over my head.
Sorry to take up your space so much by an argument, but your comments on my letter really called for a defense. Hope you can find room for this.—Philip Waite, 3400 Wayne Ave, New Your, N. Y.
Since Mr. Waite has so generously admitted the validity of my answer to his criticism as regards meteors, I can do no less than admit that he scored one against me in his second argument. I used the word liquid. It was careless diction. Had I used the phrase "composed of a SUBSTANCE of high viscosity, of low specific gravity and with a coefficient of refraction identical with that of air," there would have been no argument. I am sure that Mr. Waite will admit after reflection that such a substance could be held in position, if its specific gravity were low enough, by a combination of gravity and centrifugal force, somewhat in the same manner as the ring of Saturn is held in place. Of course, any idea that the layer rested on the air and was supported in place by it, would be untenable. As I said in my previous letter, I don't believe such a layer exists. If it does, I hope that no one proves it before I get some characters off on a space flyer for an interplanetary adventure or two.—S. P. Meek, Capt., Ord. Dept., U. S. A.
Right from the Shoulder
I know for a fact that Astounding Stories is the best Science Fiction magazine on the stands. I have read it every issue except the first three, and have not yet found a bad story. The characters in other Science Fiction magazines seem like machines, but Astounding Stories' characters seem like intimate friends. Why do —— [censored] like some write in and start bellyaching about the cover, pages, the size, the edges and many other things that no one but —— [censored] would notice? If they know so much why don't they start a magazine and put all other publications out of business? If they liked the stories they would not care if the color of the cover was black or red, white and blue. I get so interested in the stories that the edges of the paper do not amount to anything; and people that bellyache about such minor things prove that they do not care for the stories, and furthermore they prove that they are —— [censored] and —— [censored] ready for the booby hatch.
There is only one thing wrong with the perfect magazine: it does not come out twice a month. I have never known a bunch of Editors that have the intelligence of the Staff of Astounding Stories [uncensored—Ed.]. They have never published a single story that any intelligent Reader could kick about.
About reprints: whether the Editors think that they should publish some or not, it is all the same to me, as they know what they are doing. I should like very much to see some stories by Burroughs, though.
If I were to name your best authors, I would have to name every one that ever wrote a story for your wonderful magazine.—H. N. Sager, R. F. D. 6, Box 419, Bessemer, Ala.
Disposing of Old Stories
I have observed that numerous readers request reprints. I have a collection that goes back to 1900! Since I have no more use for them, I have decided to dispense with them. Here is an infinitesimal list:
A. Merritt: "Thru the Dragon Glass," "The Moon Pool," "The Metal Monster" and "The Ship of Ishtar."
Homer Eon Flint: "Out of the Moon," "The Planeteer," "The King of Conserve Island," "The Blind Spot" and "Flint and Hall."
Jules Black: "Beyond the Earth Atom" and "Marooned in Space."
John Louis Hill: "The Dimension Wizard" and "The Challenge from Beyond."
Davidson Mortimer: "Lost in Time" and "The Amazing Empire Lost in Time" (sequel to story previously mentioned).
Booth Langell: "The Moons of Lanisar."
As I said before, this is but a small part of the Science Fiction stories I have. Anyone desiring stories mentioned above, or any others, please write to me.—George Zambock, 459 E. 155th St., New York, N. Y.
A Kind Offer
I'm sure you will sympathize with me for reading your magazine in study hall.
It is so very dull—I have three S.H.'s in a row—that I have to do something to relieve the monotony, so, seeing the latest copy of A. S. at my newsdealer's, I brought it back to school after dinner. I am speaking of the February number. I very much enjoyed the Dr. Bird story. Capt. Meek is always good. "Phalanxes of Atlans" promises to be an excellent story, also.
What I want to know is, why are so many mossbacks throwing brickbats? What does it matter if some of the stories are not on the scientific chalk line? A very wise man once said that "Variety is the spice of life," so why not take a hint, some of you would-be brickbat pitchers, and pipe down?
I have read every issue of Astounding Stories published so far, and have not a brickbat to report as yet. I notice in one letter to "The Readers' Corner" a request for a department on rocket propulsion. I presume the writer meant on propelling rocket planes. I have experimented on rocket ships for the past three years and can give some data on these as to the construction of models (for when I say ships I really mean model airplanes). I have had this as my hobby for the past four and a half years, and can give extensive information on model building. I specialize in models powered by power other than rubber; and I took second place at the Atlantic City Tournament held in October by the National Play-ground Association, in the Annual National Championships.
Anyone desiring information on the rocket ship or any other type of model plane will be promptly answered by addressing their letter to me.
I hope you will find room to publish this, as I like nothing better than helping someone get started on my favorite hobby, aviation. I have, however, several hobbies, including football, basket-ball, tennis, swimming, boating and hiking. I live within ten miles of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and can see from the study hall window, which I now am seated near to, three ranges of the mountains all covered with more than ten inches of snow.—Richard M. Evans, Box 305, Maryville, Tenn.
To the Defense
Some of the letters you have printed in "The Readers' Corner" almost burn me up. Edwin C. Magnuson asks you what you print there: only letters praising your magazine to the skies? or occasional brickbats? Well, I might say one thing, and that is: if you did print all brickbats, as he seems to want you to, the Readers would think that your magazine wasn't of much account if that was the kind of letters you got all the time, and would probably quit reading it.
He also said he felt like quitting several times because the stories weren't scientific. Well, if he can show me anywhere on your magazine where it says it is a scientific magazine, I'll certainly beg his most humble pardon on bended knee. He also crabbed about your artists. If he can do better, I advise you to hire him. He also says that the paper is rotten, and that after a few handlings goes to pieces. I still have all my magazines, and have lent them several times, and the paper is still there. On his fifth statement I agree with him: you should have an editorial. Also I would certainly like to have reprints, as there are about six issues I didn't get, and I imagine there are several other Readers in the same boat.
Hume V. Stephani makes a very good suggestion about a quarterly. I certainly think it would be appreciated and would go over big. And Robert J. Hyatt, I most certainly agree with you in your letter printed in the February issue; and if this letter is printed (which I hope it is) I hope you will see it, and know that at least one person has the same views on the magazine that you do.—Buel Godwin, 101—3rd Avenue, S. E. Le Mars, Iowa.
"Now a Real Pest"
I have recently been initiated into the reading of Science Fiction, and as a result I am now a real pest to the magazine vendor, from asking for the next copy of Astounding Stories. I have just finished your February copy and words can't express my enjoyment.
"The Tentacles from Below" is indeed a Science Fiction masterpiece. I devour eagerly Captain S. P. Meek's stories about Dr. Bird. As long as you keep Meek you can be assured that I will purchase this magazine. "The Pirate Planet" proved to be a story worthy to be kept as a reprint for future issues. In fact, many of your stories are so good that it is a shame that others can't enjoy them in future issues of Astounding Stories.
Wesso is a great artist and I appreciate to the fullest extent his remarkable pictures.
Yours for a continuation of your present success in editing and publishing remarkable stories—Lester P. Lieber, 542 Dalzell St., Shreveport, La.
Although this is my first letter to "The Readers' Corner" of your publication, I have nevertheless been a consistent Reader of the magazine since its inception. Contrary to many of your correspondents I have nothing to say against your magazine or policy. I like its size, its artists and most of its stories. I shall not bother to name those I do not like because I do not believe that there is a magazine to be found that can publish stories to suit all its Readers.
I enjoy the serials and your two-part novelettes since it gives one something to look forward to each month. I enjoyed "The Pirate Planet" by Charles W. Diffin so much I was sorry to see it end, and I hope there will be more of his work in the future. I am particularly glad to see such writers as Captain S. P. Meek, Ray Cummings, Miles J. Breuer, Victor Rousseau and Harl Vincent as regular contributors to your pages, but there are also a number of other writers whom I miss seeing in "our" mag. Of these are A. Hyatt-Verrill who writes so well of the Incas, Otis Adelbert Kline who also gives us excellent stories and Leslie F. Stone whose "Men with Wings" and "Women with Wings" appeared in another magazine and which I enjoyed exceedingly. I believe that to have these writers as regular contributors would add much to the interest of the publication.
With the compliments of an avid reader of Science Fiction. I salute you.—Theodore Morris, 1412 S. W. 13th St., Miami, Fla.
"Under My Collar"
I have been reading Astounding Stories for a good while and I like it fine. I noticed in your last issue that a fellow by the name of Edwin C. Magnuson was kicking about "The Readers' Corner." Some of his reasons, I think, for not liking this magazine are as follows: first, the illustrations are poor. I believe they are good. Second, he says that he doesn't like stories such as those written by Charles W. Diffin, Jackson Gee, Murray Leinster and Victor Rousseau. He also has in his letter a list of authors whose works he likes. I do not think they are so hot, with the exception of Capt. S. P. Meek. Mr. Magnuson also says he is disgusted with Astounding Stories and would like to quit reading it. Well, why doesn't he?
I want to say it is a fine mag. I don't like to be a critic, but that fellow got under my collar. The only thing that could be done is to publish at least twice a month.
Well, reckon I will sign off. Here is to Astounding Stories. A better mag can't be found!—Boyd H. Goodman, 2008 McKinney Ave., Dallas, Texas.
From Franklin to Poe
As a Reader of Astounding Stories from the first number I would like to comment on your magazine regarding your stories and the subject of reprints.
First, you are publishing one of the best Science Fiction magazines on the market, and I read three of them. And although I agree with Mr. Magnuson and others on the subject of reprints, I do not agree with the former that the paper is rotten and falls to pieces. I have a complete file of Astounding Stories to date and I have not noticed any signs of disintegration amongst them as yet.
You could easily follow the suggestion of Mr. Stephani, and have a space for good reprints and charge a nickel more. I believe most of your Readers would approve of it.
The story, "The Sunken Empire," was fine, and it is to the credit of Science Fiction that in addition to interesting Readers in other worlds it has also created an interest in the fate of lands from which the Atlantic Ocean received its name. This story is reminiscent of a story which appeared in The Saturday Evening Post about three years ago called "Maracot Deep." In this story a party of men (three, I believe) descended to the bottom of the Atlantic and found a surviving colony from Atlantis, and saw reproduced on a screen events leading up to the sinking of Atlantis. It was written by the late Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and the only weak spot was that Sir Arthur had to change the submergence of Atlantis from a natural catastrophe into a "judgment" of the gods, whose sense of propriety was outraged by the "wickedness" of the Atlanteans. If you reprinted this story your Readers would eat it up.
I hope that you publish this letter because I want to reply through your "Readers' Corner" to Mr. Richard Lewis of Knoxville, Iowa, on the subject of reprints.
Mr. Lewis says he has read most of the classic scientific stories referred to. Well, so have I, but I should like to read many of them again as would many of your Readers. I have for the last twenty years been reading literary classics but when I receive my copies of Good Literature or The Golden Book I do not consider myself cheated because I find some stories in them that I have read before. The best are always worth reading at least twice.
As an illustration, has Mr. Lewis ever read the following: the "Kasidah," by Sir Richard Burton, who gave the world its best literal translation of "The Arabian Nights," which differs as daylight from dark in comparison with the Lane and Payne translations which are only edited for children to read? Or has he read the chapter which Benjamin Franklin added to the Bible? If Mr. Lewis read these for the first time in any magazine he takes he would no doubt consider them well worth the price of the magazine or more, yet they would be reprints, the last one about as old as the United States.
The "Kasidah" is a long poem on philosophic aspects of evolution in which almost all Science Fiction Readers are interested. In contains lines like the following:
"Conscience was bred
When man had shed
His fur, his tail
And pointed ears."
And as a dissertation on our caveman ancestors:
"They fought for women as for food. When 'Mays' awoke to warm desire; And this the lust that changed to loveWhen fancy lent a purer fire."
Regarding the Franklin chapter, it is stated that "Wise Old Ben" used to insert it between the pages of the Bible and read it to his friends in the City of Brotherly Love, and great was the consternation of many who thought they knew the Scriptures from "cover to cover."
Any new readers of Science Fiction would be glad to read "The Girl in the Golden Atom," "The Fire People" and "The Man Who Mastered Time," by Ray Cummings. I like to read this author's work, but I believe when he wrote this trilogy of Matter, Space and Time that he reached the heights of his writing. I have never read any subsequent writings of his that I thought exceeded them.
Speaking of the necessity of authors eating, Mr. Lewis states that good stories have never been written on an empty stomach.
Edgar Allan Poe who wrote "Shades" was one of the most brilliant of American writers, and his stomach was empty most of the time. And when this master of ratiocination had on rare occasions a full stomach it was invariably full of "hooch."
As Mr. Lewis speaks as a pedagogue, is it not a physiological fact that an empty stomach clears the mind by diverting the blood stream from the necessity of digesting food? And while I am not advocating any fast cures for authors, some of them (although few in Astounding Stories) would be greatly benefited by trying it.
In conclusion I should like to say to Mr. Lewis and others who take the same slant on reprints, that there are many of the finest writings in Science Fiction and the classics which you and I have never even heard of, much less read.
I will close with best wishes for your continued success—Joseph R. Barnes, Cache Junction, Utah.
Now Feeling Better
Well, I guess I've just about gotten you exasperated with all the brickbats I've been cannoning into your office. However, I believe this letter will make you feel a little better.
The latest issue was fine. There wasn't a story in it that I didn't enjoy. "The Tentacles from Below" was a surprisingly good story, especially when you consider that I don't like sea stories. I liked this one very much.
Another extremely great surprise was "Werewolves of War." From the few notes about it I surmised that it was another one of those hero-dying-and-saving-his-country stories; and it was—but not the kind I expected it to be. The author's narrative and descriptive abilities were such that I forgot all about the plot running throughout the story. Hang on to that fellow.
The other complete story was also good. The conclusion of the "The Pirate Planet" was also good, as were its preceding instalments. The first instalment of "Phalanxes of Atlans" was unusual. That's gonna turn out to be one of the best stories you've yet published, or I miss my bet.—G. Kirschner, Box 301, Temple, Texas.
"Paper Is Durable"
While reading "The Readers' Corner" in your January issue I noticed a bit of criticism by Edwin Magnuson of Duluth, Minn. In it he said that you have printed some stories containing little or no science. But, first, most of your Readers like a little change in a subject and I advise one or two of these about two or three months apart. Second, the paper is of durable material, for I pass my magazine to my friends who read it and then return it with very few pages torn. Third, I agree that reprints would be a blessing, for most of your readers have not read stories by Cummings, Breuer, Wells and Vincent. Fourth, the fact that some stories have not a sound scientific basis is quite all right because every fair reader likes his stories fired with some imagination.—Walter Witte, 960 Duchess St., St. Paul, Minn.
Although I have read every issue of A. S. since it came out, I have never written about it, and this is what I have to say:
First, it is just as good or better than two other Science Fiction magazines that I can name.
Second, in my opinion you have some of the best modern authors, such as Cummings, Meek, Rousseau, Diffin, Vincent and Hamilton. Also others.
The stories have been A-1 with the exception of "Murder Madness," which, in my opinion, does not belong in a magazine of this type, but in a detective story magazine, because that is all it was—a detective story. And when are you going to have a sequel to "The Gray Plague," by L. A. Eshbach which appeared in the November issue? It deserves one.
The best author on your staff is Captain S. P. Meek, whose Dr. Bird stories cannot be equalled. They are science stories plus.
A few suggestions: an occasional reprint. It would not affect the living conditions of our present day authors and would give us all a chance to read a classic of yesterday.
Do not change the size (i. e. width and length); but as for enlarging it in the thickness direction, you have my heartiest encouragement. I notice that one of the other magazines has changed its size, so now you are not alone. Evening up the edges of the sheets would improve the looks, however. And now that you have had your first birthday, when are you going to start a quarterly? In it you could publish a complete book length novel and seven novelettes. By novel, I mean a story of about one hundred pages or more of your present size, and novelettes fifty pages or more. You could double the price because a quarterly is worth double what a monthly is worth.
Your artists are great, but you could still improve by having them make a full page illustration at the start and one more exciting one as the story progresses.
Well, I think I've said enough good things about you and enough suggestions, so until January 1932, adios, au revoir, etc.—Henry Benner, Cowithe, Wash.
Personally I would rather read a good short story than the ten pages of instructions by Readers published in the March issue. Two pages are plenty, especially when half the criticisms concern paper, size, edges of paper, etc. A. S. is O. K!
I have just finished the February issue of Astounding Stories. All of the stories were so good I couldn't tell you which one is the best. "The Phalanxes of Atlans" and "The Tentacles from Below" were very good. I liked "The Black Lamp," too. It is up to the standard of the rest of the Dr. Bird stories. "The Pirate Planet" ended very beautifully. However, I did not like that about Sykes getting killed. "Werewolves of War" was good. It ended differently from most of the other stories. Most of them end with the hero escaping, but in this the hero was killed. It had a very good plot.
I got my first copy of Astounding Stories last July and I haven't missed a copy since. Why not put out Astounding Stories twice a month, or make it a weekly? I hate to have to wait a whole month before I get another copy.
I believe that the best story I have ever read in this magazine was "The Invisible Death," by Victor Rousseau.
The reason I like Astounding Stories better than any other Science Fiction magazine is that most of the other magazines have too much science and not enough action.—Dale Griffith, 437 Carson St., San Antonio, Texas.
"To Satisfy Myself"
It has been long since I read the February issue of your magazine and I'm waiting anxiously for the March issue.
The February issue had some very good stories, and I just must say that the story entitled "Werewolves of War," is the best story of its type I have ever read. Unlike most of these stories there is more future truth than fiction.
Perhaps you didn't expect to hear from me so soon again, but I am interested in this type of story as I used to write this kind in my English class back in high school. My stories were of this type, but always different from any that the rest of the class wrote. Another thing, I love to be writing, so I take this way to satisfy myself. I do hope you will excuse me.
I have one more thing to say and that is: I only wish your magazine was put out every two weeks instead of every four; or print more stories and raise the price to twenty five cents. I'm sure people will pay if they are as interested as I.—Ken F. Haley, 36 Mechanic St., Lebanon, N.H.
"Easier to Turn"
I have just read "The Readers' Corner" of the March issue and noticed that bright remark about that super-rotten story, "Skylark Three." Anyone who liked that story is certainly not hard to please. It does not compare with the worst story ever published. I also read that "other magazine" and I say that it has disgraced itself by "Skylark Three."
Everything is perfect about your magazine except that there are not enough stories in each issue. The uneven edges are just fine, for it makes the pages easier to turn. The covers are not too gaudy. The covers should depict a thrilling incident in a story; they do.
"Phalanxes of Atlans" offered a good theory as to the whereabouts of the descendants of the Atlanteans and the Lost Tribes of Israel. It was keen.
I conclude my letter with a warning: do not change your type. Also do not change your order of issue; I mean, do not make your magazine into a bi-monthly as I see some magazines of this type have done.—Robert Leonard Russell, 825 Casey Ave., Mt. Vernon, Illinois.
You Tell 'Em!
I have always considered the drawings of H. W. Wesso far superior to those of all other Science Fiction artists, and, indeed, much better than the work of most pulp magazine illustrators. But his cover for the March issue of Astounding Stories was remarkable even for him; it was a veritable masterpiece.
So enthralled was I by the first sight of this eye-arresting picture that I stared at it for minutes on end. This snarling titan with his mighty arm outstretched toward the tiny figures just beyond his reach—what a gripping tableau!
Free from the superfluous, uninteresting machinery and apparatus that clutter up most illustrations in other Science Fiction magazines, your March cover remained fantastic, but human—a picture that expressed the very essence of super-scientific fiction as presented in Astounding Stories. Vivid in color, striking in subject, dramatic in treatment and drawn with consummate skill, that cover must have attracted many new Readers to this magazine.
And the promise held out by the cover was more than fulfilled by the contents of that issue—one of your best to date. The only discordant note in the entire magazine was the yapping and ranting of certain dissatisfied —— [censored] too —— [censored] to appreciate the finest, most worthy publication in its field to-day.—Booth Cody, Bronx, New York.
"Nothing Is Automatic"
First, I wish to congratulate you on the increasing quality of your magazine since its first issue. It surpasses all other Science Fiction magazines, and I haven't missed a single issue and don't intend to!
What prompted me to write this letter was an article, "A Robot Chemist," published in your March, 1931, issue. In the article it states that a mechanical robot performed several experiments without human supervision. But, I am sorry to say, I disagree. Nothing is automatic. Foolishly, after perfecting anything that performs its work afterwards by itself, man calls it an automaton. But it is not! Did he not have to work and slave hour after hour, day after day and month after month to perfect it? He did! Ever since man became civilized he has deceived himself by calling, for instance, machinery in a factory, automatons. The quest for automatic machinery is as hopeless as the quest for perpetual motion!
What is my idea of an automaton? Well, take a robot for instance. Man calls it an automaton in spite of the fact that he had to slave to put it together before it did its work.
My idea is this: the iron ore would come out itself, smelt itself, form itself in the various shapes and parts needed to construct a robot, then take its correct place and rivet itself. Then the radio brain, electrical eyes and magnet hands take their place; and when it has constructed itself it will conduct the experiments—if a chemical robot—without human supervision. Thus, the latter clause would be true! That's my conception of an automatic robot! Otherwise, its just some metal doing the bidding of a master's brain.
Another thing: the novelette "Beyond the Vanishing Point," by Ray Cummings, is preposterous. The flesh might shrink or grow, but the bone would not! If one shrunk as did George Randolph, one's bones would burst through the flesh.
But in spite of all that, I like the stories that way. Science, in the years to come might discover how to shrink or grow both flesh and bones. I guess I'm taking too much of your time, so adios!—Jay Zee, Chicago, Illinois.
Hot Times in the Fire-House
The first Thursday in each month I make a bee-line for the newsstand—and Astounding Stories. It may interest you to know that I have every issue on file that you have put out.
There have been some mighty good yarns in those issues, but the one just at hand contains the best story you have ever published—"Terrors Unseen," by Harl Vincent. There's an author for you; but evidently I don't have to tell you so, as you have given us quite a number of his splendid stories. "Vagabonds of Space" was a wow. Like some of the others who have written in, I would like to see a sequel to this. Harl Vincent is my favorite of all your authors.
A close second is Charles W. Diffin. He is good, too. As your authors appeal to me, in order, I mean. I would line them up in this way: Harl Vincent, Charles W. Diffin, R. F. Starzl, Ray Cummings, Capt. S. P. Meek, Jack Williamson and Murray Leinster.
I agree with Jim Nicholson of San Francisco that you should give us some stories by Francis Flagg. Here is an author you never have published, and, to my way of looking at things, he has more fresh material than most of the authors put together. Many of the things that have been copied widely and used extensively (I don't mean that whole stories have been stolen, or anything like that) were originated by this fine writer. By all means get Francis Flagg. [We have just bought a story—a good one—from him!—Ed]. He would stand about third in my list if you had used his work before. I made it up from those whose work has been used.
Two or three things I notice, that I would have you correct. All your stories seem to be of standardized length, either around 10,000 words or 25,000 words. Eliminate all restrictions as to word length but make your writers boil down their work. Most stories are too long, and could be told better if cut down quite a bit. The paper and the page size of the magazine are okay, but why not smooth edges? And it is hard to keep the covers on. I wouldn't object to more pages or an extra nickel in price. Or if not that, how about publishing "our" magazine twice a month?
After fighting a fire, there's nothing like Astounding Stories with which to "unlax." You're doing a fine job, and I only make these suggestions because I want a "perfect" magazine instead of one that bats 97% all the time. Hope you'll have room for all this. And, oh yes, keep on with your program of "No reprints." Your new yarns are better than the old ones. Let's have the new ones, and encourage our fine string of authors to do even better work.—Gayl Whitman, Fireman, Co. No. 11, Main at 22nd, Columbus, Ohio.
Another critic is going to take his pen in hand and give you a bouquet. I have just finished reading the March issue of A. S. and think it was fine.
Of all the stories you have published I liked "The Gray Plague" the best. I don't care much for reprints because I like new stories the best.
I would like to correspond with some of the Readers of A. S. I will answer any or all letters I receive.—L. B. Knutson, 629—3rd Ave., So, Minneapolis, Minn.
A Heroine a la Mode
I'm with J. H. Nicholson, who advises those who are indifferent to the scientifically possible in order to give the author a broader field in which to lay his plot. As he says, they should feel right at home with their noses stuck into a volume of Anderson's Fairy Tales. However, this letter is more to express the science lovers' viewpoint than to sling mud at the authors. For us, the plot loses much of its kick if the science is not reasonable.
Suppose for once that one of these Readers who waives scientific possibility aside as secondary should pick up a plot-distorted story in which the heroine should be described something as follows:
"Hers was a tall superbly built figure combining the strength of a horse with the gentle curves of a hippo. When she spoke, her sweetly modulated voice was as pleasant to the ear as the bray of a Spanish jackass. Her hair hung to her waist and was the convenient nesting place for several English sparrows. She was slightly cockeyed from birth and had had her nose squashed in a saloon brawl. She carried herself with the graceful dignity of an African orang-utan and was always much sought after, having a quaint habit of slapping every new male she met a resounding whack on the back that loosened their bridge work. Being a veteran tobacco chewer and having high blood pressure she could spit one hundred feet against a fifty-mile wind. When she ate in company, she had an amusing way of gargling her soup in G-flat. Her—"
It's unnecessary to go further. Such a character would be every bit as reasonably possible as some of the science these science-conniving Readers are willing to sanction.
Here are some of the seemingly impossible feats of a recent story: 1—a diver in an ordinary diving dress is able to stand the pressure at three miles down; 2—(granting the above is possible) a diver shoots up three miles without stopping and still does not become a victim of the bends; 3—(granting the above two possible) a diver after shooting from such a great depth and pressure to a depth of comparatively low pressure would not be able to lower the pressure inside his dress, since it would be held so rigid that he would not be able to bend his arms; 4—a man or animal suddenly released from the enormous pressure of about three hundred tons to the square inch to atmospheric pressure, it seems, would most certainly burst before the internal pressure could equalize itself.
Please notice that I said seemingly wrong. I'm for A. S. just one hundred per cent and would prefer to have it as right as possible. I don't like crank letter writing and would never have written this now if it hadn't been for several of the letters in the March issue that gave me a touch of hades under the collar. S'long. Maybe I'll write again sometime when I get some more "ham science" ideas.—William S. Lotsch, 1 Morrison Ave., Troy, N. Y.
You Make Them Adequate
Thanks. Of course I accept your invitation to "The Readers' Corner." I have been a constant Reader of your magazine since its appearance on the Science Fiction horizon, and I have yet to meet a story that I failed to read in its entirety or that I didn't like.
To merely write a letter and say that this story was good, the other story was fair, and oh my! how poor the third story was, is futile. But as it is the usual custom to do so here goes:
Excellent stories—all of the first five volumes; good stories—who's interested?; poor stories—where are they?; good authors—takes up too much room and time; poor authors—got tired looking for them.
All I want to say is, Astounding Stories is the best or one of the best magazines on the market. Gee, but aren't words futile when you describe something great and wonderful!—Herbert Goodket, 707 Jackson Avenue, New York, N. Y.
Ain't It Too Awful!
I knew it. It was bound to come. At last my efforts have been rewarded. Fame has sought me out—even in Brooklyn. It was suggested in the March issue of Astounding Stories that I, Louis Wentzler, as one of the active contributors to "The Readers' Corner," regale your Readers with a description of myself, my interest in Science Fiction and how I got that way. A picture was also requested, but this had better be omitted. As for my personal history, bend an ear:
At the tender age of four, while making mud pies on the doorstep of my home, I was beaned by a brick hurled by an uncouth ruffian across the street. The results were not fatal—who said "unfortunately?"—but from that moment I developed a taste for Science Fiction. Had it not been for that incident I might have grown up a normal lad; but the caress of that brick on my cranium did things to me, and I have been a Science Fiction addict since.
Of course, I do not contend that all Science Fiction fans were hit by bricks, though a lot of them should be. I do believe, however, that a slight concussion of the brain helps one appreciate Science Fiction the more. Anyway, once imbued with the urge I took to Science Fiction like a Hindu to hashish. Such stories were rare in those days, but I started to collect all I could find.
Then came the war. I was too young to fight, but I did my bit making canteens out of old sieves. That was how my mind worked, you see. Well, the war ended—I forgot who won—and I went back to my beloved Science Fiction. Years have passed since then, and I have a fine collection of stories now. Should any of you care to see them, come around to the local booby-hatch some time: you'll find me in Padded Cell No. 17.—Louis Wentzler, 1935 Woodbine St., Brooklyn, N. Y.
Except for a brief letter of criticism in the August, 1930, number of Astounding Stories, I have been a silent but loyal follower of the magazine since its first issue. My silence was that of profound satisfaction. Almost all the stories suited me to perfection; and the few I did not like were hardly worth commenting on. Since the magazine has grown better with every issue I would probably have kept my peace; but there is one disturbing factor which impels me to write again.
I refer to the irresponsible outbursts of certain —— [censored] who squeeze into "The Readers' Corner" and sputter out senseless denunciations of the magazine, its appearance, its policies, and so on. I do not object to logical, well-founded criticism, but I most decidedly do object to the —— [censored] remarks and invidious comparisons indulged in by various —— [censored] Readers. It's about time someone told them where to head in, and, by your leave, I'll do it.
The most recent offender is J. Vernon Shea, Jr., a Pittsburgh lad of eighteen who, in the March issue, ventures to criticize the grammar of Ray Cummings, call the Editor harsh names, and demand that the magazine conform to his own dizzy notions. He concedes that Astounding Stories prints consistently interesting tales, but charges that the Editor is indifferent to "the advancement of Science Fiction." Mr. Shea, can't you see that the publication of first-class stories, as in this magazine, is the best possible way to popularize Science Fiction? Or do you simply prefer inferior stuff?
Then there's D. R. Guthrie, from way back in Idaho, who liked a yarn in another magazine so much he had to tell us all about it—as if we didn't have the best Science Fiction ever written right here in Astounding Stories. Guthrie's another who seems to prefer brass to gold.
Going back an issue or two, we note a letter from Edwin Magnuson, a deluded denizen of Duluth, who says he's plumb disgusted because Astounding Stories receives far more bouquets than brickbats, when according to him the mag deserves to be panned plenty. Get in step, Edwin, you're falling way behind!
And I mustn't forget M. Clifford Johnston of the Newark Johnstons, who calls Astounding Stories trash and its Readers morons. Well, there are various degrees of mental incompetence, and the moron is far above the idiot, Mr. Johnston!
Now that I've taken a few hasty pokes at those who most deserved them, I'll give my own comments on some of your latest stories—and anyone who feels like telling me where I get off is welcome to do so.
First, let me take my hat off to Jack Williamson. I never thought much of his stuff in other mags, but his "The Meteor Girl" was a mighty fine piece of work. Evidently you've got to be good to crash Astounding Stories. Interesting as it was, though, Williamson's yarn contained a noticeable error. In the story, the narrator and his friend witness an event occurring twelve hours in the future at a distant place. They then travel to that place, reaching it at a time exactly corresponding to the time of the event witnessed. Therefore, they should have seen themselves in the future scene—an obvious fact which the author either failed to consider or conveniently ignored. [But—by the story, they did not arrive at the rock until just AFTER the events they witnessed by means of the fourth dimension. Thus, everything is O. K. Take another look.—Ed.] Despite this flaw the story embodied several original ideas, had plenty of action, and was well told. We can stand more of Williamson.
"Phalanxes of Atlans," by F. V. W. Mason, was a corker. When writers of Mason's standing turn to Science Fiction, we fans have much to be thankful for. Is there any chance of our getting a story by Fred MacIsaac, Theodore Roscoe, or Erle Stanley Gardner? All of them are first-class writers, and they can handle Science Fiction better than many who have specialized in that field. The only other suggestion I can offer for improving the magazine is to have additional illustrations within the stories, such as Wide World Adventures used to have.
Satisfied as I am with Astounding Stories it will probably be a long time before I write again—unless I feel called upon to administer a few more verbal spankings to certain obstreperous individuals!—Sears Langell, 1214 Boston Road, New York, N. Y.
"The Readers' Corner"
All Readers are extended a sincere and cordial invitation to "come over in 'The Readers' Corner'" and join in our monthly discussion of stories, authors, scientific principles and possibilities—everything that's of common interest in connection with our Astounding Stories.
Although from time to time the Editor may make a comment or so, this is a department primarily for Readers, and we want you to make full use of it. Likes, dislikes, criticisms, explanations, roses, brickbats, suggestions—everything's welcome here: so "come over in 'The Readers' Corner'" and discuss it with all of us!
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Various. 2009. Astounding Stories of Super-Science, May 1931. Urbana, Illinois: Project Gutenberg. Retrieved May 2022 from https://www.gutenberg.org/files/30532/30532-h/30532-h.htm#Readers_Corner
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