Retro Fandom Friday – Bring us the head of Harry Parkhurst!

Friday , 1, December 2017 7 Comments

Today, we’re looking a few of the highlights from the letters section of the Spring 1945 issue of Planet Stories. One thing that virtually every Vizigraph I’ve read has had in common is an overwhelming dissatisfaction with Parkhurst’s cover art. And I can’t say I blame them. While Parkhurst has some fantastic covers to his name (several of which can be viewed here), he frequently failed to bring his A-game to the covers of Planet.

But what did women have to say about the dames on Planet’s cover? Well, I won’t say she speaks for all of them, but Virginia L. Shawl weighs in:

So your Vizi-fanners do not like undraped females? Heh, heh, heh, she laughed wickedly. Are you men or robots? What I dislike is striking one goshawful cover out of every three. The type of cover that you have to buy a newspaper to cover it up with until you get home. The exterior on the Winter issue is a good example. The heroine was completely out of proportion to the monster holding her. And the hero looked as tho he had been drained of fifty percent of his IQ.

Virginia had a point, too. Parkhurst had lousy composition in many of his pieces, and the cover in question is an egregious example. As Chad Oliver concurs—“do you look at those cover, or just clap ‘em on quick to spare the eyes? Or didn’t you honestly think Parkhurst’s current effort was amusing?”

Tom Pace also has some things to say about the art:

…the first Planet I ever saw was the Fall, ’43ish. It had a cover on it that is one of the best I have ever seen…. Rozen’s, of course…next issue, the Winter one, had a Gross, a step down from Rozen, but still pretty good. Especially the dame. Then came Ingels, and I frowned a trifle. But annudder sweet damsel…dams…damse…tomato.


Then Gross returned again, with a luscious brunet beauty…and the awfullest monster I have ever seen in the way of a BEM.


And now, Parkurst, and a step down from the Summer cover. Please, what yarn did it illustrate? And boiled lobster, yet…”

On the other hand, Loretta Adele Beasley thinks

The cover BEMS were swell this time, better than average. So was the girl. I’m glad to see she had some meat on her bones.

Augustus Elliott Kinkade disapproves of the choice of other magazines to go “military”, and clamors for more Brackett:

“I’m glad P.S. has not gone “military”, like a certain one-time competitor—stories, reader letters and illustrations all by military personnel. Also, I’m delighted that P.S. shows no sign of picking authors because they have small (pin?) heads and very large feet (micrencephalia and macropodia), as the editor of the militarized competitor avows that he does. [That a “Rap”, eh?]


One criticism: Neither issue has a Brackett tale. I’ve seen our Leigh’s picture, so know she is not afflicted with micrencephalia or macropodia—besides she’s not a WAC—hence can not have been “Kidnapped” by this alleged, militarized competitor. Her last P.S. tale Terror out of Space was fine; but her Jewel of Bas was an epic.

Not quite the smoking gun of an editor correcting someone on Brackett’s gender, but more proof that it was no secret, certainly.

Also, not everyone was buying what Damon Knight had been selling; Everett Marshall dumps on one of Damon’s circle:

I’m laughing, my friend. Not at you, nor again at Planet Stories, but at one yclept Damon the Demon, who has a letter in the Vizigraph. Now I don’t expect you to recall one letter out of the junk heap, so I’ll elucidate: it seems that this Damon has a friend by the name of Fleming, who sold you a story. Damon has been watching Planet, looking for aforementioned opus, and in the course picked up the Summer Issue, read it, and shipped you a letter of critique theron.


And what sayeth our Knight? Well, in reference to a certain tale called “Warriors of Two Worlds,” by a certain Wellman, he pens: “If anything I’ve read ever justifies the name of “hack” this is it. Reading the thing, I could almost feel Wellman’s mighty mechanical brain whirring effortlessly along…the style is smooth, like a thick coating of gelatin over the rough, ugly shape of plot and background.” And so on.


I’m laughing, pard, because I’ve just read that story by Stuart Fleming in the new issue. And the paragraph quoted above is as good a criticism of “Doorway to Kal-Jmar” as anyone could write.

Lastly, Bob Lambert’s remarks are why we need Alt-Furry:

“[Basil Wells’] The Hairy Ones” stinks. How could any hero in his right mind go for a dame that was covered with fur? I’d skin ‘er and make a rug for my den.( Some rug that would be, according to the picture.) I’m just a vicious character, I guess.


  • deuce says:

    ‘And what sayeth our Knight? Well, in reference to a certain tale called “Warriors of Two Worlds,” by a certain Wellman, he pens: “If anything I’ve read ever justifies the name of “hack” this is it.” ‘

    Leave it to Damon Knight to slag Manly Wade Wellman. Seventy years later, Knight is a footnote known mainly for being a worthless critic and hater of the pulps. Wellman just keeps on having his work published in classy hardbacks. There IS cosmic justice.

  • Nathan says:

    Interesting. I have long suspected that much of Knight’s criticism is less criticism of an author’s work and often instead an attack on writers not in, or worse, who dared leave the in-group of fandom. This set of letters reinforces it as Manly Wade Wellman was the early exemplar of Campbell’s fantasy revolution in UNKNOWN, but walked away from Campbell and his crowd as he felt that Campbell was not interested in stories but in authors writing ad-copy for Campbell’s ideas.

    • Mark McSherry says:

      Concerning Wellman and JWC—

      Quoting from the Baen ebook introduction to Manly Wade Wellman’s

      “Unquestionably Wellman’s finest work of science fiction is Twice in Time. Wellman was an omnivorous reader and a dilettante scholar with many areas of interest. One of his chief studies was Renaissance history and culture, and this formed the basis for Twice in Time and for “The Timeless Tomorrow”—presented here together for the first time.

      “(Those of you who insist on surprise endings, please stop reading this introduction now and proceed directly to Twice in Time.

      “Actually it isn’t much of a surprise, and I’m reasonably certain most readers will have stumbled onto it after a chapter or two. Still: Fair warning.)

      “Picking up where I left off, then. As I said, Wellman was a keen history buff, and one of his special interests was the Renaissance. Once Wellman became interested in some particular fixation, he researched it tirelessly, ruminated upon it, and eventually would incorporate it into his writing. Leonardo da Vinci was one such obsession.

      “Among the many science fiction pulps for which Wellman wrote was Astounding Stories (later Astounding Science Fiction), where his cover novelette, “Outlaws on Callisto,” in the April 1936 issue secured his career as a professional writer. When editor F. Orlin Tremaine was replaced in an office coup d’etat by John W. Campbell, Wellman continued to sell to Astounding, although he and Campbell never really got along—to put it mildly. The final break came over Twice in Time. The novel was a labor of love, carefully researched and painstakingly written—as opposed to Wellman’s usual slap-dash space opera—and reflected Wellman’s fascination with Leonardo da Vinci. Campbell turned down the novel on the grounds that Leonardo’s character was all wrong. Campbell, an engineer, could view Leonardo only as a fellow engineer, rejecting any artistic or romantic sides to his personality. Campbell suggested that Wellman revise the novel according to Campbell’s theories on Leonardo, Wellman suggested that Campbell seek much warmer climes, and that was that for Wellman at Astounding.”

      “Fortunately the novel was snapped up by Startling Stories, where it led off the May 1940 issue and was showcased with striking Virgil Finlay illustrations. It drew considerable acclaim at the moment and was reprinted in Wonder Stories Annual for 1951. In 1957 a new edition of Twice in Time was published in hardcover by Avalon Books, and this version appeared in paperback the following year from Galaxy Novels. Unfortunately this later edition was revised and massively abridged by Wellman, all to the considerable detriment to the novel. This abridgment was necessary to bring it down to Avalon’s wordage requirements, and Wellman later disgruntledly protested that there had been no abridgment at all. Considering a comparison of the two texts, this was rather like the captain of the Titanic insisting that the iceberg was never there.

      “Now, for the first time, the complete version of Twice in Time appears in book form. This text is that of its original appearance in Startling Stories for May 1940.”

  • deuce says:

    I just don’t care for Parkhurst. Poor composition and shoddy execution. I wouldn’t be surprised if, at the time, there were pulp-haters who would hold up one of his covers as an example of what “trash” the pulps were. Who could argue?

    • Alex says:

      I won’t argue strongly, but he’s probably remembered for his worst rather than his best, simply because his worst was for a high-profile title like Planet. If it weren’t for those, he’d probably be remembered as an average pulp artist who was at least good at drawing girls.

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