Art by Mikey Georgeson

Anyone familiar with the Richard Sharpe Shaver and the Shaver Mystery will, upon close inspection, recognize the above painting by Mikey Georgeson as a representation of Shaver’s claim that his welding torch had somehow become attuned to the evil underground mutants known as Deros (Shaver was a welder before he began writing for Amazing Stories magazine).  This is the picture that grabbed my attention, so I clicked on a link to Mr. Georgeson’s work at Sartorial Contemporary Art and was so impressed, I want to share it here at Bill Ectric’s Place.

And here are two links to Mikey’s music:

Minty Polo

Corporate Record

The Devil’s Generation: Bill’s Bookshelf No. 2

For the second installment of Bill’s Bookshelf, I’ve chosen another anthology, The Devil’s Generation (1973, Lancer Books, Inc.), edited by Vic Ghidalia. Each story involves kids, from an unborn baby to teenage punks and everything in between, but the book contains few, if any, actual stories about the devil. Satan was having a heyday in popular culture during the late 60s and early 70s, so the title was probably a way to cash in on that.

Hollywood was going through a phase in which they thought Frankenstein and Dracula were no longer scary, but that audiences could still be freaked out by Satanic themes. When Rosemary’s Baby came out in 1968, most of us knew Roman Polanski directed it, but the movie studio play down the fact that William Castle produced it, due to Castle’s past association with cheap, gimmicky films like The Tingler (1959) and Thirteen Ghosts (1960). I had just seen The Exorcist when I bought The Devil’s Generation, and I assumed Lancer Books was also cashing in on that blockbuster. But maybe not. The copyright date of Devil’s Generation is 1973. The Exorcist was released in December 1973. Maybe there was inside information, maybe not. Too close to call.

 By far, the best story in this collection is Call Him Demon, by Henry Kuttner, followed by The Other Wing, by Algernon Blackwood. I’ll save my commentary on those two tales until the end.

 The book features a number of authors who had become celebrities by 1973, but their stories here seem like knock-offs. For example, in 1971, Robert Silverberg won the Nebula Award for his novel, A Time of Change. His story in The Devil’s Generation anthology, Hole In the Air, first appeared in the January 1956 issue of Amazing and is no more than a variation on To Serve Man by Damon Knight, which first appeared in the November 1956 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction and became a well-known Twilight Zone episode in 1962.

The Richard Matheson also wrote a famous Twilight Zone episode, Nightmare At 20,000 Feet (the one about the Gremlin on the airplane wing with William Shatner). The Matheson selection in The Devil’s Generation is called Mother By Protest. It shares a few similarities with Rosemary’s Baby, but not as scary, and the pregnant woman discovers that she is  carrying the baby of a space alien instead of Satan’s child.

There isn’t much to say about Ray Bradbury’s story, Black Ferris, except for ‘How did it serve the story’s plot to have one of the kids sneak out of his house naked? Did the editor order up a carnival, a skeleton, and some nudity?’

Robert Bloch’s tale, Floral Arrangement, is about a mother and son who live in a house overlooking a cemetery. It first appeared in Weird Tales, eleven years before his more famous story about a mother and son living among taxidermied birds in the Bates Motel.

In The Place In the Woods, August Derleth attempts to do what M. R. James did much better in An Episode of Cathedral History; that is, use a mythological creature as the basis for a supernatural tale.  

Day of Truce, by Clifford D. Simak, begins promisingly and really held my attention with a build-up of suspense, but at the end, it fizzled out and didn’t go anywhere. It ended up as just one more meditation on man’s penchant for war.

I saved the best for last. Henry Kuttner’s Call Him Demon struck a chord in me as the most original and enjoyable of all the stories, allowing for suspension of disbelief and total immersion into the secret world of kids. These kids are aware that one of the adults in the house is not really what he seems, and his presence is somehow connected to a horrible meat-eating monster in another dimension, which can only be accessed through the dark, dusky attic.

About Henry Kuttner, Wikipedia tells us:

Marion Zimmer Bradley is among many authors who have cited Kuttner as an influence. Her novel The Bloody Sun is dedicated to him. Roger Zelazny has talked about the influence of The Dark World on his Amber series.

Kuttner’s friend Richard Matheson dedicated his 1954 novel I Am Legend to Kuttner, with thanks for his help and encouragement. Ray Bradbury likewise dedicated Dark Carnival, his first book, to him, calling him one of his hardest-working and most patient teachers; Bradbury has said that Kuttner actually wrote the last 300 words of Bradbury’s first horror story, “The Candle” (Weird Tales, November 1942). Bradbury has referred to Kuttner as a neglected master and a “pomegranate writer: popping with seeds — full of ideas”.[3]

William S. Burroughs‘s novel The Ticket That Exploded contains direct quotes from Kuttner regarding the “Happy Cloak” parasitic pleasure monster from the Venusian seas.

Finally, Algernon Blackwood’s The Other Wing is not scary, but it is such a nicely crafted, classic ghost story that I must give it a thumbs up.

Enter Shavertron

Some of you know I like to lose myself in arcane archives, looking for unexplained mysteries and secret histories. Enter Shavertron, a website created by Richard Toronto, and a major influence on my novel-in-progress, Tamper.

The following is a direct quote from one of Mr. Toronto’s many editorials:

The original Shavertron was a fanzine devoted to the Shaver Mystery and the life and times of Richard Sharpe Shaver and his editor, Ray Palmer. This leaves the playing field wide open since the Shaver Mystery is rife with UFOs,  a race of evil weirdos living inside the earth,   mind control, a high-tech Elder Race pre-dating our history, abductions, conspiracies and, of course, the sci-fi pulp zine scene of the late 1940s.

“The ‘mystery” began in a 1945 issue of AMAZING STORIES magazine with an article titled “A Warning to Future Man.” Editor Ray Palmer and writer Richard Shaver collaborated from there to bring Shaver’s unusual cosmology into the world of sci-fi pulp zine literature.

The Shaver Mystery gasped its last breath when Shaver and Palmer died within two years of each other in the mid-1970s. We stopped publishing Shavertron in 1992 since most Shaver Mystery readers were gone (mostly dead) with few leftovers to take their place.

Writers like Jim Pobst, Brian Tucker, Doug Skinner, Tal, Timothy Greene (Mr. UFO) Beckley , Mary Martin (The Hollow Hassle), Branton, Bill Bliss and Gene Steinberg did what they could to keep the Mystery going.

The scene eventually merged with water cooler chit-chat about UFOs, abductions and government conspiracies, all of which were a big part of the Shaver Mystery. Back in 1947, the Shaver Mystery was a bizarre topic of household conversation (probably at cocktail time). Today it’s obscure sci-fi history…though it is now being rediscovered by a new circle of oddity seekers and outsider art buffs (Here and Here – Bill).