Monday, April 4, 2016

A Sci-Fi Wonder

If you are not familiar with science fiction writer Stanley G. Weinbaum (April 4, 1902 - December 14, 1935), it might be because his rising success was cut short by what was at first diagnosed as a tonsil infection but was, in fact, throat cancer. He was only 33 years old when he passed away.

Although Weinbaum entered the University of Wisconsin in 1920 as a chemistry major, his real passion was writing poetry. He switched his major to English and joined the staff of The Wisconsin Literary Journal, to which he often contributed his poems. Weinbaum never actually finished his university education.

While continuing to write and pursue publication, Weinbaum worked at a variety of odd jobs. With the passage of time, Weinbaum moved away from poetry and began writing fiction. In 1933, he sold his first novel, The Lady Dances, to King Features Syndicate. Published under the pseudonym Marge Stanley because it was a romance, The Lady Dances was released as a serial in the King Features Syndicates’s newspapers.

Weinbaum’s next successful literary submission, "A Martian Odyssey," was picked up by Wonder Stories, a Science Fiction magazine. Wonder Stories and its competing publication Astounding Stories became the primary publishers of Weinbaum’s popular sci-fi stories, which he prolifically produced in the 18 months until his death. Much of his work was published posthumously.

Weinbaum’s Jewish family appears to have been firmly established in America. Although his stories do not have any particular connection to Jewish life, it is interesting to observe that, like many Jewish writers, he was particularly noted for his ability to create the unique voice of the “other,” someone outside of society. For Weinbaum, it just so happened that the voice was mostly alien.

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