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The Collected Edmond Hamilton, Volume One: The Metal Giants and Others
Edmond Hamilton
Haffner Press, 693 pages

The Collected Edmond Hamilton, Volume One: The Metal Giants and Others
Edmond Hamilton
Edmond Hamilton was born in 1904 in Youngstown, Ohio. He was raised there and in nearby New Castle, Pennsylvania. He graduated high school and started college (Westminster College, New Wilmington, Pennsylvania) at the age of 14 but left at 17. His story "The Island of Unreason" (Wonder Stories, May 1933) won the first Jules Verne Prize as the best SF story of the year (this was the first SF prize awarded by the votes of fans, a precursor of the later Hugo Awards).

In 1946 Hamilton began writing for DC Comics, specializing in stories for their characters Superman and Batman. One of his best known Superman stories was "Superman Under the Red Sun" which appeared in Action Comics #300 in 1963 and which has numerous elements in common with his novel City At World's End (1951). He wrote other works for DC Comics, including the short-lived science fiction series Chris KL-99 (in Strange Adventures), which was loosely based on his Captain Future character. He retired from comics in 1966.

On December 31, 1946, Hamilton married fellow science fiction author and screen writer Leigh Brackett. Afterward he would produce some of his best work, including his novels The Star of Life (1947), The Valley of Creation (1948), City at World's End, and The Haunted Stars (1960). Though Hamilton and Leigh Brackett worked side by side for a quarter-century, they rarely shared writing; their single formal collaboration, Stark and the Star Kings, would not appear in print until 2005.

Edmond Hamilton died in 1977 in Lancaster, California, of complications following kidney surgery.

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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Dave Truesdale

For a dozen years now Stephen Haffner and his Haffner Press have been tirelessly devoted to resurrecting, for the first time (with some novels along the way), the complete short works of Jack Williamson, Leigh Brackett, and Edmond Hamilton. Not just throwing together and reprinting the stories, which would have been a worthwhile, albeit monumental, task in and of itself, but going to great pains in preserving them in beautiful, deluxe, hardcover editions, and with press runs of only one thousand. True labors of love are these books, carefully crafted not only for the authors' devoted fans, but discriminating science fiction connoisseurs who know what they like, what has stood the test of time and will continue to do so, and collect only the crème de la crème for those few honored slots in their pride-of-place glass-windowed bookshelves.

The Collected Edmond Hamilton, Volume One: The Metal Giants and Others is one of the latest offerings from this heretofore overlooked, eminently award-worthy small press publisher, and is up to its usual incomparable standards. It contains thirteen of Edmond Hamilton's earliest stories, eleven from the venerable Weird Tales (WT), including his very first story "The Monster-God of Mamurth" from the August 1926 issue, written when Hamilton was but twenty in late 1924 or early 1925, and after a rewrite of the ending, published over a year later. The remaining twelve stories (ten from Weird Tales) are presented in order of appearance, including one from Amazing Stories ("The Comet Doom" from January 1928) and one from Amazing Stories Quarterly ("Locked Worlds" from Spring 1929).

Hamilton was a child prodigy, graduating high school at age fourteen. He then attended college for three years but left before graduating. With a solid background in physics and electrical engineering, and a gifted imagination fueled by reading the colorful fantasies of A. Merritt and others of the time, Hamilton would bring the best of both worlds to his stories for Weird Tales: scientific rationales (wildly extrapolated) anchoring his soaring imagination. A prime example of these qualities can be found in "Across Space," the second of his stories to see print in WT (serialized in the Sept., Oct., and Nov. 1926 issues). Scientists alarm the public when their telescopes spot Mars moving closer to the Earth, with an impending collision imminent as Mars grows ever larger in the sky. A lone scientist links together several innocuous and overlooked facts and with his assistant strike out for Easter Island, where something strange is happening. Before long, the reader is introduced to a hidden underground civilization of ancient Martians, a rebellious faction of their race who long ago left Mars to find a new home, existing for thousands of years in the bowels of an extinct volcano here on Earth. Each night, at a precise moment of planetary alignment, a strange blue ray beams forth from the volcano into the ether, straight at Mars. After our heroes are captured by the winged Martians and imprisoned in their underground city, they learn of the Martians' plans to draw Mars from its orbit and so close to Earth that the planet's dying race can more easily travel to Earth and make it their new home. It's all terrific, outlandish fun, with a lost underground civilization of Martians (who in fact sculpted the Easter Island statues in their likeness), a telepathic sub-species of Martians used as menial slaves by the earthbound Martians, a looming mystery to be solved before Earth is overtaken by the Invaders from Beyond, and one bright scientist who figures it all out just in time (and after several harrowing escapades), but who sacrifices himself in the end to save humanity.

These early tales follow a similar formula, with variations in the type of menace and the locales, which are spread across the globe. Each features a scientist of one sort or another, be it the lone, rogue inventor whose experiments have gone awry ("The Metal Giants," WT Dec. 1926, "Evolution Island," WT March 1927, and "The Moon Menace," WT Sept. 1927), a misunderstood or outcast scientist who seeks revenge upon the world ("The Metal Giants"again), or even an anthropologist ("The Polar Doom," WT Nov. 1928). In a June 1929 issue of WT Hamilton would write of a paleontologist who discovers a lost race of dinosaurs ruled by lizardmen ("The Absymal Invaders"), come bubbling up through a rural swamp in northern Illinois of all places! The dinosaurs have escaped their underground civilization far beneath the swamp (imaginatively explained by Hamilton how this civilization exists at all), and before long Tyrannosaurs and Brontosaurs are trampling cities, guided by the war-like lizardmen atop their backs, wielding strange white globes shooting death rays in every direction.

In "The Atomic Conquerors" (WT, Feb. 1927) Hamilton draws on his knowledge of physics, when it is discovered in the hills of Scotland something passing strange. Upon further investigation, and one man's curiosity getting the better of him, a microscopic race of war-like aliens imprisoned in a grain of sand, carefully sealed by its enemies from another universe, is set free upon the earth. Our civilization is saved only by the intervention of the micro-aliens' ancient conquerors, who are as large to us in our universe as we are large to those living in the tiny universe in the grain of sand. Universes within universes within universes. A rather mind-boggling concept, but relatively fresh and exciting in 1927, as but a few years previously Einstein's revolutionary theories of relativity were shaking the scientific world and newspaper and magazine articles for the common man abounded.

Not only do these wild and wooly adventures deal with invading aliens from the Red Planet, giant Metal Robots, a lost race of dinosaurs and lizardmen from beneath the earth, and scientifically advanced races from the micro- and macro-universes, but Hamilton takes us on adventures through different dimensions ("The Dimension Terror," WT June 1928), and through time ("The Time-Raider," from the Oct., Nov., Dec., 1927, and Jan. 1928 issues of WT).

Pulpish and formulaic; yes, of course. But the stories race along at breakneck speed as robots or monsters or aliens attempt to crush Earth or wipe out our civilization time and time again. Many of the stories feature explanations for dimension or time-traveling, or for the various colored beams or rays used by the aliens, by use of the theory of universal vibrations. In a Hamilton story, breaking down the knowable universe into separate vibrations of varying frequencies -- and then mixing them (or otherwise bending or manipulating them appropriately much like a chemist mixes different elements to form new compounds) -- accounts for beams and rays being able to do almost anything the author wishes. Thus, Hamilton creates the most wonderful, and evil, contraptions by way of electrical vibrations, or electro-chemical manipulations, opening up all time and space (and manner of ray guns and magnetic beams to Mars) for his versatile imagination to run with. And all before television, or before even Pluto would be discovered in 1930, when America was still primarily a rural, agrarian population with only newspapers and radio as its primary outlets to the world at large. We didn't even have an official nation-wide highway system at the time Edmond Hamilton was writing of other dimensions or macro- and micro-universes, or giant robots with Artificial Intelligence. The motion picture industry was still in its infancy. The Wright Brothers flew the first airplane at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina a mere six months before Edmond Hamilton was born. It was an entirely different era, difficult for many to imagine now, and people had an entirely different understanding of the world at that time.

Reading one of these crude, pulpish extravaganzas of Ed Hamilton's is rather like listening to a live rock music performance. It's loud, sometimes brash and unsophisticated, and most of all rough around the edges, but with the energy and imagination to the sound that is hard to resist. While the same music recorded in the studio may be more polished and smooth to the ear, with each note made perfect with countless rehearsals and re-mixing, it just doesn't have that live, rough-edged quality of a spontaneous performance -- where anything might happen. The same with these early Hamilton stories. They may be rough around the edges, but they more than make up for it with their spontaneous inventiveness, slammed out on the typewriter in one live outrageous performance after another.

The late SFWA Grand Master Jack Williamson once wrote about Ed Hamilton's work: "The early stories may have been crude, but they moved fast, they were exciting, and they were filled with the sense of wonder. Something that today's science fiction has almost lost. The wonder was very real then. Travel in space, travel in time, the exploration of the future -- such ideas are all worn thin now, from endless variation in books and films and tv shows, but they were fresh and very wonderful then."

To give the book the true feel of an SF time capsule, also included in the back of the book is an Illustration Gallery, showcasing original illustrations from the various stories, as well as seventy pages of letters from the original magazines commenting on Ed's stories, and further pages featuring original correspondence between Hamilton and Farnsworth Wright, the legendary editor of Weird Tales. Fascinating stuff.

Opportunities like those given us with this book don't come along every day, trust me on this. Order yourself a copy now, before they're gone and the prices skyrocket.

Copyright © 2010 by Dave Truesdale

Dave Truesdale has edited Tangent and now Tangent Online since 1993. It has been nominated for the Hugo Award four times, and the World Fantasy Award once. A former editor of the Bulletin of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, he also served as a World Fantasy Award judge in 1998, and currently writes an original online column for The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.

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