Archive for the ‘Fiction’ Category

Using the Camera to Illustrate Fiction

Books in 1918 were starting to use real people portraying the characters instead of illustrations, as books had previously done for centuries prior:

The two “illustrating photographers” employ a scout who is sent out to the locations where suitable models for the character required may be found, but most of the new models — and the list of 3,000 is receiving constant increments — come through the good offices of those who have already posed and who spread the word that it is easy money for pleasant work. When a story deals with east side or rural types or some other specialized characters, the photographs do not reproduce made-up actors, but originals — real east side tradesmen, real farmers from the high grass.

The modern-day descendants of those photographic pioneers include Jason Aaron Baca, who has posed as the male model on more than 600 romance novels and counting.

Using the Camera to Illustrate Fiction: Models Pose for Photographs Showing Scenes in the Story — How Two Artists Originate the Plan (PDF)

From Sunday, January 6, 1918

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Written by A Step in the Write Direction

January 9th, 2018 at 1:08 pm

Posted in Art,Fiction

Prophesies Bigger ‘Tanks’ – By H.G. Wells


Famed novelist — and one of the only writers of the time who’s still read today — H.G. Wells penned this piece for NYT Sunday Magazine in 1917. The legendary science fiction author and futurist, who wrote such classic novels as The Time Machine in 1895 and The War of the Worlds in 1898, in this piece projects the future development of tanks, which were one of the main military innovations at the time:

“It is impossible to restrain a note of sharp urgency from what one has to say about these developments. The “tank,” which at present weighs under twenty tons, will develop steadily into a tremendous instrument of warfare, driven by engines of scores of thousands of horse power, tracking on a track scores of hundreds of yards wide, and weighing hundreds or thousands of tons. Nothing but a world agreement not to do so can prevent this logical development of the land ironclad idea. Such a structure will make wheel-ruts scores of feet deep; it will plow up, devastate and destroy the country it passes over altogether.”

Tanks did improve. Though they weighed less than 20 tons at the time, the 1944 German tank Panzer VIII Maus remains the heaviest tank ever built at 207 tons. And most American tanks today have around 1,500 horsepower, which qualifies for Wells’ prediction of “thousands of horse power.” But one single tank, even the most powerful ones currently in exist, is not enough to destroy a country it passes over altogether.

Prophesies Bigger “Tanks”: Novelist Who Foretold the Caterpillar Forts Believes More Terrible Land Battleships Are Sure to Come (PDF)

From January 7, 1917


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Written by A Step in the Write Direction

January 5th, 2017 at 7:26 am

Must The Nickel Novel Die Out? It Is In Danger Now

From July 30, 1911


MUST THE NICKEL NOVEL DIE OUT? IT IS IN DANGER NOW: It Calls for Ability to Write One, Though You Might Not Think It, and The Supply of Authors Is Decreasing — Less Than Fifteen of Them Left to Supply the Demand. (PDF)

This article is a nice appreciation of the nickel novel (also called the dime novel), which appeared to be on its way out but actually survived another 30 years or so.

Not every age produces a Shakespeare, a Dante, a Kipling, or a man destined to have his name written high in large thirty-two candle power incandescents. Every so often comes an apparent literary famine, and women who wear thick glasses and large cameo breastpins and little bearded moles arise at Friday Afternoon Literary Clubs to express wonderment about what the country’s coming to anyhow. Why is it, they inquire, that we’re not producing any more real mahstahs of literachuah?

There’s going to be equal consternation one of these days in an entirely different circle when it is learned that we’re going to stand vis a vis with a famine in another brand of literature. I refer to the five and ten cent literature known as ‘nickel libraries” and “dime novels.’ Unless there appear new men of inventive genius to give birth to an “Old Sleuth” or a “Nick Carter” adventure each week, then the people who read that sort of fiction must get their taste educated down, or up, to something else — either that or do without.

The present supply of men who can turn out a 50,000-word thriller a week isn’t going to last always. As it is there are less than fifteen men in the country who can be depended on for this type of marrow-chilling reading matter. Some of the star performers among these are men advanced in years. One or two are already in poor health. They cannot stand the nervous strain of their stupendous weekly tasks many years more. It is inevitable that they must retire from the field and permit younger men to think up exploits for “Nick Carter,” “Old Sleuth,” and the rest of the “world-famous detectives,” as the heroes are invariably referred to in the chronicles.

You can read more about Nick Carter at And you can read one of his earliest adventures (from 1889) courtesy of Google Books.

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Written by David

July 25th, 2011 at 11:00 am

How The World Would Be To-Day “Had History Been Written Otherwise”

From June 11, 1911


HOW THE WORLD WOULD BE TO-DAY “HAD HISTORY BEEN WRITTEN OTHERWISE”: A Pertinent Question That Suggests Various Possibilities in the Formation and Development of the United States. (PDF)

There’s a genre of fiction called Alternate History which examines other possible historic timelines like what might have happened if the South won the Civil War.

In this article, the Sunday Magazine looks at an alternate history where American states remained colonies of Great Britain, and the Fourth of July were known as Traitors’ Day. An article commemorating Traitors’ Day might start like this:

This date, the Fourth of July, recalls the Great Rebellion hatched on that day in 1776 from the egg of treason over which a band of unprincipled conspirators had so long been brooding. While the history of those evil days is familiar to every child, it is well for us, on this recurring date, to think upon the dangers that then menaced these colonies of his Majesty King George III., that we may more clearly appreciate the blessings of freedom and peace we now enjoy under the beneficent rule of our present beloved ruler, King George V…

History can show no more pitiably shameful spectacle than the figure of the aged Benjamin Franklin, whose early life had been so filled with worth and usefulness, standing in the felon’s dock at the Old Bailey, his white hairs bowed in dishonor, and his name attainted with treason, awaiting sentence that would swiftly rape him away before a sterner Judge.

Yet one even more shameful than Franklin! The traitor, Washington, the pet and protégé of the great Lord Fairfax, nurtured in his early manhood by the favors of nobility and the Crown, the wealthiest gentleman of his time in the colonies. He was sentenced to Tyburn and the hangman’s noose like a common felon, but, on account of his gross betrayal of Gen. Braddock, he was denied burial.

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Written by David

June 8th, 2011 at 10:38 am

Posted in Fiction,Politics

Is The Demand For Dickens As Great As It Used To Be?

From December 25, 1910


IS THE DEMAND FOR DICKENS AS GREAT AS IT USED TO BE? Book Dealers Tell of a Great Falling Off in the Popular Favor Accorded the Famous Novelist. (PDF)

Choice quote:

The further downtown you go, the less of Dickens the second-hand book-dealers sell. Far down, Gorky, Tolstoy, Karl Marx — serious, revolutionary writers — are the ones who make the hit. Dickens with his come-gather-round-the-fire-and-we’ll-all-have-a-fine-time-spirit seems completely out of touch with the people down there.

On the whole, judging from first and second hand book dealers both, it seems as if Dickens, like Kipling and Mark Twain in one hundred years, no doubt, can not be said to be widely cared for, any longer.

No Doubt.

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Written by David

December 24th, 2010 at 10:45 am

James Lane Allen On “The Future Christmas”

From December 25, 1910


JAMES LANE ALLEN ON “THE FUTURE CHRISTMAS”: Author of “The Bride of the Mistletoe” Traces Festival to Remote Pagan Past and Pictures Its Development Through the Ages. (PDF)

Although the headline suggests the article is all about the future, in fact novelist James Lane Allen gives a detailed history of Christmas. He focuses on the symbols we associate with the holiday — the tree, Santa, etc — and explains their Pagan origins. He then speculates that in the future, Christmas will again be celebrated as a ritual worshiping nature. He doesn’t say exactly when this will happen, so there’s still time for his prediction to come true.

James Lane Allen wrote a story that uses on the Pagan roots of Christmas as a theme. It’s called The Bride of the Mistletoe and can be read free here at Project Gutenberg

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Written by David

December 24th, 2010 at 9:30 am

Amethyst Jones Gives An Account Of His Amours

From December 4, 1910


AMETHYST JONES GIVES AN ACCOUNT OF HIS AMOURS: A Thrilling Story of His Varied Experiences in New York. (PDF)

Amethyst Jones, as far as I can tell, is a fictional character, the invention of author Frederic Pierpont Ladd. In this odd series, which the Magazine published on a regular basis, Ladd recounted the antics in Amethyst Jones’ love life. It reads a bit like a male version of Sex and the City: 1910.

“I was 27 when I first knew Lucie De Lorme. Lucie was a French governess. The business of a governess is to teach. The French possess a particularly facile mode in teaching, as in all other fine arts. From the first moment I knew that Lucie was a superb governess. Her looks, and her manner, were all in her favor.

“We were each of us more or less alone in New York. New York is a city in which one may readily feel the pangs of loneliness. Lucie and I resided in contigous apartments. I was a bachelor and she was a bachelor belle. I shall never forget the occasion of our first meeting. She stood in helpless dismay vainly trying to open the door of her apartment. The key was so bent that it resisted all efforts to open the door.

“Lucie’s pretty blue eyes — she was of the most exquisite French blonde type — were filled with tears. She drew her lissome figure to its full height, and stamped the daintiest foot which the gods ever made, and lifted her face in appeal to me. The heart of Amethyst Jones was touched. I opened that door for her inside of one hour.”

Yeah. I won’t be publishing more of these. But if you’re interested, you can find more of Amethyst Jones’ antics in the Times here.

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Written by David

December 3rd, 2010 at 9:15 am

Posted in Fiction,Life

The Busiest Man Of His Age In The World

From November 20, 1910


THE BUSIEST MAN OF HIS AGE IN THE WORLD: Roger Sherman Hoar, Massachusett’s Young Legislator, has Enough Jobs for a Dozen Men. He is an Enthusiastic Suffragist Champion and Works Hard for Interests of that Cause. (PDF)

When this article was written, 28 year old Roger Sherman Hoar was a lawyer, State Senator, student, inventor of a waterproof blanket, treasurer of his town committee, trumpeter, cartoonist, cavalryman, organizer of a news agency, secretary of the Free State League, and active suffragist.

But wait! There’s more!

In the decades after this article was written, Roger Sherman Hoar became a notable science fiction author, writing under the name Ralph Milne Farley. He wrote short stories for pulp magazines like Weird Tales and Amazing Stories, and a series called The Radio Man.

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Written by David

November 19th, 2010 at 9:30 am

Posted in Fiction,Politics

The Man Who Found The Truth

From August 28, 1910


“THE MAN WHO FOUND THE TRUTH” By Leonid Andreyev: A Powerful Story of a Prisoner Unjustly Convicted of Murder, Written by the Author of “Anathema,” the Poe of Russia. (PDF)

Beginning this week in 1910, the New York Times Magazine began publishing this short story by Leonid Andreyev, considered the Edgar Allen Poe of Russia. It was published serially over four weeks. A reviewer of the print edition on Amazon says:

“The Man Who Found The Truth” (or “My Memoirs”) is a brilliant diamond that Andreyev purportedly said was his best work. An old man who had been sentenced to virtually a lifetime in prison narrates his experience of incarceration, his dependence upon the routine of prison life, the isolation, and the view of the world through his small cell window. Andreyev effectively captures the personality of a wise but vulnerable old man who comes up with a theory about infinity. When he is released, his theory makes him famous, but he cannot live without being institutionalized. He ends up rich enough to afford a wealthy home, [NOTE: SPOILERS FOLLOW] but instead has a custom jail cell built for himself and pays a servant to act like a jailor; although he is free, he chooses to live as if he is incarcerated. He even alludes to the fact that all of life is one gigantic prison cell.

The Times published it over four weeks, but since we’re in the future, we don’t need to wait to read the whole thing. Instead of doling it out piecemeal, I’m giving you the whole thing now.

If you’d like to read it, you have two options:

1) For the story as it originally appeared in the Sunday Magazine, complete with illustrations, you can download all four weeks in one big pdf. It’s seven broadsheet pages, approximately 20,000 words, and weighs in at around 8.5 megabytes.

2) If you’d rather read it in a mobile reading device, iPhone, nook, Kindle, or even your browser, you can download it for free in various formats from Project Gutenberg in an anthology called The Crushed Flower and Other Stories. It’s a much smaller download but with no illustrations.

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Written by David

August 27th, 2010 at 9:00 am

Posted in Fiction