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2000 Letters Archive


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February 2001

Letters on this page
Posted 12 February:

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Dear Locus,
     I want to contact whoever represents the estate of Fletcher Pratt, as I wish to reprint one of his books. Any leads gratefully received. Please note the agent is not Eleanor Wood -- she handles the De Camp/Pratt collaborations as de Camp's agent, but not Pratt's solo work.

Malcolm Edwards
9 Feb 2001

Dear Locus,
     Continuing the "youngest sf writer" thread may count as beating a dead horse (or in this case a dead colt), but I can't let Brian Aldiss' letter in the November Locus pass unchallenged. Aldiss notes that a story written when he was twelve was published some sixty years later; while this is interesting, to allow such a claim is to open the floodgates.
     There are a lot of professional authors, both sf/f writers and mainstream writers with some science fiction and/or fantasy credits, who have had juvenalia published many years after becoming successful as adults. One obvious example is H. P. Lovecraft, whose earliest surviving stories which were written when he was at most eight years old (see page 33 of Joshi's biography of HPL) have been professionally published in the 1959 Arkham House hardback The Shuttered Room and Other Pieces. Compared to the Old Gentleman's eight, the twelve-year old Aldiss was a mature man of the world (though admittedly it took Lovecraft's pieces seventy rather than BA's mere sixty years to make it into print).
     Aldiss is not even the only major author in the field to have work done at the age of twelve later published as a seperate pamphlet, with his own early artwork included: Ramsey Campbell's real first-written horror collection, Ghostly Tales, was published thus as issue #50 of Crypt of Cthulhu magazine (1987) including a reproduction to Tom Boardman's August 1958 letter of rejection to the then-twelve-year-old Campbell.
     As I noted, there are a number of mainstream writers with eventual sf/f credits who began publishing young: Jane B. Wilson's Children's Writings: A Bibliography of Works in English (McFarland, 1982) lists over 700 works published by authors under 21, including the likes of Kipling, Lewis Carroll, Anatole France, Robert Louis Stevenson, H.G. Wells, etc. (Wilson was not well-read in sf proper, I'm afraid; while she does list Tom Holt, Jane Gaskell, and a few others, she doesn't include any of the many teenagers who sold to the early, and sometimes to the later, sf/f magazines, many of whom have been detailed in earlier letters on this subject -- mostly to Locus Online.)
     And here's one more eleven-year old in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, May 1961 issue: Mildred Posselt, with "The Flower" -- a (very, very, very, very) short story.
     As for longer work, Nathalia Crane (1913- ), who I believe is still alive, had a 250-page novel, The Sunken Garden, out in 1926 by the New York firm of T. Seltzer, and a 300-page second novel, An Alien from Heaven, published in 1929 by Coward-McCann; according to R. Reginald's Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature checklist, both of these are fantastic in nature (from one review seen, the second sounds a bit like Laurel Winter's recent Growing Wings). Crane had also had several collections of poetry professionally published as early as 1925. Along with Jane Gaskell, she sounds to me like a good candidate for youngest author to sell long wordage of genre interest to professional publishers -- though unlike Gaskell's early novels, Crane's seem to have slipped out of the field's consciousness. Her age of writing her first published novel does beat Gaskell by one and probably two years; it also beats out John Brunner, Lindsay Campbell, and other candidates already suggested for novel length work. (Unless Patrick O'Brian really did write his first book at 11; even then he was pipped by Crane in regard to age at publication.)
     Catherine McMullen (age 10 at writing) still looks to me like the youngest ever legitimate sf/f sale at short story length, unless the claims of Robin Sturgeon or John Cunnington (also 10, but published under special circumstances) are allowed.
     All of which makes me feel even older than I did when I started this letter...

Dennis Lien
University of Minnesota Libraries
26 Jan 2001


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