The Black Flame (novel)

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The Black Flame
The Black Flame (Stanley Weinbaum novel).jpg
first edition of The Black Flame
Author Stanley G. Weinbaum
Illustrator A.J. Donnell
Cover artist A.J. Donnell
Country United States
Language English
Genre Science fiction novel
Publisher Fantasy Press
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardback)
Pages 240 pp

The Black Flame is a post-apocalyptic science fiction novel by Stanley G. Weinbaum, originally published in hardcover by Fantasy Press in 1948.

After his death, Weinbaum became "science fiction's first cult author";[1] "Dawn of Flame" appeared as the title piece of a 1936 memorial story collection,[2] while "The Black Flame" was the lead feature in the January 1939 debut issue of Startling Stories.[1] The book is a fix-up, based on two previously unpublished stories—"Dawn of Flame" and "The Black Flame"—which Weinbaum marketed, but was unable to sell, before his death.[3]

It was reissued in paperback by Harlequin Books in 1953, followed by an Avon Books edition in 1970. French translations were published in 1956 and 1972.[4] In 1995, Tachyon Publications issued a substantially longer "restored edition" from carbons of Weinbaum's original manuscript, found in a trunk of Weinbaum's papers held by his grandson.[5]


The novel starts several hundred years after most of mankind is wiped out by a plague and tells the story of a family of immortals who seek to conquer the world with advanced science. Its story concerns a brother and sister who have become immortal. In "Dawn of the Flame" the sister, Margaret of Urbs, known as "Black Margot", is a Joan-of-Arc-type, leading the battle against the mutated of mankind. By the time of "The Black Flame", she is jaded and finds that being an immortal can be boring.


Sam Moskowitz praised the Fantasy Press edition, noting that "the Weinbaum method of story delineation is as effective as ever."[6] Thrilling Wonder Stories also reviewed the volume favorably, saying that "Weinbaum wrote easily and vividly and his characterization is such that the reader never fails to feel the pressing and urgent reality of what is actually arrant make-believe."[7] Frederik Pohl, noting accurately that Weinbaum had "use[d] the basic plot and conception" of the unsold "Dawn of Flame" to construct "The Black Flame", still concluded that "each, read independently, is a first-rate science fiction novel."[8]

Samuel R. Delany compared Black Margot to Joanna Russ's Jael and William Gibson's Molly, declaring Weinbaum "a man particularly concerned with the construction of his female characters."[9]


  1. ^ a b Mike Ashley, The History of the Science Fiction Magazine, Volume 1, p.137
  2. ^ ISFDB listing
  3. ^ Brian Stableford, "Stanley G. Weinbaum: The Lost Pioneer," in Outside The Human Aquarium: Masters of Science Fiction, Wildside Press (2006), p.129.
  4. ^ ISFDB bibliography
  5. ^ Sam Moskowitz, "The Saga of the Black Flame," The Black Flame, Tachyon Press, 1995.
  6. ^ Sam Moskowitz, "Fantasy Book Reviews", Fantastic Novels, January 1949, p.113.
  7. ^ "Science Fiction Book Review, Thrilling Wonder Stories, August 1948, pp.143-44.
  8. ^ Frederik Pohl, "The Science Fictioneer", Super Science Stories, July 1949, p.96
  9. ^ Shorter Views: Queer Thoughts & the Politics of the Paraliterary, p.287
  • Chalker, Jack L.; Mark Owings (1998). The Science-Fantasy Publishers: A Bibliographic History, 1923-1998. Westminster, MD and Baltimore: Mirage Press, Ltd. p. 235.