Stanley G. Weinbaum

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Stanley G. Weinbaum
Stanley G. Weinbaum.jpg
BornStanley Grauman Weinbaum
(1902-04-04)April 4, 1902
Louisville, Kentucky
DiedDecember 14, 1935(1935-12-14) (aged 33)
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Pen nameMarge Stanley
GenreScience fiction, romantic fiction
Notable works"A Martian Odyssey"
"The Ideal", published in the September 1935 Wonder Stories, was Weinbaum's first cover story in a science fiction magazine. The "Van Manderpootz" story was illustrated by Frank R. Paul

Stanley Grauman Weinbaum (April 4, 1902 – December 14, 1935) was an American science fiction writer. His first story, "A Martian Odyssey", was published to great acclaim in July 1934; the alien Tweel was arguably the first character to satisfy John W. Campbell's challenge: "Write me a creature who thinks as well as a man, or better than a man, but not like a man." Weinbaum wrote more short stories and a few novels, but died from lung cancer less than a year and a half later.

Life and career[edit]

Weinbaum was born in Louisville, Kentucky, the son of Stella (née Grauman) and Nathan A. Weinbaum.[1] His family was Jewish. He attended school in Milwaukee. He attended the University of Wisconsin–Madison in Madison, first as a chemical engineering major but later switching to English as his major, but contrary to common belief he did not graduate. On a bet, Weinbaum took an exam for a friend, and was later discovered; he left the university in 1923.

He is best known for the groundbreaking science fiction short story, "A Martian Odyssey", which presented a sympathetic but decidedly non-human alien, Tweel. Even more remarkably, this was his first science fiction story (in 1933 he had sold a romantic novel, The Lady Dances, to King Features Syndicate, which serialized the story in its newspapers in early 1934). Isaac Asimov has described "A Martian Odyssey" as "a perfect Campbellian science fiction story, before John W. Campbell. Indeed, Tweel may be the first creature in science fiction to fulfil Campbell's dictum, 'write me a creature who thinks as well as a man, or better than a man, but not like a man'."[2] Asimov went on to describe it as one of only three stories that changed the way all subsequent ones in the science fiction genre were written.[3] It is the oldest short story (and one of the top vote-getters) selected by the Science Fiction Writers of America for inclusion in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume One, 1929–1964.

Most of the work that was published in Weinbaum's lifetime appeared in either Astounding or Wonder Stories. However, several of his pieces first appeared in the early fanzine Fantasy Magazine (successor to Science Fiction Digest) in the 1930s, including an "Auto-Biographical Sketch" in the June 1935 issue. Despite common belief, Weinbaum was not one of the contributors to the multi-authored Cosmos serial in Science Fiction Digest/Fantasy Magazine. He did contribute to the multi-author story "The Challenge From Beyond", published in the September 1935 Fantasy Magazine. At the time of his death, Weinbaum was writing a novel, Three Who Danced. In this novel, the Prince of Wales is unexpectedly present at a dance in an obscure American community, where he dances with three of the local girls, choosing each for a different reason. Each girl's life is changed (happily or tragically) as a result of the unexpected attention she receives. In 1993, his widow, Margaret Hawtof Kay (b. 1906 in Waco, Texas), donated his papers to the Temple University Library in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Included were several unpublished manuscripts, among them Three Who Danced, as well as other unpublished stories (mostly romance stories, but there were also a few other non-fiction and fiction writings, none of them science fiction).

A film version of his short story "The Adaptive Ultimate" was released in 1957 under the title She Devil, starring Mari Blanchard, Jack Kelly, and Albert Dekker. The story was also dramatized on television; a Studio One titled "Kyra Zelas" (the name of the title character) aired on September 12, 1949.[4] A radio dramatization of "The Adaptive Ultimate" was performed on the anthology show Escape in the 1950s.[5]

Honors and awards[edit]

A crater on Mars is named in Weinbaum's honor.[6] On July 18, 2008, he won[7] the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award.

Critical reception[edit]

Lester del Rey declared that "Weinbaum, more than any other writer, helped to take our field out of the doldrums of the early thirties and into the beginnings of modern science fiction."[8] H. P. Lovecraft stated that Weinbaum's writing was ingenious, and he stood miles above the other Pulp Fiction writers in his creation of genuinely alien worlds in a comparison to Edgar Rice Burroughs and his "inane" stories of "egg-laying Princesses". Frederik Pohl wrote that, before Weinbaum, science fiction's aliens "might be catmen, lizard-men, antmen, plantmen or rockmen; but they were, always and incurably, men. Weinbaum changed that. . . . it was the difference in orientation – in drives, goals and thought processes – that made the Weinbaum-type alien so fresh and rewarding in science fiction in the mid-thirties".[9] His "revolutionary idea", Pohl said, was to "give some sort of three-dimensional reality to the characters", in contrast to Hugo Gernsback's "animated catalogue of gadgets".[10] Everett F. Bleiler, however, felt that although Weinbaum "was generally considered the most promising new s-f author of his day," his reputation is overstated. While "Weinbaum's style was more lively than that of his genre contemporaries, and he was imaginative in background details, . . . his work was ordinary pulp fiction, with routine plots, slapdash presentation, cardboard characterization, and much cliche of ideas.[11] Alexei and Cory Panshin concluded that "Time has swallowed what were once Weinbaum's particular virtues. What is left seems quaint and quirky."[12]

Planetary series[edit]

All of Weinbaum's nine interplanetary stories were set in a consistent Solar System that was scientifically accurate by 1930s standards. The avian, botanical Martians of "A Martian Odyssey" and "Valley of Dreams", for instance, are mentioned in "Redemption Cairn" and "The Red Peri", the quadrupedal Venusian trioptes of "Parasite Planet" and "The Lotus Eaters" are mentioned in "The Mad Moon," the vicious, pseudomammalian pests of The Mad Moon appear in Valley of Dreams as minor antagonists, and the rock-eating Pyramid-Makers of Mars are mentioned in "Tidal Moon". In Weinbaum's Solar System, in accordance with the then-current near-collision hypothesis, the gas giants radiate heat, enough to warm their satellites to Earthlike temperatures, allowing for Earthlike environments on Io, Europa, Titan, and even Uranus. Mars is also sufficiently Earthlike to allow humans to walk its surface (with training in thin-air chambers) unprotected.

Van Manderpootz stories[edit]

Three short stories deal with Dixon Wells, a perpetually late playboy who runs afoul of the inventions of his friend and former instructor in "Newer Physics", Professor Haskel van Manderpootz, a supremely immodest genius who rates Albert Einstein as his equal (or slight inferior). In "The Worlds of If", Wells tests an invention that reveals what might have been; in "The Ideal", the professor creates a device that can show the image of a person's ideal (in Wells' case, his perfect woman); the contrivance of "The Point of View" allows one to see the world from another's perspective. In all three, Wells finds and then loses the woman of his dreams.



  • The Lady Dances (King-Features Syndicate 1933) - This story (published under the name of "Marge Stanley") was published as a newspaper serial in early 1934 and is now available as a print-on-demand title.
  • The New Adam (Ziff-Davis 1939)
  • The Black Flame Originally in 1939. (Fantasy Press 1948)
  • The Black Flame (Complete Restored Edition) (Tachyon Publications 1997; ISBN 0-9648320-0-3)
  • The Dark Other aka The Mad Brain (Fantasy Publishing Company 1950)

Short stories[edit]

Posthumous publications[edit]

  • "The Point of View" in 1/36 Wonder
  • "Smothered Seas" in 1/36 Astounding (with Roger Sherman Hoar writing as Ralph Milne Farley)
  • "Yellow Slaves" in 2/36 True Gang Life (with Roger Sherman Hoar writing as Ralph Milne Farley)
  • "Redemption Cairn" in 3/36 Astounding
  • "The Circle of Zero" in 8/36 Thrilling Wonder
  • "Proteus Island" in 8/36 Astounding
  • "Graph" in 9/36 Fantasy Magazine
  • "The Brink of Infinity" in 12/36 Thrilling Wonder
  • "Shifting Seas" in 4/37 Amazing (anticipates discussions of climate change due to changes in the Gulf Stream)
  • "Revolution of 1950" 10-11/38 Amazing (with Roger Sherman Hoar writing as Ralph Milne Farley)
  • "Tidal Moon" in 12/38 Thrilling Wonder (with Helen Weinbaum, his sister)
  • "The Black Flame" in 1/39 Startling
  • "Dawn of Flame" in 6/39 Thrilling Wonder
  • "Green Glow of Death" in 7/57 Crack Detective and Mystery Stories
  • The King's Watch, Posthumous Press, 1994, hardcover book, with Foreword and signed by Robert Bloch and tipped in photo of writers' group, The Milwaukee Fictioneers, to which Weinbaum and Bloch both belonged. (This story is a variant of "The Green Glow of Death" from 7/57 Crack Detective and Mystery Stories.)

Collections of stories and poetry[edit]

  • The Best of Stanley G. Weinbaum, Ballantine, 1974
  • Lunaria and Other Poems, The Strange Publishing Company 1988
  • The Black Heart, Leonaur Publishing, 2006
  • Dawn of Flame: The Stanley G. Weinbaum Memorial Volume, Conrad H. Ruppert, 1936
  • Interplanetary Odysseys, Leonaur Publishing, 2006
  • A Martian Odyssey and Other Science Fiction Tales, Hyperion Press, 1974
  • A Martian Odyssey and Others, Fantasy Press, 1949
  • A Martian Odyssey and Other Classics of Science Fiction, Lancer, 1962
  • Other Earths, Leonaur Publishing, 2006
  • The Red Peri, Fantasy Press, 1952
  • Strange Genius, Leonaur Publishing, 2006


  1. ^ Davin, Eric Leif (1999). "Stanley G. Weinbaum and Black Margot: A Conversation with Margaret Weinbaum Kay". Pioneers of Wonder: Conversations with the Founders of Science Fiction. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books. pp. 125–182 [145]. ISBN 1-57392-702-3.
  2. ^ Asimov, Isaac. "The Second Nova", introduction to The Best of Stanley G. Weinbaum(Ballantine Books, 1974).
  3. ^ Asimov, Isaac. Asimov on Science Fiction. New York: Doubleday, 1981. pp. 221-2.
  4. ^ "Stanley G. Weinbaum". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2009-12-25.
  5. ^ "Escape - The Adaptive Ultimate". Escape and Suspense!. Retrieved 2020-04-23.
  6. ^ Sagan, Carl (1978-05-28). "Growing up with Science Fiction". The New York Times. p. SM7. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-12-12.
  7. ^ "Award". The Official Cordwainer Smith Website. Retrieved 2009-12-25.
  8. ^ "Reading Room", If, June 1974, p.158
  9. ^ "In the Balance", If, July 1959, p.95
  10. ^ Pohl, Frederik (October 1965). "The Day After Tomorrow". Editorial. Galaxy Science Fiction. pp. 4–7.
  11. ^ Bleiler, Science-Fiction: The Gernsback Years, Kent State University Press, 1998, p. 479
  12. ^ "Books", F&SF, December 1974, p. 67

External links[edit]