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Writings

Meet the Authors - Neil R. Jones

Amazing Stories
December, 1938

Amazing-Stories-1938-12-cover
Amazing Stories
December, 1938
Cover art by Robert Fuqua

The “Meet the Authors” department of Amazing Stories was introduced by Raymond Palmer when took over as editor of Amazing Stories in 1938. Palmer was a long-time science fiction fan and prior to his position at Amazing, had worked in an editorial capacity for a number of fanzines, in addition to establishing himself as a writer. In adding the new department, where authors could talk about themselves and their work, Palmer was helping fans and authors connect outside of the stories themselves—something that went back to the earliest days of fandom when Amazing was under the editorship of Gernsback.

Jones is very short and terse in his first “Meet the Authors” piece; not at all in the style of his 1937 Autobiographical Sketch, or his 1941 “Meet the Authors” entry. Deadlines could have played a part in his brevity, but it most likely was due to his problems with the editorial staff at Ziff-Davis.

Shortly after Ziff-Davis bought Amazing Stories, Neil was informed that the Professor Jameson series would no longer be a part of Amazing without numerous changes to the series, which had been a fixture at Amazing since 1931. This left Jones with five Jameson stories he had already written and, although Palmer apparently liked the series, those above him stood by the decision that the Professor did not fit the new direction they wanted for the magazine. Jones, however, was welcome to submit other work, as evidenced by the story, “The Kiss of Death,” in the December, 1938 issue.

It is this conflict that makes some parts of this essay seem rather confrontational. Jones opens with a small nod towards the Jameson ban (“...my name has become more or less synonymous with that of Professor Jameson to whom I feel that I owe a great deal.”). He then talks about the current story, but still seems to be defending Jameson (“Anything fantastic which nevertheless appears feasible is quite apt to prove intriguing.”). In the last paragraph, he also points out that it is the readers of the magazine that keep it afloat (“...with the help of the readers in pointing a popular prescribed course the magazine is bound to improve...”), which is an acknowledgment of the letters that were starting to appear in Amazing asking for more Professor Jameson stories.

Eventually, Jones would write an essay directed at his fans that addressed the lack of Professor Jameson stories in Amazing (see “Concerning Professor Jameson” for the full essay.)

Bob Gay
April, 2019
Introduction © 2019 by Bob Gay
Editor’s Note: we have reproduced this mini-autobiography just as it was printed in the December, 1938 issue of Amazing Stories, except we have taken it out of its original two column format, added drop caps where Jones changes topic, and given extra space between each of these sections.

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NEIL R. JONES
Author of THE KISS OF DEATH

STILL in my late twenties, I am single and live not very many miles from Lake Ontario. In the science fiction world, my name has become more or less synonymous with that of Professor Jameson to whom I feel that I owe a great deal.

MEANWHILE, out of the mellow past of departed centuries comes the tale of Kobera, the recreated slave girl. Untouched and regarding civilization like a plague, Quandhu, a city of ancient Cambodia, has lived out an unchanged existence down the time stream. Why did I write this? Because I am a romanticist, and the idea of Bera’s reptilian transformation appeared to me as a practical though fantastic possibility. Anything fantastic which nevertheless appears feasible is quite apt to prove intriguing.

THIS department is an assumption that readers are interested in the authors as well as their stories. They probably wonder how we devote our leisure, what our enjoyments are. During the summer, I swim a good share of the time, being qualified as a life guard. I occasionally play baseball and softball. In the winter, I ski and play basketball. An all year round occupation of mine is bookbinding of science fiction magazines. I dance considerably and also go to moving pictures quite often.

SCIENCE fiction of recent years has shown a tendency towards extreme brainstorms. Every author has tried, it would seem, to think of something even more preposterous, as long as it was original, to set to words, and editors have encouraged and even demanded it, creating a race suicide among the readers of science fiction and placing at least two magazines on a bimonthly basis. Yet without going extreme, the light science fiction book by Burroughs and others continue in popularity. The new Amazing Stories is a refreshing step towards a well balanced formula, and with the help of the readers in pointing a popular prescribed course the magazine is bound to improve and forge to the front.—Neil R. Jones.

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