Meet the Authors - Neil R. Jones

Amazing Stories
April, 1941

Amazing Stories
April, 1941
Cover art by J. Allen St. John

Unlike the 1938 “Meet the Authors” essay, Jones is very insightful and talkative in his last mini-autobiography for Amazing. Gone are the veiled jabs at the Ziff-Davis editorial heads, there is no mention of the Professor Jameson ban—the Professor had found a new home after 3 years at Astonishing Stories—and Jones provides a wealth of information about his life up to this point.

There are a number of intriguing items within the essay. The list of authors whom he considered influences is of interest. One can see Burroughs as a jumping off point for anyone reading genre fiction at the beginning of the 1900s, but Haggard, particularly for someone at a young age, seems a rather odd choice. In the same section, Jones also shows that he is of a philosophical bent in his mention of Twain and Ibanez.

In the 1937 Autobiographical Sketch, Jones specifically mentions that he only works three hours a day, so it is no surprise that he has a number of leisure activities listed. The interest in gaming is of importance, since Jones would create and (possibly) market a game of his own devising in the late 1940s. His description outdoor activities and sports are also fascinating, since they seem almost the antithesis of how one would view and author, much less an author of science fiction.

The major revelation of the essay is the mention of The Cosmic Veil. According to our approximate timeline of Jones’ life, it must have been written between 1937 and 1941, yet this essay is the only time in Neil’s available writings that he ever referred to it and it remains unpublished to this day.

Within a year of this essay, the United States would enter World War II and Neil would be drafted into the Army—an event that marked the end of his career as a full-time author (see The Neil R. Jones Collection for a full biography).

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 April, 1941 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. We have also moved the picture of Jones to the right side of the page—it originally appeared between the columns.



ON the face of things, there doesn’t seem to be a great deal to tell about me.

I live where I was born a good thirty years ago, in a small city of upstate New York near Lake Ontario. I commenced reading children’s books at seven and in a year’s time had graduated in startling contrast to Jesse James and Young Wild West novels. I could have been no older than nine at the most when I read my first science fiction story. I can’t recall the author, but the title stands out from a mist of memory. It was “The Land of the Changing Sun,” with a subterranean motif as its locale. If anybody can tell me the author of this book, let them speak up about it.

Not long after this, I came across “Tarzan of the Apes,” and from then on I was an E. R. B. addict. His earlier writings were his best ones. Probably no other author I’ve read has had so great a part in forming my style and ideas.

Neil R. Jones

Mark Twain claims that there are absolutely no new ideas conceived, but only an amalgamated complexity of transferred impressions welded with a new order. Both Ripley and Vincente Blasca Ibanez (in the latter’s “Enemies of Women”) have called attention to the billions of combinations into which 52 cards may be arranged. These astronomic totals suffer in comparison to Mark Twain’s theory, I feel.

Another author who created a strong formative impression upon me was H. Rider Haggard whose “She” I read at a tender age, and at the time gave me as horrible a nightmare as one would care to have. Nevertheless, I consider that the best book I have ever read. Perhaps a bit of reminiscent sentiment may color this choice, so allow for that. I wonder how many readers of “She” are aware of the sequels, “Ayesha” and “Wisdom’s Daughter.” The last was written after the other two, I believe, yet it precedes the others in chronologic order. The author believed so strongly in inspirational qualities that in writing “Ayesha” he allowed a generation to elapse after writing “She”—the same interval in the hero’s life, I believe.

The creative impressions I received from these stories may be found in my numerous stories of the Durna Rangue cult. “Zyrma” (Priestess Of The Sleeping Death) is one of these.

A reader invariably is curious as to what an author whose stories he has read does in his spare time. How does he act? What kind of a creature is he?

I spend a good share of the time swimming in the summer. I live in the territory made famous by the pen of James Fenimore Cooper, and I occasionally follow the same Indian trails of his novels in nothing more than a pair of bathing tights and shoes.

I do quite a bit of ballroom dancing. I play baseball and softball in the warmer months, and in the winter I play basketball. At one time I was a fairly good pool player, but I haven’t played much of late years, and one must constantly keep in practice at this.

Various games interest me. I play many card games, roulette and popular board games. In fact, I’ve let my imagination run riot in experimenting with new ideas in the matter of game boards. I have one a friend of mine made me from my drawings, with inlaid wood. Another I laboriously engraved with an electric pencil. Accompanying paraphernalia is along the same painstaking lines.

YEARS ago I used to collect stamps, and I grew to dabble in them commercially, and from this sprang my first commercial writing, as I was paid in advertising space in the stamp magazines. My first efforts at literary creation, however, saw the light in the local high school yearbook.

My first large scale effort was “The Electrical Man” in a 1930 issue of “Scientific Detective Monthly.” I still have a sequel to it in “The Limehouse Dope Mystery,” written just before the magazine was discontinued. “The Death’s Head Meteor” in the January, 1930 issue of “Air Wonder Stories” was my first appearance on the big time although it was written some months after “The Electrical Man."

I have done quite a bit of bookbinding both in leather and cloth, confining this almost entirely to science fiction. I have a complete set of AMAZING STORIES from the beginning.

Probably the best piece of illustrating ever done for any of my work was Paul’s inside illustration for “The Asteroid of Death” in the Fall, 1932 issue of “Wonder Stories Quarterly.” I liked it so well that I spent twenty-five hours in reproducing it on the back of an athletic sweat shirt, with pens and seven colors of waterproof ink, enlarging the original four times. Incidentally, the front of this same sweat shirt is decorated with a machine man, a rocket ship and the planet Saturn.

I read a great deal. I liked “Anthony Adverse” as one of the best books I’ve ever read and was regretful that there was not more of it. At present. I am reading something by Charles Dickens, whom I admire greatly. His faculties for characterization seem so far out of reach of the writers of today as to be almost phenomenal. I wonder how many readers have come across what appears to be a bit of science fiction in “Bleak House” where a man burns up from spontaneous combustion, yet Dickens in a preface claims this to have actually happened.

I have written two novels, “The Cosmic Veil,” of 70,000 words, and “The Outlawed World.’’ of 93,000 words. These lengths are but rarely employed in the science fiction magazines today. The latter I consider my best work.—Neil R. Jones.

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