Two Letters to Amazing Stories

by Neil R. Jones

It was not uncommon in the early days of science fiction for authors to reply to reader’s letters of comment. Sometimes these replies would get quite in-depth as the finer points of scientific theory were discussed, with reader’s often offering mathematical proof as to why this or that was right or wrong.

The following two letters are the only time Jones responded to reader comments in print, although it is possible that he may have responded on other occasions in private correspondence.

Both reader letters have been edited—choosing to reprint only the portion of the letters relevant to Professor Jameson—while we have presented Jones’ replies in their entirety.

Parenthetically, it should be noted that the second reader’s letter contained a short comment (edited out for space concerns), which Jones refers to in the final paragraph of his reply. Both these comments were in reference to editor T. O’Conor Sloan’s reply to a letter in the April, 1938 issue, where he stated, “We do not believe in the possibility of interplanetary travel, but the subject has given many good stories.”

Bob Gay
April, 2019
Introduction © 2019 by Bob Gay

discussions logo
Amazing Stories
August, 1932
Cover art by Leo Morey

IN the August, 1932 issue of Amazing Stories, James McCrae, in a much longer letter that covered many topics, asked this specific question in regards to Jones’ story, “The Return of the Tripeds”:

The Return of the Tripeds” was a fitting sequel to “The Planet of the Double Sun.” 21MM392 has an organic brain—he goes into a chamber with the Tripeds—organic matter is forced through to the Blue Dimension—Inorganic matter is left in the chamber—how does 21MM392 retain his brain? The machine men are made of metal—they remain under water for X hundred years—why do they not rust—is it a fact that a metal (iron) may be submerged in a liquid, and as long as it is not exposed to the air it will not rust?

4301 Longshore Street,
Philadelphia, Penna.

In the November, 1932 issue, Jones offered this reply/explanation:


It gives me a great deal of pleasure to learn that Professor Jameson has so many friends, and I am really glad to clear up any uncertainties regarding the adventures of this cosmic wanderer.

Amazing Stories
November, 1932
Cover art by Leo Morey

A reader suggests that the professor should have lost his brain under the power of the Tripeds’ transition rays. Indeed, it was certainly a rash move on bis part when he entered the transition cube the second time after having witnessed the varying effects the green rays had upon metal and flesh. Right there was when he stood in the greatest danger. Let us excuse the professor’s impetuous act, however, when we stop to consider that he had a personal score to settle with the Emkls. He had seen his faithful comrades wiped out by this grim horde from the blue dimension, and upon entering the transition cube thoughts of vengeance totally eclipsed caution. Professor Jameson was favored by luck. It was by luck that the Zoromes discovered his rocket satellite in the first place, and it was by luck that he survived the ordeals of the transition cube.

As the narrative states, the first application of the green rays was sufficiently strong to affect organic substance but too weak to register upon inorganic material such as metal. Fortunately, Professor Jameson’s brain was entirely encased in the metal head. The metal shielded the brain, the rays being too weak to penetrate metal. Otherwise, as the reader suggests, the professor’s career would have terminated then and there. The professor failed to realize his danger until it was too late, just as his brain reeled into oblivion from the second application of the green rays, this time increased to stronger intensity. The explanation of this problem escaped the professor’s attention in the startling events which subsequently followed. The fuzzy stilt walkers, you will remember, gave him no time for calm and sober meditation.

Why didn’t the machine men rust to pieces at the bottom of the ocean? Because their metal composition, like lead and other present- day metals, was impregnable to rust. Undoubtedly, it was a metal yet unknown to us—perhaps it was a complicated alloy. Suffice it to say, however, as 6W-438 explained to the professor, the parts of metal did wear out faster in the water than anywhere else, either in space or atmosphere. This wear, or greater friction, though Professor Jameson says nothing concerning it, I presume was probably due to particles of the sea bottom stirred up by movement of the machine men into the jointed, moving parts.

(Address not published by request.)

(We will let this letter speak for itself as it certainly calls for no comment from us. —EDITOR.)

Amazing Stories
February, 1934
Cover art by Leo Morey

IN the February, 1934 issue, Milton Kaletsky, in a longer letter, questions Jones’ science as portrayed in the story “Into the Hydrosphere”:

In “Into the Hydrosphere” the author describes the “island of light” as being suspended at the center of the hollow core of the hydrosphere. When the Uchke people were bombarding this island, Prof. Jameson feared that it might be knocked out of its position of equilibrium and that it would then fall to what Jones describes as the “mainland,” the inner surface of the hollow sphere. If the professor were as clever as he supposedly is, he would have had no such qualms for he would have known that in such a hollow space, the gravitational field intensity due to the surrounding sphere is zero at all points; that is, there were no gravitational forces within the core of the hydrosphere. Were the “island of light” thrown out of the position of equilibrium, it would move slowly toward the mainland because of its momentum, but would not accelerate as it approached the mainland as a failing body would. It could not fall in the usual sense as there were no gravitational forces acting upon it. Further, the characters would have found it extremely difficult to walk about in a region free from gravity, just as one cannot walk about out in interplanetary space.

As I don’t want to worry the linotyper with integral signs and exponents, I’ll omit the mathematical proof of the above. Mr. Jones may have it, if he wishes, by writing me.

2301 Morris Avenue,
New York, N. Y.
(We will let this letter speak for itself, it is so clearly put, and Professor Jameson will have to answer your remarks... —Editor.)

In the June, 1934 issue, Jones offered a rather lengthy reply:

A Letter from Neil R. Jones

It gives me a great deal of pleasure to know that Professor Jameson has been taken into the hearts of so many readers, and I wish to thank them for their kindly commendations.

I regret that certain features of “Into the Hydrosphere” were misunderstood by a reader who voices his suit in the February issue. I feel that I am at fault in that my explanations were not sufficiently lucid, leaving, apparently, too much to the imagination; too much to be taken for granted. Perhaps I should have called time out to have been more exacting, at the expense of sustained interest. Stories of space ships no longer cite the irrelevant detail that the floors of the ships contain a gravitational substance. The case-hardened science fiction reader knows this to be a fact just as soon as he finds that the occupants of the ship do not float about in it.

This privilege I may have stretched a point or two, assuming that all minds would follow, that readers would realize that the Uchke applied this same gravitational substance to their inner world and to their island of light, just as they did to the floors of their space ships. This explains quite obviously why the Uchke, Plekne and Zoromes found no difficulty in walking about the inner world. Let me add, however, that this artificial gravity did not extend its field very far from the inner crust and would have no effect upon the island of light. That is another angle.

Ironic allusion is cast upon the professor’s cleverness. Cleverness is relative, depending on what standard you assume. I would hardly call the professor clever. Professor Jameson has made several hazardous, yet foolish, moves. His impulsive entrance into the Tripeds’ transition cube is most outstanding proof of this.

It would really be a lot better if critics refrained from misquoting. In the Discussions, I find that my word “hurtle” has strangely evolutionized into “accelerate.” The dictionary says of the word Hurtle, “impel forcibly—dash in collision.” That is exactly what would have happened if the Uchke bombardment had been a little bit stronger and had been directed from one portion of the mainland alone instead of from all directions. The island of light would have been forced rapidly through the zero intensity of gravity, or lack of gravity, acting much like a space ship from which there had been a rocket release, or much closer to similarity, a space ship struck by another moving body.

Amazing Stories
June, 1934
Cover art by Leo Morey

The dictionary say of Accelerate, “to hasten—to cause to progress faster.” Beyond the initial push, there would have been no acceleration, for, as forementioned, the artificial gravity of the mainland possessed no attraction beyond the tops of the tallest buildings, and that is too short a distance to gain appreciable momentum. In short, there is no claim in the story about the island’s possibilities of picking up acceleration. No reason exists for worrying the linotyper with integral signs and exponents, nor the patient readers, either, with mathematical proof of something which has not been contradicted.

It is quite true that the inner world was but an insignificant comparison to the great, monstrous bulk of the surrounding hydrosphere, something like a hollow buckshot inside of a solid basketball, and it is probable that a zero intensity of gravity did exist there; that is, outside the influence of the Uchke’s artificial gravity. But, however, a great hollow globe such as Edgar Rice Burroughs conceived in his “Moon Maid," I believe, is quite another matter. Zero intensity would exist, in this case, only near the common center of the immense hollow. The objects on the inner surface would adhere to where they stood rather than feeling the same gravitational pull from the other side of the hollow moon (assuming for sake of argument that it is hollow) when that other side is removed more than a thousand miles distant, and after all is but a comparatively thin crust of material. If such attractions were equal, regardless of proximity, Venus could easily pull us off the earth and hold us suspended halfway between that planet and ours. Drag out your exponents and integral signs if you will, but hearken, son of man, great mathematical minds proved conclusively long ago that airplanes could not fly. Practical experiment knocked these painstaking figures for a loop.

If you wish to contradict these feasibilities stressed in “The Moon Maid,” nothing less will be acceptable than practical experiment, tangible proof off paper, free of theory. To conduct such an experiment, you must free yourself from the earth's gravity so that you will have your gravitational zero intensity in which to place your experimental objects, or you might invent a gravitational nullifier. In the meanwhile, my theory is just as good as yours. I shall continue to believe mine; you, probably yours.

Coincidentally, in the earlier phases of the same letter, reference is made to the editorial disbelief in flights of the moon. This may occur much sooner than we anticipate. Compared to the scientific strides the world has made in the past fifty years, I should place the realization of interplanetary flight no later than the twenty-third century, colonization of Venus and Mars, if they prove habitable or conducive to synthetic introduction of necessary sustenance to earthly life, by the twenty-fourth century. By the twenty-sixth century, all three worlds may be equally populated and developed (Venus, Earth, Mars), outposts situated on the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, possibly. It is with this belief, barring a world upheaval or catastrophe, that I have written two current series of novelettes and short stories under the collective titles of “Tales of the 24th Century” and “Tales of the 26th Century.” “The Moon Pirates,” one of the latter series, will appear soon in this magazine.

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