Tag Archives: Robert Bloch

Bombastic Humility

Stories from Universe #1 June 1953

In June 1953 Ray Palmer launched Universe Science Fiction from 139 North Clark Street in Chicago, under the editorial name of George Bell and Bell Publications, Inc. Here’s an excerpt of his opening editorial with typical Palmer grandiloquence:

“We have been a fan and student of science fiction for more than 20 years. We have our ideas of what a good science fiction magazine ought to contain and they are very simple. This first issue of UNIVERSE will show you how well we have met this simple objective. It is only this: To give you the best science fiction stories published in America today!”

Robert Bloch’s “Constant Reader” is first up. A small team of space explorers land on 68/5 planet. “We waited while the roboship did its job. It was our star reporter, our roving photographer, our official meteorologist, our staff geologist, our expert in anthropology and mineralogy, our trusted guide and—most important, on many occasions—our stalking-horse.” It soon discovers 68/5 planet is rather like Earth, oxygen and gravity-wise. But it’s lifeless, its dusty surface a flat, slate-colored desert.

Each crewman has his own quirks. George Dale’s is books. “Yes, real books, the old-fashioned kind that were printed on paper and bound together between leather or board covers.”

When the crew disembarks they relish leaving the cramped space of their ship to bask in the warmth of 68/5 planet’s sun. All is well for at least two paragraphs until all five crewmen simultaneously black out. Despite the robotship’s report, the place is inhabited by an alien intelligence that enjoys a good book, and has the ability to transform the fictive world into reality.

Robert Bloch’s Broomstick Ride

Illustration by Emsh for Robert Bloch’s “Broomstick Ride” Super-Science Fiction Dec. 1957

Illustration by Emsh for Robert Bloch’s “Broomstick Ride” Super-Science Fiction Dec. 1957

As a youth, Robert Bloch was a fan of the Weird Tales pulp magazine and wrote to H.P. Lovecraft, who replied with advice about writing fiction. The famed author of the Cthulhu Mythos dedicated his “The Haunter of the Dark” story in 1936 to Bloch, personifying the aspiring writer as the character Robert Blake.

Soon Bloch sold his story, “Lilies,” to Marvel Tales, that saw print in the Winter 1934 issue to help launch his long and celebrated career. Bloch went on to write hundreds of short stories and over 30 novels. After Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, based on Bloch’s 1959 novel of the same name, the writer produced scripts for over a dozen movies. He appeared with William Castle and Joan Crawford in the promotional short for William Castle Production’s of Straight-Jacket (1964), scripted by Bloch.

Rewind back to Super-Science Fiction (Dec. 1957) to find Bloch’s story “Broomstick Ride,” featuring “Witches and warlocks on the strange new planet.” The opening follows:

“It was close to midnight when they gathered at the crater. Night raised its head across the pitted plains and the twin moons opened their green eyes to stare down into the crater’s depths.”