Amazing Stories: Pulp Sci-Fi Writers And “Alien Transmissions”

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Authors claiming to have “channeled” their work from otherworldly entities—either as a whole or in part—is nothing new. I’ve previously covered a whole period of time in the mid-1970s when a number of them seemingly were “contacted” by entities that made no small impact upon their future writing.

In particular, science-fiction icon Philip K. Dick claimed to have a whole relationship with such an entity, who might have subconsciously shaped his previous works and concretely inspired his last. Then there is Morgan Robertson, who famously “predicted” the sinking of the Titanic via a “muse” who gave him the information; and even bestselling “success” author Napoleon Hill claimed later in life to have channeled much of his material.

But it is in the world of the pulp science-fiction of the first half of the 20th century—a world where Dick had his beginnings—where find many more examples of this phenomenon.

I. THE ENIGMATIC ALEXANDER BLADE

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In 1947, a strange tale by one “Alexander Blade” was printed in the pulp Fantastic Stories. Called “The Son of the Sun,” it featured a monologue by an alien-type being, who speaks of secret societies, flying saucers, Egyptian “gods,” and the destiny of mankind. It begins,

We are already here, among you. Some of us have always been here, with you, yet apart from, watching, and occasionally guiding you whenever the opportunity arose. Now, however, our numbers have been increased in preparation for a further step in the development of your planet: a step of which you are not yet aware…We have been confused with the gods of many world-religions, although we are not gods, but your fellow creatures, as you will learn directly before many more years have passed. You will find records of our presence in the mysterious symbols of ancient Egypt, where we made ourselves known in order to accomplish certain ends. Our principal symbol appears in the religious art of your present civilisation and occupies a position of importance upon the great seal of your country. (The United States of America) It has been preserved in certain secret societies founded originally to keep alive the knowledge of our existence and our intentions toward mankind.

Special mention is made of the then-recent UFO sightings:

Some of you have seen our ‘advanced guard’ already. You have met us often in the streets of your cities, and you have not noticed us. But when we flash through your skies in the ANCIENT TRADITIONAL VEHICLES you are amazed, and those of you who open your mouths and tell of what you have seen are accounted dupes and fools. Actually you are prophets, seers in the true sense of the word. You in Kansas and Oklahoma, you in Oregon and in California, and Idaho, you know what you have seen: do not be dismayed by meteorologists. Their business is the weather. One of you says, ‘I saw a torpedo-shaped object’. Others report, ‘disc-like objects’, some of you say ‘spherical objects’, or ‘platter-like objects’. You are all reporting correctly and accurately what you saw, and in most cases you are describing the same sort of vehicle.

Though this is all assumed to be science-fiction, “Son of the Sun” incorporates a lot of the Ancient Astronaut lore that Zecharia Sitchin would write about decades later in books like The 12th Planet. It also sounds similar to various narratives by persons claiming to have actually channelled entities (and I immediately think of Barbara Marciniak’s “Pleiadians” series, but there’s tons of others).

Where did Alexander Blade get these insights? Who was Alexander Blade?

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Wilma Dorothy Vermilyea and her husband John Starr Cooke, 1943

Alexander Blade was, apparently, a woman: Wilma Dorothy Vermilyea. She used a number of aliases for her sci-fi work for books like Amazing Stories, Fantastic Adventures, and Other Worlds Science Stories, including Millen Cooke, Millen Belknap, Millen Trench…and, of course, Alexander Blade.

It will perhaps not surprise you that she was deeply into the occult, theosophy, Aleister Crowley, and even Scientology; her more well-known husband John Starr Cooke equally immersed in various esoteric subjects, and very influential on the esoteric/countercultural scene of the 1960s.

And so the question is: was “Son of the Sun” a work of fiction, Vermilyea’s own esoteric beliefs “hidden” in pop-culture “trash”…or even channeled information garnered from extensive mystic adventures with her husband?

II. RICHARD SHAVER & RAYMOND PALMER

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Then there is the relationship between Raymond A. Palmer, editor of probably the most well-known pulp science-fiction publication, Amazing Stories, and Richard Shaver, whose narratives of an underground world and strange creatures were serialized in the magazine.

Shaver claimed to have encountered underground races of advanced beings who pre-dated humanity; the first contact happening through a sudden bout of “telepathy” while working on an assembly line. These beings were the benevolent “Teros,” and the degenerate “Deros”—both abandoned by their main race, who departed for the stars due to the ill effects of our sun’s radiation.

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Richard Shaver and Raymond Palmer

Palmer received a letter in 1943 from Shaver describing the language of these subterranean beings, Mantong. When the Amazing Stories editor wrote back asking how he knew Mantong, he received a 10,000 word document from Shaver entitled “A Warning To Future Man.”

Palmer was convinced, and asked Shaver to write a longer version of the his story to serialize in Amazing Stories. Then the editor re-wrote the manuscript to add a few more standard and exciting sci-fi touches, and…”The Shaver Mystery” series was a hit.

But was it fiction?

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Palmer would later admit that at least a portion of Shaver’s “lost time” was not spent in the underground caverns of a mysterious lost race, but in a mental hospital fighting paranoid schizophrenia. But the editor—who the DC Comics character The Atom is named after—would go on to co-write books about UFOs with Kenneth Arnold, co-found the paranormal magazine FATE, and even published a version of Oahspe: The New Bible (another work based on channeled material).

So while there were questions about the veracity of Shaver’s story, Palmer held an interest in these subjects for the rest of his life.

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Raymond Palmer, the Atom

Jeffrey J. Kripal’s book Mutants & Mystics is like the rosetta stone of this entire line of inquiry, where pulp-fiction and “Aliens!” meet. And Kripal not only looks at sci-fi, but the next big type of fiction to come after it: comic books. For the weirdness by no means ends at the “pulp” genre, but rather latches onto the comic book world and grows rows of 4-color chrome-plated tentacles.

There is so much more to write on the subject, but I’ll leave this post with Kripal’s commentary on Amazing Stories editor Palmer:

However we interpret Ray Palmer or decide on his final views, clearly, this little big man did far more than read, write, and edit pulp fiction. With the help of Richard Shaver, Kenneth Arnold, and the Oahspe Bible, he created an entire occult world in the mirror of pulp fiction and his own paranormal experiences. And by “in the mirror,” I mean both “in the mirror” and “through the mirror,” since, in Palmer’s mind at least, he had stepped through the mirror of fantasy and encountered something very real on the other side. The pulp fiction became psychical fact. He was now living inside one of those fantastic cover paintings and doing what he had long been doing—writing himself in the bright colors of those astral-traveling dreams. Basically, Ray Palmer became his own Amazing Stories.

Given the fact that Palmer’s name is now used for one of the older and more enduring superhero characters, perhaps there is something to all that.

III. IN THE MIRROR AND THROUGH THE MIRROR

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In the cases of Shaver, Dick, and so many others—we are ultimately left with the question as to whether the beliefs and reported/inferred experiences of these authors were the result of something real and tangible, or simply a by-product of mental illness. (For many, the simple fact that Vermilyea was interested in those esoteric topics at all and took them seriously would be an indicator of madness.)

But can there be a third conclusion? Could it be a mixture of both? Certainly, a figure like Palmer seemed to skate upon the line of the great Maybe—unwilling to abandon the study of such topics completely, but willing enough to be discerning about them. Author and philosopher Robert Anton Wilson was the same way, entertaining the possibility that he he did channel his own alien transmissions, but also open to alternative explanations.

Whatever the case, the pulp science-fiction market and fandom was a fertile ground for such explorations, and without a doubt deeply influenced both the sci-fi and esoteric/UFOlogist worlds for some time to come.