Ron Goulart (1933-2022)

Ron Goulart. Photo (c) and taken by Andrew Porter.

Ron Goulart died January 14, the day after his 89th birthday. A science fiction and mystery author, he published more than 180 books under his own and other different names, including the house names Kenneth Robeson and Con Steffanson, and personal pseudonyms such as Chad Calhoun, R T Edwards, Ian R Jamieson, Josephine Kains, Jillian Kearny, Howard Lee, Zeke Masters, Frank S Shawn, Joseph Silva – even William Shatner.  (His interview about working on the Shatner-bylined Tek War comic series can be read in a 1992 issue of Starlog Magazine available at the Internet Archive.)

Goulart’s first professional publication was a 1952 reprint of the SF story “Letters to the Editor” in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, a parody of a pulp magazine letters column originally written for UC Berkeley’s Pelican.

His short story “Calling Dr. Clockwork ” (Amazing Stories Mar 1965) was a 1966 Nebula nominee. Translated into Japanese, “My Pal Clunky ” was a 2005 finalist for the Seiun Awards. He received an Edgar Award nomination from the Mystery Writers of America Award for his science fiction novel, After Things Fell Apart (1971). That same year he won the Pat Terry Award for Humor in Science Fiction, which used to be presented at the Worldcon.

Jon D. Swartz wrote in a 2018 issue of Tightbeam:

Goulart can satirize almost anything, and many of his stories are hilarious. He has also written some serious stories, of course, but he’s best known for his satirical fiction. Much of his funniest writing occurs in the several series he has written around his characters of Jack Summer (Death Cell, Plunder, A Whiff of Madness, Galaxy Jane), Jake Conger (the invisible government agent), and especially The Chameleon Corps stories about the shape-changing government agent Ben Jolson.

Mark Evanier’s News From ME appreciation adds, “He was a great lover of comic books and a fine historian of the form.” 

Goulart put his genre knowledge to work on nonfiction books such as The Dime Detectives: A Comprehensive History of the Detective Fiction Pulps. a 1989 Edgar Award nominee for Best Critical/Biographical Work. Cheap Thrills: An Informal History of the Pulp Magazines, and Comic Book Culture: An Illustrated History.

In the 1970s, Goulart wrote several scripts for Marvel Comics, mostly adaptations of classic science fiction stories. Later in the decade he collaborated with artist Gil Kane on a newspaper strip called Star Hawks.  His comics work was recognized with an Inkpot Award from San Diego Comic-Con (1989).

For television, he scripted episodes of the series Monsters (1988), Welcome to Paradox (1998) and Thundercats (1985).

He is survived by his wife, author Frances Sheridan Goulart, and two sons.

Wandering Through the Public Domain #26

A regular exploration of public domain genre work available through Project Gutenberg, Internet Archive, and Librivox.

By Colleen McMahon:

I took a hiatus for the holiday season but I’m back and ready to dig into some more of the public domain treasures out there for fans of old-time science fiction, fantasy, and horror.

Since the new Robert Downey Jr. version of Dolittle is coming out this week, I thought it might be a good time to take a look at Hugh Lofting, the originator of the Dr. Dolittle character and stories.

Hugh Lofting (1886-1947) didn’t set out to be a writer. Born in Berkshire, England, he studied civil engineering at MIT and London Polytechnic and spent several years traveling the world doing engineering work. When World War I began, he enlisted and served in France for several years before being wounded and invalided out.

The character of Doctor Dolittle, a Victorian physician who can talk to animals and ministers to them instead of humans, originated in the trenches during the war. Lofting later explained that his actual experiences were either too horrible or too dull to include in letters home to his children, so he began writing stories about Dolittle and illustrating them with pen-and-ink line drawings instead.

He collected those stories into his first book, The Story of Doctor Dolittle, which was published in 1920 to immediate acclaim. He wrote seven more Dolittle books between 1920 and 1928, when he tried to end the series by sending Doctor Dolittle off planet in Doctor Dolittle in the Moon

Popular demand led him to write four more Dolittle books in the 1930s and 1940s, and two additional collections were published posthumously in the 1950s. He also wrote several works for children that were not in the Dolittle series, and a book-length anti-war poem called Victory for the Slain, published in 1942.

The first few Doctor Dolittle books are in the public domain now and are available at Project Gutenberg:

Doctor Dolittle’s Circus was published in 1924 and thus entered the public domain in the United States on January 1 of this year. It will likely be released by Project Gutenberg in the next few months.

A non-Dolittle picture book, The Story of Mrs. Tubbs, was also published in 1923 and is on Internet Archive.

Librivox has multiple versions of The Story of Doctor Dolittle and The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle, including dramatic readings (where different volunteers voice the various characters) of both. Two versions of Doctor Dolittle’s Post Office are in progress, a solo version and a dramatic reading, and will be released in the next few months.

Clark Ashton Smith (1893-1961) came up in the birthday lists this week. He’s best remembered now as a fiction writer — one of the “Big Three” of the early years of Weird Tales (the other two being H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard), but he began his writing career as a poet.

Project Gutenberg has two volumes of poetry by Clark Ashton Smith:

Ebony and Crystal contains a long blank-verse poem called “The Hashish Eater, or the Apocalypse of Evil”. This poem caught Lovecraft’s attention and his fan letter to Smith initiated years of correspondence and collaboration. 

This poem and nineteen other works are included in a recent Librivox release, Lovecraft’s Influences and Favorites. The compilation was inspired by Lovecraft’s 1927 essay, “Supernatural Horror in Literature”, and collects the stories and poems Lovecraft mentions, from Poe’s “Fall of the House of Usher” to “Seaton’s Aunt” by Walter de la Mare.

Ron Goulart (1933- ) shares his birthday with Clark Ashton Smith, and is represented at Project Gutenberg by three short stories:

None of these have been recorded for Librivox yet.

Recent Librivox releases:

  • The Clockwork Man by E.V. Odle (1890-1942)

    In the future, people will be fitted with clockwork devices in their heads which, among other things, allows them to travel through time. Well, it seems one of these devices has frizzed-out, and a Clockwork man appears in the middle of a cricket match in 1923. The Clockwork Man by E.V. Odle is believed to be the first instance of a human-machine cyborg appearing in literature.

  • The King of Elfland’s Daughter by Lord Dunsany (1878-1957)

    This is a 1924 fantasy novel by Anglo-Irish writer Lord Dunsany, which became public domain in January 2020. It is widely recognized as one of the most acclaimed works in all of fantasy literature. Highly influential upon the fantasy genre as a whole, the novel was particularly formative in the subgenres of “fairytale fantasy” and “high fantasy”. And yet, it deals always with the truth: the power of love, the allure of nature, the yearning for contentment, the desire for fame, the quest for immortality, and the lure and the fear of magic. Arthur C. Clarke said this novel helped cement Dunsany as “one of the greatest writers of this century”.

  • Crossings: A Fairy Play by Walter de la Mare (1873-1956)

    Under the terms of a will, the Wildersham children have to relocate from the family house in the city to “Crossings” in the country, and to spend the first fortnight alone fending for themselves in the house. The children encounter interesting country neighbors, including ghosts and fairies. Or are they dreaming? Walter De La Mare was a poet, and we have a number of his poems available at Librivox. This is his only play.

  • The Phantom Death and Other Stories by William Clark Russell (1844-1911)

    This is a book of remarkable nautical ghost and horror stories written by William Clark Russell in 1893. The stories are for the most part set on ships and bring the reader on board for ghostly nights, wonderful sights, and strange occurrences.