Wandering Through the Public Domain #7

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

By Colleen McMahon:I turn up material for this column in the most roundabout ways. For example, I was looking at CLEWS, a historic true crime blog, and saw a reference to Miriam Allen DeFord (1888-1975), who apparently wrote some crime books. The illustration with the blog entry looked like a 1950s paperback, and I know that many of those were reprints of material that had already fallen into the public domain at that point.

So I did a quick search on DeFord and found that her birth year was 1888, which makes her promising for potential Librivox recording material. At this point I was thinking true crime works, which are scarce on Librivox, so I’m always looking for a chance to record a new one.

Off to Project Gutenberg to check their DeFord holdings. To my surprise, the four works they have are all science fiction! Time to dig further into Ms. DeFord’s background. It turns out that she was a very prolific writer who wrote across many genres. She was an editor and journalist as well.

She began her career in journalism in the early 1900s, with a distinct leftist and feminist bent. She wrote for multiple socialist publications, was a proponent of birth control and women’s suffrage, and wrote several non-fiction books early in her career. Later, she turned to fiction and published stories in just about all of the major mystery and science fiction magazines from the 1950s-1980s. She even made an appearance in Harlan Ellison’s Dangerous Visions anthology, and one of her stories became the basis of a Night Gallery episode.

She seems mostly forgotten now, and the little I read of her made me want to know more. I’m particularly intrigued by two anthologies she edited. Space, Time, and Crime (1964) has stories where the mystery and SF genres intersect. The other, Xenogenesis (1968), is a collection of her own short fiction dealing with gender themes.

Project Gutenberg has 4 of Miriam Allen Deford’s short stories:

All have been recorded at Librivox.

From a really obscure old-time SF author, to a really well-known one — at least by name, though I don’t think his own writings are widely read any more. John W. Campbell (1910-1971) is best remembered now as a prominent editor who did much to shape the early decades of modern science fiction through the kinds of stories he purchased, commissioned, and/or encouraged aspirants to write.

There are five John W. Campbell works on Project Gutenberg, four full-length novels and one short story:

All have been recorded at Librivox at least once, with “The Last Evolution” having three different versions in various short SF collections.

Recent Librivox releases:

  • The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894)

    This story deals with the obvious fact that we humans are split, dual. We have urges to do the ‘right’ thing, to be honorable and wise, but we also frequently fail to follow these better instincts and follow instead urges to do dishonorable, evil things. We seem to battle within ourselves. Are we really composed of two different personalities housed within the same brain, within the same person? Dr Jekyll in this story is so convinced and manages by scientific means to actually split himself into his ordinary composite self, and his evil self whom he calls Mr. Hyde. The horror of this unnatural split is well documented here and shows what might happen were this possible.


  • Mars is My Destination by Frank Belknap Long (1901-1994)

    MARS

    … Earth’s first colony in Space. Men killed for the coveted ticket that allowed them to go there. And, once there, the killing went on….

    MARS

    … Ralph Graham’s goal since boyhood—and he was Mars-bound with authority that put the whole planet in his pocket—if he could live long enough to assert it!


  • Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions by Edwin Abbott Abbott (1838-1926)

    This is a satirical novel written by Edwin A. Abbott, first published in 1884. Abbott uses a two-dimensional world, with himself as the protagonist, known simply as “A Square”, to deride the Victorian aristocracy and its hierarchies. But the book has retained its value throughout the years for its unique portrayal of a two-dimensional world, and how a Sphere introduces the Square to the incomprehensible possibility of a third dimension.


  • A Mirror of Shalott by Robert Hugh Benson (1871-1914)

    Fourteen stories of the strange by the Anglican then Roman Catholic priest, Robert Hugh Benson. The form of the book is of stories told by a gathering of Roman Catholic clergy.


  • The Vampire; or, The Bride of the Isles by James Planché (1796-1880)

    Set in the Scottish Isles, Planché’s play begins with our heroine having a prophetic vision of her own demise. Lady Margaret is besieged with a nightmarish visitation from a vampiric fiend who threatens to feast upon her blood. These premonitions are quickly borne out when she meets her betrothed, the villainous Lord Ruthven, an otherworldly creature alluded to in local gossip and rumor. He seeks to marry Margaret in order to drain her of her blood. Will her prophetic dreams come true? Or will she be saved from Ruthven’s villainous schemes?

10 thoughts on “Wandering Through the Public Domain #7

  1. As Don A Stuart, Campbell wrote “Who Goes There?”, published in 1938 and first adapted for the screen as The Thing from Another World (1951).

  2. I’m familiar with that story being his most famous one but apparently it remains under copyright—pretty sure PG would have it by now if it wasn’t!

  3. I have a public domain question.

    The copyright on the 1939 novel Lords of Creation by Eando Binder was renewed so it remains protected.

    In 1949, a new version of the novel was published in which it was significantly revised to add atom bomb elements. This book was not renewed so it should be in the public domain.

    The changes and characters introduced in 1949 are clearly in the public domain.

    The 1949 book is also public domain, isn’t it? There are derivative works in the public domain whose original work is still copyrighted. An example is the Double Detective pulp stories about the Green Lama. Those stories were renewed and remain protected under copyright but the comic books created later about the Green Lama were not renewed and are public domain.

  4. Additional information on Miriam Allen deFord is accessible at a blog entry focused on her relation, and that of a husband, to the Fortean movement: https://www.joshuablubuhs.com/blog/miriam-allen-de-ford-and-maynard-shipley-as-forteans
    It has been some years since I thought about Miriam Allen deFord– her name and writings were much more familiar in the late sixties. I recall “looking her up” in the early days of internet search engines in the late nineties.

  5. Seems that the complete novel which WHO GOES THERE was pruned from has been discovered. and soon to be printed.

    I thought FLATLAND was in public domain years ago, since Dover Books reprinted it. Curious, too, that two animated films have been made of it.

    Miriam Allen Deford was a collaborator with Anthony Boucher, and a request was made for her estate to contact NESFA because the collaboration was used in THE COMPLEAT ANTHONY BOUCHER. I also found a poetry book she wrote in a thrift shop.

  6. @Robert Whitaker Sirignano
    I thought FLATLAND was in public domain years ago, since Dover Books reprinted it. Curious, too, that two animated films have been made of it.
    While Dover certainly prints a lot of Public Domain material, they also print works that they have licensed from copyright holders or are otherwise copyrighted.

  7. >>>>From a really obscure old-time SF author, to a really well-known one — at least by name, though I don’t think his own writings are widely read any more. John W. Campbell
    >>>>Seems that the complete novel which WHO GOES THERE was pruned from has been discovered. and soon to be printed.

    It always astonishes and disgusts me that a significant portion of SF fandom, which used to cherish its classics and history, now insists on disrespecting them if not pissing on them at every opportunity. In fact, Wildside Press not only got enough support from a kickstarter campaign to get the novel going, they are going to publish an accompanying anthology of stories set in Campbell’s WGT universe. I look forward to it, as I suspect many others do, despite the inevitable derision Campbell’s name will again suffer……

  8. KBK: It always astonishes and disgusts me that a significant portion of SF fandom, which used to cherish its classics and history, now insists on disrespecting them if not pissing on them at every opportunity.

    It seems to me that most of SF fandom recognizes that Campbell did a huge amount to promote and popularize SF early in its history. Most of fandom also recognizes that he was a racist, a bit of a crackpot, and a crook who didn’t pay a lot of authors the money they were owed. Most people can accept and recognize those facets of Campbell without feeling the need to either install him on a pedestal of worship nor dump him in the “forget, and never mention again” trash bin.

    But there are always a few who worship the early progenitors of SF, are stuck in that past, and have little understanding of the current state and quality of the field, who feel compelled to insist that everyone else is doing SF and fandom “wrong”. I’m quite happy to disregard their opinions, and continue to read and appreciate the works — both old and new — that I enjoy.

  9. Pingback: Wandering Through the Public Domain #9 | File 770

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