LOVE IN THE FUTURE
Lost f&sf stories abound. Look through the thousands of old magazines that published millions of words of general fiction and you'll find examples that unquestionably fit into the genre but have been overlooked and forgotten for decades, not listed even in the largest databases. (I mention one that I found in my Galaxy Novels page.) They're like typos: easy to spot and easy to dismiss unless something special about them catches the eye.
My eyes popped when I saw the title "Love in the Future." I was browsing through the endless depths of the labor of love called The Pulp Magazine Project - the Contexts section, to be exact: context being the guiding principle of my work - and hit the page called "Oh, 'Girlie' Pulps." These artefacts are harder to find than genre f&sf - collectors exist, but nothing like the enormous fan base discussing every detail of every work that f&sf has - so not as much is known about them. The pulp world was as small and interwoven as the world of f&sf; any thread in the fabric eventually leads to familiar names.
Take William M. Clayton as an example. He spent his entire adult life in magazines, most of them pulps. Magazine of the Month was his first title, started in 1908 when he was just twenty-four. Dozens followed in every genre, including Ace-High, Clues, Cowboy Stories, Danger Trail, Five-Novels Monthly, Ranch Romances, Rangeland Love, and Strange Tales. Not to mention one other title of genre interest: Astounding Stories. Some lasted, some didn't. He went bust a number of times. In 1928 he sold his "risqué" line of pulps to Harry Donenfeld, later to become a comic book baron with Superman. (And Batman. Etc. ad infinitum.) Titles in the deal were Snappy Stories, Ginger, and Pep.
Magazines need distributors to reach newsstands and control over the process can be all-important. Donenfeld and others created Eastern Distributing, which immediately proceeded to incorporate a presumably deliberately bewildering tangle of junior companies to provide titles. At some point Frank Armer got involved as general sales representative, and then he branched off with companies of his own. The one run by Armer we care about was the transparently-named Ramer Reviews. That company issued a variety of pulps, and presciently copyrighted both Talkies and Talking Pictures as magazine titles in 1929. Many of the titles were girlie mags, and somehow he got control over Pep, credited to the Narvel Publishing Company. That's Narvel with an "N," possibly because in 1932, after the bankruptcy of Eastern Distributing, Armer partnered with magazine mogul Bernarr Macfadden. It didn't help. Pep and the others got sold again, to the survivor of all survivors, Harry Donenfeld.
Pep!, complete with exclamation point, put out its first issue in December 1929, but changed its name to Pep Stories with the May 1930 issue. Covers invariably featured an adorably appealing scantily-clad flapper girl, tiny, elfin creatures, none of whom appeared to weigh over 100 pounds. We're not the only era with weight issues.
Frank Kenneth Young's name landed on the cover, even though he was less of a name author than several of the others in the table of contents. Robert Leslie Bellem, C. S. Montanye, and Jack Woodford were veterans of the pulp world, while Young had about two dozen stories in print. Almost all of those dated in the short span from 1929 to 1931 were published in risqué titles, so he might have been seen as a rising star. (He would wind up with nearly 100 stories by the end of the 1930s. Nothing else is known about him, although a Frank Kenneth Young of Traverse City, Michigan shows up several times in database searches.) Or maybe the title alone was the selling point.
The story unquestionably qualifies as pure science fiction, a story whose plot is only possible because of futuristic technology. In the sense that it actually has a plot, it's a far better science fiction story than Clement Fezandié's "A Journey to the Year 2025," no matter much Hugo Gersback admired him.
"Love in the Future" starts with the ultimate "meet cute" situation. Our hero, Richard Washburn, is flying in a sky liner with a "cozy, electronically-heated cabin," much warmer than the lady he makes a pass at. When she rejects him, he does the obvious - opens a trapdoor in the floor of the cabin and jumps out. He's wearing a parachute, so don't worry about his landing, even though he unexpectedly falls through a building's skylight and onto a lady's bed. Almost onto the lady herself, in fact, fast asleep in her "wisp of diaphanous silk that served only to emphasize the glowing skin and palpitating curves of her lovely body." Her name is Vaida Dwight, a fast-living Prohibition-era gal who falls for the fallen Washburn in a heartbeat. "Gee, Vaida," you're a swell girl," Washburn whispers. "Get dressed and go out with me - show me the town, won't you?" Unfortunately, the laws are slightly different in the future. The Police Commissioner has ordered Vaida to go to bed early and alone every night for a year, just because a swain took off her clothes one by one and put them on the Statue of Liberty, over whose top Vaida broke a bottle of booze after a nude climb. The nerve of the guy. I mean the Commissioner.
In further defiance of the law, of logic, who should call her on the television at that exact moment? That's right: the Commissioner. He's had a report of a parachutist landing in her neighborhood.
"Hello!" the Commissioner was saying. "You say you have seen nothing of the young aviator?"
"Not a sign of him, Commissioner!" replied Vaida, still more sweetly. "I'm sure he couldn't have descended on the roof!"
"Then who is the young man in your room with you?" rasped the angry voice.
"Oh, good heavens!" gasped Vaida. "I forgot to disconnect the television! He's seen you, Richard! What'll I do!"
A television in this future seems more like a two-way picture phone. I can't figure out where the camera might be from the illustration (at top and on page 57 below) but the picture tube makes for an excellent mirror, one that somehow reflects her getting dressed - while behind a tall screen.
The two lovers prepare to flee the city and race to the airport to catch the trans-continental plane for New York. Wait. Weren't we in New York or did all cities have Statues of Liberty in the 30s? No time to answer that. Events are moving too fast. When they reach the airport and try to board the Mercury, a "modern hippogriff," they find that the Commissioner is one step ahead of them. Washburn is an aviator (did we know that? was he piloting the plane he jumped out of?) so obviously he would rush to an airport. Foiled! Or are they?
Not in the least. Washburn plans to marry beautiful young Vaida. That supersedes all law. Oh, by the way, the Commissioner is Richard's uncle. A happy ending!
Love in the Future
Frank Kenneth Young
Pep Stories, April 1932
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