Thursday, August 19, 2021

"I Began To Know a New All-time High of Being Scared"

By Manly Wade Wellman (1903-86).
Illustration by H. W. Wesso (1894-1948; HERE).
First appearance: Dynamic Science Stories, April-May 1939.
Reprints page (HERE).
Short short story (9 pages).
Online at (HERE).
     "He melted down like a snow man in a heavy thaw."

Funny how almost getting murdered can put a guy on a new career path . . . .

Principal characters:
~ Sam:
  "Something was due to break loose any second, and I'd be in the thick of it."
~ Marjorie:
  ". . . was shrinking back on the settee, her mouth open as if she was trying to scream."
~ Miss Wheatland:
  ". . . the old-maid school teacher, austere but loveable, who was bringing two young sweethearts together . . ."
~ Dillard Harpe:
  ". . . was so close to me that he could have reached out and grabbed me."
~ The chief of detectives:
  "I still don't see how you managed it. All I can call it is insight."

References and resources:
- "Grant's Tomb": That's what everybody calls it:
  "Grant's Tomb, officially the General Grant National Memorial, is the final resting place of Ulysses S. Grant, 18th President of the United States, and his wife, Julia Grant. It is a classical domed mausoleum in the Morningside Heights neighborhood of Upper Manhattan in New York City. The structure is in the middle of Riverside Drive at 122nd Street, across from Riverside Church to the southeast and Riverside Park to the west" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "a movie serial": An ingenious way to bring audiences back to the theater next week:
  "Each chapter was screened at a movie theater for one week, and ended with a cliffhanger, in which characters found themselves in perilous situations with little apparent chance of escape. Viewers had to return each week to see the cliffhangers resolved and to follow the continuing story. Movie serials were especially popular with children, and for many youths in the first half of the 20th century a typical Saturday matinee at the movies included at least one chapter of a serial, along with animated cartoons, newsreels, and two feature films" (Wikipedia HERE).
- X-ray vision: It's a venerable SFFnal plot device that's been around for centuries; see Wikipedia (HERE) and TV Tropes (HERE).
- Manly Wade Wellman produced decades of high-quality SFFnal writing; see Wikipedia (HERE), the SFE (HERE), the Project Gutenberg collection (HERE), the IMDb (HERE; 6 credits), and the ISFDb (HERE).
- We've met up with Wellman before: "But Our Hero Was Not Dead" (HERE) and "Murder in Silhouette" (HERE).


  1. I just love movie serials. I especially love having them on DVD. The big mistake people make when they buy serials on DVD is watching them all in one go, or watching them over a couple of nights. I try to watch just one episode per day and spread my viewing over a couple of weeks. They're much more fun that way.

    Movie serials are like short stories - they're out of fashion but they have their own charm.

    1. When I was a kid first going to the "picture show" (that's what we called it), serials were in the last stages of being phased out. Just a cartoon, maybe a newsreel (also being phased out thanks to television), and one or two (on Saturdays) feature films. It wasn't long before even the cartoons were gone.