In the history of science fiction, there are very few authors who were able to make the transition from the early days of pseudo-science
into the harsh reality of the post-nuclear world. Of those who made the transition, still fewer were able to adapt to the changing moods of
the Cold War or the social upheavals of the 60s. But, there were a very few authors who managed to write stories and novels throughout it
all: from the time of the Space Opera through the first landing on the moon and beyond. One of these authors was Edmond Hamilton.
Edmond Hamilton in later life
Edmond Hamilton was born in 1904 in Youngstown, Ohio. A child prodigy, he completed high school and entered into college at the
age of 14 with the dream of becoming an electrical engineer. Unfortunately, the age discrepency between Hamilton and the other students
made it very difficult for him to adapt socially to his new surroundings and he never completed his degree. He flunked out during his third
year and took a job with the Pennsylvania Railroad while he tried to figure out what to do with the rest of his life.
Hamilton had always been a voracious reader, particularly of the works of A. Merritt and Burroughs. Although he had never shown any
inclination towards writing before, he decided in the mid 20s to be an author. Whether this decision was just an intellectual exercise or
was born out of necessity is not known, but his first attempt, the short story "The Monster-God of Mamurth," was submitted to
Weird Tales and published in 1926. A second story was accepted with equal ease and within a very short time, Hamilton was an
established author, writing both atmospheric horror stories and science fiction stories in the space opera style of E. E. "Doc"
Smith for a variety of outlets. The early science fiction stories also gained Hamilton the nickname of "World Wrecker" since most
of these tales involved a major menace to the galaxy that had to be defeated, usually, by a space armada and the destruction of a planet or
From the 20s to the mid-40s, Hamilton worked solely as a freelance author and was very prolific, often writing several
short stories simultaneously while working on a novel-length serial. He also dabbled in some mystery and detective fiction during slow periods for the
sale of science fiction. Some estimates suggest that his short story output alone may have numbered in the hundreds, but, because some of
Hamilton's work was published under pseudonyms as well as his own name, the true number of stories may never be known. He also
established a number of firsts during this extremely fertile period, including the first use of a space suit in science fiction, the first
space walk and the first use of an energy sword, the prototype for what George Lucas, a Hamilton fan, would later dub a light saber. He
also found time to travel during this period and visited much of the US and parts of Mexico, often in the company of his friend, author
In 1946, Hamilton's output slowed and with good reason. First, he married author Leigh Brackett and they began to restore a 130 year
old house in Kinsman, Ohio, which became their primary home for many years. Secondly, Hamilton embarked on a secondary career as a comic book writer.
Fred Ray/Jerry Robinson art
Issue with Hamilton's first comic story
Exactly how Hamilton entered into comic book writing is a bit of a mystery. The long accepted sequence of events (a chronology
substantiated in later years by Hamilton) is that he was contacted by his old friend, and former editor, Mort Weisinger in 1946. Weisinger,
had been the senior editor for Standard Magazines prior to moving to DC Comics in 1941, just after he and Hamilton had created the pulp character, Captain Future. Back from a stint in the military, Weisinger was looking up many of the writers he had worked with in the pulps to offer them jobs
writing comic books for DC. Research, however, would suggest differently.
The Grand Comic Book Database shows a credit for Hamilton as early as 1942 at DC with a story in Batman #11. In and of itself, this not a great stretch, since Weisinger entered the military in late 1942 or early 1943. One could assume that this might have been a tryout of some sort on Hamilton's part and Weisinger was the editor of Batman at this point. Of even greater interest are the writing credits for some Black Terror stories in America's Best Comics in 1945. Again, this would also be a fairly logical connection, since Black Terror was published by Standard and even without Weisinger, Hamilton would most likely have had some connections within the company. Exactly how these earlier stories have been left out of most chronologies is not known and why Hamilton chose not to mention them is yet another enigma. What is known, however, is that the pulp market was slowing, Weisinger was looking for writers, Hamilton was interes and, at some point in the mid-40s, he began his second career as a comic book writer.
Starwolf #1 The Weapon From Beyond
Jack Gaughan Cover
Writing for comic books presented a new venue for Hamilton. Comics paid better than pulps in the post-war years and he could do as many,
or as few, as he wanted, even to the point where he could put his comic writing on hold to work on a novel or short story. Hamilton was also
allowed to mail his scripts to DC, which meant trips to New York were unncessary. Originally hired as a writer for Batman,
Hamilton was soon doing Superman and the Batman/Superman stories in World's Finest, as well. In addition, Julius Schwartz,
Hamilton's former literary agent, was a DC editor and he started to send assignments to Hamilton for his stable of science fiction
comics. Over the next 20 years, Hamilton proved himself to be prolific as ever, creating some fondly remembered stories for a number of DC
characters, including a long run in the 60s on the "Tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes" series in Adventure Comics.
Along with his comic book writing, Hamilton also traveled for pleasure, made trips to Hollywood (as part of his wife's screenwriting
career) and still found time to turn out out novels and short stories on a fairly regular basis, but by no means as quickly as he had in
the previous twenty years.
By 1966, Hamilton decided it was time to think about retirement, so he resigned his position at DC. He and Leigh divided their time between the restored house in Kinsman and their second home in Lancaster, California, where they spent the winters. They also spent a great deal of time traveling to various destinations around the world. Hamilton still found time to write the occasional short story and even wrote a three novel series about the Starwolves in the late 60s that were done in the style of his earlier "world wrecker" days. Yet, his health became increasingly frail and by the early to mid 70s he was under fairly constant medical care and not allowed to travel too far from either home. Eventually he passed away in 1977.
April, 2010 (Re-written and expanded from January, 2005 version.)
Introduction © 2010 by Bob Gay
And as I went farther into that savage country, I found more and more of the ruins I sought, of the age when Carthage meant empire and ruled all of North Africa...
John Woodford in his first moments of returning consciousness was not aware that he was lying in his coffin. He had only a dull knowledge that...
Jimmy Crane, Mart Halkett and Hall Bumham were students together in a New York technical school in the spring...
There were three of us in Pollard's house on that
And now from that little ball tiny jets of fire seemed darting backward in steady succession. They were the great atom-blasts of Pluto, firing regularly backward. And as they fired,...