Friday, October 28, 2011


Jack Snow (1907–1956)
From American Fantastic Tales: Terror and the Uncanny from the 1940s to Now

During a remarkable career, L. Frank Baum wrote a total of fourteen Oz books. After his death, Baum’s publisher, Reilly & Lee, continued to publish volumes in the series, adding some two dozen titles by several authors (mostly by Ruth Plumly Thompson). These writers became known as “Royal Historians of Oz.” And there is actually a current Royal Historian, the best-selling writer Sherwood Smith, who has published two new Oz entries in the last decade and is working on a third.

One of the Oz Historians was John Frederick Snow, who as a teenager was initially rebuffed by the publisher when he offered to step into Baum’s shoes and write a few sequels. His persistence paid off, however, and in the 1940s Jack Snow published two books in the series, The Magical Mimics in Oz and The Shaggy Man of Oz. In 1954 he also compiled Who’s Who in Oz, which contains capsule biographies of 630 characters in the forty Oz books that had been published to date.

In addition to his lifelong dedication to the legacy of L. Frank Baum, Snow worked for WNBC in New York for many years. At one point, in 1944, Snow persuaded NBC executives to consider developing a series of radio programs based on stories by a young and relatively unknown science-fiction writer named Ray Bradbury, although the series was never produced. Both Bradbury and Snow wrote stories that were published in the groundbreaking pulp magazine Weird Tales and in 1947 Snow prepared a collection of his short fiction for publication as a book.

Initially, Snow wanted to include only the best twelve selections, including one of his more sinister tales, “Midnight,” which had appeared in the May 1946 issue of Weird Tales with Bradbury’s story “The Smiling People.” But the publisher insisted on fattening the book by adding a number of early unpolished apprentice pieces, written when Snow was in his teens and early twenties. Bradbury, only twenty-six years old at the time, had agreed to write a foreword for Snow’s collection—but he reneged when he read the material added to the volume, considering the early stories “patently unpublishable.” As a result, the jackets for all copies of Jack Snow’s book, Dark Music and Other Spectral Tales, had to be overstamped with a bar of ink, to block out Bradbury’s name. As Jonathan R. Eller recounts in Becoming Ray Bradbury, Snow’s response to Bradbury was relatively gracious but pointed: “You are a literary craftsman with ambitions to become a skilled and recognized artist in the field. I have no such ambitions. I want to write because I enjoy it.”

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Between the hour of eleven and midnight John Ware made ready to perform the ceremony that would climax the years of homage he had paid to the dark powers of evil. Tonight he would become a part of that essence of dread that roams the night hours. . . . If you don't see the full story below, click here (PDF) or click here (Google Docs) to read it—free!

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