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The Unofficial Robert Bloch Website

Essays

Robert Bloch (1914-1994)

Frank M. Robinson

Robert Bloch, one of the best loved authors in the field of fantasy and suspense, died Friday, September 23, of cancer of the esophagus and kidneys. He was 77 years old. His career spanned an amazing 60 years in seven decades.

Services were held at the Pierce Brothers Mortuary in Westwood CA. Many of the hundred friends and fellow writers in attendance made short remarks, and Richard Matheson read tributes from Peter Straub, Stephen King, William Peter Blatty, and Ray Bradbury (who could not be present), among others. Sally Francy, Bloch's daughter, read a poem about a daughter's lover for her father.

Bloch had been diagnosed early in June when he sought treatment for difficulty in swallowing. His doctors, he confided to friends later, “told me I could play with fireworks, but I shouldn't plan on trick or treating.” Shortly after diagnosis, he wrote a final piece for Omni (October 1994) about death and dying and his fear of it.

The article was an eerie echo of an early interview with Bloch that ran in the Milwaukee Journal Green Sheet for April 6, 1935, when Bloch was 18. The Journal mentioned the horror stories he had recently written for Weird Tales, then concluded: “And still - this same young man confesses to an inexplicable and profound fear of death.” Quoting Bloch: “I can write horro tales very impersonally but I can't view death impersonally. The more I read of it, the more I fear it.”

The Journal, discussing Bloch and his future career, mentioned that writing terror tales was only to help him achieve his real ambition - to be a comedian. Apparently, scarcely a day went by that Bloch didn't write four or five gags that he stored away for future use. When he was older, according to the paper, the young Bloch hoped to act in sketches that he wrote. Luckily for us, Bloch didn't move completely on-stage.

Though he started as a writer of weird and horror stories, and later varied the mix with forays into humor, fantasy, science fiction, and even westerns, he was to achieve his real fame and importance pioneering the psychological horror story. During the war years, his interest in writing supernatural stories of the type popularized by H.P. Lovecraft had begun to pall. He was becoming more interested in the monsters within than the monsters without.

“By the mid-1940s I had pretty well mined the vein of ordinary supernatural themes. I realized as a result of what went on during World War Two and from reading…psychology that the real horror is not in the shadows but in the twisted world inside our own skulls.”

Bloch's first effort in exploring that “twisted world” was The Scarf (The Dial Press 1947), a short novel told from the viewpoint of a psychopathic strangler. It was followed by The Kidnapper (Lion 1954) - Bloch's personal favorite of his novels and another first person narrative of a psychopath - Spiderweb (Ace 1954), and in 1959, the novel that was to make him famous: Psycho (Simon & Schuster).

Unlike most of his short fiction, his psychological horror novels were terse and clinical, with little of the humor that usually marked a Bloch story. His earliest tales were pastiches of Lovecraft, but even they had humorous overtones. He couldn't resist killing off a thinly-disguised Lovecraft - to whom he dedicated the story - in “The Shambler From the Stars” (Weird Tales, 9/35). Lovecraft retaliated by writing a story in which he killed one “Robert Blake” of Milwaukee (“The Haunter of the Dark,” Weird Tales 12/36). He dedicated the story to Bloch, for which Bloch was forever grateful.

But it was psychological horror that made Bloch's literary reputation. In many respects, his novels were ahead of their time, but they paved the way for many of the later books by Stephen King, Thomas Harris, and others. Norman Bates and Hannibal Lechter might differ in degrees of sophistication and depravity, but most readers would have little difficulty in identifying them as inmates of the same asylum.

Robert Bloch was born in Chicago in 1917, the son of Raphael and Stella Loeb Bloch. His father was a cashier in a bank, his mother a former school teacher and social worker who had once turned down a career in light opera. They were Jewish but not particularly religious, and for the most part Bloch was raised as a Methodist. A chance meeting with the magician Howard Thurston sparked an early interest in show business. Family members were already enthusiasts of vaudeville, and Bloch also attended movies regularly, especially comedies. His childhood idols were Buster Keaton (whom he was to meet later in life) and Harold Lloyd.

But the defining moment in his experience of the performing arts came when , as a small boy, he attended a nighttime production of The Phantom of the Opera starring Lon Chaney. The scene where the Phantom removes his mask to reveal his skull-face was to stay with him the rest of his life. In one interview he said he'd peed his pants, ran home from the theater, and slept with the light on for the next two years. (In his autobiography, he denied it all - though he admitted he became a Chaney fan as well as a fan of other horror pictures of the period.)

An interest in Egyptology, picked up from his numerous visits to the Art Institute and Chicago's Field Museum, led him to buy his first copy of Weird Tales. He'd been browsing through the newsstand at Chicago's huge Northwestern Railroad Station and spotted the issue featuring Otis Adelbert Kline's “The Bride of Osiris” on the cover (August 1927). An indulgent aunt brought the issue for him and changed his life forever. He was nine years old.

Bloch's father lost his bank job in the early '20s at about the same time his mother was offered a position by the Abraham Lincoln House in Milwaukee, where she'd been employed as a social work prior to her marriage. The family relocated to Milwaukee. While in junior high school, Bloch discovered science fiction in Amazing Stories and became a fan of H.P. Lovecraft through his stories in Weird Tales.

In 1933, Bloch started a long correspondence with Lovecraft, which continued until the latter's death. Lovecraft introduced the young fan to other writers for Weird Tales such as Clark Ashton Smith, E. Hoffman Price, and August Derleth. Lovecraft also encouraged the young Bloch to try his hand at writing stories and offered to read and criticize the results. His first efforts were published by William L. Crawford, who printed Bloch's story “Lillies” in Marvel Tales and “The Black Lotus” in Unusual Stories.

The only drawback was that Crawford paid no money to contributors. By this time, Bloch was serious about writing. It was the middle of the Depression, there were few jobs available for high school graduates, and writing for a living was worth a gamble. He bought a second-hand typewriter, a used card table, paper and carbon from the local Woolworth's, and set up shop in his bedroom.

A month after graduating from high school, Bloch sold his first story to Weird Tales, “The Secret of the Tomb.” But the first published story was the second one he sold, “The Feast in the Abbey” (Weird Tales, 1/35). Others quickly followed, and Bloch soon became a familiar and popular name in the magazine. But he had yet to find his own voice.

One of the side effects of his early writing career was his introduction to the Milwaukee Fictioneers, an organization whose members included Stanley G. Weinbaum, Raymond A. Palmer, Roger Sherman Hoar (“Ralph Milne Farley”), and others. Bloch was making friends through the mails as well, among them Henry Kuttner, with whom he later collaborated on a story (“The Black Kiss,” Weird Tales 6/37). He took a trip to Chicago to meet Farnsworth Wright, the editor of Weird Tales.

Bloch didn't restrict his creative efforts to writing horror stories. He had written gags in high school, acted in skits for the drama club, and appeared in a minstrel show and the senior play. Later, with high school friend Harold Gauer, he wrote a mock radio broadcast and collaborated on an unpublished - and unpublishable - novel, “In the Land of Sky-Blue Ointment.”

Through it all, he was turning into a journeyman writer with experience in a number of different forms, all of which would stand him in good stead. He was analytical about his writing, realizing that his penchant for horror sprang from his own fear of death. “I was terribly susceptible to fear of death.…I decided I'm not going to let them scare me, I'm going to scare them. And that's exactly what I did. I put on a fright mask myself and it worked….Familiarity didn't breed contempt, but it made it…much easier…to see how you manipulate the props to make the audience scream.”

He was an avid reader of fantasy, and read extensively in the fields of Freudian and Jungian psychology. Later in life, when asked to analyze the connection between comedy and horror, he wrote: “To me, horror and comedy are two sides to the same coin. Both of them involve the grotesque, the unexpected. In most cases, humor relies upon the twist, just as the shock in horror relies upon some kind of twist….”

When Lovecraft died, Bloch was devastated by the loss of his mentor. When Henry Kuttner invited him to spend a month in Los Angeles, he jumped at the chance. Hollywood was the home of many of his childhood heroes. In addition, he finally met Kuttner, Fritz Leiber, Jr., Catherine Moore, and the members of the Los Angeles Fantasy Society.

It was a trip he never forgot.

Back in Milwaukee, he discovered that Ziff-Davis had purchased Amazing Stories and Ray Palmer, his friend in the Fictioneers, was the editor. Ray needed new stories in a hurry, and Bloch hastened to oblige. The resulting increase in income enabled him to rent an office in downtown Milwaukee and hire a secretary. Trips to New Orleans and Sauk City WI (where he met August Derleth for the first time) followed. He now expanded his writing base still further, selling gags to Stoopnagle and Budd, a radio team, and one of his own monologs to comic Roy Atwell, who had appeared on the Fred Allen radio show. He also took on a side job as a stand-up comic, MC and mimic in various taverns and nightclubs.

None of these efforts produced much money, and when, in 1939, an offer came for him and Harold Gauer to mastermind a political campaign, he accepted. Their candidate was an assistant city attorney named Cal Zeidler - tall and blond, with a firm handshake and a good signing voice and few other obvious qualifications. Their opponent was the “dean of American mayors,” Daniel Webster Hoan, the Socialist mayor of Milwaukee for 23 years.

With little in the way of money, though much in the way of promises, Bloch and Gauer trusted to wit and innovation. They slanted the campaign to women (Zeidler was a bachelor and handsome) and youth (Zeidler was young), with a heavy reliance on photographs. They wrote Zeidler's platform as well as his speeches, held rallies at which pretty girls passed out campaign booklets, showcased their candidate standing in front of a huge American flag, and at the end of his speech yanked on strings backstage that flooded the auditorium with balloons.

Early in the campaign, Bloch and Gauer had decided that politics was just another form of business, and designed the campaign along those lines. None of what they did is unusual today, but this was in 1939. They got extensive press coverage, generated intense political excitement, and when it was all over, their no-talent candidate was in the run-off for Mayor.

In the general election that followed, Zeidler won by 12,000 votes. He also stiffed Bloch and Gauer for their fees, doubtlessly contributing to Bloch's sardonic take on politics in particular and life in general.

Bloch married Marion Ruth Holcombe in October 1940, tried his hand at another political campaign with little financial reward, and was faced with making a living for two. Returning to writing short stories, he lifted a character from the unpublished “In the Land of Sky-Blue Ointment.” The character was Lefty Feep, a petty gambler with overtones of Damon Runyon. Feep, along with other characters from the original Bloch/Gauer novel, was to star in 23 short stories and novelettes.

Bloch now paid frequent visits to Chicago to visit editors, meet other writers, and play poker at Ray Palmer's house in Evanston, where he met William P. McGivern, Howard Browne, and William Hamling. He was an average poker player, but invariably managed to fleece this naïve Ziff-Davis office boy invited to the poker parties for just that reason.

Despite his success with Lefty Feep and other fiction, money was still tight. Marion was not in good health, and medical bills began to eat up their income. Bloch's solution was to go to work for the Gustav Marx advertising agency, consisting at the time of Marx and a secretary. Marx had been a member of the Milwaukee Fictioneers, had heard of Bloch's straitened circumstances, and offered him a job - at no salary. After six months experience, Marx claimed, Bloch could find a decent job with any agency in town.

Bloch had written copy for several political campaigns he had masterminded, and writing copy for the ad agency was not so different - or difficult. At the end of the six months, Marx asked him to stay on at a generous salary and with the option of writing his own fiction when he wasn't involved with agency work.

Bloch stayed for 11 years.

But writing fiction and ad copy weren't his only source of income. He was soon offered a freelance job writing scripts for a radio show titled Stay Tuned for Terror. Bloch agreed to write 39 15-minute shows and deliver them within three months. It amounted to doing three scripts a week while holding down his full-time job at the agency.

It was a stretch. Bloch adapted many of his stories from Weird Tales, though the 12 minutes of air time (15 minutes minus commercials) made condensing them a problem. So did commuting to Chicago, where the shows were frequently recorded back to back.

Probably Bloch's most famous story of the '40s, one he considered an average story but which turned out to be a legend, was “Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper” (Weird Tales 7/43). Julius Schwartz, his then-agent, sold the story to a hardcover anthology. Subsequently, it was dramatized on the CBS radio show The Kate Smith Hour, and starred Laird Cregar, soon to be seen in the film The Lodger playing…Jack the Ripper. The story has since been anthologized and presented on radio and television more than 50 times (by Bloch's own estimate - he may have missed a few).

In 1944, Bloch's first book was published. August Derleth asked him to review his 100 or more published stories and pick out enough for a collection. (This was the same August Derleth who had once told a younger Robert Bloch that he would never be a writer.) The Opener of the Way garnered good reviews but didn't produce much in the way of royalties - some $600, most of it paid out over the years.

Bloch was invited to join in still another political campaign, this time on behalf of Senator Robert M. LaFollette, Jr. Bloch urged the Senator to spend more time in the state shaking the hands of his constituents, especially the younger voters to whom he was a legend but not much more. The Senator listened quietly, thanked him, then made a few cursory stops around the state and spent most of campaign sitting it out in Washington. He lost by a very narrow margin.

The new Senator from Wisconsin was Joe McCarthy.

In 1946, Bloch wrote a short novel about a serial killer, a psychopathic strangler, titled The Scarf (Dial Press 1947). It was to be the first of a number of novels dealing with serial killers and psychiatric themes. The style was not typical Bloch. It was terse, gritty, and avoided the humor that he frequently used in short stories. It received good reviews, including one by Dr. Fredric Wertham in a psychiatric journal and another in The New Yorker. The book went through several hardcover printings and promptly sold to paperback. Bloch should have been on his way to fame and fortune, except Dial bounced his next proposal, his editor quit to get married, and the literary agency (A. & S. Lyons) that had handled the sale of the novel suddenly went out of business.

A film company in Hollywood subsequently produced a film titled The Scarf with a storyline remarkably similar to Bloch's, but he had neither agent nor publisher to help him contest the similarity.

It was six years before Bloch published another novel, though a condensed version of an initially unsuccessful attempt ran in the August '52 Bluebook under the title “Once a Sucker.” The original version, possibly rewritten, appeared in 1954 as Spiderweb, half of an Ace Double.)

Of the shorts that now followed, perhaps the best known was “The Man Who Collected Poe” (Famous Fantastic Mysteries 10/51), in which he directly inserted lines from Poe's own “The Fall of the House of Usher.” Professor Thomas Olive Mabbott of Hunter College was impressed by it and invited Bloch to finish Poe's last, never-completed story, “The Lighthouse.” Bloch did so (it was published in Fantastic 1/53), and was very proud that few people could tell where Poe left off and he began.

Marion's physical condition continued to worsen, and in 1953, the Blochs moved to Weyauwega WI, Marion's hometown. Marion was now among family and friends, but Bloch was something of a fish out of water. He had gotten used to cities, and a rural community with a population of 1,200 became a social prison. He was cut off from normal contact with his friends and other writers.

Something of a relief was offered by an invitation to appear as a panelist on the cartoon quiz show out of Milwaukee titled It's a Draw. The money from the show, and the social contact if offered, was a godsend. It was also during this period that his correspondence with other writers and fandom increased greatly. He contributed hundreds of articles and letters to fanzines and even edited several one-shots of his own (primarily for FAPA), and co-edited six issues of a professional fanzine published by Gnome Press, The Science Fiction World, with Wilson Tucker. He became a frequent toastmaster at Worldcons and was honored at a number of them.

In 1959, at the Worldcon in Detroit, he and Isaac Asimov were co-toastmasters and handed out the Hugo Awards. Asimov would introduce the categories and Bloch would open the sealed envelopes and read the names of the winners. He was in shock when he read out his own name as the author of the Best Short Story, “The Hell-Bound Train” (F&SF 9/58).

Bloch was breaking into magazines outside the genre now, including appearances in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, Ellery Queen, Mike Shayne's Mystery Magazine, The Saint Mystery Magazine, and Playboy. The pulps may have died, but the digests and the men's magazines were picking up the slack.

In 1959, the world changed enormously for Bloch. Several years before, in the little town of Plainfield, 40 miles from Weyauwega, the local sheriff had walked into a barn owned by a farmer named Ed Gein and discovered a woman's torso hanging on hooks, much as if it had been the carcass of a deer. The seemingly innocuous Gein had prowled the lonely hearts columns, and a steady stream of widows and lonely middle-aged women had disappeared into his barn.

The Gein case was an overnight sensation, and Bloch was convinced there was material in it for a novel. But while the big cities covered the story in detail, the papers in Weyauwega and surrounding towns only had limited coverage. Psycho was based upon the murders, but not upon Gein himself, about whom Bloch knew little. The character of Norman Bates sprang full-blown from Bloch's own imagination; the very name Norman was a pun, the murderer being “neither woman nor man.” (Years later, when he did an article about the murders for Anthony Boucher - The Quality of Murder, Dutton 1962 - he was astonished how close he'd come to the real character of Gein.)

Psycho was published by Simon & Schuster in 1959 to good reviews. Shortly afterward, Bloch's agent - Harry Altschuler - received a “blind” offer of $5,000 for the film rights. The purchase was unknown. Bloch refused to sell, and the offer was raised to $9,500, which he accepted. Of the total price, Altschuler received his 10%, Simon & Schuster their 15%, and after taxes Bloch received about $6,250. Not an unusual offer for the time, but a miserable one in light of what the film was tomake. Unfortunately, few authors who sold movie rights during the '50s were offered a piece of the action.

The real wonder, perhaps, is that the film was made at all. The story was replete with transvestism, hints of incest, and the definitely un-American suggestion (as Bloch put it) that a boy's best friend might not be his mother. Paramount hated everything about it, starting with the title. But the purchaser was Alfred Hitchcock's production company, and Hitchcock badly wanted to make the film. Paramount cut his budget and told Hitchcock no sound stages would be available during his shooting schedule. Hitchcock, in retaliation, put up some of his own money and filmed the movie in black & white on the Universal lot (though Paramount still released the film), using the cinematographer from his television show.

At the screening of the rough cut, Hitchcock asked Bloch what he thought of the film and Bloch said, “I think that it's either going to be your biggest hit or your biggest disaster.”

The critics were initially unkind, but Psycho soon became the largest-grossing black & white film ever made. Only Birth of a Nation had grossed more (and today, of course, Schindler's List)/

Oddly, Psycho did not bring Bloch out to Hollywood - he was already there. He had been invited to Hollywood to write a segment of Lock Up, and by the time Psycho was released, he had already written six or seven teleplays and had five or six more assignments.

He now because famous as the author of Psycho, but somehow the fame didn't translate into money. The big bucks for another book never materialized until years later when he wrote Psycho II (1982), a volume that had nothing to do at all with the sequel to the movie released at about the same time.

Bloch continued to write the occasional novel and short story, but more and more, his work was for films and television. During the '60s, he wrote extensively for Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Thriller, and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, as well as doing three segments of the original Star Trek (“Wolf in the Fold” was a Jack the Ripper story set hundreds of years in the future). He also did work for I Spy, Whispering Smith, Night Gallery, and others. In addition, other writers adapted some of his stories for these and other shows.

Like Ray Bradbury, Charles Beaumont, Harlan Ellison, and a few others, Bloch had discovered Hollywood and Hollywood had discovered him. The stars with whom he had idolized while watching them on theater screens in Chicago and Milwaukee were now personal friends. Buster Keaton, Boris Karloff, Joan Crawford, Dick Foran…. He moved the family out to California and settled down to relative peace and prosperity. He hadn't made a fortune on Psycho, but soon Psycho and “Robert Bloch” were synonymous, and that didn't hurt.

But as the years went by, the situation a home became increasingly untenable. Marion's physical condition worsened, and while Bloch enjoyed the atmosphere of Hollywood and socializing with his movie star friends, Marion did not. Bloch had warned her that life in Hollywood would be far different from the life they'd led in Weyauwega. But Marion couldn't adjust, and in October 1963 Bloch received an interlocutory decree of divorce and moved into his own apartment. Marion eventually sold the house he bought her and moved to Desert Hot Springs, where she became active in the life of the small community.

Bloch had resolved never to marry again, a resolve that crumbled almost immediately after meeting Eleanor Alexander at a party. Her writer-husband had died of a heart attack three months before, and this was the first party she'd attended since. In his autobiography, Bloch states that he proposed marriage to her after 22 minutes of talking to her. She wasn't quite as ready as he was, but five days after he received his final divorce decree in October of 1964, they were married.

The story had a happy ending after all.

Ellie's life and Bloch's meshed without difficulty, and Bloch's friends quickly because Ellie's as well. His circle of friends and acquaintances among writers and actors and in fandom in expanded still further, if such a thing was possible.

He wasn't quite as prolific now, but he had reached that stage of life marked by honors and awards. He had been the first Guest of Honor at a convention outside the United States, the Sixth World Science Fiction Convention in Toronto (1948). Once again he was GoH at Torcon II in 1973. In 1975, he was GoH at Bouchercon I, the San Diego Comicon, and the World Fantasy Convention. He had received the Hugo for Best Short Story in 1958 and the World Fantasy Life Award in 1975, and twice won the Ann Radcliffe Award, once for Television in 1966, and once for Literature in 1969. He won a World Science Fiction Convention Special Lifetime Award in 1984, the Bram Stoker Award in 1990, and the World Horror Convention Grand Master Award in 1991. He served as President of the Mystery Writers of America for 1970-71.

He would never have denied that he had a somewhat sardonic view of life, encouraged by his experiences in politics, where shallow candidates and the ease of manipulating the public had largely turned him off. His views became more intense in later years, when the story lines in horror films, the genre he loved, were replaced by special effects and copious amounts of gore. “You might just as well go to a slaughterhouse and pick out a few animals and carve them up screaming and squealing on camera.” He was sickened by the audiences that laughed at the blood and sadism in the “splatter” films.

He regretted that despite Psycho he had never received the critical acclaim nor the fortune bestowed on other writers in the genre (hardly an unusual complaint). But he never forgot that he'd elected to become a public entertainer early in life, and took great pride in the fact that probably no other writer in the genre had had so many stories published, reprinted, and shown on television or presented as theatrical films. He attributed his television and theatrical film popularity to the fact that his stories could easily be translated to the visual medium, not that they were necessarily better than those of other authors.

He was a journeyman writer and entertainer, and had more experience in various writing forms - from political speeches to advertising to short stories, novels, articles, teleplays, and film scripts - than probably any other genre writer.

But all of his stories, all of his movies, and all of his teleplays didn't account for the feelings of affection that both fans and writers felt for him. When he was a struggling young writer, H.P. Lovecraft had helped him with his craft. Bloch never forgot that, nor did he hesitate to “pass it on” when he became the experience professional and beginning writers approached him for aid and advice.

In one sense, he was a contradiction in terms. He was one of the most beloved figures in the field, but never tried to disguise his disappointment in humanity as a whole. “When you really get to know people, you don't need to invent monsters…. I believe a majority of mankind is violent….Modern horror fiction…has provided virtually everyone with a 'Devil' theory. As Flip Wilson says, 'The Devil made me do it'….No one is individually responsible.”

When it came to fandom, he was the most accessible of all the professional writers. He was a fan himself and had joined the ranks for the same reasons that most fans do - he was lonely and sought social contact. He wrote extensively for fanzines, he published his own, he was the most sought-after toastmaster and emcee in fandom. His presence at a convention was enough to turn it into a family party. Once, when asked what he considered the highlights of his writing career, he replied: “My first sales - of a short story, of a novel…the sale of Psycho to films and its subsequent success. But the most satisfying and memorable moments have come with the conventions where I was invited to appear as guest of horror, the winning of various awards…the continuing interest of fans….”

During the last few months of his life, Bloch received hundreds of calls and notes of appreciation. For as long as he could, he took all the calls and read all the notes and letters. When he could no longer do so, they were read to him.

It was typical of Bloch that he wrote the notes for his own obituary for distribution to various media. At the end of them, he typed: “Always interested in giving readers a 'surprise ending,' Bloch wrote these obituary notes himself.” His personal memorabilia were donated to the American Heritage Center at the University of Wyoming. His ashes will also be at the Center in a book-shaped urn. According to several reports, the legend on the urn will read: “Here lie the collected works of Robert Bloch.”

And sometime next year, Tor will publish a collection of Bloch's stories selected as their favorites by various writers, who will preface each story with a personal tribute.

[Here is my own]: Despite a sardonic view of the world, Robert Bloch was a man without malice. Almost everybody who met him sensed that, and almost everybody who met him loved him for it. It was impossible not to.

Bob is survived by his wife Ellie and his daughter Sally.

And by a multitude of friends who never realized how much they were going to miss him until the day he died.

_______________________

Besides being a well-known author of mysteries, science fiction and thrillers, Frank M. Robinson is a veteran of both Ziff-Davis and Rogue magazine, and the author of the indispensable Pulp Culture. Mr. Robinson's recent fiction includes the medical thriller The Donor. Mr. Robinson's website is located here .

This essay originally appeared in Locus, No. 406, November 1994. It appears here with the permission of Frank M. Robinson and is © 1994 by Frank M. Robinson. All rights reserved.