The Black Flame
by Stanley Weinbaum
Published: 1995 (First edition - abridged: 1939)
Available Format(s): Hardcover, Limited Hardcover and Boxed Limited Hardcover
Hundreds of years after a nuclear disaster and a devastating plague that leave the Earth full of mutated humans, a family of immortals seek to conquer the world with advanced science. Two siblings will lead a battle that spans millennia and leads to unfathomable social change.
When the risqué (for its time) science-fiction pulp novel The Black Flame was first published in 1939, Stanley G. Weinbaum had already been dead for three years. By that time, more than 18,000 words had been excised or edited from the original manuscript. The intact manuscript, held by Sam Moskowitz, was auctioned off to Forrest J. Ackerman at the First World Science Fiction Convention in 1939. It was subsequently stolen from his collection and never recovered. The publication of this edition was made possible by the discovery of a carbon copy of the manuscript in a trunk of Weinbaum’s papers found in the basement of his grandson’s house in Denver, Colorado.
“The development of the plot turns on character change. The Flame remarks…that ‘to be human is to love and suffer, ’ and that to the ‘young minds’ of SF fandom, was terrifying heresy. The Black Flame was probably the first pulp SF novel in which characters are driven not so much by a need to save the world or perfect the Extra-Cosmic Hamiframis, but by their intimate personal feelings. It was a genuine achievement that, even posthumously, Weinbaum could get away with such a notion.”
—New York Review of Science Fiction
“A jewel of a novel from the Golden Age of science fiction. The book bursts with fine detail keenly rendered.”
“I marvel at the sight of Weinbaum heroically hewing modern SF out of a lump of granite, using primitive tools and raw power. Sam Moskowitz’s intro is a just-the-facts-ma’am narrative of the struggles endured by Weinabaum to sell this book.”
— Asimov’s Science Fiction
“In his short career, Stanley G. Weinbaum revolutionized science fiction. We are still exploring the themes he gave us. How good to have this early work again, and now with the author’s complete text. It is not only of great historical interest, it is a colorful, inventive, and exciting story.”
“Stanley G. Weinbaum’s name deserves to rank with those of Wells and Heinlein—and no more than a handful of others—as among the great shapers of modern science fiction. Sadly, most of the marvelous works he produced in his all-too-brief career were in the form of short stories and novelettes, and so are overlooked by many of today’s readers. Which is all the more reason to rejoice that Tachyon Publications has brought his novel, The Black Flame, back into print for us to read—and moreover, for the first time, it is published just as Weinbaum wrote it.”
“During the single year of 1935, Astounding published seven stories by Weinbaum; and in March 1936…his obituary. His entire career had spanned little more than eighteen months, and is the saddest ‘what might have been’ in the whole history of science fiction.”
—Arthur C. Clarke
Somehow [Weinbaum] had the imagination to envisage wholly alien situations and psychologies and entities, to devise consistent events from wholly alien motives and to refrain from the cheap dramatics in which all adventure-pulpists wallow.
—H. P. Lovecraft
Stanley Weinbaum burst onto the science fiction scene back in 1934, in the words of Isaac Asimov, “like a nova, capturing the imagination of the readers at once, altering the nature of science fiction and converting every other writer into an imitator.” His short story “A Martian Odyssey” was the first story to be included in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame anthology and is generally believed to be one of the first classics of modern science fiction.
Visit the Stanley Weinbaum website.