Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Posthumous Collaboration: Dollars from the Grave [Guest Post]

By GW Thomas

I was reading an old Tangent Online interview with Leigh Brackett and Edmond Hamilton and I was struck by something. Here's what they were talking about: story planning. Hamilton knew the last line of a story before he started the first. Brackett, like myself, just started writing and the story would go where it pleased. Ed pointed out, because of this lack of planning:
HAMILTON: You had a lot of unfinished stories.
BRACKETT: Yes I did.
So where are they? Where are all the unfinished Leigh Bracketts? In the 1970s, whenever somebody would come across a scrap of Robert E Howard it was immediately turned into a new collaboration. L Sprague de Camp or Lin Carter would come across an old grocery list, perhaps only "Buy milk" and a few months later "The Corsairs of Buymilk" would appear in Fantastic. Oh, those were the days... Some writers have so much mojo that readers want to read everything they wrote, good, bad or indifferent. Howard was one of these. Tolkien was another. Lovecraft, a third. The Eldritch Dark provides all the synopses and fragments by Clark Ashton Smith. What do all these writers have in common? They were all great fantasy writers. Leigh Brackett is worthy to stand amongst them.

So why hasn't this happened to Leigh? Do the Hamilton heirs have a desk drawer (or maybe two or three!) filled with half-finished tales? We know where "Lorelei of the Red Mists" (Planet Stories, Summer 1946) ended up. The story was abandoned when Leigh left to write The Big Sleep for Howard Hawks. Ray Bradbury stepped in and wrote the second half. That turned out pretty well. And then there was the last collaboration she did with her husband, Edmond Hamilton, "Stark and the Star Kings". The story was originally written for Harlan Ellison's third Dangerous Visions anthology, which never appeared, so the story finally saw print in 2005. Both writers chose their most famous creation to meet up but as the interview tells again:
HAMILTON: ...What he wanted was a collaboration between the two of us; you know, a formal collaboration. The story is called “Stark and the Star Kings,” and if I may say what's funny about it: the first half of it I wrote and it's all about Stark. She wrote the part about the Star Kings.
Ed and Leigh, unlike their famous friends, Henry Kuttner and CL Moore, never collaborated much during their long careers. They did only a few previous to "Stark and the Star Kings." Brackett penned three chapters of Hamilton's The Valley of Creation and one comic strip, "The Lord of Batmanor!" (Detective Comics #198, August 1953). Leigh wrote the plot of how Bruce Wayne becomes a Scottish laird, and Ed wrote the script. I kid you not.

Leigh, Ed, Henry, Catherine, and Ray are gone now but there must be somebody out there who could write the second halves should the firsts exist. Or did Leigh decide she didn't want to be victim to some latter day August Derleth? Perhaps the entire stack was set on fire! All those semi-completed John Eric Stark stories crumbling to ash. Oh, the agony! (In reality, I suspect there is no pile of unfinished stories. If there had been, Baen or Paizo would have been all over them, with Eric Flint doing the honors of figuring out an ending for each one.) We can dream that one day we will be given the "unfinished tales" of Leigh Brackett. Perhaps just in time for Christmas, as the new Eric John Stark film comes out and Brackett is declared the rightful Queen of the Space Pulps, ruling from her throne in Ohio, and... Of course, none of this is going to happen. Instead, I will be happy that the majority of her work is back in print (Is that what we call it now that everything is an ebook?) and a new generation can discover her as more than a writer's credit on a Star Wars movie. Long live the Queen!

GW Thomas has appeared in over 400 different books, magazines and ezines including The Writer, Writer's Digest, Black October Magazine and Contact. His website is gwthomas.org. He is editor of Dark Worlds magazine.
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