Cleve Cartmill

Last updated
Cleve Cartmill
Born(1908-06-21)June 21, 1908
Platteville, Wisconsin
Died February 11, 1964(1964-02-11) (aged 55)
Orange County, California

Cleve Cartmill (June 21, 1908 in Platteville, Wisconsin – February 11, 1964 in Orange County, California) [1] was an American writer of science fiction and fantasy short stories. He is best remembered for what is sometimes referred to as "the Cleve Cartmill affair", [2] [3] when his 1944 story "Deadline" attracted the attention of the FBI by reason of its detailed description of a nuclear weapon similar to that being developed by the highly classified Manhattan Project. [4]

Platteville, Wisconsin City in Wisconsin, United States

Platteville is the largest city in Grant County in southwestern Wisconsin. The population was 11,224 at the 2010 census, growing 12% since the 2000 Census. Much of this growth is likely due to the enrollment increase of the University of Wisconsin–Platteville. It is the principal city of the Platteville Micropolitan Statistical area which has an estimated population of 49,681.

Orange County, California County in California, United States

Orange County is a county in the Los Angeles metropolitan area in the U.S. state of California. As of the 2010 census, the population was 3,010,232, making it the third-most populous county in California, the sixth-most populous in the United States, and more populous than 21 U.S. states. Its county seat is Santa Ana. It is the second most densely populated county in the state, behind San Francisco County. The county's four largest cities by population, Anaheim, Santa Ana, Irvine, and Huntington Beach, each have a population exceeding 200,000. Several of Orange County's cities are on the Pacific Ocean western coast, including Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Dana Point, and San Clemente.

Fantasy genre of literature, film, television and other artforms

Fantasy is a genre of speculative fiction set in a fictional universe, often inspired by real world myth and folklore. Its roots are in oral traditions, which then became literature and drama. From the twentieth century it has expanded further into various media, including film, television, graphic novels and video games.



Before embarking on his career as a writer for pulp magazines, Cartmill had a wide number of jobs including newspaperman, radio operator and accountant, as well as, ironically, a short spell at the American Radium Products Company. [5] Many of his earliest stories, from 1941 onwards, were published in John W. Campbell's magazines Unknown and Astounding Science Fiction . This was at the start of World War II, when Campbell found himself short of material because many of his regular writers were away on military service, from which Cartmill was exempt for medical reasons. [3]

Pulp magazine magazine printed on cheap, wood-pulp paper

Pulp magazines were inexpensive fiction magazines that were published from 1896 to the 1950s. The term pulp derives from the cheap wood pulp paper on which the magazines were printed. In contrast, magazines printed on higher-quality paper were called "glossies" or "slicks". The typical pulp magazine had 128 pages; it was 7 inches (18 cm) wide by 10 inches (25 cm) high, and 0.5 inches (1.3 cm) thick, with ragged, untrimmed edges.

Journalist person who collects, writes and distributes news and other information

A journalist is a person who collects, writes, or distributes news or other current information to the public. A journalist's work is called journalism. A journalist can work with general issues or specialize in certain issues. However, most journalists tend to specialize, and by cooperating with other journalists, produce journals that span many topics. For example, a sports journalist covers news within the world of sports, but this journalist may be a part of a newspaper that covers many different topics.

Accountant practitioner of accountancy or accounting

An accountant is a practitioner of accounting or accountancy, which is the measurement, disclosure or provision of assurance about financial information that helps managers, investors, tax authorities and others make decisions about allocating resource(s).

Writing career

Cartmill's writing career was undistinguished but competent. In his book A Requiem for Astounding, Alva Rogers expresses the opinion that "Cartmill wrote with an easy and colloquial fluidity that made his stories eminently readable". [6] In Fred Smith's history of Unknown Worlds, Smith praises several of Cartmill's dark fantasy stories as such as "No Graven Image", "The Bargain" and "Hell Hath Fury", describing them as "original and entertaining". Cartmill's Unknown stories, like others appearing in that publication, tend to be either humorous tales or horror stories. They deal with concepts such as ghouls, demons and Death. [7]

Dark fantasy subgenre of fantasy

Dark fantasy is a subgenre of fantasy literary, artistic, and cinematic works that incorporate darker and frightening themes of fantasy. It also often combines fantasy with elements of horror or has a gloomy, dark atmosphere, or a sense of horror and dread.

Horror fiction genre of fiction

Horror is a genre of speculative fiction which is intended to frighten, scare, disgust, or startle its readers by inducing feelings of horror and terror. Literary historian J. A. Cuddon defined the horror story as "a piece of fiction in prose of variable length... which shocks, or even frightens the reader, or perhaps induces a feeling of repulsion or loathing". It creates an eerie and frightening atmosphere. Horror is frequently supernatural, though it can be non-supernatural. Often the central menace of a work of horror fiction can be interpreted as a metaphor for the larger fears of a society.

Death (personification) personification of death

Death, due to its prominent place in human culture, is frequently imagined as a personified force, also known as the Grim Reaper. In some mythologies, the Grim Reaper causes the victim's death by coming to collect that person. In turn, people in some stories try to hold on to life by avoiding Death's visit, or by fending Death off with bribery or tricks. Other beliefs hold that the Spectre of Death is only a psychopomp, serving to sever the last ties between the soul and the body, and to guide the deceased to the afterlife, without having any control over when or how the victim dies. Death is most often personified in male form, although in certain cultures Death is perceived as female.

Outside his writing career Cartmill was likely best known, at the time, for being the co-inventor of the Blackmill system of high speed typography. [8] [ dubious ]

Typography art and the craft of printing and the arranging of layouts

Typography is the art and technique of arranging type to make written language legible, readable, and appealing when displayed. The arrangement of type involves selecting typefaces, point sizes, line lengths, line-spacing (leading), and letter-spacing (tracking), and adjusting the space between pairs of letters (kerning). The term typography is also applied to the style, arrangement, and appearance of the letters, numbers, and symbols created by the process. Type design is a closely related craft, sometimes considered part of typography; most typographers do not design typefaces, and some type designers do not consider themselves typographers. Typography also may be used as a decorative device, unrelated to communication of information.

His son, Matt Cartmill, is a Professor of Biological Anthropology at Boston University and a science writer [9] to whom Heinlein partly dedicated his 1947 book Rocket Ship Galileo . [10]

Boston University private research university in Boston, Massachusetts, United States

Boston University is a private research university in Boston, Massachusetts. The university is nonsectarian, but has been historically affiliated with the United Methodist Church.

<i>Rocket Ship Galileo</i> novel by Robert A. Heinlein

Rocket Ship Galileo is a juvenile science fiction novel by American writer Robert A. Heinlein, published in 1947, about three teenagers who participate in a pioneering flight to the Moon. It was the first in the Heinlein juveniles, a long and successful series of science fiction novels published by Scribner's. The novel was originally envisioned as the first of a series of books called "Young Rocket Engineers". It was initially rejected by publishers, because going to the moon was "too far out".


Short Stories


John Pelan American writer

John C. Pelan is an American author, editor and publisher in the small press science-fiction, weird and horror fiction genres.

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John W. Campbell American science fiction writer and editor

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<i>Methuselahs Children</i> book by Robert Heinlein

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<i>Unknown</i> (magazine) US pulp fantasy magazine published from 1939 to 1943

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"Deadline" is a 1944 science fiction short story by American writer Cleve Cartmill, first published in Astounding Science Fiction. The story described the then-secret atomic bomb in some detail. At that time the bomb was still under development and top secret, which prompted a visit by the FBI.

<i>Journey to Infinity</i> book by Martin Greenberg

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<i>Analog Science Fiction and Fact</i> US science fiction magazine

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<i>The Unknown Five</i> book by Donald R. Bensen

The Unknown Five is an anthology of American fantasy fiction short stories edited by D. R. Bensen and illustrated by Edd Cartier, the fourth of a number of anthologies drawing their contents from the American magazine Unknown of the 1930s-1940s. It was first published in paperback by Pyramid Books in January 1964. The cover title of this first edition was The Unknown 5; the numeral was spelled out on the title page and copyright statement. The book was reprinted by Jove/HBJ in October 1978. It has also been translated into German. It was a follow-up to a companion anthology, The Unknown, issued in 1963.

<i>Unknown Worlds: Tales from Beyond</i>

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<i>The Astounding, the Amazing, and the Unknown</i> novel by Paul Malmont

The Astounding, the Amazing, and the Unknown is an alternate historical adventure novel written by Paul Malmont, the sequel to The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril (2007). It features real-life pulp magazine authors of the past as the heroes of adventures reminiscent of their favored genres. The book was first published in hardcover by Simon & Schuster and audiobook by Brilliance Audio in July 2011. The title is drawn from those of the magazines, Astounding Science-Fiction, Amazing Stories, and Unknown, for which his main protagonists wrote.

History of US science fiction and fantasy magazines to 1950 Science fiction and fantasy magazine history

Science fiction and fantasy magazines began to be published in the United States in the 1920s. Stories with science fiction themes had been appearing for decades in pulp magazines such as Argosy, but there were no magazines that specialized in a single genre until 1915, when Street & Smith, one of the major pulp publishers, brought out Detective Story Magazine. The first magazine to focus solely on fantasy and horror was Weird Tales, which was launched in 1923, and established itself as the leading weird fiction magazine over the next two decades; writers such as H.P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith and Robert E. Howard became regular contributors. In 1926 Weird Tales was joined by Amazing Stories, published by Hugo Gernsback; Amazing printed only science fiction, and no fantasy. Gernsback included a letter column in Amazing Stories, and this led to the creation of organized science fiction fandom, as fans contacted each other using the addresses published with the letters. Gernsback wanted the fiction he printed to be scientifically accurate, and educational, as well as entertaining, but found it difficult to obtain stories that met his goals; he printed "The Moon Pool" by Abraham Merritt in 1927, despite it being completely unscientific. Gernsback lost control of Amazing Stories in 1929, but quickly started several new magazines. Wonder Stories, one of Gernsback's titles, was edited by David Lasser, who worked to improve the quality of the fiction he received. Another early competitor was Astounding Stories of Super-Science, which appeared in 1930, edited by Harry Bates, but Bates printed only the most basic adventure stories with minimal scientific content, and little of the material from his era is now remembered.

<i>Analog: Writers Choice, Volume II</i>

Analog: Writers' Choice, Volume II is the eighth in a series of anthologies of science fiction stories drawn from Analog magazine and edited by then-current Analog editor Stanley Schmidt. It was first published in paperback by Davis Publications and hardcover by The Dial Press in 1984.


  1. "Authors : Cartmill, Cleve". Science Fiction Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2016-08-18.
  2. "Pulp SF magazine's role in atom bomb". Boing Boing. Archived from the original on 2005-09-11.
  3. 1 2 Silverberg, Robert (September 2003). "Reflections: The Cleve Cartmill Affair: One". Asimov's Science Fiction. Archived from the original on 2013-06-18.
  4. "Science Fiction Writers Stay Step Ahead of Developments". Sunday Gazette-Mail. November 26, 1961. p. 52. Retrieved May 26, 2017 via Open Access logo PLoS transparent.svg
  5. Silverberg, Robert (October–November 2003). "Reflections: The Cleve Cartmill Affair: Two". Asimov's Science Fiction. Archived from the original on 2014-10-06.
  6. Rogers, Alva (1964). A Requiem for Astounding. Advent. ISBN   0-911682-16-3.
  7. Smith, Fred (2002). "Once There Was a Magazine: A Personal View of "Unknown" and "Unknown Worlds"". Beccon Publications: 39, 42–3, 45–6..
  8. Smith, Curtis C. (1986-01-01). Twentieth Century Science Fiction Writers. St. James's Press. ISBN   9780912289274.
  9. M. Cartmill, A View to a Death in the Morning, pg.205 .
  10. Robert A. Heinlein, Rocket Ship Galileo, title page verso, 1971 NEL Books