Tiffany Thayer

Last updated

Tiffany Ellsworth Thayer (March 1, 1902 – August 23, 1959) was an American actor, author and founder of the Fortean Society.

Contents

Biography

Born in Freeport, Illinois, Thayer quit school at age 15 and worked as an actor, reporter, and used-book clerk in Chicago, Detroit, and Cleveland. When he was 16, he toured as the teenaged hero in the Civil War drama The Coward. Thayer first contacted American author Charles Fort in 1924. In 1926, Thayer moved to New York City to act, but soon spent more time writing.

In 1931 Thayer co-founded the Fortean Society in New York City to promote Fort's ideas. Primarily based in New York City, the Society was headed by first president Theodore Dreiser, an old friend of Fort who had helped to get his work published. Early members of the original Society in New York City included Booth Tarkington, Ben Hecht, Alexander Woollcott, and H. L. Mencken. The first 6 issues of Doubt, the Fortean Society's newsletter, were each edited by a different member, starting with Dreiser. Thayer thereafter took over editorship of subsequent issues. Thayer began to assert extreme control over the society, largely filling the newsletter with articles written by himself, and excommunicating the entire San Francisco chapter, reportedly their largest and most active, after disagreements over the society's direction, and forbidding them to use the name Fortean. During World War II, Thayer used every issue of Doubt to espouse his politics. He celebrated the escape of Gerhart Eisler, and named Garry Davis an Honorary Fellow of the Society for renouncing his American citizenship. Thayer frequently expressed opposition to Civil Defense, going to such lengths as encouraging readers to turn on their lights in defiance of air raid sirens. In contrast to the spirit of Charles Fort, he dismissed not only flying saucers as nonsense but also the atomic bomb as a hoax by the US government. [1]

Thayer also wrote several novels, including the bestseller Thirteen Women which was filmed in 1932 and released by RKO Radio Pictures. Many of his novels contained elements of science fiction or fantasy, including Dr. Arnoldi about a world where no-one can die. [2] [3] [4]

In the profile in Twentieth Century Authors, Thayer was described as "an atheist, an anarchist – in philosophy a Pyrrhonean – and regrets the legitimacy of his birth." [4] He listed his hobbies as painting, fencing, and book collecting. [4]

Towards the end of his life, Thayer had championed increasingly idiosyncratic ideas, such as a Flat Earth and opposition to the fluoridation of water supplies.[ citation needed ]

The Fortean Society Magazine (also called Doubt) was published regularly until Thayer's death in Nantucket, Massachusetts in 1959, aged 57, when the society and magazine came to an end. The magazine and society are not connected to the present-day magazine Fortean Times .

Writers Paul and Ron Willis, publishers of Anubis, acquired most of the original Fortean Society material and revived the Society as the International Fortean Organization (INFO) in the early 1960s. INFO went on to incorporate in 1965, publish a widely respected magazine, The INFO Journal: Science and the Unknown, for more than 35 years and created the world's first, and most prestigious, conference dedicated to the work and spirit of Charles Fort, the annual FortFest which continues to this day.

Critical reception

Thayer wrote genre romances that were disliked by contemporary literary critics. [5] Dorothy Parker, in a New Yorker review of An American Girl, said "He is beyond question a writer of power; and his power lies in his ability to make sex so thoroughly, graphically, and aggressively unattractive that one is fairly shaken to ponder how little one has been missing." [5] F. Scott Fitzgerald said "curious children nosed at the slime of Mr. Tiffany Thayer in the drug-store libraries." [5] Kunitz and Haycraft cited an anonymous reviewer who described Thayer's work as "obviously meretricious, but disclosing a narrative gift which might be used to better purpose". William Tenn, recalling Dr. Arnoldi more than sixty years after he had read it, characterized it as "absolutely fascinating---and disgusting. . . . If you ever find a copy, give it to some sf fan you dislike. Your reward will be the baffled misery in his eyes after he's read it." [6]

Family

Thayer was married at least twice: beginning around 1931, to Tanagra (1898–1975), a well-known dancer, and later to Katherine McMahon (1914–1999).

Notes

  1. see "Personalities in Science Fiction: Charles Fort: His Objects Fade in the West", by Robert Barbour Johnson (If, July 1952).
  2. William Tenn, Dr. Arnoldi in Fantasy and Science Fiction,
  3. John Clute; Peter Nicholls, eds. (1993). "Thayer, Tiffany". The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. Retrieved Aug 23, 2019.
  4. 1 2 3 Twentieth century authors, a biographical dictionary of modern literature, edited by Stanley J. Kunitz and Howard Haycraft; (Third Edition). New York, The H.W. Wilson Company, 1950 (p.1393-94)
  5. 1 2 3 Thirteen Women, by Tiffany Thayer at Neglected Books Page , February 13, 2011
  6. "Curiosities, F&SF , August 1998

Related Research Articles

Science fiction fandom Aspect of fandom

Science fiction fandom or SF fandom is a community or fandom of people interested in science fiction in contact with one another based upon that interest. SF fandom has a life of its own, but not much in the way of formal organization.

Charles Fort

Charles Hoy Fort was an American writer and researcher who specialized in anomalous phenomena. The terms Fortean and Forteana are sometimes used to characterize various such phenomena. Fort's books sold well and are still in print. His work continues to inspire admirers, who refer to themselves as "Forteans", and has influenced some aspects of science fiction.

Eric Frank Russell English science fiction writer

Eric Frank Russell was a British author best known for his science fiction novels and short stories. Much of his work was first published in the United States, in John W. Campbell's Astounding Science Fiction and other pulp magazines. Russell also wrote horror fiction for Weird Tales and non-fiction articles on Fortean topics. Up to 1955 several of his stories were published under pseudonyms, at least Duncan H. Munro and Niall(e) Wilde.

<i>Galaxy Science Fiction</i> American magazine (1950–1980)

Galaxy Science Fiction was an American digest-size science fiction magazine, published from 1950 to 1980. It was founded by a French-Italian company, World Editions, which was looking to break into the American market. World Editions hired as editor H. L. Gold, who rapidly made Galaxy the leading science fiction magazine of its time, focusing on stories about social issues rather than technology.

<i>The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction</i> American magazine

The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction is a U.S. fantasy and science fiction magazine first published in 1949 by Fantasy House, a subsidiary of Lawrence Spivak's Mercury Press. Editors Anthony Boucher and J. Francis McComas had approached Spivak in the mid-1940s about creating a fantasy companion to Spivak's existing mystery title, Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. The first issue was titled The Magazine of Fantasy, but the decision was quickly made to include science fiction as well as fantasy, and the title was changed correspondingly with the second issue. F&SF was quite different in presentation from the existing science fiction magazines of the day, most of which were in pulp format: it had no interior illustrations, no letter column, and text in a single column format, which in the opinion of science fiction historian Mike Ashley "set F&SF apart, giving it the air and authority of a superior magazine".

The Fortean Society was started in the United States in 1931 during a meeting held in the New York flat of American writer Charles Hoy Fort, in order to promote his ideas. The Fortean Society was primarily based in New York City. Its first president was Theodore Dreiser, an old friend of Charles Fort, who had helped to get his work published. Founding members of the Fortean Society included Tiffany Thayer, Booth Tarkington, Ben Hecht, Alexander Woollcott and many of New York's literati such as Dorothy Parker. But "Fort had his share of detractors. His friend H. L. Mencken said his head was filled with 'Bohemian mush'". Other members included Vincent Gaddis, Ivan T. Sanderson, A. Merritt, Frank Lloyd Wright and Buckminster Fuller. The first six issues of the Fortean Society's newsletter "Doubt" were each edited by a different member, starting with Theodore Dreiser. Tiffany Thayer thereafter took over editorship of subsequent issues. Thayer began to assert extreme control over the society, largely filling the newsletter with articles written by himself, and excommunicating the entire San Francisco chapter, reportedly their most active, after disagreements over the society's direction, and forbidding them to use the name Fortean. During World War II, for example, Thayer used every issue of "Doubt" to espouse his politics. Particularly, he frequently expressed opposition to Civil Defense, going to such lengths as encouraging readers to turn on their lights in defiance to air raid sirens. In contrast to the spirit of Charles Fort, he not only dismissed flying saucers as nonsense, but also dismissed the atomic bomb as a hoax.

<i>Fortean Times</i>

Fortean Times is a British monthly magazine devoted to the anomalous phenomena popularised by Charles Fort. Previously published by John Brown Publishing and then I Feel Good Publishing, it is now published by Dennis Publishing Ltd.

Louis Golding was an English writer, very famous in his time especially for his novels, though he is now largely neglected; he wrote also short stories, essays, fantasies, travel books and poetry.

Lionel Fanthorpe

Robert Lionel Fanthorpe, FCollP, FRSA, FCMI is a retired British priest and entertainer. Fanthorpe also worked as a dental technician, journalist, teacher, television presenter, author and lecturer. Born in Dereham in Norfolk, he lives in Cardiff in South Wales, where he served as Director of Media Studies and tutor/lecturer in Religious Studies.

William Tenn

William Tenn was the pseudonym of Philip Klass, a British-born American science fiction author, notable for many stories with satirical elements.

<i>Lo!</i>

Lo! is the third published nonfiction work of the author Charles Fort. In it he details a wide range of unusual phenomena. In the final chapter of the book he proposes a new cosmology that the earth is stationary in space and surrounded by a solid shell which is "not unthinkably far away".

<i>The Smart Set</i>

The Smart Set was an American literary magazine, founded by Colonel William d'Alton Mann and published from March 1900 to June 1930. During its Jazz Age heyday under the editorship of H.L. Mencken and George Jean Nathan, The Smart Set offered many up-and-coming authors their start and gave them access to a relatively large audience. Its headquarters was in New York City.

The Tulli Papyrus is claimed to be a transcription of an Egyptian papyrus dating from the reign of Thutmose III. The claim originated in a 1953 article published in Doubt, the Fortean Society magazine, by Tiffany Thayer. According to Thayer, the transcription was sent to him by Boris de Rachewiltz who supposedly found the original transcription of the papyrus among papers left by Alberto Tulli, a deceased Vatican museum director. References to "circles of fire" or "fiery discs" allegedly contained in the translation have been interpreted in UFO and Fortean literature as evidence of ancient flying saucers, although ufologists Jacques Vallee and Chris Aubeck have described it as a "hoax". According to Vallee and Aubeck, since Tulli had supposedly copied it during a single viewing of the original papyrus using an "Ancient Egyptian shorthand", and de Rachewiltz had never seen the original, the alleged text likely contained transcription errors, making it impossible to verify.

Doug Skinner is an American composer, writer, and performer.

<i>Science Fiction Quarterly</i> US pulp science fiction magazine

Science Fiction Quarterly was an American pulp science fiction magazine that was published from 1940 to 1943 and again from 1951 to 1958. Charles Hornig served as editor for the first two issues; Robert A. W. Lowndes edited the remainder. Science Fiction Quarterly was launched by publisher Louis Silberkleit during a boom in science fiction magazines at the end of the 1930s. Silberkleit launched two other science fiction titles at about the same time: all three ceased publication before the end of World War II, falling prey to slow sales and paper shortages. In 1950 and 1951, as the market improved, Silberkleit relaunched Future Fiction and Science Fiction Quarterly. By the time Science Fiction Quarterly ceased publication in 1958, it was the last surviving science fiction pulp magazine, all other survivors having changed to different formats.

The International Fortean Organization (INFO) is a network of professional Fortean researchers and writers. John Keel, author and parapsychologist, in both his writings and at his appearances at INFO's FortFest, says "the International Fortean Organization (INFO) carries on Charles Fort's name as successor to the Fortean Society." Keel, Colin Wilson and John Michell were long-time advisors to the organization.

Kinahan Cornwallis [Albert McKenzie Russell Kinahan] (1839–1917) was a British / American poet, writer, editor, and lawyer.

<i>Future Science Fiction</i> and <i>Science Fiction Stories</i> two related US pulp science fiction magazines

Future Science Fiction and Science Fiction Stories were two American science fiction magazines that were published under various names between 1939 and 1943 and again from 1950 to 1960. Both publications were edited by Charles Hornig for the first few issues; Robert W. Lowndes took over in late 1941 and remained editor until the end. The initial launch of the magazines came as part of a boom in science fiction pulp magazine publishing at the end of the 1930s. In 1941 the two magazines were combined into one, titled Future Fiction combined with Science Fiction, but in 1943 wartime paper shortages ended the magazine's run, as Louis Silberkleit, the publisher, decided to focus his resources on his mystery and western magazine titles. In 1950, with the market improving again, Silberkleit relaunched Future Fiction, still in the pulp format. In the mid-1950s he also relaunched Science Fiction, this time under the title Science Fiction Stories. Silberkleit kept both magazines on very slim budgets throughout the 1950s. In 1960 both titles ceased publication when their distributor suddenly dropped all of Silberkleit's titles.

<i>Nebula Awards Showcase 2000</i>

Nebula Awards Showcase 2000 is an anthology of science fiction short works edited by Gregory Benford. It was first published in hardcover and trade paperback by Harcourt in April 2000.

Thayer is primarily a surname.

References