Saturday, December 28, 2013

Amazing Stories - May 1950

This issue Amazing Stories contains the short novel "Slaves of the Crystal Brain", by William Carter Sawtelle. I'm pretty certain that Sawtelle is a pseudonym, but don't ask me why. In addition, there are 8 other stories giving a whole lot of bang for your quarter back in 1950.

Amazing Stories, May 1950 - cover by Arnold Kohn
This is just the sort of cover that would have hooked me had I been perusing the news-stands in 1950. That and the title, "Slaves of the Crystal Brain" which is a grabber. The story is a decent one that moves at a fairly rapid clip, about a demonic crystal brain hidden under the streets of Chicago in the year 1972. It controls a horde of slaves, in fact normal citizens who've been kidnapped and given "treatment" that saps their identity. Agent Joe January of Federal Security Bureau uncovers the plot of the Crystal Brain during one of his routine security checks on scientist William Atkinson. Seems a couple of renowned scientists have disappeared without a trace, resulting in the security checks of all remaining scientists of note. While visiting Dr. Atkinson's lab, January is told by Atkinson that he knows what's behind the odd disappearances of other scientists. Before he can divulge much further, a black orb appears in the lab and descends upon the unfortunate Dr. Atkinson, erasing him from existence. This black orb is impervious to bullets and any other weapon that January can hurl at it. Also, it seems to have the uncanny ability to eavesdrop on January's intentions. Meanwhile across the city, plucky (well she's described as "wren like" and wearing a dress that needs no extra padding!) Nancy Howard is eavesdropping on her boss, Mr. Lorton, as he converses with someone, or something, behind his fortress-like office on the top floor of his skyscraper. Lorton is one of those almighty bigshots who manages to control most of the city through his wealth and influence. Nancy Howard is convinced that Lorton is behind the disappearance of her brother, one of the missing scientists. Too bad for her, she's right. Lorton discovers her spying on him, and sends her to the Crystal Brain for treatment. You can bet that January and Lorton's paths will cross, in addition to lots of black orbs doing their nasty business at the control of the Crystal Brain. And you can bet that January and Nancy Howard will meet, and when they do, sparks will fly!

This is one of those stories that has way more escapism than any science in it. It's non-stop action, with plenty of cliffhanger chapters to keep the reader hooked. Also, there is just a touch of blood and gore, in addition to titillation, to place the whole thing firmly in the pulp camp.

This issue of Amazing Stories was edited by Howard Browne, which leads me to believe that Sawtelle (whoever he is) was also behind a couple other stories in the magazine. Robert Bloch turns up here for a pithy short story "Tooth or Consequences" about a vampire taking a trip to the dentist. "If This be Utopia" by Kris Neville is one of those claustrophobic stories of a society run amok with security for the health and safety of its citizens.

All in all, some fun stuff, old school style.


  1. Yes, William Carter Sawtelle is Rog Phillips -- i.e. one of the more prolific pulp SF authors in short form. is your friend in this regard....

    1. Thanks much on the info about Rog Phillips. I have a handful of Amazing Stories pulps and I think he's in all of them.