Submitted by Gary Moss
Edmond Moore Hamilton was a popular author of science fiction stories and novels through the mid-twentieth century. During his career he wrote more than 30 science fiction novels and 400 stories.
Born in Youngstown on Oct. 21, 1904, Hamilton was a child prodigy who entered Westminster College at the age of 14 but washed out at 17. He went on to become one of the earliest authors of science fiction with the publication of his first story, The Monster God of Mamurth, in the August 1926 issue of Weird Tales, now a classic magazine of alternative fiction.
Through the late 1920s and early 1930s Hamilton wrote for all of the science pulp magazines then publishing, and contributed horror and thriller stories to other magazines as well. Hamilton’s story The Island of Unreason won the first Jules Verne Prize as best science fiction story of the year in 1933.
He became very popular as an author of space opera, a subgenre of epic science fiction he created along with E.E. “Doc” Smith that emphasizes space warfare, melodramatic adventure, interplanetary battles and chivalric romance. (In 1977, movie producer George Lucas returned a great deal of attention to space opera with Star Wars.)
In 1942 Hamilton began writing for DC Comics, specializing in stories for their characters Superman and Batman. His first comics story was “Bandits in Toyland” in Batman #11 (June–July 1942).
On Dec. 31, 1946, Hamilton married fellow science fiction author and screenwriter Leigh Brackett in San Gabriel, California and moved with her to a farmhouse in Kinsman in 1951 where they worked side by side for a quarter-century, but rarely shared the task of authorship. Their single formal collaboration, Stark and the Star Kings, originally intended for Harlan Ellison’s The Last Dangerous Visions, did not appear in print until 2005.
During the second half of his career Hamilton wrote novels that, while still in the space-opera tradition, were more carefully composed and darker in texture. These works included The Star of Life (1947), The Valley of Creation (1948), City at World’s End (1951) and The Haunted Stars (1960). What’s It Like Out There? (Thrilling Wonder Stories, December 1952), is his single most frequently-reprinted and anthologized work.
When Hamilton died in Feb. 1, 1977 in Lancaster, California, he was remembered as a pioneer of pulp fiction and a writer who took space opera seriously enough to make it good. His wife edited the posthumous The Best of Edmond Hamilton published in 1977, a collection of his short fiction published between 1926 and 1968 that highlighted his ability to write sensitive and affecting pieces. In her introduction to the book titled Fifty Years of Wonder, she wrote:
He was a child prodigy, but that does not seem to have affected his boyhood materially. He looks back on it as an active and happy time, full of the normal fun and scrapes and pummellings. Only one thing set him apart from his classmates. He read, everything he could get his hands on, and especially anything that was fantastic or science fictional. He was in college at fourteen and out again three years later, leaving his professors to wonder why a kid with a genius IQ didn’t do better at his studies. He was just too busy reading, and dreaming.
He had planned to be an electrical engineer. But when the crunch came, he knew what he really wanted to be, what he had to be, and that was a writer of fiction – specifically, of science fiction.