Working name of US editor, poet and author Francis Brett Harte (1836-1902), active as a journalist and editor in California from 1857, serving as first editor of the Overland Monthly from July 1868 until he resigned in January 1871; in the UK from 1880. He is best-known for his early poetry, burlesques and fiction, his most familiar story being "The Luck of Roaring Camp" (August 1868 Overland Monthly), a tale with supernatural implications: an infant named Thomas Luck seems to bring luck and moral improvement to Roaring Camp, until his death, which is immediately followed by a deadly flash flood. With other tales set in California, it was assembled as The Luck of Roaring Camp and Other Sketches (coll 1870). His first volume of Parodies, Condensed Novels, and Other Papers (coll 1867), contains spoofs of supernatural fictions by Charles Dickens and Edward Bulwer Lytton, plus one of Charles Reade (1814-1884), "Handsome Is as Handsome Does", an sf tale involving Inventions and Harte's first work of genre interest. The Queen of the Pirate Isle (1886 chap) is a children's tale involving quasi-fantastic events Underground. Condensed Novels: New Burlesques (coll 1902) contains a supernatural spoof of Rudyard Kipling and a famous parody of Sherlock Holmes. Harte remained prolific until his death, producing the occasional ghost story (often rationalized), though most of his later stories were Westerns.
His only novel of sf interest is The Crusade of the Excelsior (1 January-7 May 1887 Illustrated London News; 1887), a Lost Race story set in Baja California, where a fog-enshrouded Spanish settlement has been totally isolated for centuries, and has evolved its own culture. [JC]
see also: Ambrose Bierce; Kirk Mitchell.
Francis Brett Harte
born Albany, New York: 25 August 1836
died Camberley, Surrey: 5 May 1902
about the author
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