(1897-1956) US author and historian who began his career as an author and translator for Hugo Gernsback's Wonder Stories and its companions in the early 1930s; his first published story was "The Octopus Cycle" for Amazing in 1928 as with Irvin Lester (a Pratt pseudonym). While doing translations of German sf novels Pratt evolved what became a renowned method of extracting payment from the notoriously slow Gernsback organization: he would submit the first part of a novel, wait until it was set in type, then refuse to deliver the conclusion until paid. He undertook many collaborations, notably "The City of the Living Dead" (May 1930 Wonder Stories) with Laurence Manning, and contributed regularly to the sf magazines; early solo novels included two Space Operas, Invaders from Rigel (Winter 1932 Wonder Stories Quarterly as "The Onslaught From Rigel"; 1960) and Alien Planet (Winter 1932 Amazing Stories Quarterly as "A Voice Across the Years"; 1962).
Pratt is now best remembered, however, for his fantasy, especially for the Harold Shea sequence with L Sprague de Camp [who see for fuller details, and for later solo titles]; the three collaborative novels [see Checklist below for omnis] are The Incomplete Enchanter (portions first appeared May 1940 Unknown as "The Roaring Trumpet" and August 1940 Unknown as "The Mathematics of Magic"; coll of linked stories 1941), The Castle of Iron (April 1941 Unknown; 1950) and Wall of Serpents (portions first appeared June 1953 Fantasy Fiction as "The Wall of Serpents" and 1954 Beyond #9 as "The Green Magician"; coll of linked stories 1960; vt The Enchanter Compleated 1980). A second series with De Camp, the Gavagan's Bar Club Stories assembled in Tales from Gavagan's Bar (coll 1953; exp 1978), are mostly high-spirited Tall Tales [see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below], some of them sf. On their collaborations De Camp, as junior partner, would write a first draft after he and Pratt had jointly outlined the story; Pratt would then compose the final draft, to which De Camp would put the finishing editorial touches. This routine was varied in only a very few later short stories.
Pratt's own fantasy novels are The Well of the Unicorn (1948) as by George U Fletcher, a Bildungsroman set in a world subtly irradiated by magic, and The Blue Star (in Witches Three, anth/omni 1952, ed anon Pratt; 1969); Witches Three was one of the Twayne Triplets series – Twayne being the publisher – each volume assembling three original novellas or novels by different authors with a common theme or setting. The series idea was Pratt's, and he edited (also anonymously) one later volume, The Petrified Planet (anth 1952). In the end the project proved abortive, but the second and last title is now noted for being the first Shared-World Anthology to appear in the genre. Pratt also wrote several volumes of popular history and three books on rockets and space travel including Rockets, Jets, Guided Missiles and Space Ships (1951). [MJE/JC]
see also: Automation; Clones; Dystopias; Finland; Gamebook; Otfrid von Hanstein; Humour; Leisure; Magic; Mathematics; Psychology; Publishing; Science Fantasy; Utopias; Wargame.
Murray Fletcher Pratt
born Buffalo, New York: 25 April 1897
died Long Branch, New Jersey: 10 June 1956
collections and stories
works as editor
- Witches Three (New York: Twayne Publishers, 1952) [anth/omni: edited anonymously: in the publisher's Twayne Triplets series: hb/Herbstman]
- The Petrified Planet (New York: Twayne Publishers, 1952) [anth: edited anonymously: in the publisher's Twayne Triplets series: hb/uncredited]
about the author
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