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Alden, W L

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1837-1908) US lawyer, diplomat, journalist (mostly for the New York Times) and author, in the UK from 1893 (but he died back in the US), a founding member of the Theosophical Society in 1875 (see Theosophy), though he was soon disillusioned and resigned; he began publishing pieces – mostly nonfiction, though there is no comprehensive bibliography – in American magazines in the 1870s, where his advocacy of the canoe for sporting purposes was extremely influential. Alden's sf and fantasy seems to date only from around 1890 or so, his first title of genuine genre interest seeming to be A Lost Soul: Being the Confession and Defence of Charles Lindsay (1892), narrated by a physician who re-animates the frozen body of an Italian countess (see Sleeper Awakes), only to find that she has retained the amoral ways (see Sex) that caused her husband to immolate her in the first place. In The Purple Death (January 1895 Cassell's Family Magazine), a Mad Scientist creates a microbe capable of creating a worldwide Pandemic, in order to solve the problem of Overpopulation. Most of the stories in Among the Freaks (coll of linked stories 1896) are tall tales, narrated by the owner of a freak show (but see Monsters); The Mystery of Elias G Roebuck and Other Stories (coll 1896) includes several fantasies and sf tales, including an interesting Apes as Human tale, "A Darwinian Schooner" (August 1893 Pall Mall Magazine) and several tales involving Inventions, a topic more intensely (and humorously) deployed in the stories assembled as Van Wagener's Ways (coll of linked stories 1898), in which the eponymous professor's inventions, all of which go wrong but which are not hoaxes, end with his death in something like a nuclear explosion. Drewitt's Dream (1902) is partially set on an Island Utopia. Alden was prolific and fluent, and further exploration of his works may uncover more material of interest. [JC]

William Livingston Alden

born Williamstown, Massachusetts: 9 October 1837

died Buffalo, New York: 14 January 1908


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