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Diffin, Charles W

Entry updated 9 January 2023. Tagged: Author.

(1884-1966) US engineer, airplane salesman and author who graduated with a degree in analytical chemistry from the University of Buffalo, New York. He was most active with the magazines published by William Clayton and Street & Smith. He was one of the better writers whom Harry Bates encouraged to write for the new Astounding Stories (see Astounding), though he rapidly descended into formulaic fiction. His first, "Spawn of the Stars" (February 1930 Astounding), has Earth invaded by amoeba-like Aliens and was sufficiently competent for Groff Conklin to reprint it in The Best of Science Fiction (anth 1946) but was the first of several routine world-saving adventures in the style of Edmond Hamilton, including "The Pirate Planet" (November 1930-February 1931 Astounding), "The Eye of Allah" (January 1931 Astounding) under the alias C D Willard, Brood of the Dark (August-November 1931 Astounding; 2010 ebook), The Hammer of Thor (March 1932 Astounding; 2009 ebook), and The Finding of Haldgren (April 1932 Astounding; 2009 ebook), and Two Thousand Miles Below (June 1932-January 1933 Astounding; 2010 ebook). Diffin's most interesting and most restrained story is the cautionary "The Power and the Glory" (July 1930 Astounding), which questions whether Nuclear Energy will be used for good or evil (see Death Rays). His most popular stories were the Harkness-Bullard sequence, "Dark Moon" (May 1931 Astounding), "Brood of the Dark Moon" (August-November 1931 Astounding) and "The Finding of Haldgren" (April 1932 Astounding; 2010 ebook) involving adventures on an errant new planet full of Monsters which has been captured as a new moon orbiting Earth. Diffin's final novel for Astounding was "Blue Magic" (November 1935-February 1936 Astounding), which is set on Jupiter and a hitherto unknown Jovian moon but is more fairy tale than sf.

Diffin also wrote for other companion Pulps. Of his stories in Strange Tales, the best is the chilling Dr Moreau-like "The Dog That Laughed" (September 1931 Strange Tales). For Top-Notch he wrote two stories set in prehistory of the creative awakening of a young caveboy, "Man of the Dawn" (October 1934 Top-Notch) and "The Feast of Rah" (May 1935 Top-Notch), which formed the basis for his later Kiplingesque adventure novel The Secret of the Sun-God's Cave (1942). Although Diffin wrote a few more stories for the pulps, mostly Westerns and even the odd mystery, his attention returned to his engineering background and a fascination for transport which emerged in the nonfiction The Magic Carpet; Adventures in Transportation on Land (1935) and Transportation: The Evolution of Travel by Land (1936). [MA]

Charles Willard Diffin

born Pennsylvania: 25 March 1884

died Bonita, San Diego, California: 15 May 1966

works (selected)

collections and stories


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