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Futrelle, Jacques

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1875-1912) US author and theatrical manager, on the editorial staff of the Boston American; he was one of four authors of sf (the others are John Jacob Astor, F D Millet and W T Stead) known to have gone down with the Titanic. The stories assembled in his Thinking Machine collections about the scientific detective Professor Augustus S F X Van Dusen – The Thinking Machine [for subtitle see Checklist] (coll 1907; vt The Problem of Cell 13 1929) and The Thinking Machine on the Case (coll 1908) – are properly detections, though Van Dusen's methods occasionally verge on sf. The early "impossible crime" and "impossible situation" stories are the most highly regarded, though preceded by the weaker (and entirely nonfantastic) short Thinking Machine novel The Chase of the Golden Plate (1906). The Thinking Machine (coll 1959) edited by Tony Simon contains the best-known of these tales, "The Problem of Cell 13" (30 October-5 November 1905 Boston American as "The Mystery of Cell 13"; vt in The Thinking Machine), plus two other stories. A further two collections edited by E F Bleiler [see Checklist below] add previously uncollected episodes. The most complete recent assembling of the tales is Jacques Futrelle's "The Thinking Machine" [for subtitle see Checklist] (coll 2003) edited by Harlan Ellison.

The Diamond Master (1909; exp as coll with "The Haunted Bell" [19 December 1908-January 1909 Saturday Evening Post] circa 1912), which is sf, revolves melodramatically around the Invention of the artificial manufacture of diamonds, and the inventor's plan to capitalize on this by inviting established diamond magnates to pay a huge sum to suppress this invention rather than see their market flooded with cheap but perfect diamonds; the added novella is a partly rationalized supernatural tale involving Van Dusen. A late story, "The Flying Eye" (1 November 1912 Popular Magazine), involves a paint that makes airplanes invisible (see Invisibility). [JC/DRL]

see also: Prisons.

Jacques Heath Futrelle

born Pike Country, Georgia: 9 April 1875

died at sea, following the wreck of the Titanic: 15 April 1912



Thinking Machine

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