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Heard, Gerald

Entry updated 28 August 2023. Tagged: Author.

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Working name of UK speculative journalist, Californian spiritual guru and author Henry Fitzgerald Heard (1889-1971), who usually signed himself as H F Heard for his American publications after he moved to the USA in 1937; for medical reasons he was rejected for military service in World War One, perhaps because he was homosexual. He is perhaps best remembered for his association with Aldous Huxley in investigations of the Vedanta cult and for such speculative studies as The Ascent of Humanity: An Essay on the Evolution of Civilization (1929) and The Third Morality (1937). "The President of the United States, Detective" (March 1947 Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine) as by H F Heard is an eccentric tale of War waged via man-made Climate Change. His UFO popularization, The Riddle of the Flying Saucers: Is Another World Watching? (1950; rev 1953), was well received, although time has passed it by.

Of his detective fictions featuring Mr Mycroft, which begin as pastiche of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories – A Taste for Honey (1941; vt A Taste for Murder 1955), Reply Paid (1942) and The Notched Hairpin (1949) – two include borderline-sf elements. "Mr Mycroft" is evidently – though this is never stated outright – an aged, incognito Sherlock Holmes, who famously retired to keep bees; the character is renamed Bowcross in UK editions of A Taste for Honey. This novel features a Mad Scientist apiarist whose killer bees may be enraged by particular scents or subdued by ultrasonic sound. An ABC television adaptation starring Boris Karloff as Mycroft aired as Sting of Death (1955), a segment of the fortnightly drama series The Elgin Hour (1954-1955); the exploitation Horror movie The Deadly Bees (1967) is more loosely based on the novel and omits Mr Mycroft altogether. In Reply Paid the McGuffin is a fatally radioactive meteorite, leading to incidental speculation on an unnatural Holocaust origin for the Asteroids. The unrelated Murder by Reflection (1942) features a killing by radiation poisoning.

Most of Heard's sf and fantasy focuses on issues of Evolution, both physical and spiritual, and is probably best read as exemplifying the Scientific Romance. The title story of The Great Fog and Other Weird Tales (coll 1944) [for further details see Checklist below] is a Disaster tale, the mould-derived Great Fog destroying all civilization by making sight useless. In the Lost Race title story of The Lost Cavern (coll 1948) a man is held captive by ancient Aztecs who have evolved into intelligent bat-like Monsters. Doppelgangers: An Episode of the Fourth, the Psychological, Revolution, 1997 (1947), which is sf, rather laboriously sets up a Near Future division of society into three factions according to the American psychologist William H Sheldon's theory of somatotypy which sorts humans into three categories: ectomorphs, endomorphs and mesomorphs. The philosophy of Evolution of each somatotype is in didactic opposition to the others', with members of each arguing amiably for a different definition of Utopia. But dissension sets in when inhabitants of a world Underground try to dismantle the society above them.

Set in the nineteenth century, The Black Fox: A Novel of the 'Seventies (1950) is a supernatural tale, the fox being Anubis. Gabriel and the Creatures (1952; vt Wishing Well 1953) recasts some of Heard's evolutionary speculation in sf form for children. Dromenon: The Best Weird Stories of Gerald Heard (coll 2001) is a competent retrospect. [JC/DRL]

see also: Dystopias; Ecology; The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction; To-day and To-morrow.

Henry Fitzgerald Heard

born London: 6 October 1889

died Santa Monica, California: 14 August 1971



Mr Mycroft

  • A Taste for Honey (New York: Vanguard Press, 1941) as H F Heard [Mr Mycroft: hb/]
    • A Taste for Honey (London: Cassell, 1942) as Gerald Heard [note changed byline: Mr Mycroft: hb/]
    • A Taste for Murder (New York: Avon Books, 1955) as H F Heard [vt of the above: Mr Mycroft: pb/]
  • Reply Paid (New York: Vanguard Press, 1942) as H F Heard [Mr Mycroft: hb/]
  • The Notched Hairpin (New York: Vanguard Press, 1949) as H F Heard [Mr Mycroft: hb/]

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