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Stockton, Frank R

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1834-1902) US editor and author, whose known pseudonyms for early work included Paul Fort and John Lewees. He worked on Scribner's Magazine before becoming assistant editor of St Nicholas Magazine 1873-1881, and began to publish stories for children with "The Slight Mistake" for the American Courier in 1855, though his first tale to gain much attention was "Ting-a-ling" (1867 Riverside Magazine for Young People); it was assembled, along with other stories about the eponymous elf, as his first book, Ting-a-Ling (coll 1870; vt Ting-a-ling Tales; also see below), illustrated by E B Bensell, Hurd & Houghton, 1870 His first works of fiction, for children, date from around It was during this period, while writing for children, that he developed the combination of humour and fantasy featured in such works as Tales Out of School (coll 1875), which includes "How Three Men Went to the Moon", and The Floating Prince and Other Fairy Tales (coll 1881). His numerous short stories appeared in over twenty collections, of which several were composite volumes. His better works include "The Lady, or the Tiger?" (November 1882 The Century), a classic puzzle story, "The Transferred Ghost" (May 1882 The Century) and its sequel "The Spectral Mortgage" (February 1883 The Century), and his sf story about Antigravity, "A Tale of Negative Gravity" (November 1884 The Century), which is an Edisonade. Among other short sf stories were "The Tricycle of the Future" (May 1885 St Nicholas), a cautionary tale whose overambitious Transportation device is two storeys high, powered by horses on a treadmill; "The Philosophy of Relative Existences" (August 1892 The Century), in which a town is haunted by "ghosts" from the future; and "My Translataphone" (27 October-3 November 1900 Harper's Bazaar). Most but not all of his sf was assembled as The Science Fiction of Frank R. Stockton (coll 1976) edited by Richard Gid Powers.

Later, when Stockton turned to novels, he continued to use sf themes occasionally, though his humorous style remained the most prominent feature. In The Great War Syndicate (1889) a naval Future War between the UK and America – set off by a renewal of American exceptionalist ire over the continued existence of Canada, and organized by a consortium of American entrepreneurs – is resolved when the British find arrayed against them various advanced Weapons, including invulnerable warships and a torpedo that travels at the speed of a cannon shell; the UK then surrenders. The Adventures of Captain Horn (1895) is a Lost-World novel of very mild interest. The Great Stone of Sardis (June-November 1897 Harper's Monthly; dated 1898 but 1897), set in 1947, culminates – after a submarine journey to the North Pole – in the discovery that the Earth is a gigantic diamond with a relatively thin crust of surface soil; life, augmented by numerous Inventions, continues unimpeded (Canada is now part of the USA). The Vizier of the Two-Horned Alexander (1899) lightly recasts the Wandering Jew theme in the tale of a man who gains Immortality and has adventures in various eras.

In his lifetime, Stockton was compared with Mark Twain (who was also initially perceived as a children's writer), and was influential on John Kendrick Bangs and other humorous fantasists; and his use of the trick ending anticipated that development of the short story in the work of O Henry (1862-1910). His complete works appear in The Novels and Stories of Frank R. Stockton (23 vols 1899-1904). A posthumously written collection, The Return of Frank R. Stockton (coll 1913), "transcribed" by the medium Miss Etta de Camp, is surprisingly good and stylistically recognizable, though death has clearly impaired his vision. [JE/JC/DRL]

see also: Under the Sea.

Frank Richard Stockton

born Blockley, Pennsylvania: 5 April 1834

died Washington, District of Columbia: 20 April 1902

works (selected)


Novels and Stories of Frank R. Stockton (not here listed individually)

  • The Novels and Stories of Frank R. Stockton (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1899-1904) [coll/omni: published in twenty-three volumes: a collected works containing many previously unassembled stories: hb/nonpictorial]

individual titles

collections and stories

ghost-written collection


previous versions of this entry

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