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Tanner, Charles R

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

(1896-1974) US clerk, salesman and author best known for his series featuring Tumithak, which began with "Tumithak of the Corridors" (January 1932 Amazing). Set in the fifty-third century, two millennia after Earth has been invaded by the shelks from Venus and mankind has been driven underground into a maze of deep tunnels. In that period humans have forgotten most of their previous advanced science. Tumithak, a young man, determines to venture to the surface and kill a shelk, and en route discovers other forms of humans and societies that have emerged. In "Tumithak in Shawm" (June 1933 Amazing), generally a better story, Tumithak leads a party of warriors back to the surface to defeat the shelks, a tale of conquest that continued in "Tumithak and the Pillars of Fire" (November 1941 Super Science Stories). In 1952 Tanner wrote a fourth story, "Tumithak and the Ancient Word", which completes the sequence with Tumithak's reconquest of the surface and the rebuilding of society. The story remained unpublished until all four were collected as Tumithak of the Corridors (coll of linked stories 2005). Nothing else Tanner wrote came close to the popularity of the Tumithak series. He had first appeared in print with "The Color of Space" (March 1930 Wonder Stories; vt "Space Roulette" January 1973 Perry Rhodan #21), a contest-winning story where the title is relevant to the twist ending of an early story of Virtual Reality. "The Flight of the Mercury" (July 1930 Wonder Stories) concerns a flight to Mars utilizing the outdated theory of the ether.

Although Tanner remained an sf fan he lost interest in writing for a while when T O'Conor Sloane held on to a novel for two years before rejecting it. Tanner eventually returned to sf when he sold a story to Raymond A Palmer for Amazing Stories; for a period during the 1940s he was a regular contributor to the Pulps, and even attempted a new variant on the Tumithak series with "Cham of the Hills" (August 1942 Super Science Stories), another depiction of an attempt to rebuild civilization. His best work in the 1940s was with weird tales and fantasies. He stopped writing in 1952 but reappeared briefly in 1968 with a couple of book reviews in Fantastic, when editor Ted White hoped to print the fourth Tumithak story. Had he not written the Tumithak series, Tanner would not be remembered, but the series struck a chord with readers during the years of the Depression with that hope to rebuild society and, as such, it became iconic to the first generation of sf fans. It was an inspiration to both Isaac Asimov and Philip José Farmer. [MA]

Charles Roland Tanner

born Cincinnati, Ohio: 17 February 1896

died Torrance, Los Angeles, California: 9 January 1974


  • Tumithak of the Corridors (St Cloud, Minnesota: North Star Press, 2005) [coll of linked stories: edited by John Koblas and A M Decker: all four Tumithak stories: pb/Michael Dal Cerro]
  • The Tumithak Trilogy (Berkeley, California: Renaissance E Books, 2007) [coll of linked stories: ebook: first three Tumithak stories only: na/]


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