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Tom Swift

Entry updated 2 February 2021. Tagged: Character, Publication.

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Hero of a Juvenile Series of scientific-invention novels produced by the Stratemeyer Syndicate, constituting a central example of the importance and persistence of the Edisonade in boys' fiction, and written under the House Name Victor Appleton, most being the work of Howard R Garis. Tom Swift was the most commercially successful and is still the best remembered of all the boys' sf Series of the period. During 1910-1938, beginning with Tom Swift and His Motor-Cycle (1910), 38 titles appeared, all but the last three by Garis, and featuring such Inventions as the "photo telephone" and the "ocean airport", the technical difficulties of utilizing which were emphasized. These stories created a potential readership for Hugo Gernsback's magazines. The Tom Swift books were written in what was, even for the time, stilted prose.

Between 1954 and 1971, beginning with Tom Swift and His Flying Lab (1954) as by Victor Appleton II, a second Tom Swift series appeared, this time featuring Tom Swift Jr, its 33 titles being released at a rate of about two per year. At first it was enormously successful, possibly giving rise to the 1960s popularity of the punning Tom Swifty or Tom Swiftie: "'I think we can get there in time,' said Tom swiftly."; "'Get to the back of the ship!' said Tom sternly."; "'I'll have a martini,' said Tom drily." and so on. The main author behind the new House Name was Jim Lawrence (who see for his contributions). The other authors and titles are listed below.

In 1981 a third Tom Swift series, as by Victor Appleton, began with The City in the Stars (1981), continuing to #11, The Planet of Nightmares (1984), which was by Mike McQuay writing as Appleton; two of these titles have recently been ascribed to Neal Barrett Jr. Most recently, in 1991, under the Byron Preiss packaging aegis, a fourth series began with Tom Swift #1: The Black Dragon (1991) by Bill McCay writing as Appleton; further titles include novels by F Gwynplaine MacIntyre and two by the team of Debra Doyle and James D Macdonald.

In the original Tom Swift sequence, the title Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle; Or, Daring Adventures in Elephant Land (1911) by Howard R Garis writing as Victor Appleton inspired the naming by its inventor Jack Cover of the real-world Stunner known as the taser – supposedly an acronym for Thomas A Swift's Electric Rifle, though the middle initial here given to Tom is not canonical. [JE/PN/JC/DRL]



Tom Swift (Second Series)

There is conflicting evidence as to the authorship of #30, which may have been written by either Jim Lawrence or Thomas Mulvey.

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