It's fascinating how the paths we take in life shape who we'll become and what we'll leave behind, when--on that fateful day--we're blasted by the emerald lightnings of The Emperor's Guard at the Pit of the Metal Monster.
For me, the dregs of life will be a room full of books. For A. Merritt, luckily for us, it was his wonderful novels, few tho' they may be, and the short stories and poetry he crafted during a relatively short lifetime.
But, whereas the ashes of our mortal clay will be scattered before the feet of the Metal Things--geometrical shapes of star-metal--as mocking, iridescent eyes gaze upon our blasted forms with impish humor, the Father of Fantasy will ride upon a brobdingnagian block of otherworldly metal; invisible, magnetic forces gripping him firmly while Norhala, semi-nude in the gossamer-thin effervescence of Finlay bubbles, clasps his waist as he assumes the high-seat--becoming himself The Metal Emperor, with the Keeper of the Cones and The Smiting Thing bowing in obeisance!
Trust me, you have to use those exclamation marks.
I stated before about collecting Merritt that he is rich territory for the collector. After his novels were published in the pulps, they each--with the exception of The Metal Monster--went straight to hardback. After that came pulp reprints, digests, soft cover editions, foreign editions...
I'm only going to cover what sits on my shelves, but you should know that you might begin with the Argosy All-Story Weekly for August 7, 1920 and work your way forward and remain busy for the remainder of your life tracking down the multitudinous editions of one of the most fascinating stories I've ever read.
Speaking of the Argosy All-Story Weekly edition, Argosy Classic Reprints of Fiction House Press publishes a facsimile.You can have the original story as it initially appeared and keep those Argosies in their bags.
One thing I like about this edition is its inclusion of the first two chapters, missing in later prints. Merritt was never satisfied with this novel, and tweaked it almost till the day he died. This edition does have much of the missing text, but there's a caveat…
The Fiction House edition was made by scanning an original magazine. That's cool; you get those Merritty fonts I love in these fast-fading classics. But, as is apparent in the image, some of the scanning is messy, leaving illegibility in this example. This could be fixed with stealthy photoshopping--and it should be!
However, note the inset of Chapter I - The Return of Dr. Goodwin. That's awesome! Most editions are missing those first chapters, beginning instead with Valley of the Blue Poppies.
While we're on the topic of abridged editions, for Science & Invention magazine, Merritt really tore into the body of text, creating an entirely new version called The Metal Emperor. This version focused on the sciency stuff, with Merritt backing-off the purple prose for which he is renown, and, among other things, replacing Goodwin with Louis Thorton.
The Metal Emperor was reprinted in the fanzine Pulpdom in an episodic version spanning several volumes, akin to its original publication in S&I.
Looking good, there, Yuruk!
A facsimile of The Metal Emperor, gathering all parts into a single volume, is available, complete with the illos provided by Frank R. Paul.
In 1941, Merritt unveiled a third, heavily edited version, where Dr. Goodwin is restored, together with much of the descriptive prose for which Merritt is famous, Metal Monster especially so. FYI, Merritt hated that title. Any ideas what he could have used instead? Comment it!
The Famous Fantastic Mysteries edition (minus the first two original chapters, and with other parts either reworded or abridged) was illustrated by the amazing Virgil Finlay--well known for his astounding portrayals of Merritt's otherworldly scenes. Those missing chapters were The Return of Dr. Goodwin, and The Thing.
It was the text of this 1941 FFM edition that Avon Books followed, beginning with The Murder Mystery Monthly in 1946.
Shortly later, in one of their lovely 'pocket book' editions of 1951, Monster was released in a true paperback form (I consider Murder Mystery Monthly a digest due to its oversized dimensions). Following were additional Avons, including the T series, the Black S series, the White series, etc. Personally, I like the Pocket Book, and the Oval edition with The Smiting Thing!
Foreign editions of Merritt's works are available, sporting as they do varying cover art, etc. Here are a couple French editions. Cool, eh?
I have few Merritt hardbacks, as many of them are older and pricy. I do have this ex-library Hyperion Press from 1974. Hyperion also printed a paperback version. The hardback is kind of lack-luster with plain cloth boards with their Classics of Science Fiction logo. Still, it's one of only a couple of Merritts I have in hardback---so I'll take it, by Norhala!
Unfortunately, even the Hyperion follows the truncated text. See that Valley of the Blue Poppies? That's Chapter 3 of the first edition, and it was originally titled On the Out Trail. If your first chapter is Blue Poppies, you're reading a truncated version! But don't despair--read on; good news awaits.
Note that inside the Hyperion, it states that it follows the text of the Avon Books Co. Murder Mystery Monthly. It does have a cool intro by Sam Moskowitz, however.
Good news was promised, and here it is. You don't have to buy those old Argosy mags, or a poor-quality pulp facsimile, to read the unexpurgated text. Enter Hippocampus Press of the lightnings! Wielders of the tetrahedron-editing powers of The Pit, to the salvation of Merritt fiends! This edition restores the missing text, and includes a very informative introduction by Stefan Dziemianowicz. My fellow Merritt friends -- enjoy!
About Chris L Adams
I spent years playing guitar, in and out of bands, and during that time was more of a voracious reader than a writer. After that last band collapsed, I turned to writing, eventually turning out a half million-word Barsoom series as a tribute to Edgar Rice Burroughs and a host of self-published short stories and poems. Something inside drives me to create, and so together with writing stories and playing guitar, I also dabble in painting.
You may find me on my website, www.ChrisLAdamsBizarreTales.com. There, you’ll find any pertinent links, information on available stories, and other things you might find of interest. I love talking about favorite authors, writing and collecting books so if you can't find what you're looking for, shoot me an email.