The Last Battle: Stanley G. Weinbaum’s Odyssey

Stanley Grauman Weinbaum was born on 4th April 1902, in Louisville Kentucky. In spite of his family’s strong show business connections – he was a relative of both Sid Grauman, the creator of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, and the actor George Jessel – Weinbaum’s only real ambition was to become a writer. At the age of 15, he penned The Last Battle, a piece for his school magazine that predicted the end of the First World War in 2001.

In 1920, Weinbaum enrolled at the University of Wisconsin to study chemical engineering, but eventually decided to change his major to English Literature, after which he began publishing some of his poetry in The Wisconsin Literary Journal and befriended Horace Gregory, who would become a distinguished poet himself, and who remembered Weinbaum in his autobiography, as having ‘a number of ruling passions’ which included ‘playing his guitar as though it were a lute, alliteration in writing verse and chanting it, mathematics, Turkish coffee, the invention of scientific gadgets, and cigarettes. In his speech, he had great purity of diction, and a love of entertaining everyone around him – this last with an artless air that seldom failed to please.’

Weinbaum never received his degree as he was caught pretending to be another student and sitting their exam for a bet. Consequently, he took a number of unfulfilling jobs but continued to write in his spare time. The Lady Dances was his first novel, and in 1933, was purchased by the King Features Syndicate, who then serialised it in a number of national newspapers, under the pseudonym Marge Stanley. However, Weinbaum’s attempts at publishing some of his other romantic stories fell flat, prompting him to return to his first literary love, science fiction. Continue reading