We all have favorite authors on E2 and one of mine has always been
sensei. He's been gone from E2 for a long time
now, and I still miss him. This writeup is sort of an homage
to him in the form of a copyright compliance rescue
for one of his older writeups. You'd have to have known sensei
a little bit to see the quiet sparkle of his wit in his short writeup on
Fanthorpe. I can detect his mischievous
humor in the subject and his pithy matter-of-fact tone in the text.
There's just enough detail in his writeup to make you smile and perhaps want
to know a little more about this freak
writer Fanthorpe who could write a book every twelve days. Unfortunately,
there wasn't enough in sensei's writeup to balance the fascinating Fanthorpe
quote he used to illustrate his writeup. In short, it wasn't copyright
compliant and was scheduled for removal from E2. I'm picking up the slack
by fleshing out sensei's work with a little more juicy detail on Robert L.
Fanthorpe and, in the process allowing sensei's Fanthorpe writeup to snuggle
comfortably under the warm blanket of fair use compliance.
The mechanics of this rescue attempt are interesting and perhaps merit a
brief discussion. I didn't feel comfortable editing sensei's
writeup directly, it just didn't seem right. So I'm submitting this as a
new writeup and ask that the two be considered together as far as copyright
compliance goes. A little convoluted, but so it goes. I'm also retitling
the node to Robert Lionel Fanthorpe.
One of the things about Fanthorpe that I find fascinating is his stoicism in
facing the simple grueling reality of staying focused on writing for hours and
hours on end, days and weeks at a time. I've been responsible for writing
giant technical manuals and bid specifications, and I can vouch for the
mind-numbing difficulty of grinding out thousands and thousands of pages.
I've read that some of the most successful authors have developed elaborate
schemes and self-rewards developed for the purpose of inducing themselves to just sit down at their writing desk and face that first white sheet of paper.
Fanthorpe's ability to overcome that hurdle is impressive irrespective of the
type, style or quality of his writing. When you first imagine him huddled
under a blanket with his tape recorder it sounds laughable and freakish, but
it's not hard to imagine that comfortable warmth, darkness and the absence of a
keyboard could all be essential to maintaining his prolific schedule.
On the Fanthorpe fansite, peltorro.com1,
Brian Hunt provides the following description of Fanthorpe at work:
To meet his grueling deadlines, Fanthorpe employed an unusual technique.
He dictated his masterworks into a reel to reel tape recorder, oftentimes
under the cover of a blanket to enhance his concentration. He would then ship
those tapes off to a pool of typists for transcription. This created many
unique problems. People who die in one chapter reappear a chapter or two later
because it was forgotten that they were dead. Odd phrases turn up in the
middle of paragraphs due to a misunderstanding by the transcriptionist.
Fanthorpe's contractual relationship with Badger Books of England in the early
1950's often required him to work on stories for several of the publisher's book
series along with other writers under contract by Badger. In some of
Badger's science fiction anthologies a different author is provided for each
story despite the fact that Fanthorpe was the only author. As a result,
Fanthorpe's work was published under a large array of pseudonyms,
some of which are provided below, courtesy of trussel.com2.
Leo Brett, Bron Fane, Robert Lionel Fanhope, Mel Jay,
Marston Johns, Victor La Salle, Oben Lerteth, Robert Lionel, John E. Muller,
Elton T. Neef(e), Phil Nobel, Peter O'Flinn, Peter O'Flynn, John Raymond,
Lionel Roberts, Rene Rolant, Deutero Spartacus, Trebor Thorpe, Pel Torro, Karl
Perhaps as a result of his many other writing endeavors, Fanthorpe, R. Lionel,
joins the ranks of science fiction authors and personalities who are used as
characters in books by other authors. Recursive science fiction, that is
science fiction about the science fiction genre and its writers, provides fodder
for a dedicated cult of aficionados. On the nesfa.org Recursive Fiction
website3, the following interesting example is
In the "Curse of the Khan" R. Lionel
Fanthorpe, supernatural writer, is invited by Genghis Khan to Black Island,
south-east of Truro. His curiosity piqued, he goes. Gathered
on the island are also the supernatural, fantasy, and science fiction writers
Oben Lerteth, Peter O'Flinn, Bron Fane, and Neil Balfort. Soon joining them
are the writers Elton T. Neef and Rene Rolant. (All these people are
pseudonyms of R. Lionel Fanthorpe). They have been gathered by an ancient and
immortal alien who has taken the form of Genghis Khan to relieve his boredom.
The Khan creates seven monsters to fight the seven writers and destroy them
for his amusement. However, because of their innate intelligence and
specific skills, the writers are triumphant. Badger Supernatural Series
The exact tally of books written by Fanthorpe will probably never be
known. Brian Hunt1 gives an
estimate of 180+ books, but that number doesn't acknowledge the prolific output
of short stories and other commercial works for hire created by Fanthorpe.
In an interview with Debbie Cross4, Fanthorpe
cheerfully described his career arc as,
"the one-every-week, at-the-drop-of-a-hat paperbacks
he wrote in his spare time forty-odd years ago? The midnight-oil-burners, the
generously padded, paid-on-wordage albatross-space-opera-sagas for which his
publisher was inevitably waiting impatiently and waving the threat of no more
commissions if this current one wasn't delivered before Tuesday?"
Anyone who has ever written professionally for a living can
likely relate to that sentiment.
3 New England Science Fiction
4 Down the Badger Hole. R.
Lionel Fanthorpe: The Badger Years (edited by Debbie Cross), Wrigley-Cross
As a final footnote, when I visited sensei's homenode in the
course of writing this, I noticed that his "most recent writeup" is
listed as March 15, 2007. Tisn't so of course, but it quickened my heart for a
moment to believe it.