[Cinvention Memory Book]
[Alley Oop is the Man I'd Like To Be]

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V.T. Hamlin

{ n a v i g a t i o n   m e n u }

I expect the main point to get across to you people tonight is why I'm here. About -- oh, I guess it was twenty or twenty-five years ago -- when I was a press photographer and sort of lay geologist down in southwest Texas, I started reading a new type of a magazine printed by Hugo Gernsback. I think it was either AMAZING STORIES or SCIENCE WONDER.

I was particularly fascinated with those, they were very improbable, but they were scientific and I had scientific leanings myself. I read them for several years. Of course in due biological time, I got married. Married a very fine girl. In fact, if I hadn't married, there would never have been any brains under my roof.

You know, I never could sell her on those stories. One of the first things I did shortly after we were married was to read her an installment of a story that was current at that time. I think it was called "The Second Deluge". Maybe some few of you remember it. I thought it was a particularly fascinating piece of work. And I could not sell it to her, so help me! I was beating my brains against a wall.

You know what struck her? She said, "What makes it go?"

There you have a perfect balance in a family. I'm mechanically minded and scientifically minded and what-have-you; she's got a lot of brains and knows how to take care of money and what to do with it and knows nothing about science. She's still that way. Doesn't want to know anything about science.

Maybe I ought to talk to you people about drawing a comic strip, but first I'd like to tell you a few things about the fellows you are hearing from this platform tonight. Not me -- I'll tell you about me -- but first I want to tell you about these other fellows. I don't know them all, but I had the extreme pleasure of going out to dinner with them. We sat for about two hours in a bull session this afternoon and then we went out to dinner. Over to the Cricket.

Of course Smith, he didn't like the way his steak was cooked. Two or three others had a beef about something. I had chili, which I ought to know better than to eat up in this country even with a bunch of guys from Texas. We had a bunch of fun, though.

I imagine that most of you fans would have loved to have set in on that conversation. You would have been the most disillusioned bunch of people you can imagine. We were talking about our kids. We were also talking about how our folks disciplined us and brought us up when we were youngsters, which is probably the reason why you've got crazy people like us in this world. They are a pretty swell bunch of fellows. They're posted and they know their stuff and they're not dizzy. Anybody that knows as much about kids as these fellows know; they're all right.

Now me, I've got two kids. I just married off a daughter here not very long ago; swell kid. I've got a thirteen or fourteen year old son. He plays pool with me. Beats me, too. You know, I think that probably the best I ever did in the world was when I set back and realize that my kids know their old man and like him.

I'm bragging a little bit, but of course, all this time, these two youngsters have stuck their noses in on my easel, my drawing board -- every morning. Possibly the greatest critics I have ever had in drawing a comic strip.

Now drawing a comic strip was something I just could not help doing. It's an expediency of course, but I was long a newspaperman and I had these stories in my system and they had to come out. But you know, when I was a little fellow -- of course I'm still a little fellow, but I'm no young fellow any more -- when I was a young fellow, I had it kind of tough to hold my own with these babes in town, all these big fellows pushing me around. So I decided that the one thing I could do to hold my own was to develop a conversational topic that would amuse them.

That is, if I could talk glibly about something that a young lady or a group was interested in, that was over the heads of these big stiffs that didn't have any trouble making center and guard on the football team, why I had an in. That's how Alley Oop started, believe it or not.

I started studying palmistry. It's awful corny, but it got over. Well, I went into the newspaper business after going through the First World War where I got pretty badly cut up. But I still kept up this fourflushing business and when I got into the oil fields I studied geology, because I was interested in the romance of the rocks. The romance of the rocks led to the study of dinosaurs; paleantology. And when the bottom fell out of things around there in 1929, I had to come north -- one jump ahead of the sheriff -- and I went back into art.

At that time, I had a big job. I had charge of fifteen-twenty guys; photographers, engravers and one thing and another on a big newspaper. But I didn't like it too much. I am too active, anyway. So I developed this comic strip -- a comic strip based upon geology -- upon prehistoric monsters. Now the funny thing is that it wasn't the comic strip you see today or have seen for the past seventeen or eighteen years. This comic strip was simply a strip devoted to dinosaurs, and being an old newspaperman, I know that a strip based solely upon dinosaurs, which even in my imagination didn't talk a word, wouldn't go over.

So I invented a stooge to do the talking. That was Alley Oop. Well, Dinny, of course, has gone the way of most dinosaur flesh. I drag him back into the scene once in a while, but he's through; Oop's stolen the story. Well, I suppose that you people would say that since this comic strip is based to a degree upon science I am a science fiction writer. They say that stf is fantasy, or a plot fictionized, based upon science.

Well, I consider the study of paleantology, ethnology, and eight or ten others including sociology as a good enough basis to make me acceptable as a science writer. But my main concern is not so much with science as it is with people. I could just stand up here and tell you people how I'm surprised and very reluctant to get up in front of you good people and talk. If I was to tell you that, anybody who knew me, and none of you do, would say, "Good Lord, listen to Hamlin lie again!" because I came here with the distinct idea of getting up in front of you people and making a lot of noise.

Because I wanted to meet you. I figured that if you people read stf you also read Alley Oop and that's what feeds me. So I wasn't at all surprised although I did very politely demur when they asked me if I'd get up here and speak tonight. I was just tickled to death. So that's why I'm here.

I have a few things I want to say about scienti-fiction and maybe I'm out of line. First, I want to say that my writing of stf is based from an entirely different premise than that of the stf magazine writers. I write for newspapers -- I understand that my comics are published in 650 (and translated in one or two foreign languages). That makes me very happy. I worked hard for that success and I expect to continue to work hard. But the idea is that I write for the world. My audience is everybody, whether they're science minded or whether they're not. Therefore, I do not write science; I write sociology, which is the study of humanity. I'm very interested in people. I'm very interested in Alley Oop, who to me is as much flesh and blood as you are. Now there's a lot of me in Alley Oop, of course. Alley Oop is the man I'd like to be.

That isn't hard to understand, but a big man couldn't draw that comic strip. I don't have any great admiration for a lot of brains; I don't have any, I don't have to worry about 'em; neither does Oop. He's awful lucky, but so am I. I've got all the breaks a man could ask for. You'll talk to no happier man than I, if you live to be a hundred years old. But science writers -- they work for you people. They have a prepared audience and they give you straight science. I'd like to, but it just doesn't work.

Now about this moon story -- I have wanted to draw a story, an interplanetary story for a long time. You people would accept it because you know all these ramifications and what makes a liner go from here to Alpha Centauri, or some such impossible place, but my readers don't. But thanks to the Army and White Sands Proving Grounds, they finally popularized rocket propulsion. So it wasn't too hard for me to build this story up, use a booster and carry their own landing gear and show how they could carry enough fuel to the moon to get off. So we put these two bozos of mine in a tin can and shot it to the moon.

But then another problem arose. It's alright to take them up to the moon, but even you and I in our most fantastic moments know that there is no life on the moon. We don't really know it, but we have very good reason to believe it. So to make their stay on the moon more palatable, why not use these flying saucers that had everyone upset and have them as scout planes from the planet Venus? It worked out, and everybody thought it was swell. I was a little afraid to come down here, because I thought you might clip my ears.

But anyway that's how it worked. Now this is the first story my hero has never carried his axe. He's always come out pretty well on top -- when he had the axe. But he didn't carry it with him this time, so just remember when you start reading about poor Alley Oop in the next two or three weeks, or maybe sooner -- I don't remember just exactly what the release dates are now -- the old boy hasn't got his axe.

That just about covers the subject of Alley Oop. Now let's go back to stf.

I'm particularly upset about certain stf artists. I'm very glad to see this beautiful display of illustrations and cover designs. There isn't one of these boys that can't draw better in his sleep than I can wide awake and cold sober. I have no quarrel with the inside illustrations. I think they're wonderful. Some of them are absolutely classics. But my complaint is with the covers of your magazines. We have four to illustrate, or five, and they're perfect jewels of artistic technique. They are pretty. They're beautifully done. But I wouldn't be caught dead with a magazine that looked like that!

Well, I got that gripe off my shoulders.

Now you know I do read a lot of this stuff. Some of the stuff I go through pretty fast because I don't like some of it and then again I'll strike a story that's really got something to it and I'll steal all the gimmicks I can from it. But you know, when I read them I don't want to hide myself in my bedroom. My wife knows I read the stuff and she doesn't pay any attention to it. You know what she reads? She reads detective stories. You know, you can read a detective story on a club car or somewhere else and nobody thinks anything about it, but any goon that reads that stuff, they say, "Look at that! He's a lunatic!"

Now there's nothing wrong with those illustrations. It isn't the fact that the illustrations are bad; it's the fact that they're not artistic. And it's the fact that the rest of the public thinks we're crazy.

Well, that's about all, folks. I could go on here and talk a long time, but in conclusion, I want to tell you that it's been a lot of fun. It's been a revelation to me. I've been a newspaperman, I've been a camera man, and I've covered conventions from coast to coast and border to border, and I hate conventions. I think they're a pain in the neck. The thing that they do at most conventions anyway is get about half-slopping tight. But this is the first convention I have been to in my forty-nine and one half years voluntarily. I've got to get out of here at eleven o'clock tonight and thank you for being a swell audience.

{ t o p   o f   p a g e }

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