Wednesday, January 23, 2008

It Turns Out I Have a Secret History...

So, I'm sitting here trying to decompress. I was supposed to have a job interview today, but a crisis interfered. I have yet to hear back to find out if I can reschedule and interview for the extremely good job I was hoping to land. Like I said, trying to decompress.

So, I'm trying to think about other things. And I remembered something really, really cool that I haven't had a chance to blog about yet.

A couple of posts back, in my response to the Eight Things You Didn't Know About Me meme, I mentioned being a fourth-generation writer.

The first generation (that I know of) was my great-grandfather, Victor Lauriston. For those of you keeping score at home: Yep, that's where my middle name, Victor, comes from.

He was best known as a journalist and historian; he wrote histories of Kent County (around Chatham, Ontario, his home) and its towns that are still considered definitive. There's a school named after him there. He was beloved and justly acclaimed.

He also wrote fiction. I've read a couple of his novels; one of them was pretty clearly a thinly-disguised autobiography about a young man in southwestern Ontario who wants to be a writer.

The protagonist of that novel is said, in passing, to have tried writing short stories for both U.S. and Canadian publications, without much success.

I never knew whether that was part of the thinly-veiled autobiography or not.

Until this week.

I was thinking about my great-grandfather, partly because of that blog post, and partly because he's the only other person in my family to focus on writing fiction at all. The last time I tried looking him up online, I got a lot of mentions of the school that bears his name, and a couple of citations of his books in other works.

But the web, of course, is ever-growing, so I thought it was worth another check.


I found several websites devoted to short stories, and specific magazines. I found an incomplete list of Victor Lauriston's published short fiction (the site apparently tries to list every short short writer ever; this page starts with the LAU's, but you'll still need to scroll down.)

And check out that list! My great-grandfather wrote pulp. He wrote mysteries. Westerns. Thrillers. Adventure stories.

He was published in Black Mask. And Argosy! Eighty years ago, my great-grandfather was in on the ground floor of the genres that I write in today.

That's amazing. That's awesome.

But that? That wasn't even the jackpot. The reason I know that the list that I linked to above is incomplete is that I found another online reference to a published story by Victor Lauriston. That reference is on a site devoted to a particular magazine.

His story, 'A Changeling Soul', appeared in the January, 1925 issue of that publication.

Of Weird Tales.

Weird Tales

Weird Tales, to put all this into a little context, was a seminal pulp magazine. It created the modern horror and fantasy genres as we understand them, just as other pulps of the day launched modern science-fiction.

How seminal was Weird Tales? Some of the other writers published in the very same issue were legendary figures like Frank Belknap Long and E. Hoffman Price.

Oh, and some guy called H. P. Lovecraft.

Something that I thought was, y'know, just me writing weird tales has suddenly turned into a family connection to Weird Tales. H. P. Lovecraft probably read my great-grandfather's story. My great-grandfather probably read Lovecraft's.

It's a little dizzying to suddenly perceive a legacy that stretches back across generations, and ties me, however tenuously, to the deepest roots of my chosen field. And I know it sounds kind of goofy, but it's somehow incredibly validating. My striving is connected to history -- family history, and the history of the genres I love -- and that makes it seem almost epic in scope.

Now, of course, I have to track down the January, 1925 issue of Weird Tales.

I wish I could let my great-grandfather know that I, for one, consider his achievements as an author of short stories to be profoundly impressive.

And man, do I wish that Weird Tales had a "legacy writers" clause...


Anonymous said...

Stephen -- that's very cool! Any chance I might prevail upon you to write a few words on this topic for the 85th anniversary issue of Weird Tales, which we're working on right now for publication in late March/early April? Drop me a line at segal *at* weirdtales *dot* net.

Jane said...

Wow! You get to say "Writing is in my blood" and not sound like a pompous arse. I can't imagine anything more life-affirming.

PS. Thanks for the spec pilot tips. Jake Gyllenhaal is on my casting couch right now.


Unknown said...

Woot! Have him send Maggie over for my script! :)

Thanks, Jane. It is really life-affirming. And I get to have a legacy without having to wear an ascot or remember which fork to use.

I figure that as long as I remember that my great-grandfather is the one who did the actual work, I won't sound too pompous.

Anonymous said...

Y'know Stephen, when you told me the story about how your dad covered that Black Day in July those many years ago, I wasn't kidding or being the least bit flip when I said that it would make an amazing biographical comic story.

Now this.

Four generations. A four-part mini series. Think about it and keep digging, dude.

Of course, you have to keep up with your other work [like Cold Iron Badge, which LOOKS great and I'm sorry that I'm reticent to comment on it, but I still need to read the words my friend. I still need the mighty words] or else I will kick your ass because you're way more talented than some mere legacy coat-tail rider, and you need to keep showing us that too.

So yeah, I'm selfish and I want it all. Give up the goods hombre.

Brandon Laraby said...

Wow. That officially falls into the 'Bad Ass' category - Historically filed, I believe, between 'Awesome' and 'Bitchin'. ;)

Yeah, I'm with Dave on this, you could put together quite an interesting family-style, generational tale with that kind of info!

Or you could write about that time your great-grandfather and H.P. joined forces deep below the crust of the Earth to help put a stop to Cthulu and his minion...

You know, either/or :D