Лайон Спрэг Де Камп Array: The Incomplete Enchanter

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Лайон Спрэг Де Камп Array The Incomplete Enchanter
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    The Incomplete Enchanter
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The Incomplete Enchanter: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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My late friend and collaborator Fletcher Pratt (1897–1956) was a connoisseur of heroic fantasy before that term was ever invented. He read Norse sagas in the original and extravagantly admired E. R. Eddison’s The Worm Ourobouros. Curiously, be despised Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories — next to Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings three-decker, the most successful books in the genre — because their occasional crudities and lapses of logic exasperated him. He had no use for heroes who merely battered their way out of traps by their bulging thews, without using their brains.

(Murray) Fletcher Pratt, the son of an upstate New York farmer, was born on the Indian reservation near Buffalo. He claimed that this gave him the right to hunt and fish in New York State without a licence, but he never availed himself of the privilege.

As a youth, five foot three but wiry and muscular, Pratt undertook two careers in Buffalo. One was that of librarian; the other that of prizefighter in the flyweight (112-pound) class. He fought several times, lost a couple of teeth, and knocked one opponent cold. When the story appeared in the Buffalo papers, the head librarian told him that it simply would not do to have one of their employees knocking people arsy-versy. Forced to choose between the two careers, Pratt chose the library.

Soon afterward, Pratt entered Hobart College at Geneva, New York, on Lake Seneca. When the coach learned that Pratt had been in the ring, he tapped him for an assistant in his boxing class. Word got around that this funny-looking little freshman who was showing the boys in the gym how to do rights over lefts was the real thing. Hence, somewhat to his disappointment, Pratt was never hazed.

At the end of Pratt’s freshman year, his father fell on hard times. Pratt had to leave college. In the early 1920’s, he worked as a reporter on the Buffalo Courier-Express and on a Staten Island paper. Later, he settled in New York with his second wife, the artist Inga Stephens Pratt.

For several years, Pratt held a succession of fringe literary jobs, such as editing a ‘mug book’ (a biographical encyclopedia), in which people of small importance were persuaded to pay money to have their pictures and biographies included. He also worked for one of those writers’ institutes that promise to turn every would-be scribbler into a Tolstoy and that keep the money coming in by fulsome flattery of the veriest bilge submitted to them. Later, as an established author, Pratt drew on these experiences in lecturing to writers’ groups on literary rackets.

In the late 1920’s, Pratt got a foothold as a freelance writer. From 1929 to 1935 he sold a number of science-fiction stories to Amazing, Wonder, and other science-fiction pulps of the time. He also worked for Hugo Gernsback, then publishing Wonder Stories. Pratt translated European science-fiction novels from the French and the German. Gernsback had a habit of not paying his authors what he had promised, but Pratt got around him. He would translate the first instalment or two of a European novel and then, when the material was already in print, say:

«I’m sorry, Mr. Gernsback, but if you don’t pay me what you owe, I don’t see how I can complete this translation.»

He had Gernsback over a barrel. He also took off more than a year to live in Paris on the insurance money that he collected after a fire gutted the Pratts’ apartment. He studied at the Sorbonne and did research for his book on codes and ciphers, Secret and Urgent.

Pratt learned Danish among other languages, spoke French with a terrible accent, and became friends with the curator of arms and armour at the Louvre, who once let him try on the armour of King Franзois I. In his day, the king had been deemed a large, stout man. The flyweight Pratt found all the armour too small except the shoulder pieces; Franзois had tremendous shoulders from working out with sword and battle-axe in the tilt yard.

Back in New York, Pratt — now a self-made scholar of respectable attainments — attacked more serious writing. After an abortive history of Alexander’s successors, he hit his stride with books like The Heroic Years, about the war of 1812, and Ordeal by Fire, a popular history of the American Civil War.

The Pratt menage in New York attracted a wide circle of friends, drawn by Pratt’s lavish hospitality and extraordinary sense of fun. One room of the apartment was cluttered with cages full of squeaking marmosets, which Pratt successfully raised by feeding them on vitamin tablets and squirming yellow larvae.

As a history, military, and naval buff, Pratt devised a naval war game, to which his friends were invited once a month. In odd moments, he had whittled out scale models (55 feet = inch) of the world’s warships, using balsa wood, wires, and pins, until there were hundreds of models crowding his shelves. The game called for the players to crawl around on the floor, moving their models the distances allowed on scales marked in knots; estimating ranges in inches to the ships on which they were firing; and writing down these estimates. Then the referees chased the players off and measured the actual ranges, penalizing ships hit so many points, according to the size of the shells, and depriving them of so many knots of speed, so many guns, and so on. When a ship had lost all its points, it was taken from the floor. There were special provisions for merchant ships, shore batteries, submarines, torpedoes, and airplanes.

For several years, the war garners met in the Pratts’ apartment. When this became too crowded, with fifty or more players at once, the games moved to a hall on East Fifty-ninth Street. After World War II, interest declined.

Pratt’s interests also included the reading of sagas and gourmet cookery. He wrote a cookbook, A Man and His Meals. He taught at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, was a Baker Street Irregular, and served for seven years as president of the New York Authors’ Club. In 1944, he founded a stag eating, drinking, and arguing society, the Trap Door Spiders, which still meets periodically in New York.

In 1939, my old friend and college roommate, John D. Clark, introduced me to Pratt. A naval buff of long standing myself, I was soon an enthusiastic war gamer and a regular attendant at the Pratts’ evenings, along with such colleagues as Laurence Manning, Malcolm Jameson, Ted Sturgeon, George O. Smith, and L. Ron Hubbard, who had not yet manifested himself as the pontiff of Scientology.

I had been free-lancing for a year and a half, having been fired as an economy measure from an editorial job on a trade journal. I was also in the midst of getting married. With the appearance of John W. Campbell’s fantasy magazine Unknown, Pratt conceived the idea of a series of novellas, in collaboration with me, about a hero who projects himself into the parallel worlds described in our world in myths and legends. We made our protagonist a brash, self-conceited young psychologist named Harold Shea.

First we sent Harold to the world of Scandinavian myth, in The Roaring Trumpet (Unknown, May 1940). Pratt furnished most of the background for this story, since at that time my knowledge of Norse myth was limited to popular digests and retellings. I had not yet read such splendid sources as the Heimskringla and the Prose Edda.

For the second episode, we transferred Harold to the world of Spenser’s Faerie Queene in The Mathematics of Magic (August 1940). I was never so enthusiastic about the Faerie Queene as Pratt was, finding it tedious for long stretches. Years later, however, when I took to writing verse, I composed a poem, The Dragon-Kings, using the Spenserian nine-line stanza, which is a most exacting verse form. Having sweated through three such stanzas, I was awed by the feat of Edmuud Spenser, whose Faerie Queene comprises over four thousand.

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