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- The Blind Spot - 1/71 -


THE BLIND SPOT

AUSTIN HALL AND HOMER EON FLINT

INTRODUCTION BY FORREST J ACKERMAN

INTRODUCTION

THE LURE AND LORE OF "THE BLIND SPOT"

BY FORREST J ACKERMAN

The Blind Spot opens with the words: "Perhaps it were just as well to start at the beginning. A mere matter of news." Suppose I use them in the same sense:

A mere matter of news: The first instalment of this fabulous novel was featured in Argosy-All-Story-Weekly for May 14, 1921. Described as a "different" serial, it was introduced by a cover by Modest Stein. In the foreground was the profile of a girl of another dimension--ethereal, sensuous, the eternal feminine--the Nervina of the story. Filmy crystalline earrings swept back over her bare shoulders. Dominating the background was a huge flaming yellow ball, like our Sun as seen from the hypothetical Vulcan-- splotched with murky, mysterious globii vitonae. There was an ancient quay, and emerging from the ultramarine waters about it a silhouetted metropolis of spires, domes, and minarets. It was 1921, and that generation thus received its first glimpse of the alien landscape of The Blind Spot and the baroque beauty of an immortal woman of fantasy fiction.

The authors? Homer Eon Flint was already a reigning favourite with post-World-War-I enthusiasts of imaginative literature, who had eagerly devoured his QUEEN OF LIFE and LORD OF DEATH, his KING OF CONSERVE ISLAND and THE PLANETEER. Austin Hall was well known and popular for his ALMOST IMMORTAL, REBEL SOUL, and INTO THE INFINITE.

Then came this epoch-making collaboration. When Mary Gnaedinger launched Famous Fantastic Mysteries magazine she early presented THE BLIND SPOT, and printed it again in that magazine's companion Fantastic Novels. These reprints are now collectors' items, almost unobtainable, and otherwise the story has long been out of print. Rumour says an unauthorised German version of THE BLIND SPOT, has been published in book form. There is another book called THE BLIND SPOT, and also a magazine story, and a major movie studio was to produce a film of the same title. However, here is presented the only hard-cover version of the only BLIND SPOT of consequence to lovers of fantasy.

Who wrote the story? When I first looked into the question, as a 15 year old boy, Homer Eon Flint (he originally spelled his name with a "d") was already dead of a fall into a canyon. In 1949 his widow told me: "I think Homer's father contributed that middle name"--the same name (with slightly different spelling) that the Irish poet George Russell took as his pen-name, which became known by its abbreviation AE. Mrs. Flindt said of Flint's father: "He was a very deep thinker, and enjoyed reading heavy material." Like father, like son. "Homer always talked over his ideas with me, and although I couldn't always follow his thoughts it seemed to help him to express them to another--it made some things come more clearly to him."

Flint was a great admirer of H. G. Wells (this little grandmother- schoolteacher told me) and had probably read all his works up to the time when he (Flint) died in 1924. He had read Doyle and Haggard, but: "Wells was his favourite--the real thinker."

Flint found a fellow-thinker in Austin Hall, whom he met in San Jose, California, while working at a shop where shoes were repaired electrically--"a rather new concept at the time." Hall, learning that Flint lived in the same city, sought him out, and they became fast friends. Each stimulated the other. As Hall told me twenty years ago of the origin of THE BLIND SPOT:

"One day after we had lunched together, I held my finger up in front of one of my eyes and said: 'Homer, couldn't a story be written about that blind spot in the eye?' Not much was said about it at the time, but four days later, again at lunch, I outlined the whole story to him. I wrote the first eighteen chapters; Homer took up the tale as 'Hobart Fenton' and wrote the chapters about the house of miracles, the living death, the rousing of Aradna's mind, and so forth, up to 'The Man from Space,' where once again I took over."

To THE BLIND SPOT Hall contributed a great knowledge of history and anthropology, while Flint's fortes were physics and medicine. Both had a great fund of philosophy at their command.

When I met Hall (about four years older than Flint) he was in his fifties: a devil-may-care old codger (old to a fifteen-year-old, that is) full of good humour and indulgence for a youthful admirer who had journeyed far to meet him. He casually referred to his 600 published stories, and I carried away the impression of one who resembled both in output and in looks that other fiction-factory of the time, Edgar Wallace.

Finally: Several years ago, before I knew anything about the present volume, I had an unusual experience. (At that time I had no reason to think THE BLIND SPOT would ever become available as a book, for the location of the heirs proved a Herculean task by itself; publishers had long wanted to present this amazing novel but could not do so until I located Mrs. Mae Hall and Mrs. Mabel Flindt.) While, unfortunately, I did not take careful notes at the time, the gist of the occurrence was this:

I visited a friend whose hobby (besides reading fantasy) was the occult, who volunteered to entertain me with automatic writing and the ouija-board. Now, I share Lovecraft's scepticism towards the supernatural, regarding it as at best a means of amusement. When the question arose of what spirits we should try to lure to our planchette, the names of Lovecraft, Merritt, Hall, and Flint popped into my pixilated mind. So I set my fingers on the wooden heart and, since my host was also a Flint admirer, we asked about Flint's fatal accident. The ouija spelled out:

N-O A-C-C-I-D-E-N-T--R-O-B-B-E-R-Y

There followed something about being held up by a hitch-hiker. Then Hall (or at least some energy-source other than my own conscious mind) came through too, and when I asked if he had left any work behind he replied:

Y-E-S--T-H-E L-A-S-T G-O-D-L-I-N-G

Later I asked his son about this (without revealing the title) and Javen Hall told me of the story his father had been plotting when he died: THE HIDDEN EMPIRE, or THE CHILD OF THE SOUTHWIND. Whatever was pushing the planchette failed to inform me that when I found Austin Hall's son and widow, they would put into my hands an unknown, unpublished fantasy novel by Hall: THE HOUSE OF DAWN! Some day it may appear in print.

Meanwhile you are getting understandably impatient to explore that unknown realm of the Blind Spot. Be on your way, and bon voyage!

FORREST J ACKERMAN, Beverley Hills, Calif.

PROLOGUE

Perhaps it were just as well to start at the beginning. A mere matter of news.

All the world at the time knew the story; but for the benefit of those who have forgotten I shall repeat it. I am merely giving it as I have taken it from the papers with no elaboration and no opinion--a mere statement of facts. It was a celebrated case at the time and stirred the world to wonder. Indeed, it still is celebrated, though to the layman it is forgotten.

It has been labelled and indexed and filed away in the archives of the profession. To those who wish to look it up it will be spoken of as one of the great unsolved mysteries of the century. A crime that leads two ways, one into murder--sordid, cold and calculating; and the other into the nebulous screen that thwarts us from the occult.

Perhaps it is the character of Dr. Holcomb that gives the latter. He was a great man and a splendid thinker. That he should have been led into a maze of cheap necromancy is, on the face, improbable. He had a wonderful mind. For years he had been battering down the scepticism that had bulwarked itself in the material.

He was a psychologist, and up to the day the greatest, perhaps, that we have known. He had a way of going out before his fellows-- it is the way of genius--and he had gone far, indeed, before them. If we would trust Dr. Holcomb we have much to live for; our religion is not all hearsay and there is a great deal in science still unthought of. It is an unfortunate case; but there is much to be learned in the circumstance that led the great doctor into the Blind Spot.

I

RHAMDA AVEC

On a certain foggy morning in September, 1905, a tall man wearing a black overcoat and bearing in one hand a small satchel of dark- reddish leather descended from a Geary Street tram at the foot of Market Street, San Francisco. It was a damp morning; a mist was brooding over the city blurring all distinctness.

The man glanced about him; a tall man of trim lines and distinctness and a quick, decided step and bearing. In the shuffle of descending passengers he was outstanding, with a certain inborn


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