(b. USA, 1915 , d. 2006)
( Arthur Porges & sister in law Cele)
Cele Porges, the wife of Irwin Porges
and Richard Simms, the author of The
Arthur Porges Fan Site
who provided invaluable information about Arthur Porges.
Arthur Porges Fan Site
The name says it all. An author whose literary creations
have dazzled readers for five decades now.
An accomplished mystery and science fiction writer, Arthur
Porges (b. 1915, d. 2006) has specialized in
the short-short story form throughout his varied career.
A regular contributor to the science fiction magazines of
the fifties & sixties, his best known story is probably
The Ruum, a much reprinted tale with a style that typifies
the majority of his unusual work.
And what stories! Dusty Answer, Dr. Blackadder's Clients,
A Specimen for the Queen, Priceless Possession,
Aunt Rutabaga, Movie Show, A Touch of Sun, A Puzzle in Sand,
The Dragons of Tesla, By A Fluke,......and many, many more.
Arthur Porges has written a plethora of
highly imaginative and idiosyncratic stories down the years
that have been published in a number of magazines including
The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Fantastic Stories
of Imagination, Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, and
Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine.
It is unfortunate that a comprehensive collection of his
brilliant work has yet to be published.
Most of his stories have only ever appeared in magazine
A guide to the science fiction & fantasy short stories
of Arthur Porges
What is known of Porges in terms of personal
information is scarce indeed.
It is established that he was born in Chicago, Illinois,
on the 20th August, 1915, and that after completing his
B.A and Masters degrees in Mathematics he was drafted into
the army in WW11 and served as an instructor in California
for the duration of the war.
He was a teacher of mathematics at college level before
retiring to become a full-time writer in 1957.
After living in Los Angeles for many years he moved north,
eventually settling in Pacific Grove.
He has written many essays and non-fiction articles down
the years, and has been a frequent contributor of poetry,
letters, and various articles for The Monterey Herald, in
addition to numerous other periodicals.
Porges's literary influences are as diverse
as his stories.
He read widely as a young man and loved the works of such
authors as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Saki, O. Henry, T.H.
Huxley, Samuel Johnson, G.K. Chesterton, Rudyard Kipling,
Jack London, H.G. Wells, Isaac Asimov, R.L. Stevenson, Charles
Dickens, and Edgar Wallace.
Porges has also been a lover of classical
music throughout his life and this passion manifests itself
in the stories "Words and Music" (1960), "The
Second Debut" (1968), and "The Mozart Annuity"
Michael H. Kean, in his excellent introduction to Three
Porges Parodies and a Pastiche (a collection of some
of Porges's Sherlockian parodies), describes
Arthur Porges as "tall, slender, and
with a scholarly demeanor".
Porges's scholastic background certainly
shows through in many of his science fiction stories.
The intellectual puzzles faced by his protagonists involve
the application of mathematical reasoning and a sound grasp
The "Ensign De Ruyter" series of stories encapsulate
this side of his output in delightful fashion and are his
greatest series within the sf format.
They follow the exploits of an intergalactic survey ship,
the Herschel, and its three man crew, consisting of Captain
Morse, Lieutenant Burton, and Ensign De Ruyter.
Each story is an invigorating tale of the space explorers'
attempts to extricate themselves from dire situations on
various planets that they visit on their survey missions.
Through dint of cunning, De Ruyter is able to rescue the
situation at the end of each story.
Ensign De Ruyter is supposedly meant to be a descendant
of the legendary Dutch naval commander Michiel Adriaanszoon
De Ruyter (1607 - 1676).
The tales of this rising star of the galactic navy are fabulous,
effervescent romps, written with such verve and energy that
one wishes more had been written.
The real strength of these stories lies in the engaging
interplay between the characters.
My personal favourites in this series are the bizarre "Wheeler
Dealer" (1965), where the crew land on a planet inhabited
by people who practise a corrupt form of Buddhism (they
spend the whole time spinning their prayer wheels!), and
"The Dragons of Tesla" (1968).
Intriguingly, there was one final entry in this series that
was rejected by the sf magazines of the time and therefore
The story was called "Brain Slug", and Porges
himself has stated that this was probably the best of them
It's sad that it never saw the light of day.
The Porges entry in the St. James Guide
to SF Writers (St. James Press, 1996) is by far the most
detailed published analysis of his work available.
This excellent short essay, by the science fiction author
David A. Drake, is worth seeking out as it tempers praise
for Porges's work with some thoughtful
criticism and was evidently written by one familiar with
much of his stories. Indeed, David A. Drake has edited anthologies
which include stories by Porges.
However, before creating this website I managed to acquire
a considerable number of old science fiction magazines that
contained most of his uncollected work and proceeded to
set about enjoying these ultra-short fantasies.
Since there is virtually nothing on the Internet about Porges
I decided to write this small piece and share my knowledge
of his underrated fiction.
I gained several notable impressions from reading his work.
One striking feature is a sense of misanthropism pervading
Though not lacking in sparkling humour, they often leave
a bitter taste in the mouth after reading.
His tales entertain and fascinate whilst imparting at times
an apparently dark view of humanity.
A further impression one gets from reading so much of his
work is that writing in such a short form, Porges
deemed the plot, or the central idea, to be the most important
aspect of each story.
Technical ingenuity, scientific adeptness, and logical problem-solving
on the part of his protagonists was undoubtedly the driving
force behind the majority of his science fiction output.
The most interesting characteristic of his stories is certainly
the intense attention to detail he imparts.
In beguiling yarns such as "Emergency Operation"
(1956), and the clever "A Touch of Sun" (1959),
the obvious passion and familiarity Porges
has with his subject matter shines through.
This attribute lends authenticity to his stories, none more
so than in the extraordinary "By a Fluke" (1955),
where a liver fluke imparts to us the story of its life
cycle and its sense of injustice at having a brilliant mathematical
mind trapped inside a short-lived, vulnerable body!
As is noted by Drake in the St. James Guide, many of Porges's
heroes do not survive.
This unusual element lends potency and terror to such stories
as "The Rats" (1950), where mutated rats eventually
overcome a lone survivor in a post-holocaust world.
In this, his first published science fiction story, the
meticulous attention to detail, a trademark of Porges,
lends weight and menace to an already chilling plot.
With the publication of this story in The Magazine of Fantasy
and Science Fiction, a working relationship between Porges
and the editor Anthony Boucher began.
Boucher (who was a noted author himself) helped Porges
find his feet in the writing world and influenced his writing
style a great deal in the 1950s.
Porges is quoted as saying that Anthony Boucher
taught him "the facts of life about plotting".
Around this time, Forrest J. Ackerman, working out of Hollywood,
was Porges' literary agent.
Some fabulous stories appeared in this period.
One of them was "The Ruum" (1953). This is probably
his best known work, where a clever plot device utilises
a wonderfully detailed extrapolation of scientific knowledge
to create a tense, brooding story.
A specimen-gathering robot is accidentally left behind on
earth during the prehistoric period by aliens.
It sets about collecting different species of animals within
a certain weight limit and preserving them in a state of
Thousands of years later, a prospector in the north American
wilderness comes across the robot, still functioning, and
now intent upon adding him to it's collection!
What follows is a chase story with a difference.
Much anthologised, "The Ruum" has been used in
high school english literature classes down the years.
Many readers remember first encountering this story in the
It should be noted that Irwin Porges, his
brother, who wrote Edgar Rice Burroughs: The Man Who Created
Tarzan (1975), did collaborate with him on one story, "A
Touch of Sun" (1959).
Porges also wrote at times under pseudonyms,
such as Peter Arthur, Pat Rogers, Maxwell Trent, Abel Jacobi,
and Derek Page.
The preoccupation Porges has with the horror
and supernatural genre is another side to his literary output
(other than the large number of excellent stories he has
written in the mystery genre).
"The Oddmedod" (1987), and "Josephus"
(1960), are similar in that both have an effigy come to
life and terrorise humans.
In "The Oddmedod" it is a doll and in "Josephus",
Such macabre tales as "The Mirror" (1966) are
truly shocking works of horror.
These stories were written with a rich vein of the macabre
running throughout them, and they are steeped in strong
The pick of the bunch is "Solomon's Demon" (1961),
an effective chiller which keeps you on the edge of your
seat and has a surprise ending.
Also worthy of note is "What Crouches in the Deep"
(1959), a mixture of horror and the kind of detailed extrapolation
of science which is one of Porges's main
strengths as a writer.
In this story a treasure hunter in a one-man deep sea submarine
comes across a German U-Boat which has been resting on the
Atlantic sea bed for fifty years.
Inside he finds not only the gold he is after but also,
impossibly still alive, a Nazi war criminal who turns out
to be something other than human.
A succession of wry vignettes concerning deals with the
devil appeared frequently in the magazines Fantastic Stories
of Imagination, and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science
Fiction in the 1950s and 60s.
In fact there were so many of these appearing that the editors
of Fantastic were prompted to write, in introduction to
the witty "A Devil of a Day" (1962): "sometimes
we feel that Arthur Porges has already
sold his soul to the devil - in exchange for an infinite
number of plots about bargains with His Satanic Majesty!".
By far the most famous of these tales was "The Devil
and Simon Flagg" (1954), which concerns itself with
the mathematical enigma which was "Fermat's Last Theorem".
In one story, "The Liberator" (1953), the devil
plays a different role - that of saving mankind from alien
Many fine Porges stories appeared during
the early 1960s in Amazing Stories, and Fantastic Stories
of Imagination, under the highly successful editorship of
the late Cele Goldsmith Lalli.
Porges's idiosyncratic tales found a home
alongside other new talents such as Keith Laumer, David
R. Bunch, and Jack Sharkey.
One can surmise that Porges had a fruitful
working relationship with C.G. Lalli throughout these years
as this was a highly productive era for Arthur Porges.
Perusing the reader's letters pages of these magazines shows
that his work was regarded highly, one reader exclaiming
"will this Porges fellow ever run
dry?!?" - a reference to his prolific output at the
The early 1960s were a golden age for Amazing and Fantastic
and indeed for Porges himself.
Highlights of this period include "The Arrogant Vampire"
(1961), "One Bad Habit" (1961), and the disturbing
"The Fanatic" (1964), about a lone scientist who
captures and tortures animals believing that many of them
are possessed by alien invaders from outer space.
Near the end of his most prolific period of writing, one
of Porges's finest ever stories was published
in Galaxy magazine in 1966.
The story was "Priceless Possession", a poignant
tale with a melancholy theme.
The plot follows the discovery - by the crew of an exploratory
spaceship - of a rare and highly valuable creature that
exists in the vacuum of space.
Bringing to light Porges's somewhat misanthropic
views towards human nature, it is a brief but provocative
observation on guilt, morality, and the ulitmate selfishness
As it noted by David Drake in the St. James Guide, Porges
seems to suggest in this story that man's greatest enemy
may be within himself. The bleakness of spirit engendered
from reading this tale lingers for a long time.
It is a powerful piece that deserves to be reprinted, as
indeed it was, in the anthology Men Hunting Things (1988),
which was edited by David Drake.
There are many further examples of the more reflective work
of Arthur Porges.
These include "Third Sister" (1963), a curious
piece about the nature of fate.
A young girl's mother is dying, and the daughter, in a fever-induced
state of delirium, begs the three sisters of fate to save
her mother's life. Interestingly, this fantastic trio appear
again in a later story, "Aunt Rutabaga" (1994).
"The Melanas" (1960), is a powerful piece which
reads as a wry and offbeat observation on man's destruction
of the natural world. "Movie Show" (1999), in
it's own quirky way, tells us in heartfelt tones that in
some cases, the beauty that has disappeared from the modern
world has been lost forever.
"The Rescuer" (1962), is a startling piece that
concerns itself with time travel and the paradoxes that
could ensue when one takes it upon oneself to alter the
"Mop-Up" (1953), again appears to illustrate the
misanthropism running through a number of Porges's
stories (in stark contrast to his "scientific problem"
tales, where the emphasis is on the individual's abilities
in solving mysteries and brain teasers; the ultimate triumph
of the protagonist in these stories suggests that Porges
is championing the human spirit).
Aside from this, "Mop-Up" is a deftly written
post-holocaust story with an unusual take on the fate of
The story is a bizarre mix of both science fiction and fantasy;
the four characters are a human, a witch, a vampire, and
The editor Judith Merril was impressed enough to include
this story in her occult anthology, Galaxy of Ghouls (1955).
Whilst in stories such as "Priceless Possession"
there is an undoubted seriousness, one cannot stress enough
that in many of his tales, particularly those published
in Fantastic Stories of Imagination, there is a playfulness
apparent with a good deal of wry humour, and sharp, witty
It can be argued however that the most memorable of his
stories have been the ones with downbeat endings, the ones
that asked questions and stimulated the reader some way
beyond mere escapist fantasising.
Arthur Porges has concentrated more on
detective fiction in recent years, a format in which he
has excelled for forty years. Porges is certainly well thought
of as a mystery short-story writer, but his science fiction
and fantasy work has remained unjustly neglected.
Only two science fiction and fantasy stories have appeared
in major magazines since the late 1960s, and the last one,
"Movie Show", was published in the February 1999
issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.
It was heartening to see Arthur Porges,
who is now in his 80's, produce such a brilliant story and
one can hope for some more.
Indeed, as recently as 1996 Porges penned
some fascinating vignettes concerning several intricately
described "Unusual Plants of the Galaxy".
These pieces appeared in a small press newspaper and were
written in a documentary style.
It is also pleasing to note that a number of recent
stories by Porges published in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine
do contain elements of fantasy.
Porges has obviously not given up entirely
in this genre.
When reading the intriguing science fiction tales of this
versatile author, it is obvious that most have not dated
Arthur Porges' imaginative writing will
continue to uplift, inspire, and entertain generations of
dreamers in the future.
now, finally, after all these years, a book collection of
Porges' weird and supernatural stories
has been published.
" The Mirror and Other Strange Reflections" includes
some of the tales mentioned in the above essay.
A special thanks must go to Mike Ashley, the editor, for
giving Porges the collection he deserves.
How wonderful it is that such great stories as "Third
Sister", "The Grom", and "The Fanatic"
have been unearthed and brought into the light once more.
Here's hoping the new collection will gain Porges
many more fans!
Richard Simms, December 2002
By a Fluke
the Magic Shop (1961)
of Rufus Weir (1955)
of a Day (1962)
Ruyter: Dreamer (1965)
Year of April (1960)
and Simon Flagg (1954)
for the Queen (1960)
of Tesla (1968)
of magazines featuring Arthur Porges' short stories
Irwin Porges and his wife Cele
Irwin's 80th birthday (1997)
Porges was born 09/05/1909 in Maywood, Illinois.
He studied piano and music arranging at a music conservatory
and became a professional pianist with dance orchestras.
He was taught music and has been a popular song composer.
War II, he moved to Los Angeles and by 1953 had received
his B.S. and M.S. degrees from the University of Southern
He began his writing career in 1955 and has sold countless
stories and articles to such Magazines as Coronet,
True, Science Digest and American Mercury.
He also wrote a TV script for " 77 Sunset Strip "
He is presently teaching English and courses in writing
at Los Angeles Valley College, Van Nuys, California.Source
: Note at the end of his first book "Many Brave
Hearts" published by Chilton Company, Philadelphia
& New York, 1962
On the front
page of his book "The Violent Americans"
published in November 1963, by Monarch Press Inc.,
Author's profile : Irwin Porges is a well-known writer
in the short story and nonfiction field and is a recognized
authority on the sea, having spent almost three decades
in ships of all kinds.
Born in Akron, Ohio, he spent most of his early life
there but went to college in California where he graduated
from the University of California in Berkeley.
After a long stint with the Merchant Marine, he served
with the Army Air Force during World War II and saw
action in France, Italy and Africa.
of Irwin Porges
(Source : Cele Porges,
Educational background :
Bachelor's an Master's degrees, £english Major,
Partial completion of courses for doctorate at U.C.L.A.
Professional background :
Teaching, L.A. City schools, 1951-1973
Los angeles Valley College
Teaching of Creative Writing Courses, day and evening
classes : Writer's Roundtable, Writing
the Short Story, beginning and advanced courses.
Sponsor of Manuscript, the student magazine
of ppoetry and fiction.
(In earlier, pre-teaching years, I was a professional
musician, a pianist, conervatory trained, doing
concert and popular dance work and music teaching.)
Professional writing background :
1954-64 : more than fifty articles and stories
Subsequent publications :
Fiction, Detective stories :
Alfred Hitchcock's Magazine, 1973-75, various
Alfred Hitchcock's Magazine, Anthology, Murder-Go-Round,
short story, "Nobody to play with", 1977
Alfred Hitchcock's Anthology, 1978, short story
Detective stories in various other magazines, Mike
Shayne's Mystery Magazine, 87th Precint,
Short story "The Stores than Come and Go",
Mike Shayne Magazine, 1975, honor roll as
Best Detective Story of the Year.
Book Publications :
Many Brave Hearts, Tales of Heroism at Sea,
Chilton Company, hardcover, 1962
Edgar Allan Poe, a biography, Chilton Company,
SOS The World's Great Sea Disasters, Monarch
books, paperback, 1962
The Violent Americans, a psychological study
of violence, Monarch books, 1963
Edgar Rice Burrougs, The Man who Created Tarzan,
Brigham Young University Press, 1975, hardcover,
819 pages, 300 illustrations. three printings, sales
of 17,000 copies. Foreword by Ray Bradbury.
Edgar Rice Burrougs, The Man who Created Tarzan,
New English Library, London, england, 1976, same
book with additional illustrations, on sale in England
Edgar Rice Burrougs, The Man who Created Tarzan,
Ballantine Publishers, 1976, large paperback edition,
two volumes, boxed.
(All of the books listed above have been reviewed
in the Los Angeles Times, three of them by
Television Writing :
A script for the program 77 Sunset Strip,
broadcast in 1958. I have been a member of the Screenwriter's
(Among current works is a novel, just completed,
titled Accounts and Aftermath of an Incident in
a Small German Town.
This is shceduled for publication in 1979. The novel
is a modern development and continuation of the Pied
Piper Legend. Research was done in Germany at Hameln.)
of Irwin Porges' books
The man who created Tarzan
by Irwin Porges
© 1975 Brigham Young University Press
by Hulbert Burroughs,
Tarzana, September 1, 1975
of Irwin Porges' biography of Edgar Rice
Burroughs is a timely milestone and the ultimate addition
to the literature of Burroughsiana.
It not only marks the centennial of ERB's birth, but more
importantly it is the first and only true and definitive
account of the life and work of this remarkably successful
Porges is the first and only researcher who was
afforded complete and uncensored access to all of the
Burroughs family's personal files as well as those of
Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.
My editorial work on the manuscript involved corrections,
addition of interesting material unknown to Porges,
and the preparation and production of illustrative matter.
No attempt whatever was made to produce a sympathetic
Irwin's talented wife, devoted nearly three years researching
the voluminous archives at our company offices and warehouse
The result is a fascinating and well-written story of
a man and his career.
to this volume is the wealth of photographic and illustrative
material. Seldom has the subject of a major biography
possessed the combined talents of writer, photographer,
and artist. Sometime in the 1890s ERB became interested
in photography and from then on recorded the people and
places in his life.
A major portion of the photographs in this book are from
his own photo albums and negative files.
His pen-and-ink sketches and cartoons are both humorous
The sheer quantity of good pictorial material available
and our realization that only a very limited number could
be included because of space limitations presented a rather
frustrating challenge. From thousands of photographs and
drawings I selected about six hundred for enlargement
to 8x10 size.
I shall never forget the four days I spent with charming
Kerril Sue Rollins, chief project editor of the biography
at Brigham Young University Press in Provo, Utah, selecting
and placing each picture on the appropriate page of text
and the hard and painful decisions we made in reducing
the number from 600 to about 270.
Had it not been for the firm hand and character of Kerril
Sue, the book might well have contained an extra fifty
pounds of photos! We swore that some day we would publish
an ERB photo-biography.
I think my Dad would have been pleased with this book.
Irwin Porges has organized and presented a great
wealth of material in a way that gives the reader a real
insight into ERB the man.
I knew him, of course, first as a father. As such he was
an extremely loving and kindly man-perhaps overly generous
He set a strong example of love of country, honor, and
integrity, as well as loyalty to family and friends.
Porges has captured the true essence of ERB with all
his strengths and weaknesses.
This book will be a prime, standard source for all future
I thank and congratulate
Irwin and Cele Porges for their prodigious effort
in researching and writing this book.
The good people at Brigham Young University Press will
always have a special place in my heart.
Without the sincere dedication of Gail Bell, Kerril Sue
Rollins, Jean Paulson, Mac Magleby, and the other great
people of BYU Press, I doubt that this massive volume
could have been published.
We are all greatly
indebted to Ray Bradbury for his splendid introductory
If ERB were alive today, he would be especially pleased
for the many times Ray has so generously acknowledged
his indebtedness to ERB as the inspiration for his own
highly successful writing career.
I never cease to wonder at the number and diversity of
the minds that have been and are still being influenced
by the imagination of Edgar Rice Burroughs.
Most important, ERB is gradually receiving the critical
acclaim he was denied in his lifetime.
No longer is Tarzan of the Apes considered mere
entertainment - for Tarzan is the "Naked Ape" the
tribal ancestor of Marshall McLuhan.
And ERB's wild imaginings among the stars are no longer
beneath the notice of serious men ; they have become subjects
for scholars and an inspiration to a new generation of
writers of imaginative fiction.
Burroughs is remembered as a modest man who never took
himself or his work too seriously.
His friends recall his ready sense of humor, his great
love of the outdoors, and his unbounded pride in his country.
One scholar suggests that the very last line of the last
Tarzan novel may be taken as ERB's own unintentional valedictory
to a very meaningful life: "Thank God for everything."
Porges, November 1, 1974
The idea of writing
a biography of Edgar Rice Burroughs, which I had only
tentatively considered, received a strong stimulus in
1962 as a result of my puzzlement and curiosity.
In my early years
I had read the Burroughs stories - a number of the Tarzan
books and the science-fiction adventures on Mars, Venus,
and other worlds.
I admired Burroughs for the unlimited bounds of his imagination,
for his ingenuity in creating scientific environments
for his fantastic civilizations, and for reasons almost
impossible to explain that his characters, although unreal
and narrowly slanted versions of virtue and vice, somehow
lived on vividly and permanently in the reader's mind.
I became convinced
that the publicized "ERB," the one known to the readers
and the public, was a patchwork of bits and pieces of
biography in newspapers and magazines, much of this exaggerated
Superficial details--mere lists of data or summary highlights
of a person's life-can only produce a superficial man.
But an added factor was at work. As a consequence of his
wildly imaginative writings and the furor they caused,
Burroughs, the individual, was somehow lost-forgotten.
Tarzan of the Apes alone was potent enough to overwhelm
The author Burroughs emerged, but not the man.
Through the years, when he supposedly wrote about himself,
he was really supplying the familiar information about
his writings or repeating a thin biographical sketch.
The man Burroughs did not exist - a flesh-and-blood
man who had faced conflicts and suffered frustrations
and agonies-was unknown.
Why should this
have happened? An ironical thought occurred: perhaps there
was an assumption that one so strongly identified with
worlds of fantasy, a writer who avoided real-life situations,
was himself without real-life identification - a disembodied
creature. But the puzzling question of why no definitive
biography had been written prompted me to get in touch
with Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc., located nearby in the
small community that owed its name to ERB - Tarzana, California.
The company is owned
and controlled by the author's two sons, Hulbert Burroughs
and John Coleman Burroughs.
An only daughter, Joan Burroughs Pierce, died in December
My meeting with Hulbert took place in December 1962.
The building that housed the Burroughs' offices was unlike
anything I had pictured. It was a Spanish-styled bungalow,
typical of those popular in Los Angeles from the 1900s
on, with one story, walls of yellow-tinged stucco, and
a long ivy-festooned veranda across the front.
It was the original building, erected by Burroughs in
1927, its exterior unchanged.
Set back from busy Ventura Boulevard and secluded behind
a weathered redwood fence and huge mulberry trees, the
building could easily escape the notice of passers-by
who, if they noticed it, might assume it to be a private
chatted with me, at times seated behind the desk that
had belonged to his father, a desk of glowing walnut decorated
ornately with Moorish figures-heads of women, rams, circular
flowerlike carvings, exotic lamps-and on occasion arising
to show me valuable books, illustrations, and Burroughs
In the adjoining room was a large table, even more elaborate
in design than the matching Moorish desk.
In facial characteristics Hulbert resembles both his mother
and his father; physically, with his broad shoulders,
and large hands, he takes after his father.
Our discussion was pleasant and the brief tour of the
offices highly interesting, but as far as the biography
was concerned, I was given no encouragement. Hulbert informed
me that he and his brother Jack had plans to write their
Five years later,
the project forgotten, I had turned to other writing when,
in October 1967, I received a letter from Robert M. Hodes,
the new vice-president and general manager of the Burroughs
It contained a proposal that I undertake the biography.
After a period of consideration, I agreed to do so. My
wife, Cele, an experienced, efficient researcher,
began the task of collecting information, much of it contained
in documents in the warehouse that adjoined the offices.
The warehouse had been built by Burroughs who intended
to rent it as a store, but when it remained vacant, he
used it at first as a garage.
The willing cooperation of the family-Joan, Jack, and
Hulbert was evident from our earliest interviews and tapings.
But I had no concept of the complexity of the project
I had undertaken.
It was during the
early stages of my preparing to write the biography of
Edgar Rice Burroughs, and before a single sentence had
been composed, that I arrived at a dismaying realization
: I had shouldered the task unsuspectingly and with a
degree of naivete that already appeared incredible - and
would appear increasingly so, I was certain, in the light
For awhile I became convinced that confronting me was
a unique situation, unparalleled in the annals of biographies.
However, the passage of time (three years of poring through
documents on my wife's part, plus the joint searching,
sorting, assembling, corresponding, and interviewing by
the two of us, and then, of course, the writing and revising)
has given me a more temperate and realistic perspective.
Undoubtedly my blithe confidence and misapprehension of
the difficulties that awaited me have been matched in
the experiences of other biographers.
But the completion of the biography, accompanied by calm
appraisal, has made plain that in one aspect-the huge
mass of materials, mainly first sources - the reconstruction
of Burroughs' life has posed problems beyond those encountered
by the average biographer.
My first view of
the warehouse piled to the ceiling with cases of documents
and records came as a shock.
Before me was a biographer's dream - or nightmare.
In the warehouse were seventy-eight large storage file
boxes, each the size of a legal file drawer, containing
papers that dated to 1911.
The labels themselves were an indication of the formidable
task that lay ahead : Tarzana Ranch and E.R.B. Personal,
1918-1937, boxes 1-6 ; Real Estate, 1924-49, boxes 9-12
; Motion Pictures, Miscl., and Burroughs-Tarzan Enterprises,
Inc., 1918-47, boxes 14-16.
Other cases, at random, included Book Publishing-for example,
A. C. McClurg & Co., 1914-41-five boxes marked Fans,
with letters from every state and from foreign countries
; Tarzan Radio Serials, Tarzan Merchandise Franchises,
Tarzan Daily Strips, Tarzan Sunday Pages.
Inside some of the
sliding file boxes were rows of folders filled with letters,
lists, and mimeographed material ; many of these had not
been examined for years or had not been opened since Burroughs'
death in 1950.
Valuable original documents had been saved, including
correspondence covering Burroughs' first stories - the
exchange of letters with Munsey editor Thomas Metcalf
concerning "Under the Moons of Mars," The Outlaw of
Torn, and Tarzan of the Apes. Among these was
Metcalf's famous eight-word letter: "For the love of Mike!
Don't get discouraged!" sent after Burroughs, deeply disappointed
and ready to leave the writing field, had remarked, "I
can make money easier some other way."
All of these papers
would have to be read, and many of them contained material
that had to be copied.
The amount of general correspondence, letters, and replies
by Burroughs was appalling.
It had been noted that ERB up to the last years of his
life, and except for periods of illness, answered almost
everybody who wrote to him. Voluminous is an understated
term to describe his letter-writing.
With unbelievable patience and care he furnished detailed
information to those who sought it, responded to acquaintances,
replied to his fans, and even good-humoredly answered
cranks who didn't deserve the time and energy he expended.
In response to a writer who accused him, because of a
scene in one of his stories, of encouraging distressed
persons to end their lives, Burroughs wrote, "I thought
only of the dramatic value of the situation, and had no
intention of glorifying suicide. I feel that very few
readers will interpret it as you have. I hope not."
Carbon copies of
most of the letters were saved.
A survey not only of the warehouse but of other storage
rooms and cabinets leads to the indisputable conclusion
that Edgar Rice Burroughs was the king of savers.
He had inherited a tendency from ancestors who formed
a long line of savers of the most meticulous type.
The papers in the warehouse were only part of the collection.
In other storage places are documents of greater importance
to a biographer, those relating personally to Burroughs,
revealing his background and illuminating his character
and problems, and the family records that in some cases
travel back to the ancestral origins in seventeenth-century
A favorite means of preservation was the scrapbook. Mary
Evaline, Burroughs' mother, kept one, and on the other
side Emma Burroughs' parents, the Hulberts, saved several
large books of clippings and other references.
In addition, Mary Evaline, at her sons' urgings, had written
the recollections of her Civil War experiences, and these,
together with genealogical information, were printed in
a small volume.
The family books were augmented by the numerous albums
of photos from both the Burroughs family and the Hulberts,
photos marked on the backs with vital details.
The custom of keeping
records in book form was adopted by Burroughs.
His series of desk diaries with brief notations about
his stories and comments about daily happenings cover
the period of 1921-49.
Further records and mementoes are contained in his school
scrapbook and other books relating to the past. In the
office files are various workbooks in which he methodically
prepared story outlines, casts of characters, plot suggestions,
definitions for his invented languages, and geographical
His early financial accounts include a precise card index
of story sales, dates, and the amounts paid.
But besides all
these letters, documents, and records, not to exclude
certain personal belongings also saved because, as Burroughs'
fame increased, they had a value in themselves, there
were of course his writings, both fiction and nonfiction,
published and unpublished.
A definitive biography is of course written to offer the
reader some integration of the man and his works.
Awaiting me were some seventy published novels to read-about
twenty of these to re-read, since I had read them in my
youth-plus many unpublished works.
In addition, original manuscripts of published stories,
in some cases handwritten, had to be checked for Burroughs'
notations and revisions that could be of importance.
Applying especially to ERB's writings was a further reading
task: his unchanging popularity with science-fiction and
Burroughs fan organizations had resulted in the publication
of numerous analyses of his works.
It was necessary for me to familiarize myself with the
ideas expressed in these.
Possibly the most
intimate aspects of a man's character emerge through contacts
with the people who knew him personally - relatives, friends,
Burroughs throughout his life had a facility for forming
friendships, many of these being in the publishing, theatrical,
and motion picture fields.
Much valuable information has been provided by relatives
and friends through correspondence, Interviews, and tapings.
A list of names is contained under the acknowledgments
In summary, I might say that while Burroughs, as with
all individuals, revealed himself through his actions,
through what he said and what others said about him, as
a writer he operated in an additional dimension to expose
Even a man who escapes into fantasies of other worlds
uncovers himself with every page he creates.
Through his writings -and this idea he would have been
happy to accept- we obtain a most significant understanding
of Edgar Rice Burroughs.
information about Arthur and Irwin Porges
from Arthur Porges to the webmaster
Thank you for a most remarkable communication,
a truly amazing compilation about the name
Porges. I can't add much, I fear, but here's
what I know --or think I know, but could
be wrong about some points -- about my family.
father was born about 1885 in a small town
near the Russia-Poland border. He gave the
name -- I offer it phonetically, as I heard
it -- Ch-van--yeek, with a guttural "Ch"
as in "Chain." He had two brothers
-- Mortimer, a lawyer in Chicago, Dave,
who worked for the Chicago Board of Education;
and two sisters, Lilian and Rose, neither
of whom married. Mortimer had two daughters,
Lois and June. My father's name was something
like Israel Podgursky (?), but on coming
to the U. S. found a relative, Leo Porges,
who had a business in Chicago, so my father
chose to adopt that name. I've never know
if he and Leo picked the name out of the
air, unlikely, I think, or had some ties
to the Jewish Porges network. My father,
now James Porges, had four sons: Leonard,
Irwin, Arthur, and Walter. I'm the only
one still alive. None had children, although
all but me married rather late in life.
father married Clara Kurzin, who died when
I was nine. He never re-married, partly
because he loved her only, and perhaps because
he'd lost an arm in a railroad accident,
and with four children would not easily
have found a wife. He worked all his life
for the Bell Telephone company in Chicago.
The only other Porges relative I recall
was a Sam Porges, a violinist.
for me, you know all about me from the Simms
website. I'm still writing at 87, with stories
coming out in the Ellery Queen Magazine,
another of my Stately Hones parodies, and
several Mini-Fantasies in fantasy &
Science-Fiction, along with my most original
story in many years -- LUZ. As you know,
I specialize in finding little-known facts
and using them as gimmicks in my fiction.
LUZ is such a story. I never married, being
a born loner, recluse, who loves and needs
much solitude; I'm totally immune from loneliness,
and am more than satisfied with about an
hour of conversation a week. Like Hamlet,
I could be quite contented living in a nutshell.
Some of my best writing, better than my
fiction, I think, is in the 4O-odd essays
I published locally. Right now, I'm trying
to get two of the best reprinted in national,
if not widely-read, magazines of some prestige.
If I succeed, I'll be happier than if selling
several stories, but essays are hard to
sell, so I'm not very sanguine.
your own name, I think the "s"
is pronounced; Cele thinks not. Who's right?
I believe the accent grave makes the "s"
pronounced, but although I studied French
for four years in High School, I'm not sure.
argued with Cele and Irwin for years about
the name. They insisted we were not related
to the European Porgeses, but I felt that
my father didn't pick the name for no reason,
that there must be some tie, maybe even
to the famous Heinrich, a musician I'd love
to have as a relations Now your thorough
research may settle the matter one of these
days -- I hope.
don't have any records handy, but think
Leonard was born about 1908, and Walter
about 1918. I think my father died about
1965 -- Cele may know.
you may know, a book of my best horror/fantasy
stories will be out soon. The mystery/crime
ones might follow, but that's not sure right
now. Ash-Tree Press in Canada; Mike Ashley,
facility with English is awesome; would
that my French were a tenth as good!
luck with your fine work on the Families
Porgii, as we used to call ourselves years
ago, and all the best.
(0f Childhood Memories)
by Irwin Porges
Wherever the memory leads,
we must follow. The memory makes its own
choice and what it does is unexplainanble.
Why do certain people and happenings remain
alive throughout the years, ready for recall?
This is a question without any clear answer.
At age five, lying on
the floor beneath our large dining room
table, I was playing with a tiny kitten,
perhaps only a few weeks old. The cat would
slap at me with its paw, and I would lift
it and tumble it over. This game went on
for some time until the kitten, evidently
exhausted refused to play anymore, and tried
to escape. My mother, passing by, looked
down where the kitten was struggling and
said, “Don’t wear her out”."
I left for a while, the kitten lying on
the rug. When I returned minutes later,
the kitten lay motionless. I poked it, and
then realized with a sudden pang, that it
was dead. The scene occurs and reoccurs
in my mind, a picture with all the objects
grouped just a they were years ago -- the
cat, the rug, the table, and above it all,
my mother's words floating. Even at this
early age, without knowing or understanding
the word "guilt", I felt the pain
of what I might have done.
My richest, cherished
memories are of my mother, my dear, incredible
mother. In the midst of a life of poverty,
illness and the usual household drudgery,
she found her own small world of creativity.
She wrote romantic stories and played romantic
pieces on an old battered upright piano
that occupied one corner of the living room.
I would stand behind her and listen a she
played the played(?) numbers, Meditation
and Hearts and Flowers. I remember her turning
to smile at me. I was too young to understand
that the smile often covered the sharp pain
she felt. My mother had what was an incurable
heart condition (in those days), which was
called Valvular heart trouble, which developed
after the first childbirth.
At the time of her marriage
--and the story had been told to me by her
older sister-- my mother was the youngest
of four sisters. She was a lively, fun-loving
girl with a good sense of humor and a girl
given easily to laughing. She was very attractive
see before me a photo of her, like one of
the “flappers” of the period,
with daring bobbed hair-- she was the only
one of the sisters who dared to do this
-- she was never bound by convention. As
I recall, she had small even features and
was of medium height. It seems to me that
she was a little taller than my father who
was a short man, and I noticed this when
they walked together, she appearing an inch
or two taller than he.
There are so many more
things about her that keep returning to
me. At the age of nine or ten I began to
write, and I recall vividly how she would
look over my shoulder as I wrote, and above
all her encouragement. Once, when I had
written quite long story, perhaps ten pages
or more, I could hear her at night, when
I was in bed, as she found the story and
took it with her to the bedroom and read
it to my father. She was enthusiastic about
it and thought it should be sent to a magazine,
but my father, a very practical man at that
time, pooh-poohed the idea and I could hear
him say, "It's just kid stuff."
I must add that my father, himself a remarkable
man, later changed his attitude --in fact--
many of his attitudes, and adapted constantly.
Source : Cele Porges, 2002