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: a prolific writer of mystery and science fiction stories
: his brother, the biographer of Edgar Rice Burrougs

Family information about Arthur and Irwin Porges


Irwin & Arthur Porges
(Courtesy of Cele Porges)


Arthur Porges
(b. USA, 1915 , d. 2006)



( Arthur Porges & sister in law Cele)

Special thanks to :
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.

The 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 format.

 

Arthur Porges : Dreamer

 


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" (1962).
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 of physics.
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 never published.
The story was called "Brain Slug", and Porges himself has stated that this was probably the best of them all.
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 his tales.
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 suspended animation.
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 classroom!
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", a scarecrow.
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 fantasy elements.
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 invasion!
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 time.
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 of mankind.
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 past.
"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 mankind.
The story is a bizarre mix of both science fiction and fantasy; the four characters are a human, a witch, a vampire, and a ghoul.
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 dialogue.
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 with time.
Arthur Porges' imaginative writing will continue to uplift, inspire, and entertain generations of dreamers in the future.

Afterword: And 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

Short Fiction :

The Rats (1950)
By a Fluke (1955)
Report on the Magic Shop (1961)
Problem Child (1964)
The Fly (1952)
Guilty as Charged (1955)
Revenge (1961)
Urned Reprieve (1964)
The Liberator (1953)
The Logic of Rufus Weir (1955)
Solomon's Demon (1961)
Dusty Answer (1965)
Mop-Up (1953)
Emergency Operation (1956)
A Devil of a Day (1962)
Ensign De Ruyter: Dreamer (1965)
The Ruum (1953)
Security (1959)
The Rescuer (1962)
The Good Seed (1965)
Story Conference (1953)
The Auto Hawks (1960)
3rd Sister (1963)
Turning Point (1965)
Strange Birth (1953)
The Fiftieth Year of April (1960)
Controlled Experiment (1963)
The Mirror (1966)
$1.98 (1954)
The Melanas (1960)
The Formula (1963)
Pressure (1966)
The Devil and Simon Flagg (1954)
A Specimen for the Queen (1960)
Through Channels (1963)
Priceless Possession (1966)
The Grom (1954)
Words And Music (1960)
The Topper (1963)
The Dragons of Tesla (1968)
The Tidings (1954)
Dr. Blackadder's Clients (1961)
The Fanatic (1964)
The Oddmedod (1987)
The Box (1955)
The Other Side (1961)
The Moths (1964)
Movie Show (1999)

 

Fantasy and Science Fiction
Great Science Fiction
Three Porges Parodies and a Pastiche
Covers of magazines featuring Arthur Porges' short stories


Irwin Porges
(09/05/1909 - 09/10/1998)



Irwin Porges and his wife Cele
Irwin's 80th birthday (1997)

Irwin PorgesIrwin 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.

After World War II, he moved to Los Angeles and by 1953 had received his B.S. and M.S. degrees from the University of Southern California.
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 " in 1960.
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., Derby, Connecticut.
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.

 

Résumé of Irwin Porges
(Source : Cele Porges, 2003)

Educational background :


Bachelor's an Master's degrees, £english Major, U.S.C.
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 in print

Subsequent publications :
Fiction, Detective stories :
Alfred Hitchcock's Magazine, 1973-75, various stories
Alfred Hitchcock's Magazine, Anthology, Murder-Go-Round, short story, "Nobody to play with", 1977
Alfred Hitchcock's Anthology, 1978, short story "Devious"
Detective stories in various other magazines, Mike Shayne's Mystery Magazine, 87th Precint, The Executioner.
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, hardcover, 1963
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 Robert Kirsch)

Television Writing :

A script for the program 77 Sunset Strip, broadcast in 1958. I have been a member of the Screenwriter's Guild.

(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.)


          E.R. Burroughs BoxE.R. Burroughs Cover
Many Brave Hearts       Violent Americans

         Covers of Irwin Porges' books


EDGAR RICE BURROUGS
The man who created Tarzan
by Irwin Porges

Ballantine Books, New York
© 1975 Brigham Young University Press

Foreword

 

by Hulbert Burroughs, Tarzana, September 1, 1975

The publication 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 author.

Mr. 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 book.

Cele Porges, Irwin's talented wife, devoted nearly three years researching the voluminous archives at our company offices and warehouse in Tarzana.
The result is a fascinating and well-written story of a man and his career.

Contributing significantly 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 and documentary.
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 and protective.
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 Burroughs researchers.

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 essay.
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."

 

Preface
 

by Irwin 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 and contradictory.
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.
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 1972.
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 residence.

Hulbert Burroughs 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 mementoes.
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 father's story.

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 firm.
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 of developments.
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 England.
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 explanations.
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, business associates.
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 section.
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 himself.
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.

 

Family information about Arthur and Irwin Porges

Letter from Arthur Porges to the webmaster

September 3, 2002

Dear M. Porgès,
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.

My 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.

My 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.

As 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.

On 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.

I 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.

I 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.

As 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, Editor.

Your facility with English is awesome; would that my French were a tenth as good!

Good luck with your fine work on the Families Porgii, as we used to call ourselves years ago, and all the best.

Cordially,
Arthur Porges

 

EARLIEST MEMORIES
(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