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‘Lost in Time’
The Astounding Harry Bates, a Video Biography
© 2013 James LaFond
In the special features section, of the 2nd disc of The Day the Earth Stood Still 2-Disc Special Edition is a documentary short on the science-fiction editor and author who wrote the story upon which the famous 1951 movie and its recent remake would be based.
Between 1930 and 1953 Harry Bates, born in 1900, edited and rewrote many of the science-fiction stories that my father’s generation grew up on, and which are still collected and reissued. Harry held science-fiction in poor estimation as literature because of the weak plot, as much as the genre is held in low regard today due to weak characterization.
Mister Bate’s 1940 story, ‘Farewell To The Master’, was an alien invasion story seemingly inspired by events in Europe involving Nazi Germany. In 1951 it was licensed as the basis for the script for The Day The Earth Stood Still, which was an anti-war/alien visitation movie, pretty much turning the idea on its head. Harry received $450 dollars for the rights and vanished from the pages of sci-fi history.
In the late 1970s writer Lawrence Davidson tracked Harry down to a seedy part of New York City and interviewed him in what he described as ‘terrible living conditions’. Davidson describes Harry as having been ‘very ill, feeble, fragile,’ with ‘gnarly hands’, and ‘living in great pain’. Davidson admitted to being so shocked at the squalor and misery in which Bates lived that he conducted a poor interview. He did, however, save an audio record of Harry discussing the pulp magazine business and the writing of his most famous story. Harry, speaking with a gentle voice, claimed to have rewritten his favorite stories in hopes of having them published posthumously, hoping that he would be remembered as ‘among the good writers of science fiction.’
Harry passed in 1981. His story collection has not published and is believed lost.
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