In the 1950s Robert Lionel Fanthorpe is said to have written 89 science fiction novels in 3 years (one 158 page book every twelve days). He did this by dictating into a recorder with a blanket pulled over his head.

An amazing Web page
provides detailed information on Fanthorpe's feats of literature.

Filling the page and word count was crucial in Fanthorpe's business. He often resorted to long descriptions of everday events to fill these out in between ray gun battles and giant floating eyeballs.

Here is an example from his novel, "Dark Continuum":

She screwed up the securing diagram and was overwhelmed by a sudden desire to clean her teeth. It became the be all and end all of existence for a few seconds. The desire to clean her teeth grew absolutely compulsive, she could have no more resisted it than she could have flown unaided between two planets.

Moving quickly from the radio to her living quarters, she squeezed a little water into a plastic container and put a few dabs of toothpaste on her brush. She slipped the brush into her mouth and pressed the small button in the end which activated its electric motor. The bristles-soft, gentle bristles, guaranteed not to damage the enamel or the gum-moved swiftly against the teeth. She began with the top left molars, worked round to the bicuspids, and came round again from them to the incisors, the canines, the laterals and the centrals. Once she had reached the front of her mouth, she changed her grip on the brush so that it moved round to the top right, travelling over the bicuspids and molars as it moved. Coming down the sides of her teeth, she paused and took a deep breath, placed a little more paste upon the brush and moved it round again this time beginning with the actual chewing surface of the upper right molars, coming round and cleaning again between the crevices until she had worked round to the left-hand molars.

Once more she put paste on the brush in this same elaborate ritual and concentrated her attention now upon the inside of the upper left molars, the inside of the upper left bicuspids, round across the incisors and so back to the right-hand masticators. She rinsed the brush, reapplied the paste and repeated the whole ritualistic process with the lower teeth. She cleaned the brush very carefully and then, in a set way, put it back and moved back towards the radio set.

She had taken barely a dozen paces when she was assailed by a horrible thought that she had not cleaned the top left inside molars. She stood in an agony of uncertainty for five minutes, then went back to the bathroom area of her living quarters, recharged the brush and carefully cleaned again the top left molars on their inside surfaces. She looked at her reflection in the mirror; it foamed back at her like a rabid dog.

"This time I have done them all," she said. "What about the bottom inside molars?" asked her reflection. "I have done them all," said Marian firmly. "If you have forgotten them the bacteria responsible for dental caries will get in," said the voice in her mind. "It is no good being clean on the outside if you have forgotten the inside. Are you sure you have done the left inside?" "Yes, I have, I have." Marian picked up her toothbrush and flung it savagely across the dome; it bounced from the thick plastic glass and broke on the floor.

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Sensei Sez...

We all have favorite authors on E2 and one of mine has always been sensei.  He's been gone from E2 for a long time now, and I still miss him. This writeup is sort of an homage to him in the form of a copyright compliance rescue for one of his older writeups.  You'd have to have known sensei a little bit to see the quiet sparkle of his wit in his short writeup on Fanthorpe.  I can detect his mischievous humor in the subject and his pithy matter-of-fact tone in the text.  

There's just enough detail in his writeup to make you smile and perhaps want to know a little more about this freak writer Fanthorpe who could write a book every twelve days.  Unfortunately, there wasn't enough in sensei's writeup to balance the fascinating Fanthorpe quote he used to illustrate his writeup.  In short, it wasn't copyright compliant and was scheduled for removal from E2.  I'm picking up the slack by fleshing out sensei's work with a little more juicy detail on Robert L. Fanthorpe and, in the process allowing sensei's Fanthorpe writeup to snuggle comfortably under the warm  blanket of fair use compliance.  

The mechanics of this rescue attempt are interesting and perhaps merit a brief discussion.  I didn't feel comfortable editing sensei's writeup directly, it just didn't seem right.  So I'm submitting this as a new writeup and ask that the two be considered together as far as copyright compliance goes.  A little convoluted, but so it goes.  I'm also retitling the node to Robert Lionel Fanthorpe.  

Writing Techniques
One of the things about Fanthorpe that I find fascinating is his stoicism in facing the simple grueling reality of staying focused on writing for hours and hours on end, days and weeks at a time.  I've been responsible for writing giant technical manuals and bid specifications, and I can vouch for the mind-numbing difficulty of grinding out thousands and thousands of pages.  I've read that some of the most successful authors have developed elaborate schemes and self-rewards developed for the purpose of inducing themselves to just sit down at their writing desk and face that first white sheet of paper. Fanthorpe's ability to overcome that hurdle is impressive irrespective of the type, style or quality of his writing.  When you first imagine him huddled under a blanket with his tape recorder it sounds laughable and freakish, but it's not hard to imagine that comfortable warmth, darkness and the absence of a keyboard could all be essential to maintaining his prolific schedule.

On the Fanthorpe fansite, peltorro.com1, Brian Hunt provides the following description of Fanthorpe at work:

To meet his grueling deadlines, Fanthorpe employed an unusual technique. He dictated his masterworks into a reel to reel tape recorder, oftentimes under the cover of a blanket to enhance his concentration. He would then ship those tapes off to a pool of typists for transcription. This created many unique problems. People who die in one chapter reappear a chapter or two later because it was forgotten that they were dead. Odd phrases turn up in the middle of paragraphs due to a misunderstanding by the transcriptionist. 

Fanthorpe's contractual relationship with Badger Books of England in the early 1950's often required him to work on stories for several of the publisher's book series along with other writers under contract by Badger.  In some of  Badger's science fiction anthologies a different author is provided for each story despite the fact that Fanthorpe was the only author. As a result, Fanthorpe's work was published under a large array of pseudonyms, some of which are provided below, courtesy of trussel.com2.  

Leo Brett, Bron Fane, Robert Lionel Fanhope, Mel Jay, Marston Johns, Victor La Salle, Oben Lerteth, Robert Lionel, John E. Muller, Elton T. Neef(e), Phil Nobel, Peter O'Flinn, Peter O'Flynn, John Raymond, Lionel Roberts, Rene Rolant, Deutero Spartacus, Trebor Thorpe, Pel Torro, Karl Ziegfreid 

Recursive Fiction
Perhaps as a result of his many other writing endeavors, Fanthorpe, R. Lionel, joins the ranks of science fiction authors and personalities who are used as characters in books by other authors.  Recursive science fiction, that is science fiction about the science fiction genre and its writers, provides fodder for a dedicated cult of aficionados. On the Recursive Fiction website3, the following interesting example is provided:

In the "Curse of the Khan" R. Lionel Fanthorpe, supernatural writer, is invited by Genghis Khan to Black Island, south-east of Truro. His curiosity piqued, he goes. Gathered on the island are also the supernatural, fantasy, and science fiction writers Oben Lerteth, Peter O'Flinn, Bron Fane, and Neil Balfort. Soon joining them are the writers Elton T. Neef and Rene Rolant.  (All these people are pseudonyms of R. Lionel Fanthorpe). They have been gathered by an ancient and immortal alien who has taken the form of Genghis Khan to relieve his boredom.  The Khan creates seven monsters to fight the seven writers and destroy them for his amusement.  However, because of their innate intelligence and specific skills, the writers are triumphant.  Badger Supernatural Series 105, 1966

Lifetime output
The exact tally of books written by Fanthorpe will probably never be known.  Brian Hunt1  gives an estimate of 180+ books, but that number doesn't acknowledge the prolific output of short stories and other commercial works for hire created by Fanthorpe.   In an interview with Debbie Cross4, Fanthorpe cheerfully described his career arc as, 

"the one-every-week, at-the-drop-of-a-hat paperbacks he wrote in his spare time forty-odd years ago? The midnight-oil-burners, the generously padded, paid-on-wordage albatross-space-opera-sagas for which his publisher was inevitably waiting impatiently and waving the threat of no more commissions if this current one wasn't delivered before Tuesday?"

Anyone who has ever written professionally for a living can likely relate to that sentiment.



3  New England Science Fiction Association,
4  Down the Badger Hole. R. Lionel Fanthorpe: The Badger Years (edited by Debbie Cross), Wrigley-Cross Books, 1995

As a final footnote, when I visited sensei's homenode in the course of writing this, I noticed that his "most recent writeup" is listed as March 15, 2007. Tisn't so of course, but it quickened my heart for a moment to believe it.

CST Approved

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