Friday, March 7, 2014

The Shaver Mystery

The Shaver Mystery refers to series of science fiction stories published by Ray Palmer, supposedly written at least in part by Richard Shaver, and the ostensibly non-fiction reality that Shaver claims to have experienced.

The short version: An ancient civilization of long lived giants lived under the surface, and left behind advanced technology in massive underground cities before departing to the stars to get away from Earth's poisonous sun.  Those that were left behind were degenerated by the sun's rays and turned into Dero, and use the advanced technology to menace us humans on the surface, causing car wrecks, making people hear voices, or killings us outright with death rays.

Shaver claims that while a drill press operator, he could hear voices while running his machine, and could hear the thoughts of those around him.  The voices made him do something to get himself arrested, he was subsequently freed by a tero, which is like a good dero, and he lived many years underground.

Shaver wrote a letter to Amazing Stories with his Mantong alphabet, which he claims is the root of all earth languages.  In the March 1945 issue he is credited with writing "I Remember Lemuria", and Shaver credited stories dominated Amazing Stories and other Palmer edited magazines through 1948.

Shaver credited stories continued to appear in science fiction magazines through the mid 50s, and then in increasingly erratic self-published newsletters as Shaver dwindled into obscurity.

To me the real Shaver Mystery is how much of the material is based on what Richard Shaver truly believed, and how much is Ray Palmer's hucksterism.

There have been several books published recently, many by Richard Toronto, that probably shed some more light than I will on the topic.  A few things are pretty clear:

- Ray Palmer was as carny as Barnum.  This is great for a fiction magazine editor and presenter, not so much for the historical record.

- Richard Shaver was bat-poop crazy.  Even if his account was 100% accurate and there is a massive civilization living underground, he's still certifiable.

- I'll give Shaver his Mantong language, which is the combination of selection bias and a schizophrenic's obsession with puns, though to me it's uninteresting Be You Life Life Sun Human Self Integration.

The rest is an interesting mystery as to how much of the stories credited to Shaver were him, how much were Palmer, or how much by sometimes unidentified third parties.  Sometimes Shaver had a "co-writer", sometimes Shaver is credited as re-writing someone else's work, a good number of Shaver's stories are unrelated to the Shaver Mystery, and there are some pieces he supposedly wrote under a house name.

As far as I can tell, Shaver almost exclusively wrote for Palmer edited publications.  When he did write on his own he was an incoherent mess, so either Palmer cleaned him quite up a bit in editing, submitted other people's stories under Shaver's name, or Shaver could at one time write a presentable story and later descended into madness.  Or a combination thereof.

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