The Martian Empire

by Lee Streiff

It now seems a long time ago — in those last remaining years before World War II changed our consciousnesses forever. It was an ephemeral, still time; a quiet space in which we could dream about the future without the burden of its consequences: ghastly war — genocide — the atomic bomb.

It was 1937.

My brother James was 13, and in the eighth grade at Robinson Junior High School in Wichita, Kansas. And in his mind he was fashioning a cosmic empire filled with strange and wonderful creatures and races — in which a stalwart group of Exiles from the planet Mars were the chief actors and heroes.

This Empire, the Martian Empire, eventually spread over most of the known Universe before it finally faded around 1948. During the eleven years it flourished, however, the Martian Epic became very elaborate — covering some 15 billion years of Martian history — and Martian technology, manners and morals, art, music, religion, language and literature. And it generated a narrative Epic that encompassed many galaxies.

Although a number of people became involved in this epic — Bob Parks, John Roth, Robert Frickel, Charles Goodrum, and Robert Arnold, among others — it was first and foremost the vision of James, who worked out and brought together the maps, time-lines, the celestial spaces, the customs, and the characters that made up the Martian Empire in all of its diverse grandeur.

Central to the Epic were the Cultural Hero, The Mighty Moscovitch (whose name should always be written in red ink — or in some other way be made distinctive); the evil Martian Aristocrats (who drove the Exiles who created the Empire off of Mars itself); Shultz’s Beer Parlor; Varnish (a virulent elixir); various gods and creatures (Erf and Merf, the dragons; KLONO, god of Justice; NOSHABKENNING, god of Space; the Little Men, messengers of KLONO; and on and on); but at the center of it all was The Parks, Streiff Construction Co. — whose partners were the prime movers of most of the action.

In early 1937 I was only four years old — and so it was that most of my childhood and youth were somehow surrounded or suffused with the images and tales of the Epic. However, it was not until I reached the age of eleven that I became the brief inheritor of, and a participant in, the affairs of the Epic itself.

It was during World War II, in 1943, that I first took over the job of running the business of the Martian Empire while all of its members were away from Wichita in the Army, Navy, and Air Force. Knowing that he would soon be drafted, James began grooming me for the task early in that year. He reported for active military duty on June 3, 1943, and that changed the course of my daily life. I was now on my own, with a heavy responsibility.

At first my duties were minimal: receiving correspondence from members of the group and sending them on to James, and keeping The Files of the Parks, Streiff Construction Co. up to date.

Increasingly, however, my role grew larger, until by July of 1944, when James returned from Africa, I was, to all intents and purposes, in charge, and was responsible for the fate of the whole enterprise: I published The Martian News Letter, the official journal of the group, using carbon paper — and later a hectograph; published The Order of Shultz, which circulated the business of the inner circle; reorganized The Files; answered the correspondence among the far-flung Martians scattered around the globe; and did research on a number of topics for James, using my contacts in the world of Science-Fiction Fandom.

And I decided to improve on things, as well. Among the first things I did was to try to bring some order to the scattered parts of the legend. In actuality there was much about the origin and development of the Epic itself that I did not know. I had — and was familiar with — the letters, the essays, the pictures, the old copies of The Martian News Letter, the assorted documents, the scribbled notes, the obscure messages written in Martian script, and so on, but I did not know exactly how it had all come to be in the first place; and I did not have a mental model of what all the parts were supposed to add up to. And The Files did not help in this; they were diffuse: they were a way of storing bits and pieces for recovery, but they did not tell a connected tale, or relate things to one another.

So I chose to do two things: (1) to put the events of the Epic into a chronological narrative order, and (2) to make a sort of encyclopedia of the facts, figures, characters, and events. Encyclopedias I understood — I had read most of the two sets our family owned, and much out of The World Book of our neighbor, Mrs. Easley, as well. Thus, the form of an encyclopedia, as a repository of knowledge, made sense to me.

I set to work, then, culling The Files for data, extracting information from letters, and asking James questions in our extended correspondence. I began to type up some of the papers that were inscribed in James’ almost indecipherable handwriting, and started writing little transitions that linked some of the material together. I also made various inventories of different areas (music, publications, and such) and tried to establish dates for items. I even started a cross-referencing card file that made it easier to find things in The Files.

When James returned from active service in February of 1946, my task had been completed, and, in any case, my interests were largely turning in other directions. By 1947, in my sophomore year at East High School, I was even leaving Science-Fiction itself behind, and was now involved in art and literature. But that is another story.

Chapter 5: The Circle, Telepathy, and Language

1: The Martian Circle

Besides Parks and Streiff, there were many others who belonged to the Martian Circle before and during World War II. Some of these came into the Circle in high school, others at Wichita University. Some were central characters in the Epic, and others were on the fringes, but all were involved either socially with the group or in the creation of the Epic. All were bright, imaginative people, with most interested primarily in mathematics or the sciences. Collectively, they played many roles in the Epic, but were active in other things in high school and college, as well.

The East High Class of 1941 members of the Circle:

Charles Goodrum, of the infamous “Goodrum screen” that precipitated the Vortex, and author of a book on his conquest of Altair (MNL Vol. 2, EXTRA), he later wrote the book I’ll Trade You an Elk, about his father’s adventures as the head of the Wichita Zoo — and became the curator at the Library of Congress. At East High: he was in the National Honor Society, often on the Honor Roll, and qualified in the preliminaries for the Summerfield Scholarship. He was in Senior and Junior Dramatics plays, a proctor, on the Student Council, a representative to Boy’s State, and, as President of Hi-Y, he was on the Representative Council, on the committee that organized the Father and Son Banquet, and he worked on the club float (which got second prize). He was also involved in such activities as being on the Presidential straw poll committee at school and a member of the Impersonation Day committee, reading devotions at the installation of class officers, and giving the Thanksgiving Assembly oration. At WU: he was on the Student Forum Board, on the Independent Students’ Association Council, in the International Relations Club, and Vice-President of the Sophomore Class.

Betty Frederick was on the periphery of the group in high school, but had her proponents as a full-fledged Martian at WU. At East High: she was in the National Honor Society and occasionally on the Honor Roll. She was active in Science Club, delivering a project speech and demonstration at the Junior Academy of Science convention in Manhattan. She was also on the Presidential straw vote committee and a proctor.

John Roth, who got involved in the war between Glookthin and Alamantine in the Sirius system, and was the alleged terrorist of Venus, was — as will be recalled — executed by the Statosians (though his Ego escaped to fight another day). At East High: he was in SPQR, the Latin Club.

Robert Parks was co-inventor of the Epic and figured in many of the tales as a partner in the Parks, Streiff Construction Co. At East High: he was in the National Honor Society and was always on the Honor Roll. He was also on the Student Council, in SPQR, Hi-Y, and was a proctor Captain. He presented a demonstration at the Junior Academy of Science at Manhattan. At WU: he was a member of Delta Epsilon.

Robert Arnold was the artist and writer who produced several elaborate documents relating to the Epic and drew up the plans of the atomic transmutation gun, as well as creating the pictures of the Venusian archaeological expedition that accompanied the story in Volume 1, Number 4 of the MNL. At East High: he was always on the Honor Roll and was in the National Honor Society. He was interested in astronomy and built a model telescope for a Science Club project. He was also on a school assembly panel discussing cliques, a speaker at the Senior Banquet, and a member of the Impersonation Day committee. He was a finalist in the Summerfield Scholarship competition. After high school he went to Yale and was on the Dean’s List.

James Streiff was the prime mover of the Epic. At East High: he was sometimes on the Honor Roll, a member of the Science Club and SPQR, and a proctor. He also was on a school assembly panel discussing cliques, gave talks at Science Club, and gave a demonstration and speech on the subject of telepathy at the Junior Academy of Science convention in Manhattan. He was one of the three semi-finalists from East High for the Summerfield Scholarship competition. At WU: he was in Aesculapius, the honorary science fraternity.

The East High Class of 1942 members of the Circle:

Lowell Rhodes was the first named Director of Publications and editor of The Martian News Letter. At East High: he played in a trombone quartet at the State Music Festival.

Emily Cross, though a year younger in high school than many of the others, was in the inner-circle and eventually married Bob Parks. At East High: she was always on the Honor Roll and was in the National Honor Society. She was treasurer, Second Consul, and Head audile of SPQR, (and organized the Latin Banquet). She received special recognitions for work in Algebra and English, was a proctor, and in the Science Club. At WU: she was Secretary of the Independent Students’ Association, Vice-President and President of Aesculapius, and a member of the Women’s Recreational Association. She was always on the Dean’s Honor List, won the Freshman Merit Award, the AAUW Junior Citizenship Award, the F. C. Sauer Scholarship, and was in the Women’s Honor Group.

Robert Frickel was the second Imperator of Martian Propaganda, succeeding John Pruessner in that position. At East High: he was in the National Honor Society, usually on the Honor Roll, and a semi-finalist for the Summerfield Scholarship. At WU: he was a member of the Independent Students’ Association.

John Pruessner was the first Imperator of Martian Propaganda. At East High: he was always on the Honor Roll and was Vice-President of the National Honor Society. He was in the Representative Assembly, service chairman of the Hi-Y (and helped to arrange the Father and Son Banquet). In addition, he was President of The Blue Guardsmen (fencing club), on an Assembly panel discussing students’ wartime plans, and a proctor Captain. He was also a representative to Boy’s State and in the Junior Statesman’s Club. He was Vice-President of SPQR, and the club’s representative to the Messenger. He acted in the Junior and Senior Dramatics productions and was a member of the National Thespian Society. He played the French horn in the band, and was elected Vice-President of the Senior Class. At WU: he belonged to AGG and was a member of the Canterbury Club.

Victor Lebow: At East High: he was usually on the Honor Roll, was a member of the Nationally Honor Society, and a semi-finalist for the Summerfield Scholarship. At WU: he belonged to the Independent Students’ Association and Aesculapius.

The North High Class of 1941 members of the Circle:

Ralph Pennington, it should be remembered, was the intrepid adventurer who discovered the 10726th dimension in issue Volume 1, Number 7 of the MNL. At North High: he was Senior Class Vice-President, occasionally on the Honor Roll, a member of the National Honor Society, and in the Math Club. He was also in the Band and Orchestra and the All-State Orchestra. He was a semi-finalist in the Summerfield Scholarship tests. At WU: he played oboe in the symphony orchestra and ROTC Band, and became a member of AGG.

Warren Ohrvall was in the Robot Dictator’s prison with Paul Carter, and was second Director of Publications and editor of the MNL. At North High: he was in the Stamp Club, Band, and Math Club. He came into the Circle at WU.

The other members of the Circle:

Morton Wills was the third Director of Publications and putative editor of the MNL, although in fact I edited the issues published during his tenure. Wills played no role in the Epic, and his picture does not appear in any school annuals, either high school or college; neither does his name appear anywhere in the annuals or school newspapers. He seems to have been the “little man who wasn’t there”.

Gladys Dart came into the Circle at WU. At WU: she was Vice-President of Aesculapius and a member of the Independent Students’ Association and the Women’s Recreational Association.

And there were others as well, such as Paul Gibson, Neal Potts, and E. F. Branson, who took the tests and were associated with the Circle, but not really in it.

These, then, were the members of the Martian Circle that existed through 1943, when the Empire paused for the War. And this was the cast of characters that I had at my disposal when I brought the Empire back to life and began publishing the MNL and making my own additions to the Epic.

In Volume 3, Number 1 of The Martian News Letter, March 28, 1944, I printed a story about a number of strange happenings, and included this about Goodrum:

“A Canopian accosted Charles Goodrum on the streets of Wichita, Kansas, and asked him why he was chewing up the pavement with his teeth. For his insolence, Goodrum killed him and wiped out three planets in the Canopian System with his sledgehammer.”

I did a little better with the story of John Pruessner’s visit to the 27th dimension in Volume 3, Number 2 (11/21/44) quoted in Chapter 4.

In the same issue I reported that Parks had observed a strange migration of creatures toward Arcturus, and that Warren Ohrvall had recently been appointed a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army Air Force.

For most of the men in the Circle, the War meant military service and disruption of their college programs, and I circulated news of their postings, ratings, and illnesses through the MNL and The Order of Shultz — the latter being the inner-circle newsletter.

In issue Volume 3, Number 3, I printed summarized stories from letters by both Parks and Frickel. In Volume 3, Number 4, I included Pennington, Frickel, Arnold, Streiff, Ohrvall, Parks, and Goodrum, all in the same story about a riot at Shultz’s. I also reported on Arnold’s atomic transmutation gun and the fact that Arnold was in the hospital as a result of injuries received in training.

In the second issue (1/15/45) of The Order of Shultz, I announced that James, Parks, and Arnold had all been given the rank of “The Order of Shultz”. In the third issue, I reported that Roth was leaving for Sacramento where he would attend a training school for Boeing, and that Parks, S1/c, was now in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

Issue Number 5 of The Order of Shultz (after August 6, 1945) contained the first mention of Davey McGirr, the first Martian prospect not from Wichita. Chapter 7 will detail the latter days of the Martian Empire, and it is there that the later members of the Circle will be found.

2: Telepathy

James’ interest in telepathy and clairvoyance probably began with the science-fiction stories he read in the 1930s, but it remained with him for years in one form or another — even showing up as a course in the studies of The University of Trivium Charontis (see Chapter 7). In April of 1941 he gave a speech and demonstration on the subject at the Junior Academy of Science convention at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas.

The earliest records in The Files of experiments are dated November 8, 1940 for Bob Parks and Eugene Scott, and the tests were run at a Science Club meeting in room 313 at East High School. There were six runs of 25 trials each and used Zenner cards. Runs 1, 2, 3, and 6 were for telepathy, and 4 and 5 for clairvoyance.

The difference between telepathy and clairvoyance in practical terms was that for telepathic experiments, one person looked at the cards one-by-one and attempted to “broadcast” what he was seeing, and the rest of the group tried to “receive” his images — writing down the symbol for each card as it was “broadcast”. For clairvoyance, everyone wrote down all of the symbols first, then the deck was shuffled, and the symbols read off aloud so that each person could grade his own paper. The idea was to determine whether a person could see into the future and predict what the sequence of the symbols would be after the shuffle.

Records also survive for experiments on November 22, 24, 25, and 27, 1940. At least one of these (the 24th) was at our house and involved only our family. The tests continued into December as well. At this point James was working on the data for the project he would present later at Science Club, on February 28, 1941, and then at the convention at KSU in April. James continued the experiments through September of 1941, without benefit of the Zenner cards, using only cards numbered 1 through 4. I participated in the experiment on September 3 — when I was only nine years old — and did barely better than chance. And that was the general result overall for both kinds of trials. Later, tests were run in November and December of 1942, and December and January of 1945, the latter with Cross and Dart.

When we decided to carry out some experiments with the Wichita Science-Fiction Society in 1946, we also used the numbers 1 – 4, with sixteen trials per run.

Our trials on September 14, 1946, at our second meeting, involved six subjects. The results were not encouraging.

With a chance factor of 4:

1 averaged 4.33
1 averaged 4.4
1 averaged 4.67
1 averaged 4.75
1 averaged 5.33, and
1 averaged 6.

Never-the-less, the idea of telepathy was a beguiling one for imaginative people, as is shown by the fact that both the Science Club members in 1941 and the people in the Science-Fiction Society in 1946 found it interesting enough to experiment with. It cannot be said that we ever proved anything about either telepathy or clairvoyance with any of our experiments, however. And, in any case, the experiments had too many loose-end variables. The time of day, the particular mix of people, the physical conditions, the suitability of the “broadcaster”, and all of the other things that might make a difference were never truly controlled and a sizable enough data-base was never accumulated.

And telepathy and clairvoyance were never integral parts of the Epic or of being a Martian, either. They were merely stimulating exercises of a tangential nature.

3: The Martian Language

Actually there were two Martian Languages. The two centers of civilization on Mars, the Western at Trivium Charontis, and the Eastern at Isfenferath, each had its own language. Of this situation, James wrote:

“The Mighty Moscovitch took the Eastern language, purified it, and instituted it for all official business. The Western language was still spoken by a great mass of the people. Both were still in use on Mars at the end of the Historic Period, but the Western language was used only in the Western Hemisphere and only for very colloquial use. The Western is the language spoken by furruners, but the Eastern is spoken in all of the Martian colonies.”

Most of the discussion here will be of the Eastern language.

The language passed, apparently, through three written stages, which might be called Old Martian, Middle Martian, and Modern Martian. Old Martian is found only on such very ancient documents as “the cosmological model”. Middle Martian is an ideographic script, and an example appears here:



It should be noted that the written form of Middle Martian is almost identical to the earth language known as Sanskrit. Nowhere in The Files is this fact addressed, but it seems likely that the implication is that the Tellurians borrowed their writing system from the Martians at some point in their history. When, or under what circumstances this occurred is unknown.

There are six special characters in the Modern Martian written form. Three of these can be transliterated into the basic English alphabet; but of the rest, one is a whistle, one is a whistle combined with a hum, and one is gestura

On the whole, the Martian language has very little accent.

[image missing]

In tenses, the auxiliary is placed before the verb and the person after. There are three voices to verbs (the principle parts): active, middle, and passive.

It has seven cases:

Vocative = case of address
Nominative = subject
Genitive = possession (of)
Dative = indirect object (to or for)
Accusative = direct object
Ablative = with prepositions
Sub-Ablative = miscellaneous expressions (by or with)

As an example of case endings, the personal singular is:


Vocative A E I
Nominative (hwee)(bw)I (hweemm)(bw)I (zz)(bw)I
Genitive (hwee)(icht) (hweemm)(icht) (zz)(ight)
Dative (hwee)IT (hweemm)IT (zz)IT
Accusative (hwee)UG (hweemm)UG (zz)UG
Ablative (hwee)- (hweemm)- (zz)-

The Martian vocabulary is extensive, and only a few words are given here:

ABNI – small
ADNE – sun; pl. stars
ALFO – planet
ALFOI – moon
CICI’ight – vehicle, spaceship
CIQ’ight’hwee – good
CVC – prep. with; abl. toward
DENO – water
DESNO – enemy
DISDA – prep. with; abl. away from
DIS’bw’ight’AB, DIS’bw’ight’AB, DISQ’ight – go
DIT – prep. with; abl. place at which
EMEVICA – person
FARMIRL – a syrnx pipe
FERN’zz’L -minor god
FLO – hand
GERC – canal

HACIN – air
MON’hweemm’icht – a weapon
MYNOI’zz – love
NAND – definite article
NOSDAB – fight
NU – the number 5
OCNI – place
OLI’zz – major god
RAMSI – adj. great
ROD – between, among
UGAB, UCAB, UQ’ight – see
bw’zz – causal conj. since
hwee’AB, hweemm’AB – be, exist
#EOB, #UOB – transform

This brief survey of some of the aspects of the Martian language only begins to touch on the materials in The Files relating to the language. However, unless the reader were prepared to spend several years learning the complexities of Middle and Modern Martian, it is probably more than sufficient.

Chapter 7: The Latter Days

1: The Wichita Science-Fiction Society
By the summer of 1945 I was quite actively involved in Science-Fiction Fandom and was in the process of trying to set up, with Norman Storer, who lived in Lawrence, Kansas, the Jr. BEMs — a club of young fans. I was thirteen by then. “BEM” was the fan acronym for “Bug Eyed Monster”, the type of creature found on science-fiction pulp magazine covers. Eventually the club had a membership of ten or so, with members located from Oregon to Massachusetts — in Fandom, all such relationships depended solely on a network of people linked together by the United States Post Office’s mail service. The one local person who was involved with me in the Jr. BEMs was Bill Eldred, who I had known since grade school. The Jr. BEM from Massachusetts was Davey D. McGirr, who had an older friend named Doris Currier, about whom there is more to say later.

August of 1945 brought the atom bomb, and the end of World War II. The atom bomb did not surprise any of us; after all, fans had been reading about it in our science-fiction magazines for years. But the end of the War was an event of major importance in my life, for it meant that all of the psychological and material adjustments that had been necessary to cope with the conditions the War had brought, had now to be again revised. And it meant that my brothers, James and Billy, would be coming home.

During January of 1946 I was still using my hectograph to publish The Martian News Letter for James, but I had acquired a post-card sized mimeograph on which I was printing my own fanzine, Mercury; and I was keeping up the files of the Parks, Streiff Construction Co. and doing the rest of the work to maintain the Martian Empire. I was also doing research for James on the “Cosmic Circle” and the “Futurians”, two fan groups which James suspected of being technocratic groups with political leanings. James was still at the Air Force base at Midland, Texas. In late February, both he and Billy were discharged from the Air Force and came home.

In April, James bought me a full-sized mimeograph, and I soon put it to use by publishing my fanzine Adonis, in which I printed my own first full-fledged story. And I began to write extensively; even writing a 10,000 word science-fiction short story. I also used the mimeograph to print Michael McClure’s first published poem in my fanzine Moor.

In the summer of 1946, I had a letter published in Thrilling Wonder Stories, around the time of my 14th birthday. In August, our family went on vacation to Galveston, Texas, our first vacation since before the War. And when I returned, I met “Mac”: E. A. McKinley. Mac lived in Wellington, and read science-fiction. He had read my letter in Thrilling Wonder Stories and he had taken a chance and come up to Wichita by bus to see me. But as I was on vacation, he met James and Billy instead. I did meet him a couple of weeks later when he returned to Wichita.

Though Mac was about James’ and Billy’s ages, perhaps slightly older, he had not served in the military because he had had childhood infantile paralysis, and was crippled and walked with a cane. Mac was aggressive, loud, and intolerant, but he was intelligent, and he had lots of ideas. One of those ideas was that we should all form a science-fiction society. And we did.

By the middle of September, the Wichita Science-Fiction Society had had its first and second meetings. Mac had wanted the group to experiment with a rocket program, along the lines of what Goddard had done during the thirties, but most of the rest of us saw this as too expensive and impractical, and, besides, I argued, the Germans had already done more during the War than what we would be able to do, anyway. Instead, we decided to carry out experiments in telepathy. An official roster of the society by the time of the sixth meeting shows the members at that time consisted of: Ed Robbins, G. Robinson, John Dye, M. Taylor, G. Peterson, Mike McClure, E. A. McKinley, Mrs. Ohlerking, Bill Eldred, Phil Gardner, Bob Burnham, Bob Parks, John Roth, Francis Honey, Vernon Smith, James Streiff, and myself. In actuality, the active membership regularly attending meetings was about half that. At the seventh meeting, Mac was elected president by seven voting members, and I was elected Vice-President. Mike McClure was Secretary. Our motto was “Ad Ultima Thule”.

The experiments in telepathy continued at least into May of ‘47, and were mostly a failure, with no one getting any scores that were significantly above chance with any consistency over time, and no new projects for the society were developed; with the result that the society eventually faded away.

And the Martian Empire was fading away, as well — although at first it wasn’t quite obvious. A few of those in the society had been in the Martian Circle before the War, and James viewed several of the newer people as potential Martians, and gave them tests and told them the stories of the Epic. He also drew on the membership of the Jr. BEMS and other Fans as potential Martians. At this stage he was thinking in terms of a wider group of Martians who might be active in political and intellectual spheres, and he was developing the vehicle for ensuring the Martian character of that activity in The University of Trivium Charontis. It was an ambitious agenda.

The establishing of a Martian Union Local in Salem/Haverhill, Massachusetts, with Doris Currier and Davey McGirr, had, a year earlier, been a first step in that direction. In the course of our correspondence, I had sent McGirr a copy of The Martian News Letter (issue Volume 3, Number 4, January 1945) and a test form, and he had passed them along to Doris, a friend of his in her late twenties who also read science-fiction. On August 6, 1945 (a fateful day in any case), she sent a letter to James in care of me in Wichita. The letter was full of bright humor, intellectual insight, and vivid, playful imagination. After disparaging the make-up and contents of the MNL issue for three-quarters of a single spaced, typed page, she wrote, “The damned thing is so lousy it is intriguing, so I decided to write to find out if I was irrational enough to join or if I had to wait until I broke down completely.” And concluded, “Shall wish for the best…..that you burn this…but anticipate the worst…..that you answer.” And we did answer.

As it so happened, James had to visit near Salem later that year and he stopped in to see Doris and Davey. He was so pleased with Doris’ test results that by January of 1946, I had sent her a Charter for a Martian Union Local, and she was sending me items for inclusion in the MNL:


Lemurians, Dayvee and Dorist met in the Earth city of Salem in solemn conclave on Tuesday, the beginning of a new terrestrial year, to congratulate each other upon their admission to the holy Martian Order.

Through telepathic discussion it was decided that these two shall in the near future attempt to organize all other Varnish drinking Lemurians into a Martian Local. This local shall be named after a few more meetings and the base work set up so that new members can be accommodated.

Due to strange vibrations emanating from the Home Office of the Martian Order the conclave was recessed until messages had been received.

Another prospect for forming a local outside of Wichita was John Cockroft of San Anselmo, California. John was a science-fiction/fantasy fan who was a veteran and drew clever illustrations of fanciful beings and landscapes. He had a color ditto machine and published his own fanzine as well as doing work for others. In 1946 he did a color cover for the MNL. In addition, he did the cover and several inside illustrations for my fanzine, Adonis.

However, as 1947 approached, things were changing. My own interest in Science-Fiction Fandom was waning and people in the old Circle had returned to college to ready themselves for assuming their “grown-up” occupations, and to take on new adult roles as married husbands and wives — the life-stages that had been interrupted by the War. James also was plagued during this period by a re-occurring heart condition brought on by the rheumatic fever he had contracted in Africa during the War. Slowly, but inexorably, the Martian Empire and its wider vision ground to a halt. And the design of the resurgent new Martian Empire was never fully realized. The old glory days were gone and the file document below was left as a reminder of what had been:

Update Present Status of the Universe:
Al +7,983,471,999 c.s. (A.D. 1947 Earth Date)

Lundmark’s Nebula: Under rule of the Martian Empire.

Venus, Mars, and Ganymede: In the hands of the Martian Empire.
The rest of the Solar System: Independent.
The Aristocrats destroyed and most of their vassals liberated.
Sirius and Canopis: Taken over by Centauris.
Orion area: Taken over by Xlaviers.
M 33: Opened to colonization by Martian Empire.

2: The Tests

From the early stages — in 1937 — “The Tests” had been an integral part of becoming a Martian — though not necessarily of becoming a part of the Martian Circle. Many of those in the Circle were never really accepted as full-fledged Martians by those in the core clique. But everyone took “The Tests”, and as the system became more sophisticated, the data gathered became more extensive:

Martian Form No. C

Personal Check List



Relationship (Check One) Martian _______ Potential Martian ______

Correspondent ________ Other (Name) ______________________
________ Form One – Identification
________ Form Two – Life History
________ Form Three – Test A (if a reject draw a red line under this in line)
________ Form Four – Reinstatement (for suspense on Form Three)
________ Form Five – Main Test
________ Form Six – Physical Examination
________ Selected as Martian or Terrestrial Martian (strike out one)
________ O/S [Order of Shultz]
________ Other Orders (list)
________ Union Card ________
Forms 3, 4, and 6 do not apply to correspondents.

Form Two included the basic data of name and address, sex, birthdate and place of birth, where lived, schooling, date of marriage, children, illnesses, military service, etc. Form Three (“Test A”) was hectographed and was an initial test for imagination:

TEST A The Parks & Streiff Cons. Co.
(1.) 1 + 1 = ……………………………………………………………………………..
(2.) Who swiped the CO2 from Joe’s soda?
(3.) Why did the bartender pay the Dragon instead of vice versa?
(4.) What does the key of Beethoven’s 5th have to do with the price of wheat?
(5.) What did Roth lying three feet above the divan have to do with the murder next door?
(6.) Why did Clare Fruteck cut German instead of being like she was?
(7.) What do Gibson’s pliers have to do with the piano Charles Ball thinks he’s playing?
(8.) Why did Pennington (who didn’t know how to make it) make up and scatter a batch of nitrogen iodine?
(9.) Why is Goodrum represented by a negative number?
(10.) 1 + 1 = ……………………………………………………………………………


City……………………. State……………………..

On the basis of this test, a person might or might not be given Test B. For those not already in the Circle, a cover letter was developed for Test B:

James Streiff
548 North Dellrose
Wichita, Kansas

Dear Friend,

I am standardizing the enclosed test and I would appreciate it greatly if you would be so kind as to send me your answers to it. All answers will be held confidential and you need not place your name on them.

The test labeled IA is a knowledge test and should be done from memory. Test IB is a time test with a time limit of ten minutes. (No one is expected to complete this part in this short time so you should not feel discouraged if you do not.) The other parts are self-explanatory.

For purposes of correlation we would like for you to send along with the test the scores you have made on any psychological tests you have taken, such as the army alpha.

With greatest thanks for your indulgence

James L. Streiff

And, in fact, James did carry out extensive item analysis on the questions of the test. But, as well, he was looking for people with Martian traits.

Test I A
1. Name 5 elements.
2. What is the common name for Phenol?
3. Arrange in order: Light, X-Rays, Heat, Ultra Violet, Cosmic Rays.
4. Give the visible spectrum in order.
5. Name in order the parts of the digestive tract.
6. Differentiate S = 1/2 ght2
7. How much current will flow from a dry cell through a three ohm light?
8. What is the speed of light?
9. What is the speed of sound?
10. Balance: ? 02 = ? 03
11. State the Einstein theory of relativity.
12. Describe an Einsteinian Space.
13. Describe the action of a geodesic unit.
14. Explain the detection of telepathy.
15. Describe the production of a gravic wave.

Test I B (Ten minutes)
1. Find three consecutive numbers whose sum is 17 more than the largest.
2. Mary is 32 years old. Mary is twice as old as Ann was when Mary was as old as Ann is now. How old is Ann?
3. A man was hired for 30 days for $3 a day and board for each day he worked. Each day he was idle he was to pay $1 for his board. At settlement he received $66. How many days was he idle?
4. I have twice as many dimes as I do nickels and I have ten more quarters than the number of nickels and dimes together. I have $8.50. How many of each do I have?
5. A chemist has ten liters of 10% HCl. How much water should be added to produce 4% HCl?


Test I C (Note the difference)
1. (a) Nami emiegi . . . . . (b) terlum nertum plas fumilmiuty horne
. . . . .efieni smi
. . . . .ywe mineusi
2. (a) La mere de l’homme (b) La madre del hombre
3. (a) fjie mnikrtlowwtyfg (b) Disde mandoiz demoiz
4. (a) 1/2 X 1/2 (b) 1/2 + 2 (c) 1/2 + 1/4

Test I D
1. Translate: Silvae multae sunt in insula magna. In insula erant viri barbari animaliaque. Navis levis in porta est. Naves longae veniunt et silvas machinis oppugnant. Sed ita vita est.
2. Describe an Andromedian outpost.
3. Tell of an escapade of The Mighty Moscovitch. (He always winds up in Shultz’s Beer Parlor.)

Test II A
1. How many little men can get in a can of Varnish?
2. What is your political preference and why?
3. What is your religious preference and to what extent do you follow it?
4. What is your educational background?
5. Which of your courses did you like best?
6. Do you contemplate furthering your education, if so, what courses would you like to take?
7. What is your present occupation?
8. What other occupations would you like?
9. What is your favorite brand of Varnish?
10. What are your favorite sports?
11. What hobbies do you have?
12. Who are your favorite authors?
13. Who are your favorite composers?
14 Which of the sciences is your favorite?
15. Which of the arts is your favorite?
16. What foreign country do you admire most, and why?
17. What is your opinion of the post-war military situation?
18. What are your favorite amusements?

Test II B
1. What is your opinion of G. Julius Caesar?
2. Kimbal Kineson?
3. Don Juan?
4. Sir Henry Morgan?
5. Jesus of Nazareth?
6. George Sands?
7. Alexander the Great?
8. George Washington?
9. Cleopatra?
10. What are your opinions of the Three Musketeers?
11. What qualifications do you desire in a marital companion?
12. What living person do you most admire, and why?
13. What person would you most like to model yourself after?
14. What is your goal in life?
15. What is your opinion of our present civilization in its moral and cultural aspects?

Test II C

1. Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
2. What sex are you?
3. Any complexes (inferiority, etc.)?
4. Any phobias?
5. Any unusual emotional reactions?
6. Any unusual conditioned reflexes?
7. What are your favorite musical compositions?
8. What reactions and associations do you have with each of the above?
9. What are your favorite colors?
10 What type of scenic places attract you the most?
11. What type of people do you like to be around?
12. What is the average casual interpretation of your personality?

As will be noted, this is the war-time version of the test — 1944, judging from the fact that the file copy is hectographed. The pre-war version was essentially the same, though a little shorter.

“The Test” (Test B) was designed to test a person in the categories of: Knowledge (I A; score of 54% at least required), Reasoning (I B; 60%), Discriminating (I C; 60%), Imagination (I D; 80%), Attitudes (II A; 70%), Ideals (II B; 66%), and Personality (II C; 66%). Minimum percentage scores above in each area were required for a person to be considered a full Martian. Though Parks and James graded all the Test As, James gave me a key to Test B and I graded a good many of them in the period of from 1944 onward.

Essentially, in grading the Ideals, proper respect for women and a belief in the destiny of the Martian Empire were critical, as were sympathy with the Martian ideals expressed in the Epic. In terms of Attitudes, there were four points:

• Recognizing the faults of our present cultural system;
• Believing in the need for improvement in our present politico-economic system;
• Abhorring the immorality of our present culture; and,
• Recognizing that our present religious system is decaying.

The choice of Latin for translation was logical, given that most of the Circle in high school were members of SPQR. But what most of those answering the question missed was that this question was included in the Imagination section. What then becomes interesting is what the people did with the translation.

B. A.: There were many trees on the great island. In the forest were wild men and animals. There is a small ship in the harbor. [The other two sentences were missing from the earliest test form.]

V. L.: There are many forests on the great island. On the island were barbarous and animal men. The light boat is in the gate. The long boats come and oppose the forest. But what a life this is.

R. F.: Many forests are in the great isle. In the island were strange men and animals. Light ships are in the port. Long ships come and fight forest machines. But thus is life.

D. C.: Many trees are on the large island. On the island there were barbarian men and animals. A light ship is in the port. The long boats came and fought the trees with machines. Life is like that. (Ain’t it though!)

James Streiff: As we now go through so many rolling years, we gaze upon the greater glory of a mighty empire. It stands in the memory of great men as the supreme effort of a mighty race.

The first three, being scientifically oriented — as most of those taking the test were — tended towards literalism, even when their renderings didn’t make good sense. D. C. was more willing to paraphrase it into apt English; and of course, James was just having fun and making a meta-statement about the test itself.

Perhaps the most interesting response on a test question, from an historical point of view, was one to I D, # 2, “Describe an Andromedian outpost.”

Original of Michael McClure’s answer to Question I D, # 2.

In 1946, Michael McClure, who later became a renowned Beat poet and play-write, but who at the time was fourteen, a friend of mine, and a member of the Wichita Science-Fiction Society, took the test to become a Martian. His response to the question is highly imaginative and shows his close familiarity with the Epic’s terminology and characters: “Stryf” is the way James spelled his name in some of the written stories, and “viz” is the term Carter used in his letters to refer to a television communication device — and, of course, positing a convention of dragons was right on target.

For those who failed to meet the minimum requirements on the test, there was still hope: indoctrination. And that was where the University of Trivium Charontis came in.

3: The University of Trivium Charontis

James and I kept in constant correspondence about Martian affairs from the middle of 1944 until he was discharged in February of 1946. In one letter early in January of 1945 I asked him about the materials in The Files on the University of Trivium Charontis, and, in a letter dated January 25, 1945, he replied:

About the university of Trivium Charontis, that is an idea Parks and I are working on for use as an aid in indoctrination. All the various things that we want the Martians to know are arranged in courses like at a university, then we have the person take a certain number of the courses before we give them the test. At the present the idea is still in the embryonic stage. We haven’t got it completely worked out yet.

One of the documents in The Files I had referred to was one giving the purpose of the University:



The University of Trivium Charontis is a non-profit educational institution dedicated to the purpose of preparing men for the upcoming age of space travel. The University confers the degree of “Cosmic Engineer” on qualified persons who successfully complete the course.

The University offers degrees in technology, sociology, medicine, and survival, Advanced degrees are offered in philosophy and naval science.

The University uses individual instruction either directly or by correspondence. Certain portions of the curriculum may be omitted by the University if the entrance examination shows that they are not necessary. Also, certain additional courses may be given under the auspices of the University if the examination shows that they are required. An attempt will be made to include applications in most of the courses as well as theory, although because of the nature of much of the material a great deal of theory will be required.

Schedules will be made out by the counselor in consultation with the student, although for the most part the courses leading to a degree are pretty well established. Special courses not leading to a degree may be taken by those lacking certain requirements or those uncertain as to the degree required.

After returning from service, James made a short outline of some of the general areas to be covered:

Points of Indoctrination

Be acquainted with astronomy, cosmology, and the theory of relativity.

Be acquainted with the theory of historical evolution.
Have read a considerable amount of stf [science-fiction].
Have at least a high school education (majoring in, or having a considerable amount of science).
Be acquainted with atomic physics.

Have at least a rudimentary knowledge of military and naval science.

Be acquainted with the work done in rocketry and related fields.
Have read the studies in Martian culture and Martian etiquette.
Have read articles of indoctrination, such as the plays “Varnish Ho” and “The Quest of the Purloined Planet”, and back issues of The Martian News Letter.

Brief summaries of what would be taught in each area were also developed, and all were aimed toward realizing various aspects of the stated purpose. For example, although initially “medicine” may seem like an odd choice for inclusion, in actuality, it would involve, as James spelled it out “… the problems of Mars, Venus, and Jupiter. A study of the special problems on these planets.” Obviously, space medicine today is an important adjunct to NASA’s program.

There were three types of courses: those designed to impart knowledge, those designed to indoctrinate, and those teaching “the Mysteries”. The knowledge courses consisted of those in the subjects of Language, Music, Psychology, Science, Historical Evolution, Geopolitics, Telepathy, Economics, Sociology, and Military Science. The indoctrinational courses included Culture, Etiquette and Theology, with readings in science-fiction and other authors. I have no idea what “the Mysteries” involved.

Each course was to have one or more texts. Johnston’s People in Quandaries, a book on semantics, for example, would be used in Sociology; and Willy Ley’s book on rockets would be used as the basis for discussing space travel. For some courses the various members of the Circle would have to write their own texts on various subjects.

However, the University of Trivium Charontis never got beyond the initial planning stage. Everything stopped when James graduated from WU in May of 1948 with both a Bachelor’s degree in Liberal Art and Sciences and the rank of 2nd Lieutenant in the Air Force Reserve, and went to work at Boeing. In May of 1951, after working at Boeing for three years, he was called up for service during the Korean War and spent most of the war in Shreveport, Louisiana working with IBM computer equipment.

4: Conclusion
So the Martian Epic came to a conclusion.

And James’ answer to the Latin translation might have made a good epitaph for the Martian Empire, when all was said and done.

As we now go through so many rolling years, we gaze upon the greater glory of a mighty empire. It stands in the memory of great men as the supreme effort of a mighty race.


“THE SPACEMAN’S LAMENT” by James Streiff

Oh, for the och — re sands of Mars, ‘Neath pur – ple skies  above,
Take me back to the low red hills, Back to that place I love
The steely tow’rs of Is – fen – fer – ath, And the shining blue can – als,
I want no for — eign pla — an – et, None but the ione I love.
Perhaps i-in the far ioff future, When my earth-ly chore is done,
I’ll be back on my own planet, My Mars, my on – ly one.

© 2001 by Celeste Hammond. All Rights Reserved.


Comments are closed.

Set your Twitter account name in your settings to use the TwitterBar Section.