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Aliens   By: (1881-1966)

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[Illustration: publishers symbol]


Copyright, 1918, by Doubleday, Page & Company.

All rights reserved, including that of translation into foreign languages, including the Scandinavian



[ Publisher's Note: It should be explained that an earlier version of "Aliens" was published in London in 1914, and some copies were also distributed in the United States. After the issue of "Casuals of the Sea" the present publishers purchased the rights to "Aliens" and urged Mr. McFee to re write the story. His account of the history of this book is here inserted, and will undoubtedly take its place among the most entertaining and interesting prefaces in modern literature. ]

So many people are unaware of the number of works of fiction which have been rewritten after publication. I was rather surprised myself when I came to recapitulate them. I wouldn't go so far as to say that second editions, like second thoughts, are the best, because I at once think of "The Light that Failed." But I do believe that under the very unusual circumstances of the genesis and first issue of Aliens I am justified in offering a maturer and more balanced representation of what that book stands for.

The notion of a character like Mr. Carville came to me while I was busy finishing "Casuals of the Sea" during the late fall of 1912. A short story was the result. It went to many likely and unlikely publishers, for I knew very little of the field. I don't know whether the "Farm Journal" (of which I am a devoted reader) got it, but it is quite probable. A mad artist who lived near us, in an empty store along with a studio stove and three priceless Kakemonos, told me he would "put me next" an editor of his acquaintance. I forget the name of the paper now, but I think it had some connection with women's clothes. I sent in my story, but unfortunately my friend forgot to put me next, for I got neither cash nor manuscript. The next time I passed the empty store, I stepped in to explain, but the artist had a black eye, and his own interest was so engrossed in Chinese lacquer work and a stormy divorce case he had coming on shortly, that I was struck dumb. What was a short story in comparison with such issues? And I knew he had no more opinion of me as an author than I had of him as an artist.

But when another typed copy came back from a round of visits to American magazines, I kept it. I had a strong conviction that, in making a book of what was then only a rather vague short story, I was not such a fool as the mad artist seemed to think. I reckoned his judgment had been warped by the highly eccentric environment in which he delighted. The empty store in which he lived, like a rat in a shipping case, was new and blatant. It thrust its blind, lime washed window front out over the sidewalk. Over the lime wash one could see the new pine shelving along the walls loaded with innumerable rolls of wall paper. Who was responsible for this moribund stock I could never discover. Perhaps the mad artist imagined them to be priceless Kakemonos of such transcendent and blinding beauty that he did not dare unroll them. They resembled a library of papyrus manuscripts. Here and there among them stood some exquisitely hideous dragon or bird of misfortune. He had a bench in the store too, I remember, and seemed to have some sort of business in mending such things for dealers. And he did a little dealing himself too, for his madness had not destroyed his appreciation of the value of money. He would exhibit some piece of Oriental rubbish, and when one had politely admired it, he would say pleasantly, "Take it!" One took it, and a week later he would borrow its full value as a loan.

With his Kakemonos he was even more mystifying, for he would develop sudden and quite unnecessary bursts of rage, and announce his refusal of anything under a million for them... Continue reading book >>

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