Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Charles F. Hall

Charles F. Hall  (British, fl. 1938)

Virtually nothing is known about Charles F. Hall, beyond his stories.  (If anyone can tell me more about him, I'll be pleased to hear it.)  He published two stories in the short-lived British science fiction magazine, Tales of Wonder, edited by Walter H. Gillings. Sixteen issues of Tales of Wonder were published between 1937 and 1942.  Both of Hall's stories are imitative of H.G. Wells.  The first, "The Man Who Lived Backwards", appeared in issue no. 3 (Summer 1938). I reprinted this story in my anthology Tales Before Narnia (2008) because it is clearly the story C. S. Lewis mentioned as an influence on himself in his preface to The Great Divorce (1946). The second  story, "The Time-Drug",  is also about time, and it appeared in issue no. 5 (Winter 1938).

I can now confirm a third story by this writer, "Paid Without Protest," which appeared in the 8 October 1938 issue of a non-genre magazine The Passing Show (v. 7 no. 342), where is is signed "C. F. Hall."  That this is the same author is evidenced in the November 1938 issue of Novae Terrae, the first British science fiction fanzine, where it refers to Hall as "author of [the] hit story 'The Man Who Lived Backwards' " and notes the new story is about "an apparent television-phone" (p. 25), so it's a third science fiction tale. 

The cover of the issue of the "highly coloured" magazine of "scientifiction" containing Hall's "The Man Who Lived Backwards" which influenced C.S. Lewis's The Great Divorce
About the only biographical information I can find on Hall comes from  the Spring 1938 issue of Tomorrow, where it says that "A new British author whose work promises to be immediately popular appears in the person of C.F. Hall, a member of B.I.S., who contributes 'The Man Who Lived Backwards' as his first published story" (p. 6).  The B.I.S. is the British Interplanetary Society.

The noted science-fiction historian Mike Ashley has told me that he once asked Walt Gillings about the lesser-known contributors to Tales of Wonder, and Gillings noted "I never heard again from Charles F. Hall (real name) after running "The Time-Drug" in Tales of Wonder: a pity, because he was very promising in spite of sticking too closely to Wells." Gillings suggested that Hall might have been from Hull, but then wondered at the similarity between Hall and Hull (information courtesy of Mike Ashley).

So that's it.  Three short stories, all published in 1938.  And then silence.


  1. Fascinating. I had always wondered about the history behind that mysterious scientifiction story that inspired The Great Divorce! Thank you for sharing this!

  2. What a great find! Thank you. I was intrigued by Lewis' reference. Wouldn't he have been amazed to find how easy it was to find the actual story referenced, find it was reprinted in another book, and be able to purchase the same with a delivery to home using a hand held e-reader all within 10 minutes time?!

  3. Do you know where I'd be able to read "The Man Who Lived Backwards"? I can't find it anywhere.

    1. So far as I know, it's only been printed twice--in the original 1938 magazine, and in my anthology TALES BEFORE NARNIA (2008), published by Ballantine Books and still in print(in book and ebook formats).