Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Keller, David H

(1880-1966) US writer better known for his sf, starting with "The Revolt of the Pedestrians" (1928 Amazing Stories), than for his fantasy and horror, which is in fact superior. From 1928 DHK was a regular contributor to Weird Tales, for which his best-known story is "The Thing in the Cellar" (1932 WT; 1940), a Psychological Thriller or fantasy of Perception in which a boy dies of fright because he believes something exists in the cellar, that belief being sufficient to create the entity. WT also began publication of DHK's Tales from Cornwall with "The Battle of the Toads" (1929), a series (15 stories) never published in full, though the Magazine of Horror published 10 of the stories in internal chronological order, starting with "The Oak Tree" (1969). The series is a form of Dynastic Fantasy, set in our world, following the Hubelaire family from 200BC to 1914. The early stories draw heavily upon Folklore and tradition, and were influenced by James Branch Cabell. The Hubelaire or Hubler family appears in others of DHK's stories, including The Devil and the Doctor (1940), DHK's first novel, where the Devil, in the shape of Robin Goodfellow, tells Dr Hubler the real story of the Creation, making Jehovah the villain. The tale is superficially a twist on the Pact-with-the-Devil story, but in development is more deeply philosophical on the nature of Good and Evil.

DHK's other major series featured the Occult Detective Taine of San Francisco. Early stories were sf, starting with "The Menace" (1928 Amazing Stories Quarterly), but later ones are more weird and supernatural, including Wolf Hollow Bubbles (1933 chap), where cancer cells grow to an enormous size, and "The Tree of Evil" (1934 Wonder Stories), where an entire town succumbs to the effects of a powerful psychedelic drug. Drugs were used to similar effect in the non-Taine novella "The Abyss" (in The Solitary Hunters and The Abyss coll 1948), where a drug which can separate the conscious from the unconscious is introduced into chewing-gum sold in New York, whose populace descends into barbarity and finds itself under the power of a new surreal Religion.

DHK was a compulsive writer for over 60 years. His first published story, "Aunt Martha" (1895 Bath Weekly) appeared in a country newspaper. At college he collaborated in a small literary magazine, The White Owl, which published several of his stories as by Henry Cecil; he also used the name Amy Worth. DHK seldom wrote directly for a market (other than the sf magazines), and much of his output remains unpublished. Several works appeared first in French, including La Guerre du Lierre ["The Ivy War"] (coll 1936 France) and The Sign of the Burning Hart: A Tale of Arcadia (coll of linked stories 1938 France; in English 1948). DHK was also happy to offer stories free to amateur magazines and presses, and so many of his tales appeared in obscure publications; his bibliography is thus complicated. Apart from The Devil and the Doctor, all of DHK's book publications have been as amateur booklets or through specialist Small Presses. One of these, Prime Press, issued DHK's only other novels to appear in book form: The Eternal Conflict (1939 Les Primaires France as "Le Duel sans Fin", part only; 1949), which explores the power of a Goddess who can create and destroy worlds at will, The Homunculus (1949), in which a doctor's successful attempts to create a Homunculus are subverted by the intervention of Pan and Lilith, and The Lady Decides (1950), concerning an allegorical quest through Spain. All three reflect DHK's increasingly anti-feminist views. Many of his short stories, like "Binding De Luxe" (1934 Marvel Tales), "Tiger Cat" (1937 WT) and "The Bridle" (1942 WT), feature Femmes Fatales.

The best of DHK's short fiction is collected in Life Everlasting and Other Tales of Science, Fantasy and Horror (coll 1947) ed Sam Moskowitz and Will Sykora, with an informative introduction by Moskowitz, Tales from Underwood (coll 1952), The Folsom Flint (coll 1969), with another fine introduction by Paul Spencer, and The Last Magician (coll 1978 chap) ed Patrick H Adkins; this last volume, the first of two in the incomplete David H. Keller Memorial Library, prints DHK's autobiographical "Half a Century of Writing". [MA]

other works: Songs of a Spanish Lover (coll 1924 chap), poetry; The Thought Projector (1929 chap); Men of Avalon (1935 chap dos); The Waters of Lethe (1937 chap); The Television Detective (1938 chap); The Final War (1949 chap); A Figment of a Dream (1962 chap). Fanomena March 1948 is entirely dedicated to DHK's work.

David Henry Keller


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.