Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Stockton, Frank R

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(1834-1902) US writer and editor, a prolific author of short stories. Most of his fantasies were for children, including those in Ting-a-Ling (coll 1870; vt Ting-a-Ling Tales UK), which contains three tales of the eponymous hero and the novella "The Magical Music". However, many of his quirky Fables have a surreal edge and a sly suspicion of conventional moralism which are more fitted to adult consumption; the best are assembled in The Bee-Man of Orn and Other Fanciful Tales (coll 1887). In The Bee-Man of Orn (1964 chap) the transmogrified bee-man goes in search of his true self. In "The Griffin and the Minor Canon" a clergyman risks censure to befriend an ambivalent Monster. The museum in The Queen's Museum (1915 chap) proves less educational than the queen intended until suitably enlivened. "Old Pipes and the Dryad" is a sentimental parable of rejuvenation. "The Banished King" puts a new slant on the Sphinx's fondness for Riddles. "The Philopena" is a bizarre tale in which the many interruptions to the unsmooth-running course of true Love include a Gryphoness and a Water Sprite. Three of these tales were reprinted with two of a similar ilk from The Clocks of Rondaine and Other Stories (coll 1892) in Fanciful Tales (coll 1894), all of whose contents were included in a more comprehensive selection, The Queen's Museum and Other Fanciful Tales (coll 1906).

FRS was a pioneer of the comic Ghost Story, best exemplified by "The Transferred Ghost" and "The Spectral Mortgage" in The Lady, or the Tiger?, and Other Stories (coll 1884). The three stories in Afield and Afloat (coll 1900) are weaker but still as good as anything by John Kendrick Bangs, who would carry the fledgling tradition forward. Some of FRS's fantasies for adults are offbeat comedies, including the title novella of Amos Kilbright: His Adscititious Experiences, with Other Stories (coll 1888), but some are more contemplative, including "A Borrowed Month" in The Christmas Wreck and Other Stories (coll 1886; vt A Borrowed Month and Other Stories 1887 UK) and "The Philosophy of Relative Existences" in The Watchmaker's Wife and Other Stories (coll 1893; vt The Shadrach and Other Stories UK), which features shy ghosts from the future; the latter collection also includes the Jekyll-and-Hyde story "The Knife that Killed Po Hancy". "The Magic Egg", "The Bishop's Ghost and the Printer's Baby" and "Stephen Skarridge's Christmas" in A Story-Teller's Pack (coll 1897) are offbeat moral fantasies with a hint of sarcasm, the last parodying Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol (1843). Some of the tales assembled in The Science Fiction of Frank R. Stockton (coll 1976) ed Richard Gid Powers are fantasies. There are many other collections selected from FRS's works; The Novels and Stories of Frank R. Stockton (1899-1904 23 vols) is definitive ... although it omits the works transcribed by the medium Etta de Camp on behalf of FRS's spirit, collected in The Return of Frank R. Stockton (coll 1913)!

FRS's novels are less interesting; they include the Lost-Race story The Adventures of Captain Horn (1895) and The Vizier of the Two-Horned Alexander (1898), a mildly facetious fantasy of Immortality. The Stories of the Three Burglars (1889) is presented as a novel but contains three interpolated tales, one of which is fantasy. The Great Show in Kobol-Land (1891 chap) is an interesting novella for children – it is reprinted in The Clocks of Rondaine and Other Stories – whose hero and heroine ultimately reject the gift of the Cosmic Bean (the ultimate foodstuff) because they do not wish to be rulers of Lazyland. [BS]

other works: Roundabout Rambles in Lands of Fact and Fancy (coll 1872); Tales out of School (coll 1875); The Floating Prince and Other Fairy Tales (coll 1881); A Chosen Few (coll 1895); John Gayther's Garden and Stories Told Therein (coll 1902); The Lost Dryad (1921 chap); The Fairy Tales of Frank Stockton (coll 1990) ed Jack Zipes.

Frank Richard Stockton


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.