Edgar Allan Poe
Biographical notes by Blake Wilfong

"Brevity must be in direct ratio of the intensity of the intended effect."

Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) is universally hailed as one of America's greatest poets and short story authors. He invented the modern detective mystery, produced innovative tales of the macabre, legitimized the short story as serious literature, and played a key role in the development of science fiction.

Poe's science fiction greatly influenced Jules Verne. "The Balloon Hoax" (1844) inspired Verne's first SF novel, Five Weeks in a Balloon (1863), while "The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall" (1835) anticipated Verne's From the Earth to the Moon (1865). Verne even completed Poe's unfinished novel The Narrative of A. Gordon Pym of Nantucket (1837). In his own words, Poe's stories possessed a unique "verisimilitude, in the application of scientific principles"--a quality Verne and his successors strove to emulate.

Alas, Poe's short life was full of misery and failure. By his third year, both his parents were dead. His wealthy foster father supplied little love or financial support. And, despite the popularity and acclaim of his stories, poetry, essays, and editorships, Poe was woefully underpaid, often living on the verge of starvation. His drinking and gambling, and his wife's lingering death from tuberculosis, added to his problems. He was found unconscious in a Baltimore street in October 1849, and died soon thereafter.

Hugo Gernsback, the famous magazine publisher who created the science fiction genre, defined it as "the Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, and Edgar Allan Poe type of story." Ironically, Poe is seldom remembered today for his SF.

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