Stories was founded in 1926 by Hugo "Payment Upon
Lawsuit" Gernsback. AMZ (as its fans called it) limped
along over the years, going through several editors and
publishers, until Ziff-Davis bought it in 1938.
Ray Palmer (a longtime science fiction fan) was installed as
the editor. Palmer managed to turn around a dying
magazine, making it profitable for the first time in its
What was Palmer's secret? Lurid, gaudy covers, with
lurid, gaudy stories. AMZ's stories had lots of
action, lots of two dimensional characters, and lots of what
can only be called a "what the hell" attitude: an exciting
story was the point, and forget about all of that science
Palmer had an instinctive eye for stories that would appeal
to his audience. And one day an unknown named Richard
S. Shaver wrote a letter to AMZ (published in the January
1944 issue), claiming he had discovered a proto-language he called
Mantong. He claimed this was the language used in Atlantis.
Mantong assigned individual meanings to individual
letters of the English alphabet, and together those meanings could
supply the true definitions of words. The Mantong Alphabet went as
A - is for Animal
B - is to Be
C - means See
D - is the harmful energy generated by the Sun
E - is Energy
F - means Fecund
G - means to Generate
H - means Human
I - means I
J - is the same as G - generate
K - means Kinetic, as in motion or energy
L - is Life
M - means Man
N - means child, as in 'ninny'
O - means Orifice, a source
P - is Power
Q - means Quest
R - horror; signifies a large amount of D present
S - means the Sun, which emits D
T - is the beneficial force, the opposite of D
U - means You
V - Vital; in Shaver's words, 'the stuff Mesmer calls animal magnetism.'
W - Will
X - Conflict, sometimes meaning D and T in opposition
Y - means Why
Z - means Zero, or when T and D cancel one another out.
So, for example, Science Fiction and Beer translates to:
Science: Sun, see, I, energy, child, see, energy.
Fiction: Fecund, I, see, beneficial force, I, orifice, child.
and: animal, child, harmful energy.
Beer: To be, energy, energy, horror.
One could argue why the Ancient Ones used English as their alphabet, but
Shaver responded in essence that since all languages were equally
deviated from the original proto-language, then English was as good a starting point as any. So there!
Shaver later sent in more letters to AMZ, telling of his
experiences. Any other editor would have correctly dismissed those
word salads as the work of a madman, but Palmer saw
something that would resonate with his readers. He
rewrote Shaver's experiences, changing them to fiction, over
the objections of Shaver, and
According to Shaver, he was working as a welder in a war plant, when his
welding torch started telling him about all of the things below.
He later discovered that it wasn't his torch that was doing the talking:
the messages were being sent by telaug (telepathic augmenter).
I will only go over the grand scheme of the Shaver world
in general. Beneath the earth are these evil beings, the Deros,
who were mutated by the sun's harmful rays, ad thus went underground,
and into the caves. They would kidnap people trough various
methods, such as rigging up elevators that would go down to their evil
realms. Their machines were just as degenerate as they were,
having also been harmed by the sun's radiation. There is much more to the
whole story than that: the good, untainted race, the Teros, the Titans,
the Atlans, Lemuria, and on and on. Shaver's welding torch must
have been very talkative indeed!
I think even Palmer was surprised at the immediate reaction:
numerous people wrote in, chiding him for presenting fact as
fiction. And some of them said they had similar
experiences. There were also naysayers, the usual dour
faced fans of "serious" science fiction.
It was off to the races! Before it died out, The
Shaver Mystery (as the collection of stories was called)
would fascinate some in the public to this day.
Eventually Ziff-Davis got tired of the complaints, and Ray
Palmer quit the magazine. The first thing new editor
Harold Browne did was discard over 200,000 words worth of
stories Palmer had bought.
Without Ray Palmer, AMZ became moribund. Ziff-Davis
switched it to a digest sized format in 1953, but that
didn't help sales. AMZ went through several editors
and publishers, its circulation getting less and less over
AMZ is still around, hanging out where all print
publications go to die: the internet.
Ray Palmer moved on to found several other magazines.
His best known publication is Fate magazine, which is still
published to this day. Along the way, Palmer, along
with pilot Ken Arnold (the pilot who inspired the term
"flying saucer",) founded the pseudoscience of UFOlogy.
Richard S. Shaver kept on writing, and attempted to convince
people about something he called "rokfogos," that is, rocks
that appear to have images in them. He assumed that
the ancient ones had put the images in there. People
who had seen his rokfogos either didn't see what he saw, or
just dismissed them as natural phenomena, like picture
Shaver was also a prolific painter, and his works are fine examples of
what people call outsider art. All of his paintings fall into the
strange category, and many of them are of the images he thought he saw
in his "rokfogos."
One of Shaver's rokfogo paintings.
How best to read these publications: Set yourself down on a
good easy chair. Have some music playing softly in the
background. If you have a fireplace, start a fire in
it. Grab a pack full of gas station cigars, some
cheese, some crackers or Chex Mix, a glass, a bottle of
brandy or elderbery wine, and get a cat on your lap.
Then settle back and start reading these magazines.
What better way can there be to spend your time? Heck,
I could do that every day for the rest of my life.
The Man Himself: Richard S, Shaver "Life is a silly sound like a death rattle
from an insane clown dying in the night."
--Richard S. Shaver
Amazing Stories Appearances
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