Nictzin Wilstone Dyalhis (June 4, 1873 – May 8, 1942) was an American chemist and short story writer who specialized in the genres of science fiction and fantasy. He wrote as Nictzin Dyalhis. During his lifetime he attained a measure of celebrity as a writer for the pulp fiction magazine Weird Tales.
June 4, 1873|
May 8, 1942 (aged 68)|
|Occupation||Short story writer, chemist|
|Genre||Fantasy, science fiction|
Firm facts about Dyalhis's life are few, as he coupled his limited output of fiction with a penchant for personal privacy and an avoidance of publicity. His year of birth, usually cited (with a question mark) as 1879, was long uncertain, and he was speculated to have been born in England—or Pima, Arizona. His World War I draft registration card and U. S. Census records establish his birthdate as June 4, 1873, and his state of birth as Massachusetts. His father, reportedly of Welsh extraction, was also born in Massachusetts, and his mother in Guatemala. Even Dyalhis's name is uncertain; in his stories, Dyalhis played with common spellings, so that "Earth" becomes Aerth and "Venus," Venhez, and he was thought to have possibly done the same with his own name, turning the prosaic "Dallas" into the exotic Dyalhis. According to L. Sprague de Camp, however, Dyalhis was his actual surname, inherited from his Welsh father, and his given name Nictzin was also authentic, bestowed on him due to his father's fascination with the Aztecs. His draft card establishes his full name as Nictzin Wilstone Dyalhis.
Among the imaginative readers of his stories, Dyalhis acquired a reputation for possessing unusual abilities and an exotic history as an adventurer and world traveller. The known facts of his life are more prosaic. At some time during his youth he lost one eye, as noted on his draft card. He worked as a chemist, and married Harriet Lord; in 1920 the couple was living with her mother in Sugar Grove, Warren County, Pennsylvania. Harriet was an inmate of the Warren State Hospital in 1930, while Nictzin was living in Maryland in the early 1940s, reportedly in difficult financial circumstances. He died in Salisbury, Maryland on May 8, 1942.
Dyalhis's earliest stories, including "When the Green Star Waned" (Note: This story should be given notable credit in the creation of Superman because of its obvious influence on creator Jerry Siegel. ) and its sequel "The Oath of Hul Jok", are fairly firmly in the science fiction genre; the former is sometimes credited for introducing the term "blaster" for a ray gun. Yet his overall output is most easily and readily categorized as occult fantasy, involving spiritual travel on the astral plane, journeys to Hell, and reincarnation.
In "The Eternal Conflict" (1925) and "The Dark Lore"(1927) adventurers in the astral plane encounter the traditional Judaeo-Christian Hell. "The Red Witch" (1932), "The Sapphire Goddess" (1934; variant title "The Sapphire Siren"), "The Sea-Witch"(1937) and "The Heart of Atlantan"(1940) all feature souls that transmigrate across time or undergo reincarnation to enact conflicts from the past.
In a field of popular literature characterized by prolific production, Dyalhis gained a kind of reverse fame by the extreme paucity of his output: he published only eight stories in Weird Tales over a fifteen-year period. Several additional stories appeared in Adventure and Ghost Stories magazine, and gangster fiction pulps. In the verdict of one SF commentator, Dyalhis "established a reputation in Weird Tales out of proportion to either the quality or quantity of his contributions." Yet his stories were very popular with readers, and a few, notably "The Sapphire Goddess," have been featured in anthologies.
Nine of Dyalhis's stories were included in the collection The Sapphire Goddess, published in 2018, the first time his work appears to have been collected in print. The collection leaves out the two stories from Adventure and the two from Underworld.
- "Who Keep the Desert Law" (Adventure, October 20, 1922) .
- "For Wounding—Retaliation" (Adventure, November 20, 1922. Reprinted in Wildside Press reprint of Tales of Magic and Mystery, 2004).
- "When the Green Star Waned" (Weird Tales, April 1925; reprinted January 1929)
- "The Eternal Conflict" (Weird Tales, October 1925)
- "He Refused to Stay Dead" (Ghost Stories, April 1927. Reprinted in Ghost Stories:The Magazine and its Makers: Volume 2, 2010, edited by John Locke ).
- "The Dark Lore" (Weird Tales, October 1927)
- "The Oath of Hul Jok" (Weird Tales, September 1928)
- "The Red Witch" (Weird Tales, April 1932)
- "The Whirling Machete" (Underworld Magazine, December 1933)
- "The Sapphire Goddess" AKA "The Sapphire Siren" (Weird Tales, February 1934)
- "Gangland’s Judas" (Complete Underworld Novelettes, August 1934)
- "The Sea-Witch" (Weird Tales, December 1937; reprinted July 1953)
- "Heart of Atlantan" (Weird Tales, September 1940)
- Dziemianowicz gives his birthdate as 1880
- L. Sprague de Camp, Literary Swordsmen and Sorcerers: the Makers of Heroic Fantasy, Sawk City, Wisc., Arkham House, 1976; p. 301.
- Michael Ashley, The Time Machines: The Story of the Science-Fiction Pulp Magazines from the Beginning to 1950, Liverpool, Liverpool University Press, 2000; p. 43.
- Dziemianowicz, Stefan. "Nictzin Dyalhis" in John Clute and John Grant (eds), The Encyclopedia of Fantasy. London: Orbit Books, 1997, p. 305.
- Jaffery, Sheldon, and Fred Cook. The Collector's Index to Weird Tales. Bowling Green, OH, Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1985.
- Moskowitz, Sam. "Nictzin Dyalhis: Mysterious Master of Fantasy." In Echoes of Valor III, edited by Karl Edward Wagner, Tor, 1991.
- 1920 United States Federal Census.
- 1930 United States Federal Census.
- U.S. World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918.