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Creator / Manly Wade Wellman

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"The road a writer follows is paved with the words he writes."

Manly Wade Wellman (May 21, 1903 – April 5, 1986) was a prolific American writer who worked in practically every genre, but best known for his Dark Fantasy stories about a traveling musician named John who frequently finds himself battling supernatural menaces in the deep backwoods of Appalachia. Wellman had already written other Occult Detective stories, demonstrating a talent for weirdness and a quirky sense of humour, but the "Silver John" stories (so-called for disambiguation, although their protagonist is always just plain John) are additionally enlivened by Wellman's enduring interest in the folklore and folk music of backwoods America.

Although he grew up in America, Wellman was born in the village of Kamundongo, then part of Portuguese West Africa and now in the Republic of Angola. Wellman was steeped in the local African culture and folklore, which influenced a good deal of his writing. After the family returned to the United States, he developed a similar fascination with American back country folklore, and themes of Culture Clash, Deliberate Values Dissonance, the harshness of nature in remote communities, and the power of folk belief are major motifs in his work.

Wellman's short stories were adapted as episodes of The Twilight Zone (1959) ("The Valley Was Still"; the adaptation is retitled "Still Valley"), Night Gallery ("The Devil Is Not Mocked") and Monsters ("Rouse Him Not"). Far less successfully, a movie was made based on some of the John stories, The Legend of Hillbilly John.

On a completely different note, his other works include Sherlock Holmes's War of the Worlds. He even wrote a Captain Future novel.

Works by Manly Wade Wellman with their own trope page include:

His other works provide examples of:

  • Action Girl: The protagonist of Venus Enslaved teams up with a band of gun-slinging women whose ancestors secretly traveled to that planet centuries previously.
  • As the Good Book Says...: In his lesser-known Parson Jaeger stories, the titular character quotes the Bible quite often, though not always accurately, something lampshaded by other characters.
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: Or rather, Byron was a a man cursed in childhood to serve dark powers for 150 years.
  • Bigger on the Inside: In "The Golden Goblins", the spirit bundle contains at least fifteen figurines, and yet it's only large enough for one.
  • Cat Fight: Some of the Action Girls listed above briefly get into one over the protagonist; he notes that it's lot more serious and quiet than ones he'd witnessed back on Earth.
  • Darkness Equals Death: In "The Golgotha Dancers," the titular figures can come out of the painting if it's left in darkness.
  • Devolution Device: One of these is hidden inside The Devil's Asteroid. The short story "Back to the Beast" is about a scientist who invents one and tests it on himself, with disastrous results.
  • External Retcon: Sherlock Holmes's War of the Worlds reveals that the aliens in The War of the Worlds weren't actually from Mars, and also uncovers a few details about Sherlock Holmes's private life that Watson never mentioned.
  • Evil Versus Evil: The darkly comedic short story "The Devil Is Not Mocked" has a group of Nazi soldiers on the eastern front deciding to turn a local castle into their base of operations. Unfortunately for them, the castle is already occupied by Dracula.
  • Frazetta Man: The Neanderthals, or "Gnorrls", of the Hok the Mighty stories. In the above-mentioned "Back to the Beast", the inventor's Devolution Device turns him into one of these, and then finally into a simple ape (though not an ape any of the other scientists can identify).
  • Ghostapo: "The Devil Is Not Mocked" has an early reference to Heinrich Himmler holding "some sort of garbled druidic ritual". In the main story, we see that the supernatural is not as much under Nazi command as Himmler would like to think, when a Wehrmacht unit on the Eastern Front pick the wrong castle to use as their field base.
  • Hair-Raising Hare: The titular rabbits of the Judge Pursuivant story "The Dreadful Rabbits" which are unkillable phantom bunnies that have a habit of ripping apart anyone who tries to hunt them or doesn't say hello to them and stuffing the remains into a hole in Hungry Hill. Despite the narmish premise, it still manages to be strangely disturbing.
  • Handsome Heroic Caveman: Hok the Mighty, who debuted in "Battle in the Dawn" and appeared in a number of follow-up stories, is a square-jawed, good-looking young Cro-Magnon living in a reasonably well-researched Stone Age setting - although his stories drift more an more into the realm of Sword and Sorcery as they progress. However, the Hok stories feature tons of Deliberate Values Dissonance, making him an antihero at best.
  • Haunted Technology: The Theater Upstairs is an early form of the "haunted nostalgic pop cultural artifact" that would eventually become one of the dominant tropes of creepypasta. It's a story about a mysterious movie theater playing a film version of The Horla which, by rights, shouldn't exist - and neither should the theater.
  • Logical Weakness: "The Golgotha Dancers" features a living painting, which causes the narrator a fair amount of trouble—until he reasons that if it's living, it can be killed.
  • Meaningful Name: The Belstones in "Ever the Faith Endures." The stone in question still stands outside of their ancestral home in England—and it's "Bel" in the sense of "Bel and the Dragon."
  • Occult Detective: Judge Pursuivant, John Thunstone, Hal Stryker, Lee Cobbett, and to some extent, Parson "Bible" Jaeger.
  • Salt Solution: John Thunstone punches a demon god in the face with a fistfull of salt, foiling its manifestation in our dimension (and possibly killing it).
  • Secret Legacy: A variation, in "Ever the Faith Endures." The American protagonist travels to England to research his family history, and ends up learning far more of it than he was prepared for. At the end, though, his distant cousin remains the guardian of the Bel Stone, and the hungry god that lives in it.
  • Sword Cane: Judge Pursuivant has a silver version of one of these, with the words "Sic pereant omnes inimici tui" (thus perish all your enemies) engraved on it. When he becomes too old to wield it, the Judge passes it on to his colleague John Thunstone.
  • Tripod Terror: In Sherlock Holmes's War of the Worlds
  • Walking the Earth: Lee Cobbett and Hal Stryker have elements of this.
  • You Will Be Beethoven: In Twice In Time, a man named Leonard travels back in time to meet Leonardo da Vinci — you can see where this is going.