Mary Elizabeth Counselman

(November 19, 1911 — November 13, 1995)

Mary Elizabeth Counselman was mainly a writer of short stories and poetry. She grew up on a plantation, but later moved to Gainesville, Georgia, where her father was a faculty member at the Riverside Military Academy. She attended Alabama College and Montevallo University. Counselman's work appeared in Weird Tales, Collier's, The Saturday Evening Post, and other popular magazines of the time. Some of her stories were adapted for television programs, including General Electric Theater and Thriller. There have been other TV adaptations of her stories in Canada, England, and Australia. She also taught creative writing at the University of Alabama. In 1976 she received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship.

Counselman began writing at a very young age. Her name probably is not instantly recognized by most readers of science fiction and horror fiction; but she published extensively, including 30 stories in Weird Tales. She also published several poems in Weird Tales. Her short story, “The Three Marked Pennies” (1934), has been reprinted often and has been reported to be the second-most-popular story ever published in “The Unique Magazine”; it certainly generated a flurry of letters to “The Eyrie,” the magazine's letter column. Some of her more popular stories were collected as Half in Shadow in 1978. No recent collections of her work have appeared, which means one has to look in several places to find her stories. Luckily, she’s somewhat easier to find than some genre authors, owing to the frequent reprinting of several of her stories in genre anthologies and periodicals. Described by others as witty, intelligent, and free-spirited, she had many interests outside writing — which she once said was “the world's toughest and screwiest racket.” At times she had as many as twenty cats, many of them black because they reminded her of Halloween. Signing her letters MEC, she “indulged in a wide and prolific correspondence” with several of her Weird Tales colleagues (including August Derleth, Seabury Quinn, and Greye La Spina) and with SF editors/writers such as Groff Conklin and Don Wilcox.

Some of her books were Half in Shadow: A Collection of Tales for the Night Hours (1978) [contains 14 tales, 6 not in an earlier UK edition published in 1964 — apparently the result of Derleth selecting the stories in the Arkham House edition and Counselman selecting the ones in the UK edition]; African Yesterdays:A Collection of Native Folktales (1975) [her “jungle fables” from the pulp magazines]; Everything You Always Wanted to Know About the Supernatural - But Are Afraid to Believe (1976) [her views on the supernatural, including reports of her own psychic experiences]; SPQR: The Poetry and Life of Catullus (1977); and New Lamps for Old (1978) [a chapbook of previously unpublished stories].

She was a very precocious writer, selling a poem when she was only six, and writing some of her best-known stories when she was a teenager. Her first published science fiction story was “The Conquistadors Come” in Planet Stories (November, 1951).

She received the Phoenix Award from the Southern Fandom Confederation at DeepSouthCon 19 in 1981. The Phoenix Award is a lifetime achievement award given to a science fiction professional “who has done a great deal for Southern Fandom.”

She was a member of First Fandom.