A Look Back at “Pigmy Island” by Edmond Hamilton

Good morning everyone,

Life has significantly improved for me, your humble writer SolomonG. That’s due to the fact that Mrs. Solo has finally arrived here in small-town Alaska. Readers will likely see an uptick in quality now that she has rejoined the staff of There She Grows as its chief editor. At the very least, employee morale has been substantially boosted in the There She Grows temporary headquarters deep within the 49th state.

Furthermore, our flight back to Japan has already been scheduled for mid-July and we look forward to returning home and reuniting with Solo cat and Solo dog.

Newly recharged, now we’re going to turn back the clock and examine a tale of size-themed science fiction from yesteryear. Initially, my thought was that this would be the oldest piece of media ever to be discussed on this blog. However, that early assumption was incorrect as “Eveready Harton in Buried Treasure” predates this written story by two years. (NOTE: Time to do some more digging to find content older than 1928. Ideally, something from 1922 or earlier so this size-themed blog can cover a century of content!)

Today, let’s examine “Pigmy [sic] Island.” (NOTE: The title used the now archaic spelling of the word “Pygmy.”) This was published in August 1930 within the pages of Weird Tales volume 16 number 2. Pigmy Island was written by Edmond Hamilton.

Edmond Hamilton as depicted in the April 1956 issue of the American science-fiction magazine “Imagination.”

Edmond Hamilton was born in Youngstown, Ohio, during the year 1904. Growing up, he was raised in Ohio and Pennsylvania. During the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s he penned a number of short stories which appeared in pulp magazines such as “Imagination,” “Startling Stories,” and “Weird Tales.” Edmond also wrote for the “Captain Future” series which focused on Curtis Newton, a space-traveling adventurer born on the Moon.

Edmond was also employed by DC Comics. His work at DC appeared in, but was not limited to, numerous issues of Batman, Detective Comics, Legion of Super-Heroes, and Superman. That includes a well-regarded apocalyptic tale from Action Comics, issue 300, with a cover date of May 1963.

More pertinent to younger readers, Edmond also wrote World’s Finest No. 153. Released in November 1965, this was “An Imaginary Novel” (meaning its events did not take place in the main continuity) pitting Batman against Superman. It is from this comic that the infamous panel (used in modern memes) of Batman slapping Robin first appeared:

Typically, the above image is reversed when used as a meme, like so:

Edmond also wrote several novels and eventually passed in 1977.

As already mentioned, this review centers on just one of Edmond’s short stories, specifically Pigmy Island from the pages of Weird Tales magazine.

Pigmy Island focuses on a young attorney from New York named Russell whose yawl (a type of sailboat) was caught in a squall while traveling south. The stormy weather forces Russell to abandon his boat and seek shelter on a small island off the Carolina coast.

On the island is a research facility in which a biochemist, Dr. James Garland, is conducting experiments on pituitary glands. Dr. Garland claims that he can make living things (including people) change size by injecting substances into the blood stream which then travel to and affect their pituitary glands. The process forces the victims into a coma during which they transform into bigger or smaller versions of themselves.

Russell asks the imminently reasonable question of how do the subjects, in this case a dog, acquire the mass needed to become larger. The answer is they pull the required elements out of thin air O_o

In a similar manner, living things can apparently also reduce their dimensions by “throwing off matter” via exhalation. (As they are wont to do… 😉 )

Bottom line, the science is dodgy in this science fiction. Although, to be fair, it was written sometime before August 1930 and since then the field of medicine has vastly improved its understanding of what pituitary glands can and cannot do.

The dodgy science was not a deal breaker. At some point and to some degree, every science-fiction writer has to make assumptions and claims which are unsupported by actual research. For instance, if a science-fiction writer could provide a comprehensive and flawless depiction of the mechanisms powering a faster-than-light (FTL) drive then it stands to reason that they could create a real FTL drive and earn billions of dollars instead of merely writing a story. Thus, regarding Pigmy Island’s size-changing science, would a more plausible explanation been better? Yes, without a doubt, but in my opinion its shortfalls can be overlooked, considering when it was written.

In short order, Russell finds himself to be a human test subject of the nefarious Dr. Garland. Russell also learns that the five other scientists on the facility suffered the same fate. Together, they free Russell and the group battles to restore their normal size. That’s all that will be mentioned about the plot to avoid spoilers. Suffice to say that this was focused on action and did not include any romantic subplots or character arcs, but a satisfactory conclusion was given. Oh, and the only transformations involved shrinking then returning to normal. Growth beyond normal size was discussed, but never occurred in the actual narrative.

(SIDE NOTE: In superficial ways the plot of Pigmy Island resembles that of the 1940 film Doctor Cyclops. Both involve human beings shrunk down to an average height of 12-inches tall against their will. Furthermore, in both stories small people must deal with animal threats like caimans or rats and they eventually confront a normal-sized mad scientist. However, that’s about it for similarities.)

Overall, Pigmy Island is recommended as an action-packed adventure featuring a group of foot-high heroes battling a deranged biochemist. Pigmy Island, and the entire Weird Tales issue within which it was included, can be read for free via the Internet archive at the following link: https://archive.org/details/Weird_Tales_v16n02_1930-08_sas

That’s it for now folks. Until next time, keep growing!

This review was written by SolomonG and is protected under Fair Use copyright law.

All Rights Reserved.

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