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They were working class entertainment, easily purchased, easily hidden from a schoolteacher or other disapproving authority figure, and easily devoured in a single day. They ranged from romances to detective stories, from horror to western, covering every genre that might appeal to readers eager for excitement. The works of Noname were wildly successful dime novels, telling stories of adventurers and inventors.


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What is interesting about Noname, apart from the stories he created, is that he was two people. The second, and by far the most prolific of these two men was in reality Luis Senarens, a Cuban American man from Brooklyn, who was just sixteen years old when, in , he took over writing a series of dime novels about a boy inventor and adventurer named Frank Reade.

Oddly, the star of the books was similar to Senarens in at least three ways; he too was sixteen years old, from New York, and, most importantly, brilliant. With the series, Senarens took over the Noname pseudonym, from his predecessor, Harry Cohen. Senarens writing, for the first time, as Noname began his first Frank Reade story by declaring that the hero of the previous books had reached middle age, retired, and that his son, Frank Reade Junior, had now surpassed him as an inventor. All subsequent Frank Reade stories were about the son, not the father.

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The books continued to be full of adventure, and amazingly inventive technologies, including a mechanical man, an electric horse, a flying machine, a submarine, specially modified guns, flying suits, diving suits, countless robot-type contraptions, and even a space ship. A typical exchange between the three main characters would involve the sailor launching into a clearly untrue story, the veracity of which Jack would easily pick holes in, and then the Dutchman playing his accordion to shut the sailor up, while the parrot squawked in the background. Formulaic and silly, to be sure, but all of that character interaction happened in the background of what might best be termed rip-roaring adventures.

Jack Wright fought pirates, the Jesse James Gang, smugglers, and more, appearing in one hundred and twenty one stories over a five year period from to The prose style in these books is not what most modern readers are used to. The writing, much like the humor, was not the point.

Jack Wright and His Electric Stage or Leagued Against the James Boys

The point was the inventions; imaginative, fascinating, and intriguing works of speculative fiction that clearly showed the authors enthusiastic love of science, and the potential he saw in it. Objects and inventions are described in loving detail, with readers left to fill in much of the action in their minds. Tellingly, Senarens not only portrays Cuban independence as a worthy goal, he ties the idea with that of American identity.

Moreover, fictionalized versions of real life Cuban leaders appear, even stealing the spotlight from Frank, and becoming the true heroes of the story. They are described in romantic, heroic terms. Senarens portrays the Cuban people as worthy of the sympathy and aid of the United States, but fully capable of ridding their country of the Spanish without help.

ISBN 13: 9781318876075

While it is difficult to know how Senarens felt about his own background, this book is clear evidence, if not proof, that he considered his Cuban American identity something to be celebrated. There is a rumor, promoted by Senarens himself, that he received a letter of praise from Jules Verne after the publication of his short story. The idea of a teenage boy getting such a letter from a literary giant like Jules Verne is fun enough that one is tempted to believe it, but there seems to be no real evidence to back up the claim.

He lied as boldly as he wrote, and that makes the lie somewhat charming.

The works of Luis Senarens are not without flaws, however, when viewed from a modern perspective. The genre in which he wrote, the Edisonade, was firmly grounded in a colonialist mindset.

Jack Wright and His Electric Stage; Or, Leagued Against the James Boys by Noname

The heroes were white men, and they were intent on proving white male superiority and dominance. Frank Reade and Jack Wright are no exception, battling indigenous people wherever they go, frequently killing them by the hundreds, without remorse or thought. Minority groups including those currently considered white, but considered non-white in the 19th century are depicted in stereotypical, and, to modern readers, staggeringly offensive terms.

A notable exception occurs in Frank Reade Jr.

The fact that Jack Wright has no such non-WASP friends makes for less unpleasant racial humor, but at the expense of any regularly occurring minority characters at all. With so little information available about him personally, his motivations are somewhat obscure. Did he write this way because he considered himself white, and as a white man, wished to push a white-supremacist worldview?

What is clear is that reading these books can be an uncomfortable experience. His claim to have written "most" of the Frank Reade titles seems not at all exaggerated; Jess Nevins 's findings see about the author below are convincing.


  • A Trace of Moonlight.
  • Authors : Senarens, Luis Philip : SFE : Science Fiction Encyclopedia.
  • Jack Wright and His Electric Stage; or, Leagued Against the James Boys.
  • Jack Wright and His Electric Stage; or, Leagued Against the James Boys;
  • But the Frank Reade tales are, in the end, are also of interest for more positive reasons. They comprise a central set of examples of the development of the Edisonade , and were therefore central to the evolution of the dime novel from isolated Inventions toward Pulp sf, and were one of the central elements in the eventual creation of modern Children's SF. With few exceptions, each tale begins with a new Invention , almost always a form of Transportation , including a variety of heavier-than air dreadnoughts, and even a Rocket that takes Wright into space; Lost Races are discovered with very considerable frequency, and given short shrift; the racism of the earlier sequence is rendered in more virulent terms before see Race in SF , and the Imperialist assumptions that shape the classic Edisonade are more nakedly offensive here than before or after.

    The extraordinary if ill-couched energy that infuses the series remains mechanically attractive.