Cleve Cartmill

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Cleve Cartmill (1908–1964) was an American writer of science fiction and fantasy short stories. He is best remembered for what is sometimes referred to as "the Cleve Cartmill affair",[1][2] when his 1944 story "Deadline" attracted the attention of the FBI by reason of its detailed description of a nuclear weapon similar to that being developed by the highly classified Manhattan Project.


Before embarking on his career as a writer for pulp magazines, Cartmill had a wide number of jobs including newspaperman, radio operator and accountant, as well as, ironically, a short spell at the American Radium Products Company.[3] Many of his earliest stories, from 1941 onwards, were published in John W. Campbell's magazines Unknown and Astounding Science Fiction. This was at the start of World War II, when Campbell found himself short of material because many of his regular writers were away on military service, from which Cartmill was exempt for medical reasons.[2]

Writing career

Cartmill's writing career was undistinguished but competent. In his book A Requiem for Astounding, Alva Rogers expresses the opinion that "Cartmill wrote with an easy and colloquial fluidity that made his stories eminently readable".[4] In Fred Smith's history of Unknown Worlds, Smith praises several of Cartmill's dark fantasy stories as such as "No Graven Image", "The Bargain" and "Hell Hath Fury", describing them as "original and entertaining". Cartmill's Unknown stories, like others appearing in that publication, tend to be either humorous tales or horror stories. They deal with concepts such as ghouls, demons and Death.[5]

Outside his writing career Cartmill was likely best known, at the time, for being the co-inventor of the Blackmill system of high speed typography.[6][dubious ]

His son, Matt Cartmill, is a Professor of Biological Anthropology at Boston University and a science writer[7] to whom Heinlein partly dedicated his 1947 book Rocket Ship Galileo.[8]


  • The Space Scavengers (Major 1975).
  • Prelude to Armageddon (Darkside Press, 2003). Edited and introduced by John Pelan.


  1. "Pulp SF magazine's role in atom bomb". Boing Boing. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Silverberg, Robert (September 2003). "Reflections: The Cleve Cartmill Affair: One". Asimov’s Science Fiction. 
  3. Silverberg, Robert (October–November 2003). "Reflections: The Cleve Cartmill Affair: Two". Asimov’s Science Fiction. 
  4. Rogers, Alva (1964). A Requiem for Astounding. Advent. ISBN 0-911682-16-3. 
  5. Smith, Fred (2002). "Once There Was a Magazine: A Personal View of "Unknown" and "Unknown Worlds"". Beccon Publications: 39, 42–3, 45–6. .
  7. M. Cartmill, A View to a Death in the Morning, pg.205 .
  8. Robert A. Heinlein, Rocket Ship Galileo, title page verso, 1971 NEL Books

External links