Nelson Slade Bond (1908–2006)


Nelson Slade Bond was one of the most prolific and well-known American writers of fantasy and science fiction stories from the 1930s until the 1950s. The author of more than 250 short stories, as well as several novels and novellas, he also wrote extensively for radio and television. In fact, his first successful story, “Mr. Mergenthwirker’s Lobblies” (1937), appeared in three different mediums: in print, on radio, and on television. After the height of his writing career, Bond, complaining that “magazines and radio [were] dead, and TV sick,” retreated from writing to run a public relations agency and deal in antique books from his home in Roanoke, Virginia.

Born in Pennsylvania on November 23, 1908, Bond grew up in Philadelphia. His parents were originally from Nova Scotia but moved to the United States prior to his birth. In 1932, Bond began a hitchhiking expedition to Mexico in order to “sit out” the Great Depression. On the way, he stopped at Huntington, West Virginia, to visit a friend who was considering applying to Marshall College (now Marshall University). Ironically, his friend left but Bond stayed, attending Marshall for three years. During this time he met his wife, Betty Gough Folsom. Without finishing his degree and no longer interested in sitting out the depression, he married Folsom on October 3, 1934.

The two moved to Philadelphia, where Bond went to work in his father’s public relations business. In the middle of the 1930s a promotion took Bond and his family to Nova Scotia, where soon after the move he began to write seriously. Although he started with sports stories, Bond’s first major success came in 1937 with the publication in Scribner’s magazine of “Mr. Mergenthwirker’s Lobblies,” the tale of a man followed by two invisible, clairvoyant beings. The story was adapted into a radio serial that ran for nineteen weeks. In 1939 the family relocated to Roanoke, Virginia, and in 1941, Bond adapted the story again, this time for NBC television. “Mr. Mergenthwirker’s Lobblies” was the first full-length television play performed live on air for network TV.

Inspired by his success, Bond began writing radio scripts. From 1943 until 1944 he wrote fifty-two weeks of Hot Copy for NBC radio, and in 1945 he penned twenty-six weeks of Death Valley Sheriff for CBS radio. He also wrote several scripts for the CBS radio show Dr. Christian between 1943 and 1947. Bond’s main work, however, consisted of writing short stories for pulp adventure magazines. From 1935 until 1958, Bond published more than 250 stories in sixty-eight different magazines, including Amazing Stories, Fantastic Adventures, Weird Tales, and Blue Book. Occasionally, he wrote stories with recurring characters, such as “Squaredeal Sam” McGee or the popular “Meg the Priestess.” In 1949 he authored his first novel, Exiles of Time, an apocalyptic fantasy in which a mythic civilization is destroyed by a comet.

Although Bond retired from writing in the 1950s, his work has continued to find print, including The Far Side of Nowhere (2002), a collection of twenty-nine previously published short stories. A third novel, That Worlds May Live (2003), told of threatening extraterrestrials and a collapsing universe and reprised a 1943 tale first published in Amazing Stories.

Bond considered himself not a writer of science fiction but of fantasy, akin to James Branch Cabell. Still, critics have emphasized the range and breadth of Bond’s work. Although he gained notoriety with his fantasy stories in pulp magazines, he wrote just as many sports and mystery tales and was remarkable for having published stories, novellas, novels, radio plays, stage plays, and television scripts. His works have been translated into Japanese, French, Swedish, and Russian.

During the 1950s, when pulp magazines were on the wane and radio was no longer the dominant broadcast medium, Bond immersed himself in television. He wrote more than thirty episode scripts during the 1940s and 1950s. Even television was changing, however, as studios transitioned from live broadcasts to taped series, from dramas to sitcoms, and from single writers to groups of writers. Bond preferred to work alone on scripts for theater dramas, so in 1958 he stopped writing for television and opened a public relations firm in Roanoke. He explained that “the massive stupidity of TV” had led him back to an industry that was not as “fun as writing” but was “economically sounder.”

In 1965, while hospitalized for ulcers, he decided to catalog his collection of antique books, an endeavor that eventually put him in business as a dealer. He had always loved books and recalled many childhood hours spent in Philadelphia’s Centaur Book Shop, where he liked to “rub shoulders” with authors such as H. L. Mencken, Joseph Hergesheimer, and James Branch Cabell.

Bond’s life-long appreciation of Cabell’s work actually led to the two writers developing a friendship that resulted in Cabell writing the prefatory for Bond’s second book, The Thirty-first of February (1949). As a rare-book dealer, Bond also specialized in Cabell’s works and published a list of Cabell book values in James Branch Cabell, A Complete Bibliography (1974). In 2003, Bond gifted his vast array of papers to Marshall University. On November 4, 2006, less than a month shy of his ninety-eighth birthday, Bond died as a result of heart complications.

Major Works

  • Mr. Mergenthwirker’s Lobblies and Other Fantastic Tales (1946)
  • The Thirty-first of February (story collection) bound with A Conveyance of Title in Fee Simple by James Branch Cabell (1949)
  • Exiles of Time (1949)
  • The Remarkable Exploits of Lancelot Biggs: Spaceman (1950)
  • The Monster (1953)
  • The Postal Stationery of Canada: A Reference Catalogue (1953)
  • No Time Like the Future (1954)
  • Mr. Mergenthwirker’s Lobblies (a three-act play based on his story of the same title, 1957)
  • State of Mind: A Comedy in Three Acts (1958)
  • Animal Farm: A Fable in Two Acts (1964)
  • Nightmares and Daydreams (1968)
  • A Supplement of Current Values of Cabell Books (1974)
  • That Worlds May Live (2002)
  • The Far Side of Nowhere (2002)
  • Other Worlds Than Ours (2005)

November 23, 1908
Nelson Slade Bond is born.
October 3, 1934
Nelson Slade Bond marries Betty Gough Folsom after leaving Marshall College without finishing his degree.
Nelson Slade Bond achieves his first major success in writing with the publication of his story, "Mr. Mergenthwirker's Lobblies."
Nelson Slade Bond relocates with his family to Roanoke.
Having already adapted his story, "Mr. Mergenthwirker's Lobblies," to radio, Nelson Slade Bond adapts the story again for NBC television.
Nelson Slade Bond authors his first novel, Exiles of Time, a fantasy in which a mythic civilization is destroyed by a comet.
Nelson Slade Bond stops writing for television and instead opens a public relations firm in Roanoke.
Nelson Slade Bond begins to catalog his collection of antique books, and this in turn leads him into the business of dealing books.
Nelson Slade Bond, an author of numerous works, gifts his vast array of papers to Marshall University.
November 4, 2006
Nelson Slade Bond dies of heart complications.
  • Ruber, Peter. “Nelson S. Bond, Master Pulpster.” Pulp Rack.
APA Citation:
McCrowell, Joshua. Nelson Slade Bond (1908–2006). (2020, December 07). In Encyclopedia Virginia. https://encyclopediavirginia.org/entries/bond-nelson-slade-1908-2006.
MLA Citation:
McCrowell, Joshua. "Nelson Slade Bond (1908–2006)" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (07 Dec. 2020). Web. 30 May. 2024
Last updated: 2021, December 22
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