Return to Ramble House Page

Return to Other Loons Page




Introduction by Gavin L. O'Keefe


Repp’s Amazing Song of Death


Ed Earl Repp (1901-1979) is perhaps best-remembered today for the western fiction he devoted so much of his writing career to. His westerns, however, exemplified a style distinctly at odds with the more formulaic works of the genre, and his novels such as Suicide Ranch (1936) would rarely be mentioned today alongside the popular works of Louis L’Amour and W. C. Tuttle.

The other, lesser-known side of the coin to Ed Earl Repp’s writing was his science fiction. Though his work in the genre, like his westerns, has been largely forgotten, Repp was a regular contributor to some of the pioneering Hugo Gernsback-published magazines of the 1920’s and 1930’s such as Air Wonder Stories, Science Wonder Stories and Amazing Stories. Repp’s successful stints with these magazines may have been due to the style of his writing: more-than-slightly sensational description, two-dimensional characters, melodramatic dialogue, simple plots, and, above all, fervent and often naïve explorations of scientific technologies.

‘Song of Death’ was first published in the No-vember 1938 issue of Amazing Stories ,and was accompanied by a dramatic title illustration by Robert Fuqua . The ‘scientific’ theme underlying the plot of the tale is the nature and power of sound vibrations, and it is simultaneously informative and amusing to read Repp’s ‘authoritative’ footnotes citing scholarly studies on the subject. Repp even ‘elaborates’ on the central concept of his story in the ‘Meet the Authors’ section of this issue of the magazine:

The vibrations of sound have a peculiar effect on many things, and the example of the tuning fork is perhaps the most striking.

Some vibrations can effect many things, and certain noises can make me grit my teeth as they seem to tear at something inside me. We have all experienced these phenomena.

Thus, I conceived the idea of a supersonic wave which would cause the nerve and brain cells to vibrate, inducing false emotions. That was the focal point, and with the addition of a plot, several characters, and a motive for murder, I had a story.

References in the story to the effects of music on human emotions highlight the positive emotions able to be aroused in the human brain for aesthetic purposes. At the other extreme, by portraying the more destructive results of concentrated sound, Repp suggests the use of sound as a controller of the human brain, such as employed in crowd control or subliminal advertising.

In the light of actual science and refinements in the writing of science fiction, some might single out writers such as Repp as figures of fun. None can take away from the writer, however, an enthusiastic, if ham-fisted, prose style.

It is interesting, however, to read on the letters page of this issue the following appraisal of Repp’s fiction in Amazing Stories:


After “Revolution of 1950” come three stories, all about even and all good…. “Gland Superman,” by Ed Earl Repp. (Gosh, it’s good to see his name inside a science-fiction magazine once more. Try and get some more of the old-timers.)…. If you must give us down-to-earth stories, made [sic] them like “Atom-Smasher” and “Gland Superman”.


Isaac Asimov

174 Windsor Place

Brooklyn, N. Y.


In the light of such contemporary adulation for Repp’s fiction, we might wonder what course the genre would have taken without Repp!

With this republication of ‘Song of Death’, we can all now enjoy a classic, “down-to-earth” story of science fiction originally written in the days when it might have been science fact.


Return to Ramble House Page

Return to Other Loons Page