Wed 6 Jul 2016
REX DOLPHIN “Off the Map.” First published in Weird Tales, July 1954. Reprinted in 100 Wild Little Weird Tales, edited by Stefan R. Dziemianowicz, Robert Weinberg, & Martin H. Greenberg (Barnes & Noble, 1994).
Rex Dolphin (1915-1990) was the pen name of one Reginald Charles Dolphin, a British accountant who also wrote under the pseudonyms Peter Saxon and Desmond Reid. His sole contribution to Weird Tales, a story entitled “Off the Map” appeared in the pulp magazine’s July 1954 issue.
The product of a vivid imagination and a mind steeped in fantasy literature, “Off the Map” is a minor, albeit imperfect, gem of a tale. The story is based on a premise that readers of historical fantasy and weird fiction have surely encountered in myriad forms over the years: what if there’s a city that’s marked on an older map, but that doesn’t appear on any contemporary ones:
The town in question is Wychburne, an English city that no longer appears in modern cartography. In “Off the Map,” the story’s unnamed protagonist-narrator sets out to discover what happened to this village. Does it still exist? And if so, what happens there?
The story unfolds in a rather predictable manner, with one local who learns of the narrator’s quest showing his absolute displeasure with the notion. As it turns out, the village — or some phantasmagoric facsimile of it, does still exist. But the small burg’s historical trajectory has been scarred by the experience of a great plague, making this town off the map a burial ground for the ages.
It must be said that, while “Off the Map” has a more interesting premise than a conclusion, the work does demonstrate that the writer was certainly well versed in both the style and substance of early twentieth-century high fantasy literature.