|Vol. 5 No. 4||
(Vol. 5 No. 4) August 2006, is published and © 2006 by Earl Kemp. All rights
Contents — eI27 — August 2006
The Fantasy Press Story, by Lloyd Arthur Eshbach
The Anthem Series, Part I, by Earl Terry Kemp
‘A Rocket A Rover,’ by Peter Weston
Charles Platt Made me Cum, by Graham Charnock
Richard Lupoff’s Terrors, by Earl Kemp
Maurice and Me, by Harvey Hornwood
THIS ISSUE OF eI is for and in memory of my good friend and contributor to eI, rich brown (Dr. Gafia). It is also in memory of Lloyd Arthur Eshbach and his many contributions to science fiction, along with Fantasy Press.
In the exclusively science fiction world, it is also in memory of Jim Baen, Ronald Clyne, David Gemmell, Mickey Spillane, and Fern Tucker.
As always, everything in this issue of eI beneath my byline is part of my in-progress rough-draft memoirs. As such, I would appreciate any corrections, revisions, extensions, anecdotes, photographs, jpegs, or what have you sent to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and thank you in advance for all your help.
Bill Burns is jefe around here. If it wasn’t for him, nothing would get done. He inspires activity. He deserves some really great rewards. It is a privilege and a pleasure to have him working with me to make eI whatever it is.
Other than Bill Burns, Dave Locke, and Robert Lichtman, these are the people who made this issue of eI possible: Robert Bonfils, Bruce Brenner, Graham Charnock, Lloyd Arthur Eshbach, Elaine Kemp Harris, Harvey Hornwood, Patrick Kearney, Earl Terry Kemp, John Nielsen Hall, Jim Linwood, Robert Speray, and Peter Weston.
ARTWORK: This issue of eI features recycled artwork by William Rotsler.
By Earl Kemp
We get letters. Some parts of some of them are printable. Your letter of comment is most wanted via email to email@example.com or by snail mail to P.O. Box 6642, Kingman, AZ 86402-6642 and thank you.
Also, please note, I observe DNQs and make arbitrary and capricious deletions from these letters in order to remain on topic.
This is the official Letter Column of eI, and following are a few quotes from a few of those letters concerning the last issue of eI. All this in an effort to get you to write letters of comment to eI so you can look for them when they appear here.
Sunday June 4, 2006:
Lots of good stuff as usual, from a quick skim-thru. But it's Lynn & Robert Maguire, not "McGuire".
Art, thanks very much for making this embarrassing to me correction. --EK
Monday June 5, 2006:
Another issue of eI that just blows me away. As always, it immediately followed an issue of The Drink Tank and again, I was severely out-classed. Go figure.
You know, someone at Ram Books should be shot. They took a lovely cover for Red Hot & Ready and turned it into the crap that showed up on Lens Lust. Just a pure crap reinvention. At least the other two are better.
I still love that Victor Banis piece, but seeing it in eI, I completely realize that it was the right place for it. Those Rotsler pieces were nice too. I recently came into possession of a number of issues of KTEIC Magazine from 1982 that he put out and I seem to recall that sacrificial altarpiece being in one of them. I'm thinking of scanning them, but I'm not sure what to do with them after that.
There was a store around the corner from my house growing up that sold no Playboys, only Hustler and those Filthy Mags that came from Europe. You'd find one sometimes, laying in a parking lot or somewhere like that, and you'd sneak and peak and they'd always disturb me somehow. Maybe it was those close-ups of things going in and out that bugged. I never much got into Hustler. True, it's done some okay journalism, and I must admit that Larry Flynt has done some good things over the years (mixed in with a lot of terrible things) but I just couldn't get into the no-class sexuality they presented. Then again, I read Playboy for the fiction these days, so what do I know? I loved Omni, and I'll always thank Flynt for giving us that. While I hate to admit it, despite my last name being Garcia, I'm only a fourth or fifth cousin to Jerry (I figured it out once and it's not that close, but I could trace it) while Jerry Falwell is a solid fourth cousin. I remember reading about the Falwell trial when I was a kid and my Grandma saying that he was 'a dark spot on the family'.
Alan White is a good man. Sybil Danning may have been one of the most attractive women of those days I was too young to have experienced. In that photo of Alan and Sybil, Alan has my hair. It's scary how much it looks like my hair right at this very moment. I called in two of the girls from work and they both said that the hair was exactly the same! I must track down a copy of Slam. It sounds like it was a hoot.
There are some very good books written about the inside of the pornography business, and a whole lot of bad ones. The same goes for the wrestling business. I've been asked twice to write insider books, but I'm not an insider, even though I know a lot of people who are pretty deep in. Sadly, there are a lot of folks like me in various fields that get asked to write books on the Inside and sadly, a lot of folks don't have my restraint. I must pick up a copy of The Prisoner of X.
Sandra Scream. There's a pair of tits I haven't thought of in ages. She was one of the people who really changed the way Cannes views people. Adult stars had shown up before (Ciciolena or however you spell it was the one who really invented the Cannes Porn movement) but I remember hearing folks talking about Sandra for years.
If it’s the same Frank that I’ve heard about, I’m certain that there are a thousand great stories about the former Flynt bagman. There was an article about Larry’s assistants in an issue of Rolling Stone (I think it was Rolling Stone, I did read it while I was in college, so it was either Rolling Stone or The Phoenix) that told the story of the, as I believe they put it, ‘the creeps and the motherfuckers.’
If you’ve ever seen the movie version of Dragnet, Dabney Coleman’s performance as the owner of a porn empire (with titles like Bait and Field & Cream) was based off of a party imitation someone did of wrestler Dusty Rhodes if he had become Larry Flynt. It’s a funny performance and I constantly quote it.
rich brown just became my hero. That was a fantastic piece of post-modernist humour/Good Ol’ Fun. I loved it!
Pete mentions that it was uncharacteristic of France to sell Louisiana for such a small price. Fact is, Old Nap needed that money, there were wars to pay for and those that still needed paying and he was planning on getting out of the New World business anyhow. It was strange that the US would put so much of their coffers into one big score, but that’s the way we roll: big money, no whammies, stop!
I wish I could have gone to the Paperback show. I had it on my calendar, but it was either that or a visit to my friends in Vegas, and knowing what I’d be spending at a paperback show, Vegas was the better part of valor. Looking at the folks pictured, I certainly missed out. I’d have loved to meet Dick Lupoff there, but luckily he wandered into the Fanzine Lounge at BayCon and we had a lovely chat there. Great photos, though.
Thanks much for running Dad’s piece. I’m sure he’d be proud to see it in what was his favourite fanzine at the end. I found the copies of eI I had printed for him next to his bed, probably among the last things he ever read. That, and the small pile of conventional porn that was right next to it.
Thanks for the heads up. It was another great "issue." Congrats on last "issues" reprinting rich's "Two of a Kind," it is an intense story deserving of wider readership. rich is an amazing guy and has been a great friend for many years. And a good writer, too.
Enjoyed reading Ted's piece about Althea again.
Keep up the good work.
I have to tell you this: Of all the humorous/literary/gossipy delights I effortlessly inhale from friends through the Internet--and make mental notes to go back and finish reading them--yours is the only site I do go back to and complete reading. The arrival of your zine doesn't even leave room for the inevitable guilt feelings ("what did you think of the ______?"), trying to bluff my way through their _______... something which I just couldn't endure reading more than a few lines, but really don't want to be impolite because I do like the sender.
I always enjoy your ezine in a special way: I'm basically introverted, and sometimes your zine works like a few hits off a freshly stuffed, newly lit bong. It gives me a sense of what fun it is to play being an extrovert. Like I'm really having fun at the party instead of dutifully biding my time for a quick retreat.
I trust you won't misunderstand if I say "keep it up"!
--Rose Idlet, Black Ace Books
Just downloaded your latest eI and was surprised to see pics of me in it. I saw you at that signing, tried to find you after getting worn out scribbling in books, & failed --& didn't see the Lupoffs, either! AAargh!--that was the main reason I went! Maybe next year...
Anyway, I've been guiltily reading your ezine for years & not writing. It's a great nostalgic trip. Somehow those days ring with a clarity I miss in the present squalor. My god, even Ted White! A bit sobering, that of the Void coeditors, 2 are gone & 3 survive... Thanks!
Friday June 9, 2006:
It took me a couple of "sit downs", but I just completed el26. My ignorance of behind the scenes porn is almost as vast as my lack of knowledge on the subject of science fiction.
But, the high level of input that you present regularly makes it worthwhile and easy to learn.
I think that we can all learn from a man like Mr. Garcia since we are all dying without the deadline. Set goals for yourself and remember; It's not that life is so short. It's that death is so long.
Saturday June 10, 2006:
It’s been ages, although I do make it a point to check in regularly at your web-sites to see what in the hell you’re up to (although seeing how much you manage to accomplish makes me literally tired as hell – must be age creeping up on me).
I’m delighted to see a short story by Victor Banis, “In Passing” recently posted on your site.
Speaking of “the” Victor, I just finished reading his memoir SPINE INTACT, SOME CREASES; REMEMBRANCES OF A PAPERBACK WRITER, and didn’t you come out the star (not that the designation isn’t deserving)! Such an exciting life we all led/lead – although I must admit that there are some of your and Victor’s shared experiences that I’m damned happy to have missed.
Must say that I’m sorry that the book in question hasn’t yet been picked up by any U.S. publisher, making it so damned hard to come by, it having only been published by that obscure Italian university press in a limited edition (oh, well, only apt to make my first-edition all the more valuable as a collector’s item, in time). Where are Earl Kemp and Greenleaf Classics when you need them?!
Anyway, always glad to hear that you are alive and thriving.
--William Lambert, III
(AKA William J. Lambert III, WJ Lambert, Lambert Wilhelm, Christopher Dane, Karl Klyne, Ernst Mauser, Alex von Mann, Cort Forbes, Adriana deBolt, Willa Lambert, Anna Lambert, Chad Stuart … et al).
Just finished downloading and reading the latest issue. The current el is as provocative as ever.
I was especially taken by Ted White's article on his brief and fruitless encounter with Althea Flynt. (And has anyone observed that Ted is one of the most apt and articulate chroniclers, and always has been?). In the movie, The People VS Larry Flynt, Althea was portrayed by Courtney Love. Highly appropriate casting, I'd say, although I wonder if Althea was really that mangy.
In passing, Althea references Matty Simmons, the publisher of National Lampoon and producer of Animal House and other related comedies.
In the early ’60s, I spent a few years working for The Diners' Club in New York. Although their showcase offices were situated at the very spiffy New York Coliseum on Columbus Circle, the grunt work was performed at an annex several blocks away on West 57th Street. It was a small overcrowded office space, tucked beside IFF (International Flavors and Fragrances). Day and night, summer and winter, their latest olfactory confections penetrated the building. It was inescapable and after a while, if you were lucky, you learned to ignore it.
Matty Simmons was an executive helping to run the company, and also helming the official Diners' Club magazine (which might have been called Signature, that's the only name that leaps to mind). I met him several times. He was always congenial and ambitious but gave the impression of satisfaction in the lofty role he had there. Shortly afterward, he left for the much more lucrative field of film and magazine production, where he enjoyed considerable success.
I also shook hands with Alfred Bloomingdale (of Bloomingdale's Department Store fame), who was an early backer of The Diners; Club. In later years he gained unwelcome notoriety for his associations with major political figures, as well as his personal pursuits.
I swore I'd never wash my hands after the handshaking encounter. And I never did.
Saturday June 24, 2006:
I really gotta hand it to you, Earl; you know how to pub an interesting zine. Never in my wildest imaginings would I have thought that I would be interested in reading articles written about Hustler magazine; a normal male would be much more interested in simply reading -- no, make that "eye-balling" (hahahahaha) -- Hustler. A most enjoyable read, so to speak.
I really thank you for pubbing John Paul Garcia's last and only piece of fan-writing and, of course, Chris for forwarding it on to you for publication. It really bums me out that I never met John because I was very active in fandom when he was, even though his fanac was rather minimal and we were geographically separated (West Coast fan vs. Midwestern fan.) Even so, what a cool link that would have been since Chris is now pubbing one of my favorite zines to read, Drink Tank. John's first piece of advice has always been one of my favorite practices when attending a con; many a fine conversation has taken place in the hallway outside the con suite because it is so true that everybody will come by at some time over the weekend, some way more times than once.
Y'know, someday if I'm ever out there at the time, I would love to see that Mission Hills Paperback Show and Sale; sounds like a lot of fun to an avowed bibliophile like me. Great photos, by the way.
I think Peter Weston may have something here, but I personally believe that aliens really don't want to have anything to do with us humans because we are such a self-destructive creature. We don't need no stinking alien help in starting wars and messing up our planet. Sheesh! What the heck is Peter thinking -- or smoking? (Can I have some?)
Not much else to say for now, but that in no way reflects the actual enjoyment I derived from reading eI #26. As always, an interesting and enjoyable collection of writings; I just have no pithy comments to make on it all except, "Read And Enjoyed." Thank you for your continued fine efforts.
Friday June 30, 2006:
Propaganda films extend to cartoons. I have a tape at home called Uncensored Toons, full of Warner Brothers cartoons from the ’30s, ’40 and ’50s, all, shall we say, very, VERY politically incorrect. Some of the characters dance and sing to raise money for war bonds, and titles like Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips set the tone.
I have been hearing from several people, all saying that if you think Dubya was bad, don’t vote for Bill Frist. I said in my loc that it would be tough to do worse than Bush, and it looks like I might be proved wrong. The Supreme Court’s latest ruling that the war trials for Guantanamo Bay detainees is illegal, and Bush acted outside of his authority, is a welcome slap in the fact for this administration. Let the nightmare end now…
Ah, Twilight Zone Magazine…a great publication, with so many good memories inside. I have the whole set, except for the last issue, which I loaned out, and never got back, serves me right…
I wonder, Earl, if your friend Hugh has seen any of these issues of eI, and if he might be prevailed upon to make a few comments? With Hef hitting 80, I’m sure he’s got a few memories
[I suspect he’s much too busy doing his own thing. It would be a pleasure to have him aboard though and thanks for the suggestion. –EK]
I have never been able to latch onto a job as a freelance typographer, or copy editor, or any other editorial position like that. Either my qualifications are sadly lacking, or Canadian employers in the publishing industry are a helluva lot smarter than their American counterparts. I think it’s mostly the latter.
I wonder how many fans of Beauty and The Beast, and anything else Ron Perlman has done, know that Frank from LFP was his frontman? I can think of a few friends who would be shocked and disappointed.
If someone like Hugo Gernsback hadn’t been there to plant the idea of science in the future in our minds, would we have had the idea ourselves later on? Would we have gone to the moon without that initial seed? Did Uncle Hugo change us that much, or did he just accelerate the process of forward-thinking and a desire to peer forward into the future, close or distant?
I had hopes that David Gerrold would have made it up to Toronto for Gaylaxicon. In the various places it's been held, it was in Toronto last month, and Yvonne and I were on the committee. (It’s a telling remark on the GLBT SF community when the majority of the committee on a GLBT SF convention are straight.) As the head of the dealers’ room, it was up to me to contact David, and see if he wanted dealers’ tables in Toronto. I was getting remarks like, “You’re in Canada? I’ll wait until it’s in the United States again.” and I was getting discouraged. David ignored my missives, and it fell into the chairman, Lance Sibley, to contact him. He found out David had an on-going feud with one of the guests of honour, Richard Arnold, and would not be coming to Toronto. At all. Period.
I may have asked before, Earl, but are you going to LA for the Worldcon this year? Guess I’d like us to meet, and this continent is just too big, and my paycheque is just too small.
John Garcia need a lot more time. Just as Chris convinced him he had to put his memories down on paper, cancer took him away. At least John did get to do some writing, and we’ll be richer for that. I hope to see the Trimbles in Los Angeles, but if that doesn’t happen, they are scheduled to be the Fan GoHs at Astronomicon 10 in Rochester in November. John is absolutely right when it comes to finding a seat where the whole con walks past. I’ve done that three times now, and never felt like I was missing much. The people make a con for me.
Tuesday July 4, 2006:
I've read every issue of eI, found the whole thing brilliant and fascinating from beginning to end, but the problem is I have nothing to add. It's almost all entirely new to me. I mean, you wouldn't want to get an e-mail every two months that said nothing but "brilliant and fascinating,"
--John Boston, Wegenheim
By Lloyd Arthur Eshbach
An unsolicited letter of criticism, a fannish gesture of helpfulness and a joke led to the formation of Fantasy Press.
It began when I ordered a copy of Skylark of Space from the Buffalo Book Company of Providence, Rhode Island. After months of waiting during which I wrote several letters of inquiry, I finally received The Time Stream, by John Taine. Since sales promotion and advertising were my business, and since I felt Tom Hadley (of Buffalo Book Co.) had not handled this particular transaction to his and my best advantage, I wrote him a lengthy letter of criticism and suggestion.
There was no reply until one day when I received a phone call from Providence. An interchange of calls (from Hadley) and letters (from me) led to my joining Hadley to help him sell his books. Joined him, mind you, only as a fannish gesture, since there was no mention of financial matters—only a sort of vague “if things go over we’ll talk about pay.”
For a number of months I handled correspondence, prepared promotional pieces, kept records, designed a letterhead for Hadley Publishing Company, the new name which Tom adopted, and otherwise made myself useful. ’Twas a lot of fun—until I began receiving complaints from people who for some reason had failed to receive already published books for which they had paid. This and other matters led to my returning all correspondence, records, etc., etc., to Hadley and gently withdrawing from the scene.
Some time later in the office in which I worked (as ad copy writer for the Reading branch of the Glidden Company, a paint manufacturer), I said jokingly to a friend of mine, G.H. MacGregor (who knew about the Hadley deal), “Say, Mac, how’d you like to go into the publishing business?”
“You mean like this guy Hadley?” When I replied in the affirmative, he asked, “How much dough would it take?”
I shrugged. “Maybe a couple thousand.”
“Sure,” MacGregor said. “We could get Donnell here”—the artist who was in the room at the time—“and he could do the illustrating. Maybe add Leman Houck—he’s a bookkeeper—and with each of us putting in five hundred we’d be on our way.”
I had been joking—but that’s exactly how it worked out, and the four of us formed Fantasy Press within the next week. This partnership continued until January of 1950, at which time I bought out my partners’ share of the business. They were fine partners, still are swell men and good friends of mine, but their contribution to a science fiction publishing house had to be limited. None of them even read SF.
During our initial conference I had told the others that our success in launching Fantasy Press (a name not even thought of at that time, November 1946) depended upon our getting a book by Dr. Edward E. Smith as our first title. I knew Doc would sell, since Skylark of Space had sold for Hadley. Spacehounds of IPC seemed to be the logical book to start with, since it was an independent novel, not part of Smith’s famous Lensmen or Skylark series. Since Spacehounds was our first title, released in February 1947, my efforts to secure it from Doc Smith, obviously, were successful.
To digress briefly, it may be of some interest to you to learn that the name “Fantasy Press” was chosen among the following: Nova Publications, Stellar Publishers, Science-Fantasy Press, and, it seems to me, one other. I think we might have done better—but it’s too late now.
With Spacehounds of IPC in production, I went after other stories, and got what I wanted. At that time I had no competition worthy of the name, and if I had wanted to do so, I could have sewed up most of all of the really good magazine material in sight. Frankly, I didn’t expect competition to come into the picture so quickly, but even if I had known just what the future would bring forth, I don’t think my actions would have been altered to any great extent. I knew my own limitations, and I wanted to be fair with the writers.
As must be the case with any one-man publishing house, Fantasy Press reflects the tastes of the publisher. Any material selected, of course, must have at least a fair chance of selling. I like space operas—space operas sell—so I publish space operas. Perhaps I should clarify one point. Fantasy Press does not publish literature. (And in this respect it’s just like 99% of the publishers in these United States, regardless of the kind of books they issue.) Not one book I have issued is literature—but then, this is also true of Gnome, Shasta, Prime, Doubleday, etc. I publish what I think is entertaining science fiction.
I have issued a number of books which I knew would not sell well. The Bridge of Light by Verril, and Beyond Infinity by Carr, for example. But I liked the stories, and I felt they should be published—so they went into the list. In passing, my judgment was vindicated—they haven’t sold at all well!
A few of the headaches of those early days may be worth recording. When we announced Spacehounds of IPC we gave ourselves three months for production, just to be safe. With publication date a month away, we learned that the mill which was to supply the paper hadn’t even scheduled it for manufacture! The printer (who was buying the paper) couldn’t locate any other. I asked him if he’d object to my getting paper. “Of course not,” he said with a superior smile. I can still see it—within one week the paper was in the print shop. True, it was ivory, not white, and it had a deckle edge (which we had to pay for, cut off and throw away), but it was paper on which to print the book. We missed publication date by twelve days.
When Of Worlds Beyond—The Science of Science Fiction Writing was being planned, I had a different sort of headache. I had asked seven top SF writers to write a symposium on SF writing, each to cover an assigned subject, and each to write a minimum of 2,000 words. Note the word minimum. I told the printer to get enough paper for 2,000 copies of a ninety-six-page book. I decided on a column width, and as the articles came in in various lengths, wrote the introduction for each chapter and had the printer set the copy in type. When all copy was in, at long last, and all in type, I made up the pages—and found I had exactly ninety-six pages! It couldn’t happen again in a hundred years.
But it did—on the very next book. I had estimated The Forbidden Garden by John Taine at 288 pages, bought paper on that basis, and when about half of the book had been set in type, had the printer start running the forms. When the book was ready for the bindery—you guessed it—there were exactly 288 pages!
Statistics may be of interest. Fantasy Press has published 32 books with a total of more than 123,000 copies. This does not include two books issued under Polaris Press imprint (about which more below); nor does it include the newest title, The Black Star Passes by John W. Campbell, Jr., which should be available by the time this article is published.
A word concerning Polaris Press. For a long time I’ve had a desire to issue some of the old “classics” of science fiction and fantasy in a truly handsome format and in a limited edition. In April of 1952 I put out the first of these, the semi-mythical The Heads of Cerberus from the pages of Thrill Book. I have received more complimentary comments on this book than on any FP release—but the sales are not good. Slightly less than 700 copies have been sold to date. (1,563 copies were printed, 1,490 of which were offered to the public.) Recently I issued the second in the series, The Abyss of Wonders, by Perley Poore Sheehan. The future of the series depends upon the sale of these two volumes. I thought I had a good idea in the Polaris Fantasy Library, but apparently not too many fans agree with me.
Since Fantasy Press and Polaris Press are actually Lloyd Arthur Eshbach, some of you may be interested in a few vital statistics. Born June 20, 1910, in Palm, Pennsylvania. Moved to Reading at age of five, attended Reading schools, married; have two sons. Began reading fantasy and science fiction (though the name hadn’t then been coined) at the age of nine in the old Munsey magazines: Burroughs, Merritt, Flint, Stevens, etc. Bought the first issue of Amazing Stories when it appeared on the newsstands. Started writing SF a year later; sold my fourth attempt to Amazing Stories at the age of seventeen. Have written and sold close to a million words of fiction of various kinds—SF under my own name; general fiction under three pen names. Wrote and sold radio plays, verse, filler articles, juveniles, etc.
My first effort (I still have it) was called “Up from the Pit.” It didn’t sell, but my third story; “A Voice from the Ether,” sold to Amazing. While all my fantasy has been published under my own name this is not true of the love stories which I hacked out for the love pulps. I used a feminine pseudonym—and the name is a never-to-be-revealed secret. I wrote some straight adventure fiction, most of it against a Brazilian background; one of these appeared as a serial in the Toronto Star Weekly almost twenty years ago. On the other hand, I wrote a number of bits for the experimental literary magazines using a pen name reserved only for these “little” mags. Because my own name was not associated with them, when two of my stories were starred in the O’Brien Year Book of the American Short Story, the pen name got the credit.
Began collecting SF and fantasy at the age of fourteen. I now have a copy of every SF magazine ever published in America, and most of those issued in England and Australia. Have approximately 2,000 SF and fantasy books, including a lot of really rare stuff. At one time my collection was far larger than it is today—the hardcover portion of it, that is. In those days I kept every book which could be designated as fantasy or science fiction. A completist, in short. But as every collector knows, there are many books in the field which aren’t worth even a single reading. These have been sold, and every book now in my fantasy library is at least readable. The scarcest items in my collection are absolutely unique. You see, when I publish a new book, I prepare a special edition of each title, limited to two copies, numbered and bound in full Morocco. The No. 1 copies go to the respective authors. The No. 2 copies go to the authors for their inscription and are then returned to me! Which means that I have the only complete set in existence, since, obviously, each writer has only his own books!
That does it, I suppose. Or maybe I should say a word or two about the future of Fantasy Press.
Scheduled for publication during 1953 in the order listed are the following: Assignment in Eternity, by Robert A. Heinlein (originally announced as “Possible Answers”); Man of Many Minds, by E. Everett Evans; Deep Space, by Eric Frank Russell; G.O.G. 666, by John Taine; Three Thousand Years, by Thomas Calvert McClary and Children of the Lens, by Edward E. Smith, Ph.D.
For later publication I have the following: Islands of Space, by John W. Campbell, Jr.; The Time Conqueror, by L. A. Eshbach; The Metal Man and Others, by Jack Williamson; Invaders from the Infinite, by John W. Campbell, Jr.; The Vortex Blaster, by E.E. Smith; Tomorrow, by John Taine, and others.
If the Polaris Fantasy Library continues, there will be books by Homer Eon Flint, J.U. Giesy, and possibly by William Wallace Cook, George Allen England, Garrett Smith, Murray Leinster, Victor Rousseau, Stephen Chalmers, Garret P. Serviss, and many others.
- - -
[Introduction: Following is the rough draft of a major reference work in the making. We are presenting it here in this tentative final form in an effort to gather support from the readers to make it even better than it is presented here. In particular we need corrections of errors of text and content, of physical characteristics, or of any other nature. We also need better, replacement, or other missing jpegs to help round out the usability of this monumental effort that, with any luck, will not stop with Fantasy Press. You can email your additional data to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or send snail mail to P.O. Box 6642, Kingman, AZ 86402-6642. –Earl Kemp]
The Anthem Series
By Earl Terry Kemp
This volume was inspired by Jack Chalker and Mark Owings and their seminal work The Index to the Science Fantasy Publishers. I first encountered this work when I was going through boxes of old fanzines of my parents’ during their divorce in 1970. The cover design captured my imagination. A further reading showed me that it seemed to contain the very answers to many puzzles about science fiction and fantasy. Specifically about Advent:Publishers and other family book collections no longer in existence. It led me to collecting and my first collection of the Specialty Publishers. During the long decades since, many collections have come and gone through my hands but one desire remained, to take the Index to its natural conclusion.
For me that wasn’t a longer, larger, and more detailed bibliography, it was a volume that contained all of the fabulous books first mentioned in the Index, what I have always thought of as The Anthem Series. A volume dedicated to The Anthem Series, containing all the relevant bibliographic material and a little historical material (such as interesting anecdotes). Most important were the differences from the Index, those features lacking in that work and in any other such work, such as a detailed synopsis of each book with a short critical review. Finally, the greatest aspect to be included in this volume was a full color reproduction of the magnificent dust jackets.
The idea that I was striving for throughout was to have in one volume the complete set of The Anthem Series, all the specialty books, what they were about, and what they looked like, in order to have in my hands one volume that would share with the world, whether collector, historian, bibliographer, or bibliophile, what is becoming harder to find and even harder to own, the entire group from the Golden Age of Specialty Publishing.
This volume is dedicated to those publishers who created this body of work in order to share with posterity the sense of amazement, the search for wonder, and astonishment in all those worlds beyond that exist in science fiction and fantasy.
Here is the capstone for that Golden Age: The Anthem Series!
The Guides to Collecting
These three books are a minimum requirement for any serious collector. They formed the basis for this volume, each one contains elements lacking in the others, but no one book is complete in itself. The first two are dated, and the last one too detailed and lacking the essential charm and attraction to make The Anthem Series truly accessible to everyone.
***An unique reference work produced by a couple of science fiction fans, one who became a science fiction writer, and both who subsequently started their own specialty imprint. It was the second attempt by them to compile a bibliography for the first specialty publishers of science fiction and fantasy publishers. The first attempt failed. ***This particular edition is perhaps the seminal work in the field. It covers what is now the Golden Age of Specialty Publishing, and it is a cornerstone index. The third edition (which see) is more complete and thorough, but lacks the charm and enthusiasm, which made this work truly great. This Index is an unnoticed gem for the collector, bibliophile, completist, and historian. Not only a cornerstone, but a capstone, the Index marks the culmination of an era of publishing long since gone. Certainly it was an unexpected aspect of the production of this Index by the publishers. For this effort alone they both deserve special recognition for a wonderful accomplishment.
***An “official” guide to collecting covering only American products pertaining to the fantastic from pulps, magazines, fanzines, Edgar Rice Burroughs, The Specialty Publishers, general publishers, paperback books, Star Trek memorabilia, science fiction art, Radio, and television premiums, to the miscellaneous collectible. ***Contains a fabulous checklist, with a price guide (now very dated), for the specialty publishers. This checklist has several, small, black and white photographs of various dust jackets which for the beginning collector (this reader at that time) are instrumental for identification in collecting.
***A controversial reference work containing bibliographic, historical, and critical material pertaining to the science fiction and fantasy specialty presses. This volume is the first complete revision since the publication of the second edition in 1966. A continuing effort on the part of the authors, it is in every sense a new work which only follows the second edition in form and intent. Every attempt has been made to create as complete and accurate a record as possible. Originally started in 1963, the specialty publishing project has as its objective to keep on file a history of all science fiction and fantasy publishing imprints exclusively devoted to that market, and all books published under those imprints. The second objective was that the imprint issue at least one hardcover book. Finally, the authors were concerned only with those works published since the beginning of the twentieth century. Although the authors admit to many gaps due to the vagaries of time and the absence of any remaining principals in many cases, they have made every attempt to continue this work, which is complete through 1990, with periodic updates and supplements. ***This tome is in an historical format, listing titles in order of publication, with a subjective commentary. ***This reader is biased thinking this work to be the second greatest such ever produced, only eclipsed by the charm and sense of wonder contained in the second edition (which see). This work lacks both that special charm generated from being an essential part of the works of that era, and the sense of wonder that only comes from an energetic participation and love in the body of work being discussed.
Fantasy Press was founded in late November 1946 by Lloyd Arthur Eshbach as head, A.J. Donnell as commercial artist, G.H. MacGregor as sales manager, and Leman H. Houck as accountant. A.J. Donnell did most of the Fantasy Press jackets and illustrations until he left the firm in 1950. When in January 1950 Eshbach bought out his other partners, and continued publishing on his own until 1963, when he sold the last of his back stock to Donald M. Grant: Publisher (which see) and to Greenberg’s Pick-A-Book selection for Gnome Press.
Lloyd Arthur Eshbach U.S. author and book publisher. He was born in Palm, Penna., and moved to Reading when five. At the age of nine he became interested in sf, and started collecting seriously when 14; he now possesses one of the most comprehensive magazine collections. He sold his fourth attempt at writing to Amazing Stories: “The Voice From the Ether” (May 1931). Thereafter he had a number of sf stories published in the 1930’s. After the war he formed Fantasy Press, one of the first specialist sf and fantasy houses, became its director, and in 1950 bought out his partners. In 1952 he began the specialist Polaris Press to reprint the lesser-known classics of interest to collectors, but this produced only two books. In late 1958 he sold his stock, including unbound books, to Martin Greenberg, and they were then included in Gnome Press’s Pick-a-Book selections.
***Advertising pamphlet published after their first year, and first six books. It contains a delightful preface “By Way of Introduction,” by Lloyd Arthur Eshbach, which reviews the status of the company and defines the class of story that they publish. Lists the first six books published, those planned for 1948 and 1949, all of which they did in fact publish. It also contains a list of planned books, which they did not publish, it concludes with a list of books for sale from other publishers. ***A charming, wonderful piece of ephemera, the capstone of a bygone era. The introduction is priceless.
***Advertising pamphlet published after their first three years. It contains a delightful preface “For The Collector,” by Lloyd Arthur Eshbach, which covers the Fantasy Press autograph plan pertaining to those sought after volumes inscribed to subscribers. The pamphlet lists the books currently still available in stock for purchase by mail order. It also contains a list of planned books, which they did not publish, such as: White Lily, by John Taine; The Time Conqueror, by Lloyd A. Eshbach; Golden Blood, by Jack Williamson; and Hobbyist and Other Science Fiction, by Eric Frank Russell. ***Another charming piece of ephemera. The anecdotal introduction by Eshbach is priceless.
Fantasy Press: Of Note
THERE ARE 5 VARIANT TYPES Of FANTASY PRESS BOOKS.
First is the Special Edition of two copies, one copy was inscribed by Eshbach to the author, and the other was inscribed by the author to Eshbach (see The Fantasy Press Story elsewhere in this issue of eI).
Second is the Special Edition, sold on subscription. This is bound in full cloth, with an extra page which has a number—usually the first 300 to 500 were numbered—and, if living, the page is signed by the author. To regular subscribers to most of the books the inscriptions by the authors became quite personal. For dead authors the special page bore the number and a photo and biography of the author—special Eshbach biography/memoir not seen anywhere else.
Third is the Regular Edition, which is identical to the Special Edition but contains no number or extra page.
Fourth and fifth are the Grant Variants and the Greenberg Variants. The Greenberg Variants are more noticeable, they have a cheaper board binding instead of Fantasy Press’ full cloth and gold print. The Greenberg Variants are so called because they were unbound copies of the original editions sold to Martin Greenberg, of Gnome Press; he bound them in a very cheap fashion and sold them cheaply, too.
Due to the limited number of variants, in some cases those bound by Grant and Greenberg amount to very rare, scarce, and hard to find books, and as such are eminently collectible and as valuable if not even more so than the trade editions.
THERE ARE ALSO REPRINTED DUST WRAPPERS. Storage decayed many, and beginning in 1955 Eshbach printed up new ones. They contain same front illustration, but the back-jacket ad is changed and quite often the prices of the books advertised are reduced for quicker resale.
Following the Chalker and Owings second edition of their Index, I have continued the same markings. Books known to have Greenberg and Grant Variant editions are marked *.
Those known to have the markdown variant dust jackets are marked @.
(Please note: Better quality scans for these dust jackets are gratefully sought, also any and all additional bibliographical information, and in particular, any more information regarding the various Grant and Greenberg variants, and variant dust jackets.)
Fantasy Press Titles
Space-opera set in the early era of interplanetary contact in the solar system. ***The Inter-Planetary Vessel Arcturus starts on its regularly scheduled flight to Mars—and the routine journey develops swiftly into a brilliantly imaginative story of the spaceways that awakens the reader to new thoughts about the future world and its relationship with the other planets of the solar system. Earth, Mars, Venus have been on amicable terms for a short time, when the Earth ship is attacked by a strange globe from the outer planets, with weapons beyond Earth science. Incidents are set into motion that thrust “Steve” Stevens and Nadia Newton into a primitive and harrowing existence on Ganymede, third moon of Jupiter; that involve them and their fellow victims of Jovian marauders in conflicts in space and on other worlds, with their meager resources pitted against alien and hostile forms of life. What they do and how they fare forms a tale of strange adventures and cosmic wonders, yet a story of likable people and their reactions to the extraordinary things that befall them. The spaceship from Earth is cut to pieces by a ray, but in one damaged segment, Stevens and Nadia manage to survive and reach Ganymede. After attacks and escapes, the interplanetary attackers are revealed to be hexans, insect-like beings who control most of Jupiter’s moons. Natives of Saturn’s moon, Titan; humanoids from Callisto; Earthmen; and mostly the Vorkuls—a reptilian super-intelligent race with a tremendous science on Jupiter—destroy the hexan menace once and for all. Stevens and Nadia get married. Up to now, in desert island tradition, they have been living together in chastity. ***This is the only one of Smith’s stories which confines its action to the Solar System. As space adventure stories go, this was one of the best early examples, but it has long been surpassed.
An old-fashioned space-opera with, according to the inside cover blurb, “tremendous concepts and quick adventure.” ***Old John Delmar knew a lot of things. He knew the date of his own death. He knew that his son, in 1956, would pilot the first manned atomic rocket ever launched. In short, through a strange, inexplicable faculty that came into being during his latter years, he “remembered” the future! Most unusual, perhaps, of all his “memories” was the period of future history, in the thirtieth century; when men finally ventured beyond the solar system—and brought back terror and suffering and the shadow of doom to the human planets. This is the record of that portion of history-to-be. It is the tale of four men of the Legion of Space and their flight to the eerie world that circles around a dwarf sun which astronomers call Barnard’s Runaway Star. The story of Aladoree Anthar, in whose lovely head is locked the last hope of the human race, known only by the symbol AKKA. This is also the tale of the fearsome Medusae, the ancient dwellers on an ancient, dying planet. Invaders from another solar system, the Medusae, capture Aladoree, the sole holder of the secret of AKKA, a tremendous secret which permits almost instantaneous destruction of whole solar systems and galaxies by a tiny apparatus focused by mental powers. When John Starr, descendant of old John Delmar, newly assigned to the Guard of AKKA, is tricked into betraying the Legion of Space, he embarks on one of the strangest adventures ever imagined. John Star, a cadet member of the family of dictators who had once ruled the solar system, and three companions very reminiscent of the three Musketeers—most fascinating of whom is Giles Habibula, a wheezing old dipsomaniac with uncanny skill with locks—sail after the incredible Medusae to their own planet. Accompanied by old, fat, blue-nosed Habibula, steady Jay Kalam, and huge, powerful Hal Samdu, he sets out to correct his terrible blunder. There, after almost incredible hardships on a world with a corrosive atmosphere, horrible jungles, and the terrible Medusae themselves, they rescue Aladoree and return to the Solar System, which they find half-conquered. Aladoree sets up her apparatus and saves mankind. ***In some ways this is the best old-fashioned space-opera in book form. Jack Williamson has given reign to a usually rich imagination. It is entertaining and ingenious, despite the limitations of pulp adventure.
A science fiction novel with botanical interests. ***When the proprietor, Charles Brassey, of a world famous London seed house is willing to pay an American geologist and his paleobotanist partner $100,000 for a shovelful of soil from a certain locality, something queer must be afoot. Starting in post-war London, in an atmosphere of suspicion and mystery, the narrative moves swiftly to India and the Himalayas. How queer Vartan, Shayne, and Marjorie—who is beauty and publicity personified—only realize after they go to Central Asia to track down the habitat of a strange plant. They become enmeshed in a web of strange scientific mystery, international intrigue, and enthralling adventure amid the ice clad Himalayas of Central Asia. Eventually they come to a lost land where a radioactive body had landed years ago, and had started many aberrant forms of life, including plant-animals. The plant-animals multiply with incredible rapidity, and carry a virus which causes insanity and death. Such seemingly unrelated ingredients as a gorgeous delphinium, hereditary insanity, black ice, radioactivity, a visitant from cosmic distances and remote ages, seeds of madness, and the strangest garden every imagined are combined. The expedition wins out over a rival expedition that wants the secret of the lost land for military purposes, and is present when the land, with all its unwholesome fauna and flora, is destroyed. There are also devolved humans. ***Written in the tradition of Taine’s The Purple Sapphire, The Greatest Adventure and The Iron Star, this engrossing novel is an example of what can be accomplished when a prominent scientist with a vivid imagination and a gift for writing applies his talents to science fiction. Although it is not up to his earlier works it is written with unusual originality and is equally interesting to the mystery story addict, the adventure enthusiast, and the science fiction fan.
A critical symposium of various essays on the techniques pertaining to writing of science fiction. ***Introduction, by Lloyd Arthur Eshbach. [a] “On the Writing of Speculative Fiction,” by Robert A. Heinlein. [b] “Writing a Science Novel,” by Dr. Eric Temple Bell (pseudo. of John Taine). [c] “The Logic of Fantasy,” by Jack Williamson. [d] “Complication in the Science Fiction Story,” by A.E. Van Vogt. [e] “Humor in Science Fiction,” by L. Sprague de Camp. [f] “The Epic of Space,” by E.E. Smith Ph.D. [g] “The Science of Science Fiction Writing,” by John W. Campbell, Jr. Each segment contains photos and biographies of the authors by Lloyd Arthur Eshbach. ***The pitfalls inherent in writing science fiction are not always evident to the would-be SF author and for many years there has been an urgent need for a guide to these and other problems with which he is faced. In this symposium, seven prominent authors offer advice based on their success, and the writer who is planning to make a contribution to the SF market will find it both informative and helpful. The first work of its type ever produced. The seven authors discuss in detail their own methods of producing the kind of fiction which has made them leaders in the field. ***A valuable, indispensable book.
Reprinted by Advent:Publishers, Inc., which included an index (which see) and the British commercial publisher Dennis Dobson Ltd., which included a new introduction by E.J. Carnell.
***Originally issued in a small, limited edition by Fantasy Press, it rapidly sold out and became a collector’s item in a very short time. In response to many requests, the proprietors of Advent:Publishers arranged with the editor, Lloyd Arthur Eshbach, to return Of Worlds Beyond to the realm of the present day student of science fiction as well as those who were unable to obtain a copy originally. With great pride, Advent:Publishers offered the entire symposium as an historical classic, complete, and unabridged, plus inclusion of a comprehensive index. ***Advent:Publishers added this valuable index to this edition.
***Originally issued in a small, limited edition by Fantasy Press. The second edition was published by Advent:Publishers and included an index. This first book in a new series of Dobson Studies in SF contained an introduction by John Carnell. ***The new introduction by E.J. Carnell is short and terse, and adds nothing new to this symposium.
A thriller set 200 million years in the future. It combines in a very strange way science fiction, adventure, and fairy-tale motives. ***The scene is the Earth—but a world so remote from our own that intervening time has lost all meaning. Seas have disappeared, new continents have arisen. New and strange geologic formations exist—a river of boiling mud, a land of volcanoes, continents of tremendous size—and all of it a stage for the three to whom has been given god-power. Ptath, the God-King of Gonwonlane—a future landmass—awakens in his own time after incarnations as a man in the twentieth century. He is also Captain Peter Holroyd, of the United States Army, who died in a direct bomb-hit—yet lives as the mighty Ptath, the Shining One, a dual personality, groping in a maze of confusion and uncertainty, seeking blindly for powers which once were his. He had incarnated himself previously, because he had felt his own humanity growing weak, and had wanted to renew it. When he left, he gave control of his world to his two consorts, two goddesses, but safeguarded his power against usurpation by a compulsion: the goddesses could not seize his power unless they could compel him to do seven things. ***On his return Ptath finds one of the goddesses in rebellion, but he is so weakened that he does not know the rebel, and does not know how to avoid the seven tests. For a time it looks as if Ptath is lost, but eventually he muddles through. He must contend with his two goddess wives. There is Ineznia, lovely, child-like, golden-haired goddess—ruthless, conscienceless, ambitious Ineznia, gambling for a world. And there is L’onee, dark, glorious, helpless L’onee, chained in her dungeon, an unwilling pawn in a tremendous game. ***A cryptic and bewildering story which could have been developed more. It is still very interesting at times, however, for its ideas. This was A.E. van Vogt’s first major venture into the field of sheer fantasy. His singularly complex story of scientific speculation is chock-full of new yet logical ideas.
Two connected thrillers set in the future. During the twentieth century—so say historians of the age of the Second Enlightenment—civilization died in a blaze of atomic and bacterial warfare, and the world relapsed into barbarism. The Dark Centuries followed the holocaust during which humanity rested and prepared for a charge to new heights of development. Amid the ruins of one civilization, another and greater slowly grew. But about four centuries later atomic energy and immortality were discovered at approximately the same time by a cabal of scientists who set out to impose peace and civilization upon Earth. ***[a] :Dawn of Flame,” the first story, tells of the march of Joaquin Smith [the Emperor] and his sister Margot [the Black Flame] to world conquest. Black Margot, they called her, this most beautiful woman of the Immortals, “a black flame blowing cold across the world.” The Black Flame, loved by men, hated by women—vibrantly alive, yet bored with living—restless as though demon-driven—who did not age, who remains untouched by the passing of time. In Margot of Urbs, Weinbaum has created one of the most fascinating characters in science fiction. There are others, such as Old Einar, who rediscovers atomic energy, but refuses the “gift” of immortality. Local troubles arise in Missouri, and honest Hull Tarvish of the “mountainies” becomes erotically involved with the Flame. (See The Milwaukee Fictioneers)***The second novel, [b] “The Black Flame,” is set 700 years later. The Black Flame is still unmarried. Tom Connor, a man with a forgotten past, who had been electrocuted in the twentieth century, awakens from accidental suspended animation. After a thousand year sleep, a victim of enforced electrolepsis, he awakens and takes part in a rebellion of the “Weeds”—the degenerate peasants who form the bulk of humanity—against the Immortals. The rebellion is led by Jan Orm against Evanie Sair, the Sorceress, and Martin Sair, the giver of life, among others. The rebellion fails disastrously, and Connor is captured. He is finally convinced that the dictatorship of Joaquin Smith, the Master, is all for the best, and wins immortality and the Black Flame. ***The first novel is undistinguished, but the second, despite melodrama, a pulp-level background, and a perilous approach to a superman philosophy, has some of the life and charm that made Weinbaum famous.
2,505 copies in 1950 second printing, there are changes in jacket copy, and cover title is in yellow.
This is an old-fashioned space adventure story, which was at first independent, but was later slightly rewritten to fit into the Lensman series. ***The story starts with the origins of Arisia and Eddore. Like two opponents in a tremendous cosmic chess game with galaxies as their chessboard, are the incredibly ancient races of Arisia and Eddore. The game begins two thousand million years ago when two galaxies pass through each other; and during the inter-passage countless solar systems are born. The Arisians are benevolent beings, the survivors of former universes, who are so advanced that their mental ability is almost equivalent to divinity. They have declared themselves the Guardians of Civilization. The Eddorians, on the other hand, are amoeboid, shapeless, malevolent beings, violently individualistic and aggressive, who came into our cosmos from another space and time. Although their mental power is but little less than that of the Arisians, they are evil incarnate. They fight on both physical and mental levels. During the first clashes between the two powers and philosophies, the Arisians win out, and expunge any memories of their existence from the Eddorians. A further victory would have been impossible. So close are the powers of the two races that victory for either side seems impossible, until, in accordance with the Arisian ground plan, life in this universe shall rise high enough to aid, or even surpass the Arisians. Centuries pass. Millennia. Cosmic and geologic ages. Planets cool to solidity and stability. Life forms and grows and develops. And as life evolves it is subjected to, and strongly if subtly affected by, the diametrically opposed forces of essentially Earth-like Arisia and utterly alien Eddore. The battleground is in a remote galaxy on the planet Earth. Earth and its people, among other promising worlds in the First Galaxy, receive the attention of the cosmic chess players. The swamping of the atomic age in Atlantis, the bloody fall of Rome and its arena, the wars that rack the world, World War I, II and III, and blaze through space—all seem historical accidents to the men involved. The Eddorians, out of pure malice, wreck civilization after civilization upon Earth, as upon other planets. Until finally at a point in the future, the Arisians decide that the Eddorians must be restrained. This is the moment when the Earthmen first explore the solar system, and exploit it as they enter into participation in the savage universe-wide power struggle. When Civilization moves on into the future era of the Triplanetary League; and the conflict between the Arisians and the Eddorians mounts toward a climax. ***The balance of the story, the original Triplanetary, consists mostly of space-battles between the Triplanetary League [Earth, Mars, Venus], Gray Roger [An interplanetary pirate of great resource and ability, an adept from South Polar Jupiter, now explained as a monstrous Eddorian animation], and invaders from another star system who raid the solar system for iron. Steve Costigan, agent of the Triplanetary Service, Virgil Samms (destined to have a momentous influence on the fate of countless worlds), Cleveland, and the power of Triplanetary finally win, with secret aid from Arisia. ***The original Triplanetary was hardly Doc Smith’s best work, and its incorporation in the Lensman universe was hardly necessary, convincing, or successful. The original basis for the clash between Eddore and Arisia was clearly enough hinted in later novels, and really did not need Triplanetary.
Science fiction, primarily about the world of the twenty-third century and its dueling culture. ***This is the story of Hamilton Felix, inventor of super pinball machines in a world three centuries in the future, a world of controlled genetics, in which every child is the best child the heredity of its parents makes possible. In a sense, Hamilton Felix is the culmination of 300 years of genetic control—for his child, so says the Genetics Board, would be a genius, the next step forward in human development—under certain conditions. To make this possible, he should marry Loungcourt Phyllis, his fifth cousin—but Hamilton isn’t interested in marrying anyone, and if he did consider marriage, it would be to someone of his own choice. As for children—he sees no reason why the race should continue. To him it seems completely pointless and futile. However, if Mordan, the Genetics Moderator, can find an answer to the “why” of life, then perhaps he’ll cooperate. ***Hamilton Felix, an inventor of popular games, is told that he is the end product of a long eugenic experiment, and that he should propagate the race upon a selected mate. He refuses at first, but discovers that his selected mate is really very pleasant, when she tries to shoot him. Meanwhile, an organization called the Survivor’s Club, a group of third-rate geniuses who want to run things their way, revolts and attempts to conduct different genetic experiments, as they have highly original ideas as to how the race should be developed. Felix joins the Club as a spy and becomes embroiled in the revolution. After a short battle the revolution fails. Finally, Hamilton Felix and Longcourt Phyllis marry, and are instrumental in establishing experiments on the purpose of human existence, and before the end of the book discover that one of their children is a former friend reincarnated. There is also a primitive man from the twentieth century, who has difficulties in adjusting, for, compared to him, the future men are supermen. It is questionable whether he serves any purpose in the book. ***This novel is carried through by a breezy energy and a drive that are unusual, though developmental eccentricities and mannerisms will annoy many readers. Of note is Heinlein’s scientific attempt to solve the philosophical mysteries of the ages. ***There is a Grossett & Dunlap cheap reprint of this, different plates, and no illustrations.
A thriller, based upon the Fortean (Charles Fort) premise that “we are owned.” ***The story begins with a sudden upsurge of deaths among world famous scientists. In Sweden and in England, in Germany and the United States, prominent scientists die at a rate that cannot be normal. Some, apparently are victims of heart disease; others commit suicide; one dies pushing at thin air; another, shooting at a blank wall. All are friends or associates of Professor Peder Bjornsen; and all have strangely protruding, strangely hard eyes when they die. Bill Graham, special investigator, enters the case when he witnesses one of the deaths. There’s nothing unusual about Bill, unless it is his ability to remain alive under the most adverse conditions. And it’s highly important that he remain alive, not only for the benefit of Bill Graham—but for the peace and security of the entire world of man. ***In 2015, a means is discovered for seeing radiations normally beyond sight, and a new form of life is discovered: Vitons. These are intelligent beings, which appear as globe lightning when they die, and have ruled and persecuted mankind through the ages for completely selfish reasons. The Vitons attempt to kill off all those who know the secret of seeing them, but fail, and warfare breaks out between them and Western man. (Oriental man, unfortunately, accepted the Vitons as ancestral spirits.) Justice, of course, prevails. ***Sinister Barrier begins as a superb thriller, despite a little too much eccentric sarcasm aimed at those who do not follow the Fortean “logic,” but the mood is not sustained, and the story falls into conventional science fiction. It is still well worth reading.
A sequel to The Skylark of Space. ***Friends come from the Green System to Earth, and ask Seaton’s aid against an invasion from a nearby planet. Seaton responds, settles the war, and discovers that a greater threat is impending over the whole galaxy from the Fenachrone, a semi-human race of beings from a distant solar system. Duquesne has ambitions of ruling the Earth. His quest for scientific knowledge leads him to the planet, Fenachrone, at the galaxy’s outer rim. From his visit, the Fenachrone are apprised of the Earth’s existence, and make preparations to destroy it. The Fenachrone are monstrous green humanoid beings with an extremely advanced science and enormous space fleets, who plan to conquer the entire universe. Seaton, Crane, and his friends explore the galaxy uniting worlds against the Fenachrone, and looking for a science to match that of the Fenachrone. Somewhere, Seaton believes, must live a race whose knowledge is greater than that of the marauders. In Skylark Two he begins his quest among the worlds of a galaxy for the beings that will help him build—Skylark Three. He finds such a science on the ultra-civilized world of Norlamin, where Seaton absorbs knowledge through thought-transference machines, and integrates it beyond the ability of the Norlaminians themselves. Employing a weapon of offense which harnesses the power of a sun, Seaton and Crane destroy the fog-enshrouded home planet of the Fenachrone. The few survivors are followed into unknown space and annihilated from the ship of the Earthmen, the Skylark Three. ***As a subplot, Duquesne, his enemy, had followed Seaton into space, and had been easily destroyed by the Fenachrone. ***Once again Doc Smith takes us convincingly into the transcendent world of true science fiction, a fitting sequel to the groundbreaking The Skylark of Space, well up to its role in continuing the dynamic series of stories.
This volume consists of two short science fiction novels. ***[a] Divide and Rule. Knighthood returns some four centuries hence as a means for invaders from space to control the human race. Hoppers, kangaroo-like beings from another world, have conquered the Earth, and to prevent uprisings have destroyed most of Earth’s technology and installed a new feudal society which fosters lack of cooperation among the humans. A new knighthood with jousts and castles is the order of the day. Most of the story is told through Sir Howard van Slyck, who becomes more or less accidentally associated with an underground movement that hopes to overthrow the Hoppers. Sir Howard Van Slyck, a second son of the Duke of Poughkeepsie, by reputation a large, energetic, and rather empty-headed young man with a taste for action, lives up to the family motto, “Give ‘em the Works.” Several incidents lead up to the Hoppers being “given the works” filled with Van Slyck and the interesting people involved in his adventures. Adventures follow and the Hoppers are overthrown, although the “gimmick” seems a little far-fetched. [b] The Stolen Dormouse. In another future, a feudal world exists in which rival big business empires (such as the Crosleys and the Strombergs) comprise royalty and are organized into Renaissance-like clans, in which a Romeo and Juliet romance takes place. The rival companies or clans of the American Empire, battle over a stolen semi-corpse, an engineer in a state of suspended animation. Whitecollar Juniper-Hallett, to give him his title, is elevated to the rank of businessman, given his badge of office, a briefcase, and a fountain pen—and the fun begins. He wins his Juliet, smashes a Stromberg plot, and finally escapes to relatively free Hawaii. The dormouse, which is hardly necessary to the story, is a man in suspended animation who is presumed to have knowledge of a secret and potent power source. ***As is frequently the case with de Camp’s work, the ideas behind the story are even more interesting than the stories themselves. De Camp’s work is a sort of Lewis Carroll nonsense-made-sensible—and that phrase best describes the two novellas in this book. In these novellas de Camp has played with the forces that form a society in a very amusing way which shows considerable sociological insight. This book, which shows de Camp’s pre-war work at its best, was a landmark in integrating adventure into the society out of which it arises.
A thriller based on archeology and parapsychology. ***When the Mondrick expedition returns from the Gobi Desert with an iron-bound chest and a haunting burden of dread, it brings with it proof of a warfare that has continued for unnumbered centuries—warfare hitherto buried deep in the subconscious of the human race. According to the discoveries of the Mondrick expedition, modern man is a hybrid breed between two stocks, Homo sapiens proper, and a hitherto unknown stock called Homo lycanthropus. This latter stock is immortal, evil, and is gifted with paranormal powers, such as psychokinetic control of matter, theriomorphy, and so on, but is now extremely weak. The blood of Homo sapiens is diluted with a darker stream. In your veins, and in ours, so the Mondrick theory claims, ebbs and flows an evil tide. Perhaps you, the individual reader, are only one part in a thousand human, or one in ten thousand. But you aren’t all human...Few men are aware of their own alien strain. We know more about the distant stars than we do of our own tragic plight. But every man now living has inherited some of the black taint of Homo lycanthropus. And there are throwbacks! Or so, at least, Dr. Mondrick suggests. ***For ages the sapiens group has persecuted—justifiably--those who possess obvious lycanthrope blood. The present is a crucial point in history, for a few lycanthropi, conscious of their origin and powers, wish to destroy the Mondrick evidence, and desire to re-isolate the ancient race which had once been master of humanity. A Black Messiah, otherwise known as the Child of Night, is due—to become the leader of inhumanity. Will Barbee, reporter, covering the return of the Mondrick expedition for his newspaper, meets the gorgeous April Bell who claims to be a reporter for a rival sheet. He gets a story stranger far than he expects—and becomes involved in a desperate drama of dark human conflict and darker victory. The plot is based around Barbee, who is sapiens by day, and, under control of another personality than his conscious mind, is by night lycanthropus. ***A good thriller, although many may find the somewhat indifferent acceptance of evil—as in The Humanoids—a little hard to accept. ***In this strange study of our own troubled times and our own secret lives, Williamson has skillfully blended such seemingly unrelated subjects as lycanthropy and witchcraft with parapsychology and psychokinesis. He has written a story which may well be unique, embracing a theory new to anthropology, and an interpretation of human behavior never anticipated by psychologists. But above all, he has produced an enthralling story.
A sequel to Skylark Three which continues the ongoing “Skylark” saga. ***Several diverse subplots are united. Duquesne, who was not really destroyed by the Fenachrone, instead, outwits the green men easily by means of a robot made in his own image, steals one of their battleships, and after seeing Seaton’s destruction of their planet, proceeds to Norlamin. There he beguiles the simple philosophers into accepting him as a friend of Seaton’s, and giving him their science. He returns to Earth, which he conquers easily, and begins a long-term conquest of the universe on his own. ***Seaton, meanwhile, leaves Norlamin with his friends, and rashly challenges the disembodied intelligences of the first volume. The intelligences are still too strong, and Seaton and his friends have to rotate themselves into the fourth dimension to escape. They emerge from the fourth dimension, after adventures, far, far from their original position. Seeking star maps for their locations, they find a humanoid planet [Valeron] being badly beaten in a war with amoeboid, chlorine-breathing beings from another planet. They save Valeron and with Seaton’s science rout the invaders, and force them to terms. On Valeron, Seaton, with the aid of the inhabitants, constructs a new spaceship of planetary dimension for the return to Earth. His arrival finds Duquesne firmly entrenched as dictator, with the Earth’s resources at hand. Seaton who has by now far exceeded even Norlaminian science crushes Duquesne’s empire, seals the disembodied intelligences into an impenetrable sphere, and casts Duquesne in with them. ***The end of the “Skylark” series. ***All three of the Skylarks may be judged together. All are written with a contagious gusto and verve that are seldom matched in science fiction, and all are very imaginative. Historically, in addition, they are very important, for Doc Smith long led the magazine area with new applications of science to fiction, new insights, and sometimes brilliant feats of fantastic view. Melodramatic situations and characterizations and possibly the worst slang dialogue ever to appear in science fiction are but a couple of these flaws. Doc Smith’s later work is far superior.
Science fiction short stories. **[a] “A Martian Odyssey.” This is the public’s first meeting with the amazing Martin, “T’we’er’r’rl.” The first expedition to Mars, and Martian life: a strange animal with a silica chemistry that secretes silica bricks, and builds hollow pyramids with them; the dream-beast, which attracts its prey by pretending to be whatever its prey most desires--Earthmen see women; barrel-beasts, who strangely run back and forth with wheelbarrows, building mounds; and Tweel, an intelligent Martian that looks like a freak ostrich, and communicates with the Earthmen by the simplest yet most complex logic. [b] “The Adaptive Ultimate.” Kyra Zelas, a sickly, unattractive, dying girl is injected with a serum that turns her into a superwoman. The injection permits her adaptation to any life situation and she becomes an incredible monster almost impossible to destroy. She becomes capable of adapting to knife and gun wounds. Due to her new abilities her moral compass shifts easing her path to survival and power. Completely amoral, except for her love of Dr. Daniel Scott, who gave her the injection, Kyra sets out to bring the nation under her power. Her adaptation extends to becoming beautiful to influence a murder jury. Dr. Scott, who is in love with her, reluctantly sets out to destroy his own creation. [c] “The Mad Moon.” An adventure romance set upon Io, Jupiter’s moon, which has a strange population: the pathetically stupid Loonies, or large humanoid beings with enormous heads, unfortunately half-witted, and given to continual giggling. There are also Slinkers—small, intelligent rat-like beings. Grant Calthorpe, who collects drugs for a large company, gets in the bad graces of the malicious Slinkers, and barely escapes with his life, and a girl. [d] “The Worlds of If.” One of a series of humorous stories based upon Professor van Manderpootz, an eccentric megalomaniac genius. Van Manderpootz has invented a machine that sees into worlds that might have been, if things had turned out differently. [e] “The Lotus Eaters.” Ham Hammond and Patricia Burlingame’s explorations and encounters with strange beasts on the dark side of Venus. The strangest discovery is the uncanny mastermind, Oscar of the Lotus Eaters, a super-intelligent plant-genius that knows all the secrets of the universe, but has no incentive to survive. Ham and Pat discover Oscar amid a group of warm-blooded mobile plants who are far more intelligent than man. However, Oscar and his fellow plants have no compunction about being eaten by predators and possess no will or desire to create a civilization. [f] “Valley of Dreams.” A sequel to “A Martian Odyssey.” It explains many of the mysteries in the first story, and also relates an encounter with dream-beasts. It is learned that the Martians in their greater period—they are now decadent—had visited Earth, and were remembered by the Egyptians as Thoth. [g] “The Ideal.” This is another famous humorous short story in the series about Haskel van Manderpootz, who is an eminent, acid-tongued, scientist and ever-so very modest. The eccentric professor invents an apparatus which presents to the viewer the ideal of whatever he is thinking about. [h] “The Point of View.” A van Manderpootz story. The professor has created a machine that permits the point of view of other persons to be visualized. The narrator accidentally sees a dull office drudge through the eyes of the man who loves her, and finds himself falling in love with her also. [i] “Pygmalion’s Spectacles.” A new invention designed to supersede movies, which causes the viewer to live in the story. The story itself is about a utopia, Paracosma, which the viewers find quite pleasant. [j] “Parasite Planet.” The first short story in the Ham Hammond and Patricia Burlingham series in which a romance develops between the trader and the biologist on Venus. Venusian life is given in detail, and includes all sorts of horrible creatures: carnivorous vegetation that lures its victims; dough-pots, or giant amoeba-like creatures, etc. Of most significance amid all the mindless terrors are the dough-pots, giant cancer cells which destroy all life in their paths. Weinbaum died of throat cancer at the age of 33. [k] “The Planet of Doubt.” The first biological explorations of Uranus find life that includes monstrosities which have some analogies to tent-caterpillars. [l] “The Circle of Zero.” Old de Neant has a theory that time is circular, and that memories of the past and future may be obtained by psychological means. Jack Anders serves as a guinea pig, and remembers, in trance, the last city of man, and other segments of history; but it was all probably self deception induced by the trance. ***Several of these stories are well worth reading, despite being dated by a pulp-era melodramatic treatment. [a], [c], [d], [g], and [i] are the most interesting.
A science fiction thriller. ***Meant to be one of the greatest of all time travel stories—concerning a strange adventure in the remote future upon a world far removed from our own galaxy, an eerie Otherworld “where time is not.” Seven people, an oddly assorted group, are lured from different ages to meet in Adalon, seven who have vanished quietly from among the living, but who are not numbered with the dead. There are John March and Evelyn Rand, a twentieth century hero and heroine, who are kidnapped to the far future, where they find, similarly kidnapped, the prophet Isaiah of Israel, Francois Villon (the poet-thief), King Arthur of Camelot, and other notorious characters of history, such as John Orth of Tuscany, and Louis Capet, ill-fated child of Louis XVI, who have all disappeared under strange circumstances. All these people, it seems, have been brought out of the past to serve as specimens for qualities that the future men lack: honor, courage, love, chivalry, and so on; for future man [as is so often the case in such stories], suffers from hypertrophied intellect and atrophied emotional life. ***The Earth is a waste, and mankind has moved to another star system, where it is being besieged by mindless monstrosities, and is on the edge of defeat. The future men plan to invade the past, to continue their lives, but the men from the past wreck the machinery, and the monsters from outside crash through the defenses. One of the future men, however, has learned what love is, and sends the twentieth century couple back to their own time. And now, to avoid this terrible future, the author hints of a time-fork in the twentieth century, so that mankind may yet survive in another future. ***The motif of assorted heroes from different time eras is usually a mark of a poor thriller, and this volume is no exception. It is interesting as possibly the best-known work of a lesser writer of the golden era.
The Incredible Planet
Fantasy Press; Reading, PA, 1949 344 $3.00
Modern science fiction, three short stories which are sequels to The Mightiest Machine. ***[a] “The Incredible Planet.” Aarn Munro, Russ Spencer, and Don Carlisle are returning to Earth in their space ship, The Sunbeam, from an accidental visit to Anrel, a planet of another solar system in another galaxy existing in another space, when trouble begins. Through some miscalculation, they are lost in space, so far from home that they aren’t certain they’re in the right galaxy. They are faced with the unpleasant prospect of having to find a planet with inhabitants sufficiently civilized to have star maps which will guide them home. They visit Myra, the incredible planet whose people are older than the very stars! It has drifted for billions of years, with its population in suspended animation. An attempt is made to capture something of the mood of the ancient inhabitants of the frozen world. [b] “The Interstellar Search.” Munro and associates are still looking for Earth. They find lizard-men and humans entangled in interplanetary warfare, and aid the humans. They become involved in warfare between two planets revolving about a sun which is on the verge of blowing up. With ever-mounting super-weapons they destroy the lizard-men by exploding the unstable sun that their planet revolves about. ***Pure “space-opera” at its best. [c] “The Infinite Atom.” Ages ago, an expedition from the Centaurs had invaded Earth. Now, they invade Earth once again, but are met by Magyan-Earth super-defenses. Super-weapons exceed super-weapons until Munro finally controls the ultimate force, and builds new planets, with the power of thought, for the Centaurs. The story suffers from being presented from too many points of view. ***Historically significant, but now very outdated.
A sequel to the new Triplanetary, it is the first story that really fits into the Lensman universe. It continues the adventures of Virgil Samms and his associates in their attempts to establish a police organization with interplanetary and interstellar powers. ***In the not-too-distant future fleets of commercial space ships travel constantly between the planets of numerous solar systems, but with interstellar commerce come interstellar headaches. The forces of law and order lag far behind those of organized crime. Civilization seems to be heading for chaos. A small group of men, headed by Virgil Samms, Chief of the Triplanetary Service, and Councilor “Rocky” Kinnison, face the issue—and bring into the open a secret conflict that has been going on for uncounted ages. No human had ever passed through the mysterious, unseen barrier, hiding the planet Arisia. Word comes to Earth compelling Virgil Samms, the founder of the Galactic Patrol to go to Arisia. In a very complex succession of subplots Virgil Samms goes to Arisia, and obtains the lens of civilization and overt cooperation from the Arisians. During his visit to Arisia he becomes First Lensman. (The lens, it should be noted, is a “device” worn on the wrist of a qualified person; it is matched to his life force, cannot be worn by another person, and offers paranormal abilities to the wearers. Only elite members of the Galactic Patrol possess lenses, and each is fitted personally on Arisia.) Samms knows that the price for receiving the Lens will be high, but he has no idea of the ultimate cost, nor of the strange destiny awaiting the First Lensman. Samms then contacts the other two leading races of the First Galaxy, the Palanians from Palain Seven (a frigid-blooded race that has an extension into the fourth dimension) and the Rigelians from Rigel Four (people who look like animated oil drums), both non-human races, and establishes the Galactic Patrol. ***Other subplots include a side-show battle between Arisia and Eddore; interstellar dope-peddlers and pirates, whose local operations are stopped by the Patrol; and finally a political struggle on Earth between the Patrol, on one hand, and politicians backed by Boskonian (an organized pirate empire which serves as a “front” for Eddore) influence on the other. The patrol wins. This volume may be termed the battle for Earth. ***Doc Smith is always most successful when tinkering with futuristic gadgets or when visiting non-human cultures. Imaginary exposition and extrapolation of the worlds of tomorrow is his forte. All such situations in this volume, as usual, are highly creative. Unfortunately, most of the book takes place among humanoids and on the planet Earth, in both circumstances Doc Smith is clearly not really comfortable or at home.
Two short science fiction novels. ***[a] “Masters of Time.” (Originally appeared as “Recruiting Station” in Astounding, and as Earth’s Last Fortress in paperback.) Out of the remote future they come, Dr. Lell and his fellow Masters of Time—supermen who roam at will through all the ages of their past. In their time a tremendous war is being waged, and the Masters of Time are recruiting armies from every period in twenty thousand years of human history to fight in their battles for them. ***Norma Matheson, intent on suicide, is drawn into Dr. Lell’s net, becoming an operator of a recruiting station—and with swift, sure power A.E. van Vogt develops one of the most unusual time travel stories ever written. There is action aplenty—visions of strange future worlds—flight through interplanetary space—travel through time—participation in an amazing future war—and all of the emotional conflict which normal men and women would logically experience when involved in so inexplicable an adventure. The story builds up to a gripping, most surprising, yet logical climax, and one that even the most astute reader will not anticipate. ***Norma Matheson, who is about to commit suicide, is overcome hypnotically by Dr. Lell, a superman, who is recruiting men for a fantastic war in the future. Lell is a member of the Glorious, a mentally powerful race of the far future. They live for a million years, but are at war with the Planetarians, a more liberal civilization of the same period, that inhabit the other planets. The city of Delpa (Philadelphia) of the Glorious is under siege by the Planetarians, and is being defended by depersonalized men from the past, and a barrier that uses the nature of time itself. ***Jack Carson, Norma’s boyfriend, is shipped to the future, pushed through the depersonalization machine, which does not work upon him, and is used as a messenger to the Planetarians by some outside force. His message: the time barrier of the Glorious will destroy the universe. He escapes, and is taken on a spaceship to Venus, but the spaceship is in a state of mutiny under a so-called Wizard of Bor, a man from the past, who is far superior to even the Glorious. Norma also goes to the future, becomes endowed with such power that the Glorious cannot harm her, and saves Jack. Future men of stupendous power save the universe by splitting off parallel universes. [b] “The Changeling.” Lesley Craig, a top-flight executive of a great corporation, discovers he isn’t the man he thinks he is. He should appear to be fifty yet looks and feels like a man of thirty. He should be minus a leg, but isn’t. He is the most important man in the world of 1972, and doesn’t know it. The action begins when Craig, on orders issued by the President of the United States, is kidnapped by hard-eyed women who have taken the Equalizer—“Makes you the Equal of a Man”—drug treatment. From that point the story moves smoothly and rapidly through a maze of conflict and intrigue which will entertain you to the very last word. In his concept of a new immortal, totipotent race of men, who can grow new limbs and restore youth, the author has presented a striking new idea. One such man is discovered, Lesley Crain, and the political leader of America plots to gain control of him, to regain his youth. The totipotent man is hunted all over, as he is unaware of his nature, with changing personalities, between a totipotent organization and the agents of the president. But he realizes his own capabilities and takes charge of the situation. ***The first story is very ingenious and imaginative, although so undeveloped and fragmentary as to be almost unintelligible without study. In the second story the author has presented a fascinating tale of the future and a striking new idea; and his development of his unusual theme is on par with his concept.
A lost-race adventure story. ***Against a background of tropical jungles and colorful Mayan ruins, an American in Mexico finds an ancient Maya codex dating from the first Christian century. It shows, in seemingly allegorical terms, the way to a lost Maya city, Mictolan, a strange and fascinating city of ancient Mayas, still alive and flourishing in the heart of Guatemala. The ancient codex, a priceless example of picture writing twenty centuries old, states that it will make the way of the traveler easier, and so it does, when the American discovers that the seeming symbolism is amazingly literal: two demons, for example, turn out to be dinosaurs. He makes his way through a maze of perils, and comes to the Bridge of Light, which is explained as a stream of tightly packed atomic particles, caused by enormous radioactivity permeating the whole countryside. The American enters Mictolan, which is an Old Empire Maya city, still unspoiled, and is received as a descendant of Kukulkan, a Maya god. The Mayans have flourished for 2,000 years without external assistance with the result that they have a startling blend of superstition and super-science. They have created a civilization without the benefit of the wheel, yet one which has explored the mysteries of the atom. In a typical lost-race situation, he becomes embattled with the sun-priest, aids the secular arm to regain its position, and marries a beautiful girl, with whom he leaves the land. The land is later destroyed. ***Other fantastic elements include the supernatural guidance and protection of the manuscript; various Maya prophecies which come true in detail, and an ancient Maya priest of incalculable age who is master of a strange science based around the radioactivity of the land. The ancient priest uses atomic energy of a sort, and is psychic. ***An interesting thriller, which manages to incorporate some ethnographic information about the ancient Maya, together with considerable misinformation. A. Hyatt Verrill has drawn heavily upon his intimate knowledge of the Mayas in the writing of this highly entertaining yet informative novel of science.
A science fiction novel. ***A group of people in a bus are trapped in a tunnel cave-in and are preserved by a gas which reduces life-functions, until they awaken in the far future. After ages in a state of suspended animation, they awaken to find themselves the only surviving members of Genus Homo, the last human beings left on earth. The busload of men and women, twenty-five of them, find that the world is completely changed when they awaken, with forested mountains where there had been none before, and even with different star groupings. A million years is a good estimate for their sleep. Man and his works are less than a memory. Bewildering changes have taken place. New mountains have appeared. Vast forests cover what had been Ohio farmlands. The passing ages have brought about astounding transformations among the animals of North America, making huge man killers of harmless little mammals. Vegetable life seems to be much the same, but several animals have evolved into intelligent beings. But the strangest change of all is among the simians—for gorillas, monkeys, baboons, and the rest have become the highest form of life, the civilized races of this strange future world. Gorillas, who had been driven out of Africa, have settled in North America, chimpanzees have evolved a culture as flighty as their own personality; baboons aim at world conquest; and orangutans control the sea-ways. There is also a beaver civilization in North America, which refuses contact with the various primate cultures. But this is not the story of the simians—it’s the tale of Genus Homo, of human beings in an utterly strange environment. And what an assortment of people! The bus driver, of course, a group of not-so-young school teachers; a troupe of chorus girls and their tap-dancer leader, a handful of scientists who were bound for a scientific conference, and sundry others. The story concerns the vicissitudes of the humans in their attempts to survive in a harsh world; their capture by the gorillas, who put them in a gorilla zoo for a time. They befriend and ally themselves with their gorilla captors when the country is invaded by a rival baboon nation. With human intelligence at hand, the country is held secure and the invaders repelled. As a reward, the homo sapiens contingent is awarded as equal place in the gorilla community. ***Interesting, and much better thought out than most future thrillers, although, in a way, the precision and logicality of the thought destroys any mood of alienness which might be expected from a world a million years in the future. De Camp and Miller evidently got a lot of enjoyment out of writing this book. This is science fiction in which gadgets and super-inventions have little part—where human beings and their actions and reactions are of paramount importance.
Two sequels to The Legion of Space. ***[a] “The Cometeers.” A colossal disc-shaped cloud of shining green appears out of interstellar space. Startled astronomers of the thirtieth century refer to it as a comet, for want of a better name. But when the strange object halts in space beyond Pluto, and unseen raiders from within the “comet” invade the Solar System, amazement changes to panic. What was thought to be an enormous green comet is really a 12-million-mile-long space vessel with an artificial sun and many planets within it, and it is controlled by a race of non-material energy beings who are far ahead of the solar system in civilization and virulently hostile. AKKA is powerless against them, for the Cometeers have its secret, which had been rediscovered by an android genius, Stephen Orco, who exchanged AKKA for a Cometeer body and power. The Legion of Space sends out its newest, most powerful space ship to investigate the Cometeers—the mysterious invaders—onboard are Bob Star, son of John Star and Aladoree, and three legionaries. They make their way to the Comet, are captured, escape, and with Giles’s peculiar talent, penetrate the Cometeer defenses and find an invincible weapon. [b] “One Against the Legion,” its sequel, takes place several years later, when the Basilisk, a madman with a matter-transmitter threatens civilization. AKKA is useless against him, for his identity and location are not known. Chan Derron, cashiered from the Legion and a hunted man—because the Basilisk has thrown suspicion upon him—is suspected of being the Basilisk. His evasion of the Legion, plus interventions and false-trails by the Basilisk form the story. Giles Habibula and other Legion personnel play a less important part in the story, although Giles turns out to be an unsuspecting grandfather. ***The first story is fairly good old-fashioned space-opera, not quite up to its predecessor. The second story is really a mystery set in the future, and will not baffle the reader for a moment. The thinly drawn characterizations of the Legionaries are, at long last, becoming tiresome.
Two science fiction novels. ***[a] The Moon is Hell! A dramatic “record” of the first expedition to land on the moon, stranded with no apparent hope of returning. Fifteen men, scientists from Earth, in the lunar station on the dark side of the Moon are awaiting a relief rocket with supplies and replacements when they are marooned by the sudden destruction of the rocket. They are in conflict with the Moon, and with their own natures under pressure. They have several months before the loss of the ship can become known upon the Earth, and a new ship equipped and set forth; and must perform miracles of ingenuity to stay alive. They manage to extract oxygen from gypsum--although it seems to me that a perfectionist might question the presence of gypsum upon the Moon--but their great problem is food. Synthetic food which they develop lacks certain chemicals, and it is problematic whether they can survive long enough for rescue. Their adventures and explorations take place amid the jagged craters and the dust shrouded plains of our nearby arid, airless satellite. ***Told in the form of a day-by-day record kept as a diary. [b] The Elder Gods. A “Don Stuart” fantasy novel from Unknown. Set upon Earth, presumably in the future. ***Daron, shipwrecked upon a land unknown to him, becomes a tool in the hands of the Elder Gods—humanoid divinities who are basically benevolent—in their warfare with the usurping Invisible Ones, who are not exactly malevolent, but disinterested in human values. Daron fights the priesthood of the Invisible Ones, zombies, and so on, and finally smashes the crystal in which the Invisible Ones lurk, thereby dispelling them. ***These two works illustrate the fundamental importance and versatility of John Campbell as a writer. The first work shows his focus on technology and the facts of science to convey the story. The second word is one of his famous “thought” pieces written as “Don Stuart,” where psychological values and motives bring the story to resolution.
A mystery novel with slight science-fictional tinges. ***In 1972 rocket experimentation has launched 17 rockets, but all without exception have exploded before reaching the Moon, most of them a few thousand miles away from it. The last one was the worst tragedy of all—because this rocket was manned. John J. Armstrong, who is financially concerned in the last rocket, begins to check leads that there might be a scientific reason for the catastrophes, and investigates himself into the middle of an astonishingly widespread plot to prevent space travel. The Norman Club, he discovers, and its philosophy stands behind the plot. The Normans claim that the other planets are inhabited, but by sane people, whereas Earth has been the dumping spot for all the insane from the other planets. They wish to prevent space travel to preserve the purity of the other planets. A counter-group, the Hu-mans, from Mars, are insane who have been expelled, and wish to return, hence form a weak support for space travel. Armstrong fights through mazes of deviation, trying to get a rocket off the Earth, for he knows that once this has been accomplished, the Norman position will collapse. By trickery and luck he manages to get rockets into space, but at the end of the book is convinced that the entire Norman extraterrestrial origin story is a lie—despite some super-scientific gadgets—and that they are an international totalitarian group. ***Although a necessary plot twist, the Norman Club is repudiated in a less than convincing manner. The story would work better if the Normans had been telling the truth. Due to this hasty repudiations the Hu-mans are left as a more or less loose end. ***If it had been rewritten, Dreadful Sanctuary, even though doubtful as science fiction, it might have become a good mystery thriller.
To be continued: Part Two will appear in eI 28, October 2006.
The following article was written in British English. Every effort has been made to retain this language intact and to not translate it into US English. --Earl Kemp]
‘A Rocket A Rover’
A Symposium on SF & Fantasy in early British comics, originating from discussions on the ‘Wegenheim’ e-list, and conducted (in bold face) by Peter Weston.
This all started when Greg Pickersgill posted a piece on his e-list about the Jeff Hawke Club, which celebrates the famous strip that ran for many years in The Daily Express, one of the major British newspapers.
“The Jeff Hawke Club exists. Not only does it exist, but today I received the seventh issue of the JH Cosmos magazine, which is Good. Really, it is – a 66-page well-produced and printed magazine and in this issue there are two complete shorter JH reprints, and the second half of a longer story carried over from issue 6. Lots of other interesting little bits and pieces too, especially the many background asides by Sydney Jordan, the brilliant illustrator of the strip.
“I could go on and on and on about why and how the Hawke strip is by FAR the best British comic strip SF ever (and deserves a damned good placing in a list of Best British SF of any kind ever too) but those of you who have even the slightest memory of it in the Daily Express back in the 50s and 60s, or who had enough sense to get the two Titan books back in the late 80s will know the quality of which I speak. Anyone who had the wonderful pleasure of meeting and seeing Sydney Jordan at Mexicon 3 in 1989 will also know what a pleasant and interesting man he is too. And if you don't know of any of this, then its time to find out. This is unabashed drum-banging – go to www.jeffhawke.com/en/jhenclub.htm ”
This set me off on my own trip down Memory Lane:
“Completely agree, Greg, even though I only saw the occasional Jeff Hawke strip. Reason was that rather than the Express my parents took the Daily Mirror. The two were neck-&-neck rivals in those days, both considerably more up-market than they are now. As a result I only saw Jeff Hawke by going to the reading room of the local library, which I couldn't do every day.
John Jarrold knew what I was talking about:
I took a quick look at the site:
“Thanks, John. Ah, Professor Lumiere, how could I have forgotten you! A sort of Dr Zarkov character, looking like Hercules Poirot (or Julian Headlong, if you prefer), always there with a new invention when one was needed! The later Garth drawing is more commercial, making Garth look like Schwartzenegger, and I preferred the spindlier representations from the 1950s.”
By now we were well away! Here’s Greg again:
“I was always a bit nonplussed by ‘Garth’ as a child - it didn't seem to make any SENSE, and the illustrator's style was so peculiar it seemed hard for me to see any of the characters as actually human....Of course years of experience of SF and fanzine 'artwork' trained me out of that limited view of things. Some quick searching appears to show that while there are some ‘Garth’ books there don't seem to be any systematic reprints. There's also this note from a comics website -
But Rog Peyton accidentally changed the subject:
“Somehow I missed out on Jeff Hawke – I’ve never seen it. I read ‘Dan Dare’ in the Eagle during my first childhood from 1950 to 1953 when I was told to stop reading comics as I was eleven years old and going to grammar school. So I never saw Dan & Digby after 1953 until Hawk reprints came out several years ago. Though I did read ‘Captain Condor’ in the Lion comic – artwork was dreadful and I can't remember the storylines. Probably equally dreadful.”
“Rog, how could you have ever given up The Eagle! For those too young to remember (and for the poor Americans who missed the excitement) let me say that it changed the face of British publishing. The comic was an overnight sensation from the day it was launched in April 1950; nothing like it had ever been seen before. It was a high-quality job, photogravure-printed at a large-size on semi-gloss paper with full colour on front cover and some interior pages. But the main selling feature was the cover story, ‘Dan Dare – Pilot of the Future’, created by the masterly Frank Hampson and set in the far-future world of 1995. Remember, this was only five years after the War, we all wanted to fly Spitfires and Hurricanes, and it seemed perfectly reasonable that Britain would go on to rule the spaceways and the RAF would morph into Space Fleet Command. So boys – and their fathers – loved the adventures of Colonel Dare and his batman Digby, the fat fool from Wigan who provided comedy relief, and their fellow officers, complete with pipes, flying jackets and handlebar moustaches!
“One million copies of the first issue were printed – and they promptly sold out! Looking back, it was an incredible gamble for the publishers, Hulton Press, a relatively small operation with no experience with boys’ comics; the failure of Eagle would have wiped them out. As it was, the paper settled down to a long-time weekly circulation of 750,000, still huge numbers even by American standards. For a time ‘Dan Dare’ was the hottest brand around, merchandised to sell soap, toothpaste, bedtime drinks, and over 200 licences for games and toys. Inevitably, the success of The Eagle spawned lots of competitors. ”
For more on the origins of ‘Dan Dare’ see my ‘Stargazing’ column on the trufen.net website;
However, John Jarrold kept on about the Lion, a competing title:
“I remember a giant amoeba monster in ‘Captain Condor’, Rog. It had bad skin and divided into separate parts at every opportunity, not surprisingly…”
‘Huh’, I said, recalling the first issue somewhat dismissively …
“Didn't Captain Condor start by escaping from a prison colony on Titan along with various other rebels against the Evil System? I bought the first issue of Lion when it came out but decided it was a poor copy of the Eagle, so only saw occasional issues after that.”
Dave Wood quickly put me right!
“Captain Condor does have a following! And later, Keith Watson (who left Eagle somewhat precipitously) was not a bad artist. Try these sites:”
“Oh, all right then,” I said, re-awakening long-suppressed memories:
“I suppose Lion was the first and most successful of the many challengers to Eagle. It appeared in February 1952, and the similarities were obvious, particularly with the front-cover strip ‘Outlaw in Space’ which featured a new hero, ‘Captain Condor,’ owing more than a little to the space adventures of ‘Dan Dare.’ But the artwork was crude, greatly inferior to that of Frank Hampson, and the publishers skimped on quality; Lion was normal comic size, poorly printed on newsprint with no interior colour. Still, the contents were in some ways more exciting, it was cheaper than Eagle and heavily promoted, and it was backed by the resources of one of the largest British publishing groups. So Lion thrived, and gradually its standard improved as Eagle started to become tired, until in May 1969 the beast finally swallowed the bird, a sad day in comic history.”
Not content with that, Dave came back with the best site so far:
“Here’s one with Lion, Eagle, and ‘Space’ Kingley as well. It even has a section on Greg’s favourite, ‘Jet Ace’ Logan, flying spaceships for the RAF in 2056.”
Now we were starting to get somewhere! I was enthusiastic:
But before Dave could answer, Steve Green picked-up on my question, and introduced a minor mystery of his own about the Rocket:
“Any idea who published that? It's just that there was an early-1970s comic produced by Polystyle entitled Countdown, and I was puzzled even then to note that the copyright info listed it as Countdown and Rocket, indicating the former had absorbed the latter (a common occurrence amongst the UK weeklies), only I'd never heard of Rocket. There was a small rocket image next to the Countdown logo, but no mention anywhere else as I recall. Maybe it was a way of retaining ownership of the name? I’ve found a website with a partial guide to British comics and Rocket is listed, but no info is given on ownership, publication dates, and so on.” www.britishcomics.com/comics.htm
Actually, Rocket was on that site and I just hadn’t spotted it, but in the meantime Greg waved his magic wand, and behold!
“Amazing! And just to think that a few hours ago we'd never heard of it, and now we know all this. Isn't the web a fantastic thing? It'll be a sad day when it is taken away from us.”
I was a bit surprised by the dating:
“Thanks for the information, Greg. I'd looked on a few sites but had only gone about as far as Steve – that is, found some listings but no real information. I remember Rocket very well, but am surprised about the dating – April 1956 – because I'd mentally worked backwards and thought it was a bit later than that.
“At the time I had high hopes for Rocket. It was indeed another Eagle imitator, printed at a similar large-size with semi-gloss paper and some full-colour artwork. But while ‘Dan Dare’ occupied only the first two pages of Eagle (the rest being full of boring stuff like ‘PC 49’ and ‘The Adventures of Harris Tweed’), this new paper was devoted to space adventures throughout! It promised a lot, but didn’t really deliver. The comic needed a strong front-page lead, an iconic character, and one was duly manufactured to fit the bill. The result was ‘Captain Falcon,’ which started promisingly enough with an adventure on the Moon, but it quickly became clear – even to a 12-year-old – that something wasn’t right! The artwork was lacking in content, and so was the storyline. I remember there were lots of different types of ray-guns, firing paralysing rays and so on, and one particularly ingenious device which created rings of force around the victim. But the creator of the strip was probably greatly relieved when the comic ceased publication before he had to bring it to some sort of a conclusion!
Ted White picked up on my dim memories:
“’Brick Bradford’ was an American newspaper strip (daily black-&-white, Sunday colour) that occasionally appeared in American comic books like Famous Funnies which reprinted newspaper strips (mostly the Sunday pages). He was a time-traveller whose vehicle was a "time top" which apparently *spun* its way through time. The art was highly stylized, but (I thought then) rather handsome.”
“A couple of links here, with some detailed information on Rocket. I see the first issue had a story by British SF writer Bill Temple (‘St. Rockets’)”:
Dave Wood finally answered my earlier question, ‘did he remember Rocket?’
“No, maybe because I was doing my National Service around that time. However, attached is a little something YOU may remember.”
I took a look at Dave’s attachment.
“Ah, good old Hotspur! This was one of my favourites among the earlier breed of boys papers which pre-dated Eagle. It was regular comic size, 8½” x 12”, and one of the many titles published by the D.C. Thomson Company in Dundee, along with venerable Dandy & Beano for younger readers. This is an issue from just before my time (1947) but it shows the sort of ‘space’ story that made the comics so attractive to me and my friends.”
Rog Peyton vaguely recalls the various other offerings from the same publisher:
“As I remember it, there were four comics in the same stable, coming out on a fortnightly basis (two in one week, the other two in the next) – Rover, Adventure, Wizard, and Hotspur. All were text rather than strips. I only took them for a short time around 1950-52. I remember absolutely nothing about the contents. Presumably they all eventually became one, and then died.”
By now Greg’s interest was aroused:
“There's something maddening about this but I can't prove it either way. WHEN exactly did The Wizard, a comic with pre-war (gosh, I guess we have to specifically say pre-WW2 now) origins actually cease? I was never a Wizard reader, only seeing the occasional issue, but I feel sure it either ceased or was incorporated into something else by 1960. Certainly Rover (or more correctly Rover and Adventure, a slightly unusual British weekly in that it was almost all text- based) was being published in the early 60s and carried on for, well, I forget now even though I spent far too long researching this last night. I still couldn't find a proper bibliography for The Wizard – incredibly, it seems not to be held at the British Library, even!
“Of course, I’m much older than you, Greg, so can remember a bit further back. By 1951 and age eight I was reading all four of the D. C. Thomson 'big boys' comics every week. Wizard and Adventure came out on Tuesdays, Rover & Hotspur on Thursdays. They had respectable pedigrees, Wizard going back to 1922 (I had some back-issues from 1943) and the others nearly as far. They were all solid text with a standard-size introductory illustration to each story, and with fairly simple covers. Rover tended to have rows of badges from football clubs, or solemn little illustrations of how to be a spin-bowler and other sporting tips. Hotspur had one large picture, I think, ditto Wizard, and in my time only Adventure had a 2-page comic-strip on front and inside covers. (One story was about finding an unknown civilisation of pygmies deep in the African jungle which had independently advanced as far as being able to build jet planes. Even then I thought this was a bit unlikely).
“It strikes me as strange to describe a publication as a ‘comic’ and then state it was ‘text rather than strips.’ Where's the comics, then?”
Bill Burns explained:
“A British boys' ‘comic’ of the 1940s and 50s was not ‘the comics’, nor was it much like an American ‘comic book’.
“That’s right,” agreed Jim Linwood:
I took a quick look at the 26pigs site and noticed a detail seemed wrong:
“Just a quickie, Jim; I was worried that my memory might be incorrect, since both Rog and the website said that Rover, etc, were bi-weekly. However, I've checked the short run of Rovers in my possession – from 1953 – and it was definitely weekly at that time, as presumably were the other titles. That would have been about 60,000 words per week, besides all the other things like library books we were getting through – not bad for kids of ten or eleven!”
“I think it was during the war and immediately afterwards that Rover, Hotspur, Dandy, Beano etc. were published on alternate weeks because of paper shortages.”
Then Sandra Bond came in on Jim’s previous comments about the girls’ comics:
“Frank Richards only wrote the first half-dozen or so ‘Bessie Bunter’ stories. The editors soon came to the conclusion that a female version of ‘Billy Bunter’ did not appeal to girl readers the way Billy did to the boys – so the stories were farmed out to other hands who toned her down and made her simply a plump and rather dim but well-meaning girl instead of the original rapacious gannet in her brother's image.”
Andy Sawyer, a fellow ex-librarian, replied to Greg’s earlier query on Wizard, etc:
“Someone's almost certainly posted this but there's a lot of information at this site:
And Dave Wood caught me out on a detail:
"Well, just to put the record straight on one thing (from a boy a bit older than you, Peter). The Wizard carried a cartoon strip almost from its very first issue. Every issue a task was set for the characters in the strip. The strip was composed of two small panels followed by one large panel. The two small panels set up the story for the issue and the large panel showed the result. The strip itself would not pass muster in today's clime. Suffice to say it featured two shipwrecked sailors (one fat, one thin) who run the local natives (black curly hair, bones through the nose, etc, etc), and make them build all sorts of weird and wonderful contraptions. Hotspur used to feature lots of public school stories (‘Smith of the Lower Third’, etc) and cricket. Rover was indeed the football-orientated one, while the contents of Adventure were as its title suggested.
“You also said that the illustrations in Rover and its stable-mates were unsigned, and the reason for that is because publishers preferred to treat their artists as interchangeable cogs, who could never be permitted to assume greater importance than the characters whose exploits they portrayed, week in week out. However, one exception to the rule was Dudley D. Watkins, the master – inventor of ‘Desperate Dan’ and all the rest of the early Dandy & Beano crew. His first signed drawing appeared on the title page of ‘The Broons’ annual published on 17 November 1939, and was signed simply 'WATTY.' From 1946 onwards his full name appeared in neatly-lettered block capitals at the foot of thousands of impeccably-drawn pages, in billions of printed impressions. It was a privilege which made him undoubtedly the best known British comic artist of his time, and perhaps of all time; it was also a privilege richly deserved. One of his ‘fantasy’ creations was ‘Morgyn the Mighty,’ and he was also responsible for a very short-lived attempt to produce hard-cover Classics Illustrated for D. C. Thomson. Here’s a link to Watkins:”
Now John Jarrold was all fired-up:
“Other peoples’ remembrances drive my own memories of these comics, of Thursday mornings when I woke up at the age of seven, eight or nine, bursting with anticipation because that was the day when seven comics would be waiting for me when I got home from school. And of reading a hardback book about Matt Braddock, V.C. (I FLEW WITH BRADDOCK), allegedly written by his navigator, George Bourne, as were all the stories. I reckon I read that about 1960, having found it in my local children’s’ library at Crofton Park in South London.”
Which reminded me of my own little wheeze:
“Back in the early fifties I used to ambush the paper-boy (a much older lad of twelve or thirteen) when he made his rounds to deliver the comics on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, after he'd finished school. I knew his route, so would go back a couple of roads to lie in wait, and demand my comics when he came past, thus getting them at least an hour earlier than if I'd waited for the proper delivery! He must have hated me very much.”
Dave yet again….
"There was also Champion, which did a lot of Lost World, Boxing and Cycling. Apart from ballast imports from the North American continent and lots of here-today gone-tomorrow cheap and nasty rags, the only strip material for the older child was to be found probably in Film Fun and Radio Fun. Until Eagle ... And don't forget to reread the classic fifties book on the subject: E. S. Turner's BOYS WILL BE BOYS."
Greg was enthusiastic:
“Now that’s a book! A real classic, though I’d recommend anything by E. S. Turner – his ABC OF NOSTALGIA (published 1984) is a particular favourite (Oh crikey, what am I saying about myself...). Mind you, BOYS WILL BE BOYS was published in 1948, so the material covered rather predates much of what we're talking about, though could fill in a few details. Worth getting anyway for the section on Spring-Heeled Jack, which impelled me to get the book SPRING-HEELED JACK by Peter Haining, which is longer but alas, rather less stimulating than Turner's original little essay.
Still, I’ve found some of these things do sometimes appear:
“Rover, Wizard and the others do come up on eBay, and I've bought some copies for around £2.00 each, which I don’t think is unreasonable. I’ve also managed to pick up all three of the ‘Space’ Kingley books without spending a great deal of money.”
“You know, until we started all this I’d never even heard of Space Kingley.”
Which was my cue for another action re-play:
“Ah, Greg, if Rocket was a comic without a strong lead character, then ‘Space’ Kingley was a lead character without a comic. If only the two could have come together! Bizarrely, though, his only appearance was in three “Annuals” created for the Christmas trade, all undated, but from an inscription in one of those in my possession it appears they came out in 1954, 1955 and 1956.
“My theory is that one of the smaller London publishers (Sampson, Low, Marston) must have noted the success of ‘Dan Dare’, the weekly Eagle and its spin-off compilation volumes, and decided they wanted some of that business. But they realised it was far easier to publish a single ‘annual’ than to produce a new weekly comic, and they probably figured that the purchasers – moms and dads, aunts and uncles – wouldn’t know the difference anyway! We may never know who actually created the character of Robert ‘Space’ Kingly but I imagine the publishers simply looked for an available writer and a commercial illustrator, and told them to get on with it. And they so nearly got it right! The books are in text form with lavish illustrations, and the artist for all three volumes was R.W. Jobson, whose work is superb, especially in his space scenes which have an almost photographic quality. His ‘Comet’ class of spaceships look good and have apparently unlimited flight capacity, (although they do have a few design faults – while proof against high vacuum, they fill with water when, in book three, the pilot inadvertently touches-down in the sea!)
“But the writers – different each time – let Jobson down badly. In the first volume we get the story of our hero’s early life and how he joined the ‘Interplanetary Rangers.’ We meet his sidekick, a useless Digby-clone named ‘Shorty’ Rowe, and have various unlikely adventures in space and under the ocean. In the second book there is a more consistent enemy in the evil ruler of an alien planet, Lemas, which has plunged into our Solar System, and echoes of ‘The Mekon’ and his Treens are never far from the surface. The last volume is the most ambitious, where ‘Space’ commands an expedition to the planetary system of a passing star. All of the stories have occasional flashes of imagination, but sadly, are full of the most elementary errors and absurdities which were obvious even to a twelve-year-old.”
Jim Linwood up-dated Greg’s earlier remark:
“Thanks for reminding me of E.S. Turner's BOYS WILL BE BOYS. I first came across it as a radio programme in the 50s and got the book out of the library. The 1948 edition ranged from the penny-dreadfuls to ‘Dick Barton’ while the 1975 edition covers Eagle, Spiderman and the Incredible Hulk. I have the 1976 Penguin edition and on the final page Turner wonders ‘Will early copies of Eagle ever become collectors’ items? Will old men gather in the chimney corner to listen to recordings of ‘Dick Barton?’ Bookfinder gives £3 as the approximate going price for a copy of the Penguin edition.”
'Thanks, Jim,' I said, immediately purchasing a copy....
"...which put me right with an entertaining chapter on the 'Dundee School' - apparently, Adventure was the first title from D.C. Thomson in 1921, followed by Wizard & Rover in 1922, then something called Skipper in 1930 and finally Hotspur in 1933. This 'Big Five' proceeded to dominate the world of boys' comics for the next generation - Wizard in particular came top in a survey of reading habits of teenage boys, and although Skipper was killed-off in 1940 due to paper shortages, the other four continued well into the Sixties."
“Here’s another good site”, said the indefatigable Dave Wood:
Robert Lichtman agreed:
“Yes, McLoughlin is wonderful. I have some British hardcover and paperback editions of Fredric Brown books (of which I also the American editions) *just for* the McLoughlin covers.
Steve Green made a good point:
“The weird thing is that the modern Viz regularly runs beautifully-drawn pastiches of these comics, yet I dare say 90% of its readership has never seen the original material (like the semi-regular ‘Black Bob’ spoof, ‘Black Bag’, featuring a resourceful bin liner).”
“Gosh,” said Dave, “that’s going back a bit!”
“Black Bob!!! I still have my early fifties ‘Black Bob’ annual!!!
“Oh yes,” I agreed, “I remember it well!”
“And not just ANY old dog – Black Bob was a magnificent Border collie, who had three times as many brains as the silly old sheep farmer who owned him (Andrew Glenn, see how this stuff sticks in one's mind) who was forever getting into trouble with flooding rivers and so on. But wasn't ‘Bob’ actually a girl dog – or am I thinking of ‘Lassie’?”
Steve wasn’t having any of this nonsense!
"’Black Bob’ was the name of a fictitious Border Collie from Selkirk in Scotland. Black Bob originally appeared as a text story in The Dandy in issue 280, dated 25 November 1944. Following this he appeared as a picture strip in The Weekly News in 1946, which continued until 1967. Drawn by Jack Prout, the popular sheepdog appeared regularly in The Dandy from his 1944 debut until issue 2122, dated 24 July 1982. Eight ‘Black Bob’ books were published at infrequent intervals from 1950 to 1965.”
That prompted a technical point from Dave Wood:
“The ‘Black Bob’ strip is typical of something on which nobody has commented, in the way that many British strips had a text passage under the pictures instead of the balloon method. Some even had both.”
To which Steve Green answered gently:
“First there was straight text, with an illustrated heading. Then, we had stories with accompanying illustrations. Next up were illustrations with accompanying text (in the case of the old "Rupert the Bear" strips, this took the form of verses). Finally, we get comics with voice balloons. A gentle evolution.”
Taking absolutely no notice, Dave spread the net a bit wider;
“Some publishers aimed at a higher market than the butcher's boy or the secondary school oik, such as magazines/comics like the ‘Greyfriars’ series (Magnet, Gem etc), Chums and Captain. They named the authors of all stories, so you will find many early exponents of British SF in their pages. And, for example, Captain carried stories by P. G. Wodehouse. (see attached).”
Which attachment caused much mirth to Michael Lowry:
“I notice the page titled ‘A Magazine for Boys and 'Old Boys'’, and the credit, ‘Edited by The Old Fag’. Ah, two lands divided by a common language indeed!”
By now there was no stopping Dave!
“Must stop looking in boxes! Ron Turner – anyone remember those Practical Mechanics covers he did in the late fifties and early sixties? And apart from all those ‘Vargo Statten’ covers, he also drew for comics such as Space Ace, and for the ‘Rick Random’ adventures.”
Making Rich Coad ask:
“I wonder how many young boys were inspired by Practical Mechanics to immediately start building a rocket-ship and satellite in the backyard out of Meccano, twine, and sticky tape?”
While I followed-up on Dave’s cue:
“Unfortunately, I think Ron Turner’s artwork for ‘Vargo Statten’ and the other Scion covers was awful, too exaggerated and garish, and I’m sure it added to the general distaste with which this stuff was received. However, I've recently acquired some issues of 'Rick Random' in the ‘Super Detective Library’ series from the 1950s. They’re only small-size picture-books in black & white, but Ron really was good in these.”
“To see more of Ron Turner’s work go to: www.bookpalace.com/UKComics/RonTurner/index.htm
All of which made Rog Peyton stop and ask a question…
“Thanks for that Dave. I had a quick look at the main site and found the covers to all the old ‘Buck Jones’ and ‘Kit Carson’ comics I had when I was young. Looking at the list of artists involved. I saw the name Michael Moorcock! So was Mike an artist? But even more interesting for me was seeing the ‘Super-Detective’ titles. I used to have these and had completely forgotten them. I'm stunned as to the number of these that were science fiction. Did I read more SF in comic form than I realised, before being introduced to H G Wells in 1958? I thought I'd only read ‘Dan Dare’ and ‘Captain Condor’ but these covers....I MUST have read them! Do we know if there were any of 'our' guys writing them? Tubb? Bulmer? Bounds?”
To which I had part of an answer:
“Well, Rog, we know at least one SF author was involved, and that was Harry Harrison. He wrote a number of ‘Rick Random’ scripts for the ‘Super Detective Library’ series, a line of small-size (5¼”x 7”) 64-page strip-cartoon booklets which usually featured more orthodox detectives such as ‘The Saint’ and ‘Dick Barton.’ The publisher – Amalgamated Press – issued two titles each month, and almost from the beginning had sneaked-in various ‘space’-themed issues (they even had one titled, ‘The Man Who Owned the Moon’). In mid-1954 with Number 37 they introduced a space-age sleuth, chain-smoking Rick Random, ‘chief trouble-shooter for the Interplanetary Bureau of Investigation’ in the year 2043.
“The first few numbers followed the ‘detective’ brief fairly closely with self-contained stories such as ‘Crime rides the Spaceways’ and ‘Kidnappers from Space, but Rick’s role was a cross between James Bond and Flash Gordon, and the Solar System quickly proved too limited in scope. Very soon he was solving mysteries on an interstellar scale, and the series became almost the only one of these space-adventures to venture into ‘deep space’ with stories such as Harry Harrison’s ‘S.O.S. FROM SPACE.’
“Harry remembered, ‘I was in London in 1957 for the Worldcon. Met Sydney Jordan and wrote ‘Jeff Hawke’ for a while. He introduced me to Andy Vincent, editor at Fleetway, where ‘Rick Random’ was already going well. I started writing it in London, then from Italy, where I
“Black-and-white throughout, the series is noted for Ron Turner’s dramatic illustrations of the highly futuristic technology employed in the stories. At least 26 ‘Rick Random’ adventures were published in the six years to 1960, and he reappeared briefly in 1978 in a 2000 AD 'sci-fi special,' which reprinted ‘SOS from Space,’ and a new story ‘The Riddle of the Astral Assassin,’ written by Steve Moore, which appeared in May 1979. At least some of the stories have been reprinted in both Australia and Finland, and the Finnish fans have compiled an extensive web-site – unfortunately all in Finnish – though there is a useful checklist.”
And that was about it – a whistle-stop journey through the best of British comic-books of the fifties and early sixties. However, this little discussion has shown that just about all British fans of a certain age cut their teeth on comic-book adventures before graduating to adult science fiction. And, perhaps, we all remember those days so fondly because we’re all still boys at heart (even the girls, eh, Catherine!)
Ring Ring Goes the Bell
By John Nielsen Hall
We lived on the most southeastern fringe of Greater London. When the family first moved down from the Midlands in 1957, it was still Kent. But Bexley and neighbouring Sidcup were dormitories. Every morning the Southern Region electric trains arrived one after the other to take the men (mostly) away to Charing Cross, Waterloo, London Bridge and Cannon Street. Cannon Street is where my Dad went. He worked for the Central Electricity Generating Board, the public authority that ran the power stations. He worked in the huge black tower block that used to stand right by St Paul's Cathedral, going up and coming down on the same trains, with same neighbours most days. Mum stayed at home, and kept the house. Somewhere in the middle of the period I am recalling here she was pregnant with my youngest brother. Me and my “middle” brother went to different schools. This was a different Britain than the one we live in today. But then, everything was different from today.
Teenagers need Pop Music like ducks need water. All we had originally was the BBC Light Programme, and, at night, Radio Luxembourg fading in and out through the heterodyne whistles of the East German jamming stations. Even harder to hear were AFN in Cologne, or Manx Radio on the Isle of Man, the only legal opposition to the BBC's radio monopoly. I think I first heard Linda by Jan and Dean on Manx. It's lodged in my brain. Only after that did I hear the Four Seasons and then the Beach Boys. To me, they were all Californian (despite the New York/New Jersey origins of the Seasons which I didn't know about at the time). Somehow, I conceived of the idea that Los Angeles must be the greatest place on Earth. I didn't think of it as a place like home, only warmer, where kids Dads commuted by car instead of electric train, and their Moms did the same things, said the same things to their kids. I thought of big cars, big busted long haired girls on the beach and the radio playing rock and roll harmonies all day long. Then one day in about 1963, I was playing with my Dad's big tuner in his hi-fi set up, and I heard the sound of a ship's bell “Ding Ding”. It kept on doing that for a few minutes, then a voice “This is Radio Caroline on 199 metres medium wave, broadcasting from the North Sea,” followed by the Fourmost record “Caroline”. I thought that indeed, there must be a God.
Real pirate radio was going on from ships and off-shore forts. It wasn't long before me and my mates were reckless enough to try it from back gardens and isolated woods. We had a number of different stations, all on the old Medium Wave (like everywhere else, we now call it AM) using valve Transmitters built after hours in the school physics lab, with the encouragement of the teacher in charge, he being blissfully unaware of the purposes we had in mind. He went home at night, lit his pipe and listened to The Third Programme.
Schedules for our programmes were nonexistent, though we tried to keep to them. The reason for that was that we kept moving the transmitters around, and they didn't like it. Any transmission was usually preceded by a period of repairs and testing. These must have been the only stations where the audience had to listen to a given frequency for an hour before they heard anything but static. As far as possible the preferred method of programming was to warm the transmitter up, then set the tape going and then leave it.
That way, it was reasoned, if the big bad men from the Post Office turned up, they would only find the gear not us. The Post Office, in those days, was the regulator of the airwaves. It issued licences to broadcasters (except it didn't) public bodies and Radio Hams, dictated what frequencies could be used, and which could not (most of them) and policed the whole thing, with authority to prosecute offenders in Magistrates courts.
We did rather live in fear of the Post Office, whose powers loomed large when we considered what naughty boys we were.
But our egos wouldn't let us not do live gigs, and these were usually on a Saturday night and became the focus of a party. I was called JDT (which originally stood for John De
He would have made a good lawyer, my Dad. He liked asking questions he already knew the answer to. I mumbled something like"Might have been.”
All he said was “I don't want any police at the door.” But later he told my Mum that he thought it was pretty good. Sundays were an interval of spontaneousness in the regular uniformity of the week. The family ate Sunday lunch, Roast Lamb or Roast Beef with boiled vegetables (very boiled after my Mum had been at them) and roast potatoes, the Light programme on the radio, Two Way Family Favourites (a record request show the BBC mounted with the Forces Broadcasting Network, where families and servicemen chiefly in Germany, but also in farther flung places wrote in with sentimental messages of hope for a rapid homecoming. Records could be anything from classical pieces, thru big band and swing, to rock and roll), followed by classic British comedy on the wireless: Round The Horne or The Navy Lark.
But Monday would come and then it was back to the routine. Dad standing on the platform waiting for the 8.11 to Cannon Street, me on my bike, labouring over the hill to school in Sidcup. School had been a bit of a nightmare for me before this, largely because although it was a state secondary-modern school (Failed your 11+? Bad Boy, go to the bottom of the heap) the headmaster had delusions of it being Harrow, and there were prefects and houses and fol-de-rol of all kinds, and the end result was the only rules that counted were the rules of the cane, slipper or fist.
And it was all boys, too. It was not an ideal environment for a weedy short sighted loud mouth—which is what I was. Bullying was a way of life. But I was, at least, “aware"—I knew that I was stuck with the place and I had to make the best of it. So very early on, I started fighting back. After the first few incidents, I decided who it was I was going to whack, and I just walked right up to him in a very non-threatening way and belted him in the mouth, without warning or preamble. Its not that I was very strong or possessed any unknown skill (this was before we knew about Martial Arts), so I certainly came off worst in the immediate aftermath. But after that, I would be very impassive if my books were nicked and then passed around from person to person, or my knickers disappeared from the P.E. changing room, only to reappear at Maths later—and then I would lash out at one or other of those I deemed responsible without warning. This sheer unpredictability of my behaviour gained me a respect that I had previously lacked, so after a while, I began to be accepted and/or tolerated.
Of course, the UK received wisdom in the present enlightened times is that schools do not tolerate fighting or bullying. If the headlines as I write this are any guide, then all that's happened is that the problem has moved outside the school gates. Back then it was not just other kids you had to worry about, the teachers could be almost as bad. They could prosecute a vendetta against you, if you got on their wrong side.
There was a teacher called Mr Downe who rode a little French motorcycle around—we called these things mopeds. However to ride it in the uncertainties of the British climate, he used to wear an enormous heavy rubberised mac that came down to his shoes, the whole topped off with goggles and a helmet not totally unlike an inverted flowerpot. Since the top speed of a moped might be thirty miles an hour on a good day downhill with a following wind, we boys thought this sartorial requirement a bit ludicrous. On one of the pre-recorded shows JDT made some crack about “Mr Downe leaving the school gates” accompanied by a dub of the Thunderbirds theme. This was quite possibly the funniest thing I ever essayed. Most of the school heard it, and every time the bloke appeared on his moped or off it, pupils would unaccountably start whistling that famous march, and bursting into barely repressed giggle fits.
Somehow he came to learn I was at the bottom of it, and then he began a campaign of victimisation. For example, he would ask me to read Juliet when we did Romeo and Juliet in class, when normally he would not ask me to read since I was ahead of the class (maybe even the school) when it came to Shakespeare, solely so that he could pull faces and make cheap witticisms at my passion for Romeo, and thereby attempt to put a question mark over my sexuality. “Queers” were not allowed at my school. They were not allowed in the first place because at that time they were still illegal, but also because the rest of the school, supposedly straight uncomplicated heterosexuals throughout knew what was decent, and queers were not decent. Fortunately, he didn't last long in the job. He left and began teaching at the school my brother was at. He then carried on in the same way with my brother, as he was dogged by the Thunderbirds theme at that school, as well.
I could practice my sarcasm on someone like Mr Downe, and if I was moved to it, defy or ignore any teacher, but later a posse of prefects would round me up and I would be delivered to the headmaster for a whack with a cane on the hand. There was a system called “the complaints book” where a teacher could order you out of class, tell you to fetch the “complaints book" from the school secretary. You brought it back, and he would usually offer you the option of bending over in front of the whole class and getting some whacks from a “slipper” (gym shoe—plimsoll) on the bum, or him writing in it and you taking it back. He offered you that, because the next day at Assembly, boys names appearing in the complaints book would be read out and they would have to line up outside the Headmasters office for the aforesaid caning. In these circumstances I did my level best to appear to be completely insouciant about the whole process, and told the teacher “it's up to you, Sir” in as sarky and defiant a manner as I could muster. This sent most of them into paroxysms of red faced fury.
But later, I developed a characteristically idiosyncratic way of avoiding teachers whom I had irritated. There was a stream running through the school grounds, and if I had not done the homework, or knew the teacher was going to have a beef about something I had done, I just calmly chucked myself full length in it. Soaking wet through, I would claim to have fallen in, and ask to be sent home. Usually, I asked the school nurse, which poor woman was never in the job more than a few weeks, didn't know me from Adam, and said “yes of course”. Mind you my Mum had some views on it—she had to wash my clothes. That was a minor matter. I was rumbled on one occasion, (by Mr Downe's successor, an Irishman called Mahoney) and made to sit, in cold spring weather on a chair in the sun until I dried out. I did not dry out, I nearly froze to death, but I lived, and I wasn't in class either.
Being an all boys school, sex was a subject of much concern. It was a commonplace to hear some kid, even otherwise quite sensible ones, claim they had had sex with some girl or other. A series of playing fields and a golf course separated our school from the equivalent institution for girls. If a boy made a claim like this, he was expected to embellish it as much as possible with all the details—what did she like, did he suck her tits, did she let him put his dick in her mouth, what was her fanny like? The most remarkable tales then issued forth, and it would have appeared to an interested observer that Sidcup had the most anatomically curious teenagers in Britain. Plus, it went as an unquestioned holy truth that all boys in our school were so well endowed, they were desperately sought after by the girls in very school in South East London. One of us was, in fact, pretty well endowed, and used to hold viewing sessions in the changing rooms. When this was going on, there would be a huge crowd around the P.E. Block door, and a hushed silence for a few minutes, before someone would exclaim in disgust “Oh, roll it back up, for christ's sake”, so diminished was he by the sight of the elephant's trunk hanging halfway to his knee that this particular kid possessed.
I tried to steer a middle course in all this—I had actually had sex, of a sort, with a woman, but the truth was that the woman in question was a friend of my mother's, and hence of a similar age to my Mum, who had in circumstances having to do with me being soaked through again (albeit the weather was responsible, rather than my own perversity), undressed me and slyly teased me and allowed me to climax in about half a second over the enormous bosom she had exposed to my fevered gaze. (Nowadays, she would be branded a criminal and get sent down for umpty years, but I'm happy to report our secret is still intact and my Mum still gets a card from her every Xmas.) At that particular time therefore, I was not very interested in girls of my own age. I did change my mind, of course, but for the time being that experience, which occupied my sleeping and waking dreams, and which I longed to repeat, only increased my anxiety about what we would now call homophobia raging around the school.
This reached such a pitch that raiding parties toured the loos in the lunch periods. Cubicle doors were banged on, and if there was no reply, someone would jump up and peer over the top. Those found to be there for a call of nature only received a thumbs up and a quick apology. Those wanking were laughed at—set upon on their exit if, according to the observer, they had any Dirty Books on them, so that everyone could have a look. Anyone not on their own in there would be waited for by a large crowd until they had to come out, and then savagely beaten up. So as not to come under any suspicion myself, I am ashamed to report that I often led these sorties, entertaining the mob with patter as I jumped up to peer over the locked cubicle doors. In retrospect, I doubt that I knew what a “Queer”—a homosexual—actually was, or that on the mercifully rare occasions that we actually did discover two boys in a cubicle that they were doing what they were doing because they were actually gay by inclination, or out of sheer bloody desperation. But no punishment visited on any boy by the teachers or prefects was as severe as the going over any two boys got, if caught by me and the baying mob at my back. Plus, they never heard the end of it.
But all these things passed, as did school itself. I started my first job, as an apprentice electrician, and with money in my pocket got up to more Radio Fun. Another pioneering mate of mine built a big transmitter (output a whole 100 watts!) in an old Triumph Atlas
If anyone was listening, I don't think they ever noticed. To fool the PO, we used to park the camper about three hundred yards from the foot of a TV mast in a thickly wooded area some miles away, the received wisdom being that they could not triangulate on a signal coming from a point that close to a big wattage output close by. I think that was more in the nature of a tale to comfort ourselves with than any kind of technical camouflage. We set up by parking the van, unfolding a big T dipole antenna and chucking it up the branches of an adjacent tree or two, taking the Honda generator out and away from the van, hooking it up, starting up the gen, press the big On switch in the lovingly crafted aluminium chassis of the Tx, wait five minutes to check all the valves were alight and giving off heat, then start the tape with our theme—the instrumental version of “I Feel Love Coming On" on the B side of the hit by Felice Taylor. The opening chords of “Nut Rocker” by B Bumble and The Stingers, being my theme, followed which in turn was followed by me yelling something like:
”Hipster Flipsters Bring Ya Sisters—Are We Gonna Party Tonight!” at the top of my voice, overloading the mike and then crashing in “Wipe Out” by the Surfaris or something like it.
He is now a senior official in Barclay's Bank, awaiting his early retirement. Richard, the engineer on Pacific, works in radio communications for London Underground. (One of the jingles went “Spinning Around—Deep Underground”). He makes enough that he can commute via the Eurostar from his home in Belgium. I often think of him looking at Kent speeding by on his journey into work and wondering if he remembers all those days. I went to Los Angeles eventually, and it quickly lost its aura of magnificence. My Dad died in 2003. It’s his Rover and his roses you can see in the picture of our home in Bexley. My Mum is still with us, in her late seventies, but as a family we are all scattered about the UK now.
The Labour Government of Harold Wilson notoriously passed the Marine Offences Act in 1967 and made it an offence to service or board the Pirate Ships from UK waters. Similar legislation in Holland eventually finished them all off. Commercial Broadcasting was not allowed in this country until 1972, but now we have so many radio stations (the BBC alone has six, and that's only the national ones) we can’t find anything to listen to, most of the time. In the house in the picture, my room was the one on the top. I could look out over Bexley and on a clear day see the Thames and I knew the Thames went out to sea and out there were the ships, and they played the music, to which I fantasised, about my Mum’s friend’s breasts (I did see them again, after a long while—but a similar thing happened as with Los Angeles), and my own dreams of being—who? Brian Wilson? Or John Nielsen Hall.
Charles Platt Made Me Cum
By Graham Charnock
I was 21 when I had my first orgasm and it was all Charles Platt’s fault.
Well, we’ll come to that later (sorry, pun intended). I’ve already written for Earl about my gay sex life [“My Gay Life,” eI23, December 2005] but now I want to explore that even more forbidden realm of sex substitutes.
Let’s not beat about the bush (sorry). We’re talking Rockets. Huge tubular things standing erect.
I was obsessed with them from an early age, possibly even before I discovered science fiction.
I must admit I never could really get enough of rockets. I didn’t realize it at the time, but when I was seeking out second-hand magazines by cycling along the old Harrow Road to a Plus Books store near Ladbroke Grove, it was probably the issues of Galaxy and Analog and yeah, even Nebula, with big rockets on the cover that worked their strange attraction into impelling me to buy them. Does that make sense? Probably not. But it won’t get any better.
When I went to the national anal retentive book depository also known as the local public library, it was rockets I looked out for there also. There was little science fiction to be found amongst those volumes, curiously rebound in a kind of speckled blue-grey material I have never encountered since. But there was fortunately sufficient stuff on German rocketry, with black and white plates of V2s at Peenemunde.
I was excited by these but still not enough to have an orgasm. But then I was only sixteen at the time. I also discovered Tsiolkovsky but he was Russian and didn’t know shit all about designing phallic shapes. All his rockets were made of sticks tied together with string, it seemed to me.
Prior to 1968 there was a speculative market in ‘real science magazines’ predicting how the future colonization of the moon would happen, and I bought these up like chocolate, because the rockets they depicted were always sleek and steely dannish.
Little did we realize that such aerodynamics were not necessary and when the actual event happened in 1968 it would involve a craft that looked like two stick insects coupling.
Still the early Redstones were kind of cute, with their little tail fins, although, again, none of them ever got me off.
So obsessed with rocketry was I, that I even formed my own rocket club, which consisted just of me, drawing plans for rocket engines, which I eventually tried to make on the father’s huge metal turning lathe which he kept in the back shed. I succeeded in making a combustion chamber and a venturi nozzle, but then gave up when I realized there was no way I was going to get hold of a reasonable supply of liquid hydrogen.
Willy Ley either designed or drew rockets or made films about them, I can’t remember now. I just know that at the time I wasn’t getting my rockets off. I tried a more direct route to fake rocketry by constructing a six-foot-tall rocket in my garden consisting of tin cans soldered together. There is actually a photo of this, which I may or may not be able to find. I also bought Revell and Airfix plastic kits of rockets and stupidly constructed them rather than keep them untouched in their original boxes, when now they would have been worth a fortune. I also photographed myself with these but fortunately absolutely none of these photos survive.
And still I couldn’t come. What was I doing wrong? Well obviously I was eroticizing objects rather than women.
I saw the error of my ways and went for women in a big way. Let me rephrase that. What I did was cut out pictures of women in girdles, bras and other ancillary underwear, from innocent magazines and newspapers such as Titbits and News of the World, and stuck them in a scrapbook. One day my mother walked into my bedroom while I was doing this. She smiled and said something like ‘oh, pretty ladies’, but how could I possibly come over them after that?
When I was 21 all this changed. Essex House published a dirty Philip Jose Farmer novel where the characters actually fucked each other and yelled and screamed as they did so. This was something I had not come across before (sorry) in the works of Heinlein and Asimov. Reading it gave me a hard on, but that was all. Maybe it was the yelling and screaming that put me off, or the veiled references to Forest J. Ackerman.
Then I got hold of a copy of ‘The Gas’ by Charles Platt, with more endless fucking and sucking and this time I was obviously ready for it. One night, in bed, I put aside my copy of ‘Shoot at the Moon’ by William F. Temple which I had just finished reading, and reached out for Charles’ novel. After a few pages I noticed that not only my pyjamas but my bed was tented. Then I sensed a moistness on my pyjamas in the groinal area.
Yes it was my first spontaneous orgasm. Charles Platt had made me cum.
I think that one of the things parents have to do is to teach children hypocrisy, because that's how you survive—by being nice to people who are contemptible. So the kid coming into the world sees hypocrisy and wants to point it out. You're nice to this awful person? What you're doing is a crime, isn't it, Dad?
By Earl Kemp
I have always been a sucker for a good spook story. This goes way back to when I was a small child, playing outside late on hot summers evenings. In spite of the heat, there were times when we would build enormous bonfires on vacant lots and sit around them, trying to gross each other out with more repulsive ghost stories than anyone else could come up with. A year or so later the same thing happened around Cub Scout campout bonfires.
Richard Lupoff and I share a number of things in common, having acquired certain of our tastes from the same sources…comic books and radio plays and second-hand magazines…weird stuff…spooks and vampires and voodoos abounding throughout the pages of gloriously exciting pulp magazines like Weird Tales, Thrilling Wonder Stories, and Famous Fantastic Mysteries, H.P. Lovecraft, H. Rider Haggard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert E. Howard, Robert Bloch, Arkham House, and horrors still completely unknown.
For me, reading Richard Lupoff’s Terrors was a good bit more like taking a joyride with a good friend through some of his most often fondled territories…the favorite nightmare journeys of his youth. Also, by the way, my own favorite nightmare journeys from the dim, distant past.
This collection of 16 of Lupoff’s short stories found origins in such well-remembered places as Strange Tales, Fantastic Stories, Amazing Stories, and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and from elsewhere.
Terrors is complete with a fascinating Introduction by Fred Chappell and an Afterword by Lupoff sharing more of the secrets of his terrors.
The first three stories in the volume, “The Crimson Wizard,” “The Crimson Wizard and the Jewels of Lemuria,” and “The Golden Saint Meets the Scorpion Queen” form a trilogy directly out of Lupoff’s past as a young boy who became a devoutly obsessed pulp magazine and comic book fanatic. There’s a lot of us out here and all around….
There are also parodies and satires of many all-time favorite mythical characters like Sherlock Holmes and H.P. Lovecraft…perhaps the most mythical of all. In other directions, Lupoff goes into outer space with terrors yet to come from the future.
Clearly Lupoff has reached the status of master craftsman; his stories carry the reader along with a casualness and certainty that is rare in today’s fiction. He deserves closer scrutiny and many more delicious-to-read tales yet to be told.
This has been my first encounter with an Elder Signs Press book and I was surprised at the quality of the production values and the readability of the physical book itself.
With any luck, Lupoff and Elder Signs will have a follow-up volume of more superb Richard Lupoff nightmares in the near future.
by Harvey Hornwood
My first meeting with Maurice Girodias took place in 1968, shortly after he had emigrated to New York from Paris, where legal entanglements, a government even more repressive than those with which he had done constant battle for almost thirty years, and his own cavalier approach to the concepts of sound business practice had resulted in the bankruptcy of his famous company, the Olympia Press. Ever hopeful even in the face of disaster—a quality which some saw as blindness and others as vision—Girodias was then struggling to reestablish Olympia in New York City, and looking around for writers who would turn out the kind of “d.b.’s” (dirty books) which had always been Olympia's staple product—writers with an abundant sexual imagination and an acute shortage of money. I qualified on both counts, having written sex books for one or two of the fly-by-night smut companies that emerged from underground in the sixties, but having been far too lazy and unambitious to actually make a living at it.
A friend who had written for Girodias in Paris had given him my name, and after he contacted me by letter I went to see him at what was then his combination apartment and office on Gramercy Park. My first impression on meeting him was of his surprisingly youthful appearance. He would then have been close to fifty, but seemed to me like a man in his mid-thirties—though his manner exuded what one of the writers quoted in Venus Bound, John de St Jorre’s book about Olympia, called a “weary charm” his romantic-sounding French accent somehow enhancing both the charm and the weariness. Having seen some of my writing, he agreed that I should do a book for Olympia, and on the spot, with an access of whimsy that was to become familiar to me, came up with one of his more fanciful pseudonyms—Dieter von Laundromat—a suggestion to which I politely demurred. He also asked me to “spice up” a manuscript by another writer by expanding or making up a few sex scenes, a common Girodias maneuver which sometimes surprised, not always happily, the original author when he perused the published version of his work.
I provided the sex scenes, and eventually the book (though the above-mentioned tendency to laziness and prevarication made the process longer than Girodias would have liked. “Where's that book of yours?” he wrote me at one point. “Deadline already dead.”) was published. I was busy (more or less) on a second one when Maurice, out of the blue, suddenly offered me an editorial job—without having the least notion as to whether I knew anything at all about editing, which is quite a different skill from writing.
Although I had, as it happened, previously worked as an editor, I initially turned down Maurice's offer, determined at that time finally to buckle down and make my living as a freelance writer. I soon realized, however, that this was a futile fantasy, and a few weeks later I called him back to ask whether the job was still open. Girodias said yes, expressed his happiness at my availability, and suggested that I start the following Monday.
What I did not know, however, and what Maurice, in his typically lackadaisical fashion, had evidently completely forgotten, was that he had meanwhile promised the job to someone else—a lively, slender, brown-haired English girl named Frances Green, who had been doing some free-lance work for him while employed as an editorial assistant at the magazine Library Journal. Happy to exchange this staid environment for the presumably more salubrious surroundings of Olympia, Frances had given her notice at the magazine and was all prepared to make the move, when she learned that the proffered position had been appropriated by another. I went to work completely unaware of all this, and wondering why this attractive and outgoing free-lancer, on her occasional visits to the office, seemed to be particularly cool toward me alone.
The rest of the office staff was made up of a secretary, two or three clerical types, and a “publicist” who soon left because there was no budget for publicity. Which brings us to David Young, a prosperous businessman who Girodias had somehow persuaded to become his business partner. In Venus Bound, de St Jorre calls Young “an enormously fat man who was a member of the right-wing John Birch Society.” In fact, while Dave was undeniably corpulent, he was hardly enormous, and if he had any political convictions whatsoever I never heard of them; his most deeply held principle seemed to involve never parting with money in any but the most exigent of circumstances.
In this characteristic, many of Girodias' disgruntled authors would have claimed, he and Maurice were a matched pair. Girodias (in common, it must be said, with most of the other sex book publishers of that period) was certainly notorious for his habitual avoidance of the disagreeable task of actually paying his writers what he owed them. “Paying his authors,” as de St Jorre points out, “... was not Girodias' strong suit. Girodias found contracts boring, paperwork a burdensome chore, and the notion of regular accounting and payments an illusive ideal.” The writers, understandably, were often resentful. Mason Hoffenberg, co-author of Candy, called Girodias “a cheap crook,” and claimed that his business dictum was “Don't pay the writers"; while another long-time nemesis, Vladimir Nabokov, fulminated at having to deal with “the elusiveness, the evasiveness, the procrastination, the dodges, the duplicity, and the utter irresponsibility of the man.”
But there was an important distinction between Girodias' brand of stinginess and that of Dave Young. Along with his undeniable carelessness and irresponsibility, Maurice's parsimony was usually the consequence also of a genuine lack of funds, the necessity to make his slender means cover a host of expenses and creditors' demands; on occasion, when he did have money, he could be surprisingly generous. With Dave Young, however, stinginess was a religion. He was not above asking his employees to submit fictitious expense accounts in lieu of a raise, thus saving him tax money. Checks were occasionally sent out “accidentally” unsigned, so they would have to be returned, delaying the depletion of funds. In his bibliography of Olympia, Patrick Kearney points out that whereas the books published by the company in Paris had featured high-quality materials and workmanship, the paper, covers, and binding of the New York products were comparatively shoddy—"'almost indistinguishable from the rest of the American porno paperback offerings.”
As I gradually became immersed in the operations of the company, this fiscal constipation began to disturb me, particularly in regard to publicity and promotion. For just as it had in Paris, the Olympia Press in New York occasionally—and sometimes in spite of itself—published a book whose contents were of interest beyond the prurient. While there may have been no masterpieces on the order of Lolita, Naked Lunch, or The Ginger Man, there were books of genuine literary quality scattered, however sparsely, among the unending line of “d.b.’s.” The trouble was that no one knew about them, and given the dearth of money spent on advertising or publicity, there was no way anyone could find out. Dave Young clung grimly to the notion that spending money on anything was a bad idea, and Maurice, for all his undoubted courage and ambition, “made little effort,” as de St Jorre says, “to cultivate the literary scene, and did not understand how the American publishing world worked.”
Soon after the New York office opened, Girodias published two highly original and visionary novels, Screen and Oracle of the Thousand Hands, by Barry Malzberg, an intense, fiercely intelligent writer who would soon become well known and respected in the science fiction field, and who also turned out a series of pseudonymous sex books, more conventional but not without a certain special quality of their own. Barry was an amazingly prolific author who seemed to be able to write as fast as he could think, with no sacrifice of quality. I once asked him enviously how he was able to turn the stuff out as quickly as he did. His offhand reply: “I bought an electric typewriter.”
Diane DiPrima, the somber, red-haired goddess of Beat poetry, was persuaded by Maurice to write her “memoirs,” which I edited. According to DiPrima, each time she submitted a portion of the manuscript, Girodias would send it back demanding “More sex!” so that the Memoirs of a Beatnik were more erotic than literary, climaxing with a hilarious, though probably imaginary, five-way orgy with DiPrima, Alan Ginsberg, and Jack Kerouac among the participants.
While DiPrima, serious and reserved in person, seemed an incongruous choice for the role of lively pornographer, one who didn't was Steve Cannon, now something of an elder statesman of the African-American literary community, but then a highly ebullient young hipster with an infectious grin and all the uninhibited enthusiasm of the raunchy fourteen-year-old heroine of his rambunctious novel Groove, Bang and Jive Around. The Olympia office was also occasionally brightened by the vibrant presence of Ferdinand William Vasquez-d'Acugno, whose first novel (writing as “Marco Vassi”) Mind Blower, had indeed blown my mind when I first read it in manuscript. Polymorphous, profound, and unabashedly sensuous in both his fiction and his life, Marco went on to write several even better novels for Olympia before moving on. Marco died of AIDS in 1989, depriving the world of a talent that should have been better known.
But because Girodias and his Olympia Press were still considered as mere pornography mills, and because the books were distributed for the most part only to the limited market that specialized in such wares, and because, again, there was no publicity, these books made no stir. To my mind the biggest lost opportunity—financially if not aesthetically—came when Girodias secured the manuscript of a book called Speed, by William Burroughs III—a more or less autobiographical chronicle of amphetamine addiction by the son of the same William Burroughs whose notorious heroin-spiced novel Naked Lunch Maurice had originally published in Paris. Here, I thought, was a natural best seller, on the name alone. Just one notice in Publishers Weekly…one ad in the New York Times Book Review….
But no. I explained, I argued, I wrote memos, but to no avail. Maurice shrugged. Dave was affable but stubborn. And nothing happened. Speed came out—printed, for some reason, on particularly cheap newsprint paper—and disappeared into limbo with the “d.b.’s.”
Along with the talented and the more or less well-known who drifted in and out of the Olympia offices, there were of course the run-of-the-mill writers, many of them impoverished hacks to whom churning out sex books and then trying to wrest some money for them out of Girodias was simply another scam in their day-to-day struggle for existence. Some were charming, some obnoxious; many were high most of the time, for this was the late sixties, when pot, hash, and LSD were not only ubiquitous but also relatively cheap. Most were young, but there was one scruffy, bearded middle-aged fellow known only as P.J., who had submitted a manuscript about a young lady who had a romance with a stallion. The book was accepted, spiced up with extra sex scenes, and retitled The Horse Mistress; and payment was even authorized—but herein lay a problem, as the writer refused to divulge his full name, insisting that he was P.J., period. But no bank would honor a check made out to a pair of initials, so P.J. insisted that he be paid in cash. Our accountant refused, and an impasse ensued, until some circuitous and probably illegal scheme was contrived to get around the problem.
About six months after I started at Olympia, Uta West resigned to pursue a writing career. This opened up an editorial spot, and Frances Green, whose promised job I had earlier unwittingly usurped, was finally brought on board. Though she may still have harbored some understandable resentment toward me, we got along quite smoothly, and when eventually I learned what had happened, and explained my innocent role in the affair, all was more or less forgiven. Over the months we became quite friendly, though there was no actual romance between us—until one day, on a sudden crazy impulse worthy of my employer himself, I asked her to marry me! Quite wisely, she refused; but to my surprise and delight, suggested that we try living together and see what happened. Which we did, and what happened was that we stayed together for thirty-six years (so far), and actually did get married somewhere along the way. So I have Maurice Girodias to thank for bringing Frances into my life, though it is somehow typical that in doing so he nearly destroyed the relationship before it ever got started.
When Olympia was preparing to publish a rare non-fiction book called Inside Scientology, an exposé by a former member of that “church,” the scientologists, as is their wont, tried every means, legal and otherwise, to have it stopped. One official took an editor to lunch and tried to bribe her, actually laying an envelope full of cash on the table between them, which—more in amusement than indignation—she refused. The scientologists may have gotten their revenge, however. De St Jorre and others have speculated that they may have been at least partly responsible for bringing about the mysterious events which finally led to Girodias' deportation a few years later.
In spite of some arguments and many differences of opinion, I had always gotten along well with Maurice, who was generally even-tempered in person, however vitriolic he might get in some of his writings. This began to change when one day a longhaired, ethereal-seeming young wraith of a girl named Sharon Rudahl dropped off a manuscript she had written under the name of “Mary Sativa.” To my surprise her picaresque tale of youth, sex, drugs, and love turned out to be a perceptive, tender, and moving novel which illuminated the “hippie” generation somewhat in the same way that Kerouac’s On the Road had done for the Beats a decade earlier. The other editors shared my enthusiasm, and we spent some time and effort on coming up with a suitably sensitive and evocative title for the book—which I must admit I don't remember. Whatever it was, however, it was not fanciful enough to suit Maurice, who in consultation with Marilyn Meeske, an old friend and associate from the Paris days newly arrived in New York, came up with his own title—Acid Temple Ball.
This appellation struck me as appallingly crass, meaningless, and inappropriate, and I immediately wrote Girodias a memo expressing, at length and in no uncertain terms, my dismay both at the new title itself and at his casual disregard of his editors’ opinions. It was the only time I ever saw Maurice actually lose his temper. He came into the editorial office with his face twisted in anger, plunked the memo down on my desk, and informed me emphatically that that was all very well, but he was the publisher, and it was his company, it was his title, and that was the way it was going to be. And that‘s the way it was.
Although there was no further hostility between Maurice and me, I had the definite feeling that I had written one memo too many. And as it happened, Girodias was soon looking to open up an editorial slot for his friend Marilyn Meeske. I suspect also that things were not helped by the fact that in passing by the office one day he happened to glimpse Frances sitting cozily on my lap. (It has been suggested that there was a hidden puritanical streak somewhere inside Girodias the freewheeling pornographer, though many of his customers would have been disappointed to learn that this innocent cuddle was probably the closest thing to an orgy that ever took place inside the Olympia offices.)
Shortly after that Maurice called me in and explained to me that he desired to resume our former author-publisher relationship. And so after a little over a year at Olympia I was out. My subsequent dealings with Girodias were friendly, however, and Frances stayed on with the company until its inevitable demise a couple of years later.
Impractical, unworldly, irresponsible, and devious Girodias certainly was, but I am glad to have known him; he was also charming, witty, visionary and, above all, courageous. He battled censorship, prudery, and stuffiness wherever he found it. He struggled incessantly—and joyously—for literary and sexual freedom in the face of governmental repression, legal tribulations, and constant financial hardship. He never lost his taste for attacking and outraging what he called the “Universal Establishment.” He was a flawed and not always admirable human being, but he fought the good fight.
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*Reprinted from an original appearance in Penthouse Forum, June 1997, with the permission of Harvey Hornwood. Olympia Press NY cover scans courtesy Patrick Kearney Collection www.sonic.net/~patk/. Greenleaf Classics cover scans courtesy Bruce Brenner Collection www.vintagepbks.com/ .
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