|Vol. 5 No. 5||
(Vol. 5 No. 5) October 2006, is published and © 2006 by Earl Kemp. All rights
Contents — eI28 — October 2006
Lawrence with a W and Block with a K, by Ed Gorman
Naughty Nancy’s Grasp of Unendurable Ecstasy, by Earl Kemp
A Hutch Full of Bunnies, by Lynn Munroe
Curious Couplings 8, by Earl Kemp
The Anthem Series Part II, by Earl Terry Kemp
THIS ISSUE OF eI is for Harry Bell, for http://www.cosmicminds.net and for GET HARRY, the campaign to bring Harry Bell to Austin, Texas for Corflu Quire in February 2007.
Harry Bell has been a prominent science fiction fanzine editor, cartoonist, and artist for many years. His fanart covers the spectrum from ridiculous to outstanding, as the two examples below illustrate. The ease with which he moves from bug-eyed-monster spaceships to bug-eyed-monster cute, cuddly greeting-card kiddies, is revealed in the rare example of Harry’s color fan art.
Harry Bell is also well known in the world of fine art, with many excellent canvases to his credit. Beyond that, he is the proprietor of the Yahoo discussion group Inthebar where numerous old farts swap lies and bullshit and plan vast schemes like simultaneous PC connected parties and like bringing Harry Bell to Austin where he can be properly inundated with Corflu Quire.
In the exclusively science fiction world, it is also in memory of Charles L. Grant, Philip E. High, Bob Leman, and Helen Weston.
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 email@example.com 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: Harry Bell, Lawrence Block, Robert Bonfils, Bruce Brenner, Ned Brooks, Ed Gorman, Jacques Hamon, Earl Terry Kemp, Arthur lortie, Todd Mason, Lynn Munroe, and Robert Speray.
ARTWORK: This issue of eI features original and recycled artwork by Harry Bell and recycled artwork by William Rotsler.
We get letters. Some parts of some of them are printable. Your letter of comment is most wanted via email to firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
Tuesday August 1, 2006:
Again, eI hits eFanzines with maximum force. I’ve managed to lead off the LetterCol again. It must be those hyperactive typing fingers I’ve got.
The story of the founding of Fantasy Press is very similar to the way several movie studios were founded. In fact, I’m told that there were several movies of the 1980s that started off as discussions at WesterCons in LA. Hell, my film The Chick Magnet was begun with the phrase “How much dough you think it’ll take?”
I think I’ve come across that story “A Voice From The Ether” in an issue of Amazing I bought at WonderCon. I’m pretty sure that I really enjoyed it, especially since I’d been in a very pulp mood at the time since Dad had given me the few pulps he had managed to scrounge up to give to my cousins.
”The Anthem Series” seems like a big deal. It might turn into one of those things that shows up in a fanzine and everyone references frequently over the next decade. The Legion of Space was one of the first Williamson books I ever read. I loved it. It’s what got me interested in Williamson (this was about 1989) and that’s not worn off yet. I think Darker Than You Think was a book that had a much greater influence on my fiction than I’d care to admit (especially since I’ve never managed to get good at fiction writing). The fact that Jack is well beyond 90 and still putting out great material is simply amazing. Sinister Barrier was one of the books I remember picking up but never finishing.
Gotta say that all those pieces of strip art in the Jeff Hawke article really make me wanna invest in the volumes of collections that are out there and far too expensive for me to afford. The article was great. I love these kinds of articles. Banana Wings has done a few like it that made me smile, even if it’s not always easy to decipher what’s going on…much like reading the eLists everyday.
Good to see John Nielsen Hall in the pages of eI. He’s one of my TAFF nominators, in fact. As a matter of fact, when I was a kid, I also came away with the idea that Los Angeles was the greatest place on Earth, though that was based on the way it was presented on TV shows produced by Aaron Spelling. Amazingly, there’s a mention of “Phoenix City,” the Roland Alphonso song that really turned me on to Old School Ska. For a while, I was a serious authority on the history of ska. I even appeared on NPR talking about the origins in late 1999 or so. I’ve stopped listening to it for the last couple of years.
I’m not sure why, but I’m fairly certain that Free Radio has pretty much killed off musical invention. When there was a battle for limited air space, before FM became the money modulation, there were stations that would try to carve out niches by playing daring music (for the time). I’ve recently come across a few Border Radio tapes from the 1950s that really show the point. These were magical pieces that celebrated offbeat music and talk.
Must find a copy of The Gas. It sounds like a hoot.
Hey, what’s with all the Brits? I can’t think of the last time I read an American fanzine that included so many Britishers.
I think Dick Lupoff read Terrors at Borderlands Books in SF a few weeks ago. I couldn’t make it, which bummed me out, but I’m planning on making it a part of my next Claims Department (the zine where I go somewhere and read a book, watch a movie, and listen to some music). Mr. Lupoff and I met not too long ago and he gave me a couple of magnets that promoted his books. I’ve started a small Lupoff section of my personal library. I mustcollect them all!
And a WONDERFUL piece “A Rocket A Rover” is too! A perfect Web symposium, beautifully put together.
Now, must stop myself from trying to buy all those goodies mentioned. Memo to self:
No room in the house.
etc. etc. etc.
Wednesday August 2, 2006:
I will probably write more about "The Anthem Series" but a couple of immediate comments.
The hardcover copies of the 1966 index never actually existed (though I have seen one listed for sale). They would probably not have been worth having anyway.
It was like this. When In Memoriam: Clark Ashton Smith was close to going out of print, I suggested to Jack in a telephone conversation that he bind a few in hardcover. He liked the idea, and I got put in charge of making it happen. So I spent a couple of weeks making phone calls and visits on vacation leave getting quotes on it. We took an ad in George Bibby's Fantasy Collector and used the response as an indicator of how many to bind. We did ten of only which half or so were actually sold, between the estate and our own copies. I picked them up and took nine of the ten to Jack's place where he signed all he could and limitation stickers went in. I still have the only unautographed copy, and once in a while wonder if it might be worth more than the rest. The binder warned us that they would not hold up to much use.
We figured to do hardcovers of the publishers' thing. By the time it started to run out, Jack was in military training and left me the remaining copies. It was at that point, maybe six months after publication, that the first order for a hardcover came in.
The reason that the book existed at all is that I lost my job in June 1965 and did not find another until November, so the bulk was written in those months. Every month or more often we found something that we missed, and it was wrapped up in May and again in August. I had not noticed before that Jack says in the third edition that 88 copies of the May version were produced. It is really more like three, two to the copyright office and one for Jack's shelf, lord knows why.
Part of the reason that the tone of the second and third editions differ is the growth of lawyers. I would heartily agree that the 1966 version came at a critical point -- by a year or two later, the size of it (84 quarto pages) would have doubled. The latest CD-ROM version produced is way over a thousand of them.
eI Brilliant and fascinating! Brilliant and fascinating! Always the same damn thing, brilliant and fascinating! Is there no end to it?
I actually do have a speck to add this time. The planned White Lily by John Taine, announced in the 1950-51 Fantasy Press advertising flyer, appeared in 1952 under the title The Crystal Horde. White Lily was the title of the Amazing Stories Quarterly magazine appearance. Presumably Eshbach decided it didn't sound fantastic enough.
The first Fantasy Press book I saw was in about 1958 or '59, when I was 10. I had seen the Pick-a-Book ads in Astounding and scraped my pennies together for a copy of Eric Frank Russell's Dreadful Sanctuary, being very fond of Russell (the perfect SF writer for a 10 year old). The title also had an irresistible resonance (not as good as Sinister Barrier, but Pick-a-Book didn't have that one). When the book arrived I was astonished. It was one of the original full cloth bindings rather than the chintzier Greenberg bindings, and I had never seen such a sumptuous-looking book. And an exploding spaceship on the dust jacket! What more could a nearsighted 10-year-old want? It was a gateway drug.
--John Boston, Wegenheim
Friday August 4, 2006:
I just wanted to say that I thought you'd done a great job on my piece; it looks really good, and I'm really pleased with it.
Sunday August 6, 2006:
Many thanks for another outing into your inner works with eI27. As always, I am going to try to make this letter interesting with some commentary about your e-zine contents… notice, the key word is try. Always is. Try, I will…
Sure agree with Chris Garcia on Larry Flynt and Omni. Omni was a great read nearly every time, and gave me a good hit of science most times. Guaranteed, Omni was the only Flynt publication that was ever going to come into my household back then.
Peter Weston’s article also details a little of my own childhood. My grandparents from Aye, Scotland, used to send fine British chocolates to us spoiled grandchildren for many years, and on a regular basis, would send newspapers from Scotland…the Ayrshire Post, the Sunday Post, the People’s Friend, and British comics for me. I’d get the Beano and the Dandy, and when I was older, the Hotspur and the Wizard, and occasionally, the Rover. I was getting these comics in the ’70s, and some of my research proved that some of the stories were recycled from one generation of readers to another. I remember strips like The Bash Street Kids, drawn by Leo Baxendale. D.C. Thomson, the publisher, just celebrated 100 years of operations, and old D.C. may have been a distant relative…my mother’s maiden name, and my own middle name, is Thomson. I remember reading The Amazing Wilson in the Wizard, a story of a man who discovered an ancient potion from an old mountain man, and learned to extend his lifespan to several hundred years, which was enough for various adventures, including fighting in World War II. I wish I’d been able to keep my comics, but parents, as they are wont to do, demanded I get rid of the stacks of comics forming in my room, and I learned to be a bit of a businessman, selling those comics to the neighborhood kids for a few quarters, supplementing my income from my two paper routes. I learned a little while ago that some of these comics are no longer in existence, like the Hotspur and the Wizard. Part of my childhood is gone forever, so I hope they might still be available through the Internet, even only fondly remembered.
I did a little reading on Radio Caroline, too… One of the most popular DJs on BBC Radio 2 (which I listen to occasionally through the Internet) is Johnnie Walker, who I remember as being one of the most popular DJs on pirate radio, especially Radio Caroline, broadcasting from an old steamer off the British coast. (I also used to listen to Radio Luxembourg.) I also found a series of old British paperbacks in a Goodwill store in Toronto, all about Johnnie’s favorite songs. I wish that old age of pirate radio was still around, but broadcasting is so corporate these days, I don’t think pirate broadcaster would be around for even hours.
Thursday August 10, 2006:
Gosh, don't you read the greatest fanzine ever to hit a monitor screen:
--Jim Linwood, Inthebar
I live in Ajijic and have for a few years, and thought it may interest you to know that I'm pretty sure I'm acquainted with the Pepe to whom you refer several times in your ezine articles, which, by the way, I enjoyed reading. The Pepe I know is about the right age, 50-ish I'd guess, and walks with a cane these days because several years ago somebody shot him and threw him over a cliff, but he somehow survived and came crawling out of the canyon 2 or 3 days later with about a dozen broken bones, or so the story goes. I saw him last night at Tom's Bar, which is located at Constitución #32, just a few doors from your old digs at #14, and asked him if he remembered a gringo writer named Earl Kemp from the '70s, and he said that he did, so I suppose he must be the same fellow. For what it's worth, he reputedly still makes his living in the kinds of entrepaneurial ventures as he did when you knew him.
Thursday August 24, 2006:
Lloyd Arthur Eshbach's article, "The Fantasy Press Story," was fascinating. Reading this made me feel like I was stepping into a Way-Back Machine. Reprinting articles like this is what makes fanzines so dagnabbin' wonderful: I learn so much from your zine that it seems like I'm in a doctoral seminar on science fiction fandom and you're the professor. Thank you so much for running this article. I really enjoyed it.
The next article, "The Anthem Series," was likewise way cool. (Even better was the Vonnegut lino between these articles, but then again, I've always enjoyed Vonnegut's sense of humor.) The color reproductions of the covers is a really nice touch. I can't even imagine what some of these editions are going for nowadays at auction or in the dealer's room at the worldcon. Or any convention, for that matter. But I gotta tell you, this is a wonderful stroll down memory lane, and makes me faunch even more for getting to cons and slowly browsing through the huckster tables. Man, I really miss those days! (I can rectify this situation, of course, but my con-going is really going to be few and far between.) No matter what, I can't wait to see Part II come October and feast my eyes on the goodies therein.
"A Rocket A Rover" was an interesting read, but really didn't do much for me since my background on this particular subject matter is extremely limited. Still, some interesting commentary, and I loved the illustrations. Totally fun stuff.
I enjoyed the rest of this issue, but really have no pithy comments to make, so I think I'll simply leave off here. Many, many thanks for the zine, and it was likewise quite enjoyable, albeit very brief, to chat on-line with you at the Launch Pad pre-WorldCon party.
Simplicity of language is not only reputable, but perhaps even sacred.
Lawrence with a W and Block with a K*
By Ed Gorman
About Cinderella Sims
Lawrence Block writes the best sentences in the business, that business being crime fiction. No tortured self-conscious arty stuff, either. Just pure, graceful, skilled writing of a very high order.
No matter what he writes—the dark Scudder private-eye novels; the spunky Bernie Rhodenbarrs about the kind of thief even a mom could love; or his latest creation, John Keller the hitman, an existential figure full of quirks and kindnesses rare in his profession—no matter what he's telling us, he always makes it sweet to read. He's just so damned nimble and graceful and acute with his language.
By now, his story is pretty well known. Wrote a lot of erotica in the late fifties and early sixties, all the while writing his early crime paperback originals and stories for magazines of every kind. Started becoming a name in crime fiction in the seventies, really broke out in the nineties and is now posed, one would think, for superstardom.
Block has always reminded me of a very intelligent fighter. He knows what he's good at and sticks to his own fight, unmoved by popular fads and critical fancies. He writes about women as well as any male writer I’ve ever read (though since I'm a guy, I may just be saying that he perceives women the same way I do) and he deals with subjects as Oprah-ready as alcoholism and failed fatherhood realistically, yet without resorting to weepiness.
One senses in him sometimes a frustrated mainstream writer. He's always pushing against the restrictions of form and yet never failing to give the reader what he came for in the first place. No easy trick, believe me.
For some reason, I've always hated the word “wordsmith" (probably because it's popular among pretentious young advertising copywriters who don't want to admit that they're writing hymns to beer and dish soap), but that's what Block is. A singer of songs, a teller of tales, a bedazzler.
I recently read three of his erotic novels and I'll tell you something. They're better written (and we're talking 1958-1961) than half the contemporary novels I read today. He was pushing against form even back then, creating real people and real problems, and doing so in a simple powerful voice that stays with you a hell of a long time.
I wrote the above as a way of setting up a Larry Block novelette I was reprinting in an anthology called Pulp Masters. I don't see any reason to change a word. Not because they're such graceful or pithy words but because they convey my feelings about Lawrence Block the writer.
I always say that I'm glad to see writers make it up from the trenches and into the sunshine of national prominence. Few writers spent so long in the trenches. Larry sold his first story in 1958. He first hit big in the middle 1990s. That's a long time to breathe the dusty, sometimes dank air of literary obscurity.
Larry began his career, as most of us know by now, selling short stories to the crime magazines of the time and to the sort of paperbacks that local religious groups were always trying to drive from the newsstands.
We called these, as I remember, the motley crew of outcasts I hung with in my early college years, right-handers. I think you can probably guess what I mean by that.
I read a lot of Midwood and Beacon and Nightstand novels in those days. I quickly came to realize that some of the writers were much better than others. Max Collier, for example, wrote some of the most perverse books I've ever read. As I remember them, he frequently paired up his bitter hunchbacked heroes with heiresses. Clyde Allison was usually thin on plot but great with patter. Orrie Hitt sometimes got too perverse for my tastes but usually supplied a kind of second-rate James T. Farrell-like blue collar take on the standard "sexy" plots.
A few of the right-handers were written reasonably well. No great masterpieces slipped through, you understand, but some of the books' were actually...kinda sorta actual novels rather than just the usual monthly tease.
Which brings us to some guy named Andrew Shaw. This was one of Larry Block's pennames circa the late fifties and into the sixties. Other writers' would share the name later on (someday somebody will do an article on how contracts to one writer secretly get handed off by that writer to another writer, a particular form of "ghosting" that goes on at the lower levels of publishing even today) but the early Shaws, at least those I've read, read like Larry Block.
Not the Larry Block of today. The Shaw prose isn't especially polished; the Shaw stories don't always escape cliché; and the Shaw attitude is sometimes not unlike the hardboiled crime fiction magazines of the day—i.e., too tough for its own good.
Yet you can see in glimpses—and sometimes sustained for long stretches—the Larry Block of today. The idiosyncratic take on modern morality; the dour irony that hides fear and loneliness; and the seeds—just planted—of the style that would' become the best of his generation.
Cinderella Sims was originally called $20 Lust. The editor obviously spent a long time coming up with that one.
I'm not sure what else Larry was writing at that time. I suspect he was upgrading for an assault on Gold Medal and better-paying markets. I say this because Cinderella Sims seems to fall between his sexy books and his early Gold Medal books. Not quite worthy of that little gold medallion but damned close.
One thing Larry Block always had was the ability to move a story forward while giving you detailed character portraits. He has a fast eye for the unusual, the quirks in us, and he makes us come alive with these details.
So is his skill in giving you journalistic snapshots of urban American. Re-reading Cinderella Sims today is like traveling back in time to those pre-hippie sixties when crew cuts were still the style on college campuses and free love was something only the ridiculous Hugh Hefner experienced.
I'm not going to tell you that this is a great book because it isn't. But it's a damned interesting look at the artist-in-making. I think you'll agree with me that, from the very beginning of his career, Larry Block was a vital and powerful storyteller.
About Ronald Rabbit is a Dirty Old Man
As for my review of Ronald Rabbit is a Dirty Old Man, Block has figured out a) the laziest way ever devised to write a porno novel or b) the most cunning and hilarious way ever thunk up to write one.
By Earl Kemp
I have been so lucky, during my life and publishing career, to work with some very special people. The only problem was, the work schedule and hectic pace of producing all the pornography that’s fit to print didn’t allow any time at all to stop and admire the roses. They bloomed and faded out of sight right before my very eyes, and I never saw…never smelled a one of them at the time.
Of all the writers I worked with at The Porno Factory, many were standout successes in their later lives, earning every major award and accolade available. Some of them, long after their sleazebooks had been replaced with mainstream bestsellers, even wrote of their experiences as full-time porno hack writers.
Not the least of them was the lovely Linda DuBrieul [D. Barry Linder and numerous other pseudonyms], the unquestioned Queen of Pornography. Linda, unlike 99% of the other prolific hack writers of the 1960s and ’70s, did it all by herself…alone. She was self-taught as far as fiction writing goes, and deliberately put herself into a writing-machine mode. For over eight years, she produced an average of one book a week while, at the same time, managing households, two sequential husbands, two delightful children, and all the usual woes of the world. Linda would pound the pavement and visit book publishers, editors, and office staffs. She had no literary agent and did all the groundwork for herself, eventually working, regularly, simultaneously, for a number of different publishers.
Late in her career, she summed the whole experience up in her autobiography, The Woman Who Wrote Dirty Books. I wrote about Linda’s story in "H.R.H. The Queen of Pornography" in eI12 February 2004.
The next largest group of full-time writers came from Scott Meredith’s Black Box pornography operation that supplied most of the sleaze available on the marketplace from the late 1950s until into the early ’70s. From this select group of significant writers to be, five of them wrote extensively of their experiences producing beat-off books for Scott Meredith’s profit and the need for something similar by the masses.
Hal Dresner [Don Holiday] was one of the better-known writers of the period and the first to produce a semi-autobiographical book about the sleaze novels he was writing for Scott Meredith Literary Agency, Inc. The Man Who Wrote Dirty Books was Hal’s story, and I wrote about it in "Futting With the F.B.I. Futter" in eI4 October 2002.
The great Donald E. Westlake [Alan Marshall] was next to come out of the closet with his sensational novel Adios Scheherazade, that I wrote about in “Nobody Can Write This Shit Forever” in eI13 April 2004.
Science fiction icon Robert Silverberg [Don Elliott], one of the Black Box group’s most prolific writers, wrote “My Life As A Pornographer” that was reprinted in eI14 June 2004.
Thomas P. Ramirez [much better known as Tony Calvano] wrote of his stint with Scott Meredith and crew in “Into the Abyss,” that appeared in eI21 August 2005.
At last (I’ve never been known as timely) I have managed to get a copy (a gift actually, from Lynn Munroe, who had the writer inscribe the copy to me) of the final book inspired by having been a Black Box pornographer…the one and only Lawrence Block’s [Andrew Shaw’s] Ronald Rabbit is a Dirty Old Man.
In eI14, June 2004, in “$20 Worth of Cinderella,” I had this to say about Lawrence Block as a writer:
“Shaw was a prolific writer, and he kept Henry Morrison happy with his black boxes and that in turn kept Scott Meredith happy. He could continue thinking that, behind those secret black boxes of his, he wasn't really the biggest supplier of pornography in the entire country, only he was exactly that for several years, and he was ripping off his writers at the same time.
“I recognized right away that Shaw was something special in the way of a craftsman. His novels were noticeable better than those coming from his contemporaries who had coalesced into a Friday night poker and rip a new hole for Scott social club that they called The Happy Pornographers. I have touched upon that club on numerous occasions in eI and have no doubt that more will come along shortly.
“In eI13, April 2004, in "Nobody Can Write This Shit Forever," I described Andrew Shaw's manuscripts in this fashion:
"Now let's take another writer's manuscripts: Lawrence Block. He had his own individual style of typing, his own fingerprints all over his manuscripts. To begin with, he used a better grade of typing paper than most of the other writers did; his manuscripts were very easy to spot because of it. He had nice wide margins all around each page with lots of room for the editor's eyes to read the words and his pencil to write in whatever is needed there. He was a pretty good typist too, and made relatively few strikeovers. And, especially important, he took the time, now and then, to correct some of his typos. The only negative I can recall is that occasionally Block would stretch his typewriter ribbons a bit beyond endurance.
"Working a Block manuscript, for an editor, was relatively easy. The big stack of reasonably typed pages seemed to dwindle before the editor's very eyes."
“Those years seemed to roll by faster than they should, and hundreds upon hundreds of same-formula sleaze books passed through my hands and, always, Shaw's were among the very best written and frequently the best selling ones.
“Eventually, as it always happens, Block grew too good for that field and moved on to bigger and better novels and publishers. And, to very wide recognition and acclaim. Naturally, many honors came to him because of the superiority of his efforts and he should wear all of them proudly.
“I have been amused by watching him playing the success game, and reading his interviews and listening to radio broadcasts of some interesting discussions that he participated in through the years. I always felt that Larry was a friend even long after he and I had parted from our professional writer/editor relationship that I had cherished for so many years. You can always tell who your friends really are by the way they treat you.”
Letters from Laurence Clarke
On the back cover of Ronald Rabbit is a Dirty Old Man, Lawrence Block writes:
“In the late sixties…I wanted to write some frankly erotic books that would be fun to write, and might even be interesting to a reader with a three-figure IQ. My agent found an enthusiastic publisher, and I did three books in all, publishing them under a female pen name, one I’d used earlier on a pair of lesbian novels.
“Ronald Rabbit was initially intended to be a pseudonymous paperback original. I wanted to write an epistolary novel, but not the traditional series of narrative letters from a single character in the manner of Richardson’s Pamela. Instead I was inspired by Mark Harris’ comic soufflé, Wake Up, Stupid, and my good friend Hal Dresner’s hilarious The Man Who Wrote Dirty Books. Each tells its story through the medium of the collected correspondence of the protagonist, letters written to him as well as letters written by him, and that’s what I wanted to do in Ronald Rabbit.
“I wrote Ronald Rabbit in four days…One letter kept leading to another. I was completely caught up in the realization of the havoc that could be wrecked by a single manipulative maniac with a typewriter….”
As I began reading Ronald Rabbit is a Dirty Old Man I was shocked to discover that it was pretty much classic kiddy porn. Then I did a thought-shift and allowed my memory to return to those 1970 years, when the novel was written, and remembered that kiddy porn was all the rage. In fact, the letters we received at The Porno Factory overwhelmingly reflected an ever-increasing demand for more and more kiddy sex books, preferably with direct family incest involved.
Within Ronald Rabbit, Block has this to say, helping to lock the genre into the reader’s thoughts:
“You really couldn’t have done much for the first thirteen [years], anyway.”
“Maybe not. What is it they say? ‘If they’re big enough, they’re old enough.’ Is that what they say?” (p. 98)
It was unbelievable at the time, that the marketplace had so shifted in its always search for the thing that would do it best for the purchasers. Every publisher in the business was trying to fill that demand.
That’s one of the contributing factors that brought about the heavy repression and total ban on all kiddy porn material in the USA.
So, besides being a perfect reflection of the marketplace when Ronald Rabbit was written, what else did it have in common with all the other sleazebooks available then?
Lawrence Block used all the stock Scott Meredith tricks of pulpdom, and he used them with effect and skill. Ronald Rabbit is written as a collection of letters from the protagonist to various friends and lovers. As letters, the individual pieces of Ronald Rabbit fall into many random lengths, the shorter the better. And each letter begins with space wasting filler like letterheads, addresses, dates, etc. The single easiest way to make up a manuscript so it will pass in a casual inspection as a book-length work.
Make no mistake about this, it is good craftsmanship. It is the best, easiest, most saleable way to write anything for publication. And that goes for the rest of the tricks passed along by Scott Meredith to his writing staff.
Lawrence Block wrote in recognizable clichés so his readers could readily identify with the characters he wrote about. He wrote in short, easy-to-read sentences. He frequently repeated the text he had already written as often as he dared in order to use up more manuscript space. He deliberately arranged to leave big spaces at the ends of each section and, even with all this “word-fat” filler stretching the text out to the maximum, Ronald Rabbit still make only 148 pages in this Subterranean Press edition.
Another example of this “manuscript filling” is the innocent appearing name of the magazine at the center of the whole affair, Ronald Rabbit’s Magazine for Boys and Girls. The secret in the background is the number of words in the title of the magazine and the frequency of repetition of those words.
The more prolific Black Box writers used each one of these writing tricks extensively and each is extremely effective in capturing and holding reader identification.
This is praise, not condemnation. Grade A+.
In Ronald Rabbit is a Dirty Old Man, Block’s protagonist is Laurence Clarke or “Laurence with a U and Clarke with an E” who was hired to edit Ronald Rabbit’s Magazine for Boys and Girls. Following the kiddy porn trail, Clarke has been hired because the previous editor was caught red-handed with an 11-year-old boy doing some really disgusting things with each other, and they’d been doing them for a while already. It was Clarke’s job to clean up the tarnished reputation of the children’s magazine.
Instead, almost as if it had been heredity, Clarke inherited some of his predecessor’s lechery, thanks to a group of six extremely talented and adventurous teenagers from the nearby Catholic Girl’s School. There were six of them, each more ravenous than the other, with the youngest of the group, Naughty Nancy, who, just 15, was by far the most adept of the playful gaggle. She had somehow perfected a special position for sexual intercourse that involved her much-practiced grasp. She had a way of clutching her partner’s most rigid intentions and holding on far beyond the point of unendurable ecstasy, leaving them limp with exhaustion and covered with sweat.
Besides those persistent youngsters, Clarke also had current and past lovers and wives whom all deserved portions of his time, physical presence, and competitive endurance balling.
After a quarter of a century, it is amazing how thoroughly effective the eroticism is in Ronald Rabbit is a Dirty Old Man. The scene with Naughty Nancy’s grasp being a prime example of just that.
At one point in the story, Clarke is called into the Big Boss’ office. Clayton Finch is the character’s name and he could have easily been modeled after any one of the sleazebook publishers of the time period. For Block, the encounter goes this way (p. 11-12):
Mr. Clayton Finch’s office is on the fourteenth floor, which is one floor above the twelfth. Clay Finch is not, as one might understandably guess, a target for particularly adept skeet shooters. He is in fact the president of Whitestone Publications, the fount from whence flows a torrent of paperback books and magazines of no particular distinction. In this capacity he has been, for just less than ten months, the employer of yours truly, Laurence Clarke.
He looked more like a cast-iron owl than a clay finch, anyway. He gazed at me over his desk, all eyes and a couple of yards wide. His was a much larger desk than mine, and his office, unlike mine, had windows. Several of them. Let it be known, though, that I in no way begrudged him these trappings of status. I was perfectly content with my little desk and my airless cubbyhole and my subsistence-level salary.
“Laurence Clarke,” he said.
“Mr. Finch,” I said
“Laurence with a U,” he said. “Clarke with an E.”
“With an E,” I echoed.
I’ve been in that office many times, facing that clay pigeon.
And, what did Lawrence Block write about writing pulp fiction?
These quotations are almost exactly the way every one of the Black Box writers would feel about the endless task of producing those sleazebooks of the 1960s and ’70s.
Finally, at page 126, in closing a letter, Block uses the expression “Adios, motherfucker,” only he really isn’t saying “Adios, motherfucker,” he’s passing along a personal message to good friend Eddy Westlake. It is a silent salute to Donald Westlake’s own porno past novel, Adios Scheherezade, known to one and all as “Adios, motherfucker.”
Earlier I said that I assigned Lawrence Block a grade of A+ for Ronald Rabbit is a Dirty Old Man. I wish I could do more than that because Block deserves all the egoboo he can grasp and hold. I note elsewhere within this issue of eI that mutual friend Ed Gorman says that Block “writes the best sentences” ever and Ed is certainly correct in that.
Block’s sentences take me on much longer journeys that they should, with the way they flow and the perfect control over that flow…the choice of bull’s-eye words to tighten Block’s control over my imagination…the thrill of allowing me to participate in his thoughts…what’s not to love…?
…and one gold star….
By Earl Kemp
As I wrote in eI19, I have noticed a number of odd coincidences regarding sleaze paperback covers and other publications that have intrigued me. Some of them were reasonable and understandable, some of them were outright criminal theft, and some of them were beneath contempt.
What I propose to do is to run a few of them in some issues of eI to see if I can create real interest in perusing the venture. It is a participation project. You send me jpegs of your favorite duos to email@example.com and I’ll take it from there.
Here then is the next set of examples of Curious Couplings. The two covers below are from the collection of Lynn Munroe:
Of these two covers, Lynn wrote: “The book on the left is the original 1970 Burden of Guilt with cover art by Robert McGinnis. Book on the right is a later book, Trouble Is My Business, by Jay Flynn, with a rip-off of the McGinnis art.
“Trouble was published by a 1970's New York outfit called Leisure Books. Although it gives a copyright date of 1967, this edition could not have come out before 1976, the date of many of the other books advertised in the back. THIS Leisure Books was not publishing in 1967. (Your Leisure Books in San Diego was.)”
The two covers below required the combined efforts of Ned Brooks, Arthur lortie, and Todd Mason to gather together:
We welcome your contributions to this series. Please email your jpegs to firstname.lastname@example.org and thank you very much for participating in this novel and interesting exercise in futility.
[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 email@example.com or send snail mail to P.O. Box 6642, Kingman, AZ 86402-6642. –Earl Kemp]
The Anthem Series
By Earl Terry Kemp
Fantasy Press Titles (continuation from Part One)
Science fiction. Three novellas and a short story. ***[a] “Beyond Infinity.” Don Brook is a specialist in finding missing persons. He has been hired to find a woman missing for years and thought to be dead. She is a missionary lecturer whom he had once met while a boy. He traces her rather easily, and finds that she and her aged husband were the crew of the first spaceship to leave Earth. The people aboard the spaceship travel back in time at “super-photic” speed and regain their youth. ***Written in a sprightly, humorous manner, which unnecessarily interferes with the story. [b] “Morning Star.” The four greats of free science meet to discuss the final preparations for an interplanetary rocket: Zweistein, Capri, Jameson, and Berkley. An anti-Soviet Russian scientist, Eva Morgenstern, is also to attend the meeting. Morgenstern is a brilliant, beautiful woman, who the scientists find irresistibly attractive. She compels the four aged scientists into shifting their rocket to Venus, instead of Mars. She is revealed to be from Venus. [c] “Those Men From Mars.” Cf. “Easter Eggs.” A story about what happens when Martians visit the Earth, one group landing on the White House lawn, and the other landing at the Kremlin in Moscow. [d] “Mutation.” Atomic warfare has almost wiped out humanity, and only a few degenerate survivors remain, who are fast losing civilization. But atomic mutations give birth to a new race, a highly spiritual people, luminous and great. ***[a] and [c] were first written for slick woman’s magazines and show dated stylistic devices; otherwise the stories are competent and interesting, well worth reading.
A science fiction novel. ***This is not a story involving the atomic bomb. However, atomic energy is part of the story, but only an incidental part, as are such unlikely ingredients as a black widow spider, a two-million-volt X-ray tube, chicken eggs which hatch out reptilian monsters, and other equally strange plot threads. Exposure to ultra-short radiation works strange changes upon the living creatures in a laboratory. When Dr. Andrew Crane of the Erickson Foundation tries to make a man of Neils Bork, a clumsy laboratory technician, whose interest in bottled inspiration is his chief weakness, he succeeds in a spectacular manner. The accidental exposure to radiation from an ultra-powerful X-ray tube transforms Bork into Miguel DeSoto, a mutant superman. Bork himself contributes to the end result in his bungling way, and is turned into a superman of different physical appearance, who is as far above Homo sapiens as sapiens is above an ape. There emerges Miguel Dr Soto, a superman in every sense of the word. His rate of thinking and perceiving has accelerated many thousand times beyond that of any human being who has ever lived. He is a partial, accidental anticipation of the race man may be destined to become in the millenniums ahead. But the effects of the radiation are not lasting, and the product does not breed true. Much of the novel is concerned with Bork's gradual deterioration from a position of fantastic intelligence. Cupidity and ruthlessness mark his character just as much as before his ray-change. ***This is the best of Taine's novels.
Second in the adventures of Kimball Kinnison against Boskone. ***Kim Kinnison, wearer of the Lens of the Galactic Patrol, has attained the status every Lensman seeks that of “Unattached” Lensman...unaccountable to no one anywhere, completely free. Further, he is learning how to make full use of his lens, that amazing creation of the equally amazing Arisians. He now discovers that Boskone is not finished, but that its [seemingly] true headquarters are in another galaxy. To uncover it, he operates under various guises, as a gangster, a writer of space-opera, a meteor-miner, etc. Various leads finally culminate in Jarnevon, the planet of the Eich, horrible tentacled monsters, in the Second Galaxy. After suitable shenanigans Jarnevon is destroyed. During the preliminaries, however, Kinnison is badly maimed by the Boskonians, but by means of a new discovery he grows new limbs and is soon better than ever. ***Weaker than either its predecessor or sequel, the Children of the Lens.
A thriller of chemistry, and rebellion and warfare in Kansu, China. ***The story begins with an Easter egg, a storage egg dyed a virulent green, and it concludes with one of the most tremendous—and unique—battles ever conceived by the mind of man. Somehow, two packets of Easter egg dye, when mixed together to form a green dye, and produce a new life form that is based on silicon dioxide, instead of carbon. One variety of the new life feeds on calcium, another on cellulose, but all grow with fantastic rapidity, almost exploding into towers of crystal. The silicon life causes a few minor mysteries in the United States, but its chief outburst occurs in Kansu, where Russian agents, Chinese rebels, jihading Chinese Moslems, and so on, all witness its destructiveness. The body of the tale is made up of action and mystery, beginning in California and moving from there to the interior of China. When Captain Robert Lane of the U.S. Marines leaves for the Orient on the day before Easter, he has no idea that his young wife and four-year-old son are to become involved in a conflict far more deadly than one in which he is to engage, a war older than the human race. The crystalline menace wipes out most of the unpleasant characters, and the American armed forces, advised by Dr. Saxby, who had been tracking down the new scientific phenomenon, wipe out the crystal life. ***The sections on the birth of the new life form have that peculiar conviction of reality that Taine was able to arouse, according to Galaxy Science Fiction: “This tale contains one of the most magnificent science-horror ideas ever created in the Earth-cataclysm genre.” However, the story is rather clumsily imbedded in a cumbersome framework of international intrigue.
Science fiction short stories. ***[a] “The Red Peri.”A space-adventure story of a girl pirate who preys upon commerce to recoup losses her father had suffered from a monopoly. The plot is simple adventure and romance, but there are the usual fanciful creatures. Crystal-like life that eats various elements and the ability of the human body to withstand pressure or removal of pressure are story devices. [b] “Proteus Island.” Alan Carver, a zoologist, discovers that Austin Island, near New Zealand, harbors mutants from local fauna and flora, with no two specimens alike. On this island every living creature, whether animal, plant, bird, or insect, has insanely mutated in form due to radiation. Carver discover amid the various mutations an apparently “normal” girl and falls in love with her. The story centers on genetic chromosome experiments. The hero is haunted by the thought that the girl may possess the imperfect genes that would perpetuate human-like abominations, therefore marriage with children would be impossible. [c] “Flight on Titan.” The adventures of a young couple who are seeking “flame-orchids” on one of Saturn's moons, Titan, amid hypnotic monsters, semi-intelligent ants, and horrible cold. [d] “Smothered Seas.” A collaboration written with Ralph Milne Farley [Pseudo. of Roger Sherman Hoar]. It is 2000 A.D. and America is at war with an Asiatic Union which includes Russia. The seas are suddenly and inexplicably clogged with algae for a time. The hero, meanwhile, finds and falls in love with a beautiful lady spy whom he presumably marries, later, when the war is successfully over. [e] “Redemption Cairn.” Romance and intrigue placed amid 2111 A.D. with racing rockets on the moon, Europa. [f] “The Brink of Infinity.” This short story was written experimentally early in Weinbaum’s writing career and published after his death. Young Dr. Aarons, a mathematician, is captured by a mad chemist and sentenced to death, unless he can, within ten questions, determine the “numerical expression” that the chemist is thinking of. ***Very ingenious. [g] “Shifting Seas.” A subsidence in Central America causes the Gulf Stream to leave Europe. War almost breaks out as European nations plan to colonize the U.S.A., but a way is found to remedy matters. [h] “Revolution of 1960.” Another story written in collaboration with Ralph Milne Farley. Jack Adams takes part in snoop and sneak work as a spy. The country almost falls into a dictatorship, but Adams saves it. Fantastic elements include a change of sex for disguise. ***[a] and [f] have the charm of the best of Weinbaum’s short stories, but the rest are not up to the same standard. It is hard to see any Weinbaum personality at all in the Farley collaborations, [d] and [h].
Two short science fiction novels. ***[a] The Legion of Time. The world is a long corridor from the Beginning of existence to the End. Events are groups that run endlessly along the walls. And Time is a lantern carried steadily though the hall, to illuminate the groups one by one. Again and again the corridor branches, for it is the museum of all that is possible. The bearer of the lantern may take one turning, or another. And so, many halls that might have been illuminated with reality are left forever in darkness. Two lovely women, materializing from two conflicting possible future worlds, haunt Dennis Lanning’s life. In his hands, figuratively, is the lantern of Time that will determine which of the two worlds—and girls—will exist, each of whom asks his aid to make her own future inevitable. One is Lethonee of Jonbar (good); and the other is Sorainya of Gyronchi (evil). Dennis and his friends wish to assure existence to Jonbar, but the situation looks bad for a time. Abroad the Chronion, a strange, ghostly ship built to cruise through probable existences, Lanning and his associates fight for the world of Jonbar—with the possibility of perfection for the human race, against the opposing land of Gyronchi—and eventual extinction. The resolution of the dilemma leads to a coalescence of both possible future worlds into one. [b] After World’s End. Barry Horn sleeps in accidental suspended animation for millennia, during the time that another Bari Horn makes a seemingly indestructible intelligent robot. The robot and his associates almost take over the universe, until Horn finds the robot's weak spot and destroys it. ***The basis for both these short novels is weird science, instead of true science fiction. ***Not up to the same quality of writing as The Humanoids or Darker Than You Think.
Science fiction. A short novel and short stories. ***[a] The Titan. Adventure upon Mars, told from the point of view of the Martians. ***On the planet Mars, when the waters of the melting polar ice caps begin to flow, bringing new life to the ancient dying cities, Spring Night is celebrated. During this time of revelry and unrestrained emotions, Masters and Blood-givers are equal, and there is no law. In earlier ages when Mars was young there was only one race on the Red Planet, but thousands of centuries of inbreeding have changed the Masters to a stunted, atrophied race whose thin blood needs periodic renewing from the virile veins of the Blood-givers. Martian culture is degenerate, with two classes of people: the Masters, physically weak, who rule the land, surviving only through periodic blood transfusions received from the other class, the Blood-givers. During the period of the story, a rebellion is arising among the Blood-givers, who wish to be rid of their near-slavery. A moderate among the Blood-givers, Korul the chief, who is the leader of the servant race, falls in love with Thorana, daughter of the First Master. A new factor enters the tale in the person of a great, bearded creature in a Martian Zoo—a being who is called the “Star-Beast” because of his gesturing and screaming to the stars at the time of his capture twenty years earlier. He becomes “The Titan” when he finally makes himself known as a man from Earth. Korul is aided by the Titan, a zoo-animal, who turns out to be Jim-Berk from Earth. [b] “As Never Was.” Murder and time travel paradox. [c] “Old Man Mulligan.” Mulligan, who seems to be telling the truth, claims to be a nearly immortal Neanderthal who has survived ages, and has met most of Earth's great men. His knowledge of primitive techniques permits a group abandoned on incredibly savage Venus by outlaws to survive. [d] “Spawn.” Three spores of life fall upon Earth. One animates sea-ooze, and becomes a fearsome sea monster. A second animates minerals, and becomes a gold-god. And the third reanimates the corpse of Nicholas Svadin, Dictator of Mittel-Europa, who becomes a living deity. [e] “In the Good Old Summer Time.” Joe Guilder, a ruthless exploiter, is almost able to become king of all Venus, for he is remarkably successful in forcing the natives to do his bidding. But he had not known that the natives aestivate. [f] “Gleeps.” Gleeps is a shape-changer on a space-liner, who can be anything or anyone and spells trouble in the star lanes. Bad luck with a personality. [g] “The Arrenius Horror.” Crystalline life from another world overruns an island and threatens the world. It is destroyed by the raw energy of radioactive elements. [h] “Forgotten.” Cramer, an old prospector on Mars, finds the last surviving group of the Maee, friendly intelligent rabbit-like life, who save his life and protect him. He, in exchange, saves them from the rapacity of other Earthmen, at the cost of his life. ***[c], [d], [e], [h] are best, good contemporary science fiction of the era.
Kinnison has obliterated Boskone, but there’s still Eddore. ***Mentor of Arisia lambasts Kinnison for his muddled thinking that the war with Boskonia is over. The Patrol realizes that the apparent top planet, Eich, with its Council of Boskone, was not the controlling planet of the enemy. All their actions against Jarnevon and Jalte’s base have shown the now unknown head of Boskonia how to destroy Tellus. Sir Austin Cardynge determines that a hyperspatial tube can be used to invade Sol’s system. Kinnison and Cardynge tour the Galaxy to assemble the Conference of Scientists. Next they send millions of miners’ boats placing asteroids into new orbits in order to thwart the invaders plans. With the use of a hyperspatial tube the Boskonian assault begins with a screen of heavy battleships surrounding a phalanx of planets aimed directly at Tellus. Using the sun beam, the controlled output of a whole star, Civilization has developed the ultimate defense and melts the invading planets’ Bergenholms. With the defeat of the Boskonian invasion, Kinnison is able to attempt his next task, to destroy the Boskonian command structure. Galactic Undercover Agent Kim Kinnison is the number one man of his time, and has faced challenges before—but never as daunting as this one. To Kinnison falls the perilous task of infiltrating the inner circle of Boskone, stronghold of galactic civilization’s most deadly foe. Kinnison has to become a loyal Boskonian in every gesture, deed, and thought. He has to work his way up through the ranks of an alien enemy organization, right into the highest echelons of power. Then it will be he who issues the orders—orders that could destroy his own civilization. ***Another wonderful classic of the late, great Doc Smith.
Old time space opera in the Arcot, Morey, and Wade series. ***Three connected novelettes make up this volume of speculative fiction—“Piracy Preferred,” “Solarite,” and the title story, “The Black Star Passes.” In the first section of the book [a] “Piracy Preferred.” We see the twenty-second century, viewed from 1930, with giant propeller-driven aircraft carrying 2,000 passengers across the country at 500-plus miles an hour. A spectacular million-dollar robbery from one of the huge transcontinental aircraft takes place, involving an invisible pirate, suspended-animation gas, and landing a rocket-powered glider atop the monster plane. Dr. Richard Arcot and Robert Morey, scientists working for Transcontinental Airways, seek to capture the most resourceful pirate of the skies. Richard Arcot is the nation’s leading physicist. Robert Morey is a brilliant mathematician. Wade is a chemistry genius who turns to air piracy in the first section of the book. Under the stimulus of the chase, they develop the “molecular drive,” which runs by solar heat, and other equipment which they use in the second section, [b] “Solarite.” Wade is cured of his mental imbalance and teams up with Arcot and Morey to go to Venus. Here they become involved in adventures with an alien race which threatens the peace and safety of both Venus and Earth. The three heroes find themselves involved in a global war, with the villains planning to invade Earth if they are not stopped. Once this problem is resolved, even this menace fades into insignificance for both Earth and Venus, when, in the third section of the book [c] “The Black Star Passes.” They meet marauders from a strange and distant solar system. The people of the Black Star, the Nigrans, want to escape their wandering, dead sun and start a war across space almost accidentally. ***The thrilling conflict that follows will provide entertainment and “escape” for every reader who enjoys an exciting tale of space adventure.
Mind-reading secret agent. ***Cadet George Hanlon of the Inter-Stellar Corps had to make an important decision, the most difficult of his short lifetime. With graduation just a few short weeks ahead, he was asked to join the Corps’ Secret Service, but in order to accept he had to be expelled from the Corps in disgrace. Why had he been chosen for this secret honor and the public dishonor that went with it? Because of a most unusual ability with which he had been born, for he could not only read the thoughts of people—and animals—around him, but he could use their minds as well. With his unique and highly useful ability, Cadet Hanlon enters the Corps’ Secret Service. He becomes, apparently, an outcast, outwardly hating the Service for its “harsh” treatment. He starts on his first assignment, the distant planet Simonides, where trouble on an interstellar scale is brewing. From the moment the great passenger liner Hellene blasts off from Earth on its flight to the far-distant world, George Hanlon is involved in the widespread intrigue which threatens the peace of the Federated Planets. From thwarting an attempted murder on shipboard to a rendezvous in the Bacchus Tavern on Simonides is just one step for George. Another is his flight to the strange planet Algon, a hundred light years removed from Earth. There, on a world peopled by strange, half-animal, half-vegetable “greenies,” now enslaved by their human captors, he learns a lot of the facts behind the mysterious affair into which his first assignment has led him. ***A fascinating and thrilling tale of the spaceways in the world of tomorrow introduced by the Atomic Age. It is a story which will enable you to experience vicariously the excitement and wonder of the days to come.
Science fiction short stories. ***[a] “Gulf.” The United States after World War III, and the end of the communist reign, after the revolution which tossed out the commissars. It is a new world, brighter, faster, richer than before, but obviously no better. It is a world much worse, in fact, a world where intrigue, mystery, and violence appear to be the normal order of life. Joel Abner, agent of the Federal Bureau of Security, disguised as a commercial traveler, arrives from the Moon, carrying an incredibly valuable spool of microfilm. He becomes Captain Gilead, explorer and lecturer, but the transformation fails to deceive those who wish to relieve him of the film, and they close in. Thus begins one of the most gripping and exciting stories ever written by Robert A. Heinlein. If you haven’t read “Gulf,” you won’t understand the author’s novel Friday, written almost forty years later. [b] “Elsewhen.” This story is a rare Heinlein excursion into time travel. This fascinating theme is handled with typical Heinlein novelty. [c] Lost Legacy. A full-length science novel dealing with the powers of the human mind. Telepathy, teleportation, and other powers—these are the lost legacy of the human race. “The door of the mind is open, yet have a care where ye tread.” Eternally sealed is a secret vault in the brain, the No Man’s Land which three people dare to explore—to find themselves battling with a hostile world, almost—but not quite—alone. Heinlein has never written a more unusual or more absorbing story. [d] “Jerry Was a Man.” The story of an anthropoid who was more than an ape. ***[d] is by far one of the best short stories written by Heinlein.
Science fiction and fantasy short stories. ***Portrayal of the world of tomorrow when the depths of space will be visited by those brave men who will accept the eternal challenge of the void. ***[a] “First Person Singular.” An interstellar ship, flashing out of deep space, lands on the third planet of a red sun, an uninviting world covered with thick, noisome jungle, and leaves a man and a woman behind. [b] “The Witness.” A golden-eyed refugee from Procyon on trial for its life. [c] “Last Blast.” After the bombs drop women outnumber the men. [d] “Homo Saps.” Camels on Mars are more than they seem. [e] “The Timid Tiger.” The natives of Venus are telepathic—or more! [f] “A Little Oil.” The fumbling bubblehead named Bertelli in the handpicked space crew on the first successful interstellar flight. [g] “Rainbow’s End.” A strange, strange world of the little people, found by scout vessel 87D—people oddly like the elves of Irish mythology. [h] “The Undecided.” The marauders from another sun who steal the wrong thing, something that just can’t be kept. [i] “Second Genesis.” A pilot in the future returns from an excursion in deep space to the third planet of a red sun to find the world devoid of life. ***Top Russell, an excellent sampler of his styles and moods.
Science fiction novel. ***An attempt by a number of idealistic scientists to build utopia. ***It would be difficult to imagine two men with greater differences in viewpoint than Vincent Drega and Simon Gamble. Drega, who had started as a construction boss and had climbed to a position of absolute leadership in finance and industry, was roughshod, realistic, and headstrong. Gamble, a sort of Luther Burbank of physics and electronics, the greatest scientist of the age, was a man dominated by intellect. Humanity, to him, was a simple scientific equation. When such men clash, things happen—and in this instance the event is one of world-shaking magnitude. At the same instance all animal life on Earth—every man, woman and child, every bird and beast and insect—enters a state of suspended animation. The years pass, become centuries—millennia. Cities crumble, forests spring up upon their foundations, reach maturity and die, and are replaced by other forests. And the rubble of Man’s civilization becomes less than rubble—a wilderness disturbed but rarely by the handiwork of men. Then, after 3,000 years, comes the Awakening, and mankind begins the slow and painful adjustment to a new, hostile world. Not all of humanity survives the long sleep—many die—but among those who live are Vincent Drega and Simon Gamble. And with what energy they can spare from their efforts to survive, they continue the feud begun thirty centuries before. But this is not merely the story of Gamble and Drega—it is the tale of “Lucky” Flagherty, former ace newspaper reporter; of Lulu Belle who once wrote the Lovelorn column; of Lucius Prescott, erstwhile publisher; of Herb Oliver, one-time inebriate; of numerous other interesting people and what they do in a world as alien as Mars might be. ***Thomas Calvert McClary has written a science novel of delightful novelty, of significance, a better-than-average addition to the library of worthwhile science fiction.
The final destruction of Boskone, then the attack on, and total defeat of, Eddore. Last of the Lensman series. ***Twenty years have passed since the events portrayed in Second Stage Lensmen. To Kimball Kinnison and his wife Clarrissa have been born five children—Kit, the eldest, and two sets of twin sisters. These are the “Children of the Lens”—the offspring of uncounted generations of selected matings—the most capable, the most brilliant minds in the universe. Their job is the conclusion of the Boskonian war, and how they accomplish this end and gain ultimate victory makes up the greater part of the book. Again we meet old friends introduced in earlier volumes in the series—Worsel the Rigellian, Mentor of Arisia, and other equally interesting and alien personalities. Again we participate in voyages into space and hyper-space, and in battles between superdreadnaughts of the void. ***Again we enjoy all of the varied facets of science fiction writing which make a Doc Smith book so popular with so very many readers.
Science fiction novel. ***The first interstellar journey is financed by making it a TV spectacular. ***When a scientific breakthrough makes faster-than-light travel possible, it is a television team that takes advantage of it. Jed Cochrane, advertising man, heads the first space flight beyond the Solar System because a frustrated psychotic on the Moon happens to be the son-in-law of one of Jed’s bosses. He is the last man anyone with a logical mind would select to direct a space flight—yet force of circumstances place him in that very position. Accompanied by his secretary, a psychiatrist, a writer, and two “tame” scientists, Jed goes to the Moon to do a public relations job. Next they find themselves on the first interstellar flight, on a ship with a working communications link to Earth, they make the first flight an instant public relations success. Their various adventures are sent to Earth, appearing on prime time television, and bringing in tremendous advertising revenues. They are so successful making interstellar travel popular that they begin to sell interest in the planets they discover. ***Nobody can say Leinster wasn’t ahead of his time. However, Leinster’s satire tends to age rapidly, and the book shows its age.
Science fiction novel. ***When three Communist, three distinguished scientists, Arkol, Serbin, and Kott, come to American on an official visit, bringing with them their great, hulking assistant whom they call Gog, U.S. Intelligence believes there is more behind the visit than appears on the surface. Dr. Clive Chase, famous plant geneticist, who is to work with the distinguished guests, is asked by the government to become a spy, and he accepts the dangerous assignment. Other threads take their place in this strange fabric of science, international intrigue, and human emotions. There is Dr. Brown, a medical expert doing research in immunology; his assistant, Dorothy Grange, a bacteriologist who is as efficient as she is attractive; and Admiral Simpson, retired chief of the Navy’s medical staff. But at the center of the pattern is Gog—great, ungainly, almost bestial, yet somehow pathetic—whose name has come from the initials of “General Order in Genetics,” of which he is a part—and directive number 666, appropriately enough, since this is the number of the Beast in the Apocalypse. ***John Taine has never written a more unusual story. As modern as the hydrogen bomb, as timely as tomorrow’s newspaper, it is certain to hold the attention of even the most blasé reader to the last word.
Science fiction short stories. ***The mysteries and paradoxes of Time are the basis of these stories. ***[a] “The Tyrant of Time.” (“The Time Conqueror”) The future is an open book. All knowledge is available for the use of the Tyrant. [b] “Dust.” Relates the strange experiences of two lunar explorers amid the thick layer of cosmic dust which covers the Moon. [c] “The Meteor Miners.” Chronicles about the heroic men who brave the perils of the asteroid belt in search of its mineral wealth. [d] “Spaceways Incident.” The best liar in the spaceways is also the biggest hero. [e] “The Light From Beyond.” (“God of Light”) Purple mists in a Brazilian jungle conceal aliens. [f] “The Place of Orchids.” (“The God That Science Made”) Mutant orchids in the Brazilian jungle. [g] “The City of Dread.” The ancient city of Machu Picchu seems to be filled with a sinister life. [h] “Singing Blades.” A man possessed by the Sidhe fights the last Druid. [i] “The Cauldron of Life.” (“The Cauldron”) A Scottish curse, a brew of ale, and love. ***Eshbach’s own pick of his best stories from the old days.
Science fiction novel. ***Survivors on a new planet after the end of the world. ***When the Cosmic Blight overwhelms the world there is only one thing for Man to do, he must leave the Earth or die! Atomic power has made space flight possible; expeditions have made successful trips to the moon, Venus, and Mars. But in view of the scarcity of spaceships, not more than one person in several hundred thousands can possibly save himself. And Mars is their only hope. As civilization disintegrates, men think only of their own survival. Dave Harrowell, director of the Rand Astral Project in the heart of the San Gabriel Mountains of California, is no exception. His first concern is to save his wife, Eunice, and himself. The spaceship Shooting Star, built under his direction and whose secrets he alone knows, lies ready on the launching site. In a state of suspended animation the two—at the last moment a third unwelcome passenger, the man in part responsible for the Cosmic Blight—flash into space, heading toward Alpha Centauri. They miss their destination, miscalculate, and speed on into interstellar space. Years pass, how many they never know, before the Shooting Star lands on a world capable of supporting life—the strange planet of the triple suns. Where they are, they cannot tell, nor does it matter, for the Earth is lost to them forever. ***Coblentz overall does not age well.
Sequel to Man of Many Minds. ***The ability to read minds isn’t an unmixed blessing, so learns George Hanlon, Secret Operative of the Inter-Stellar Corps. His unique gift helps him with his assignments, of course—except that he has a lot of trouble with alien minds. He encounters a whole planetful of alien minds on Estrella when the semi-human inhabitants of this Earth-like world of another sun decide that they want nothing to do with the Federates Planets. He also encounters an inexplicable propaganda ring, and a crime-wave whose sole reason for existing seems to be to discredit the System Hanlon represents. Hanlon’s investigations lead him into complications and troubles, because Hanlon, be it understood, is not a super-man. He takes an occasional figurative left on the chin. But he comes back fighting, and the story gains in realism because of his human weaknesses. ***A story of the world of tomorrow, written to entertain.
The further old time space opera adventures of Arcot, Morey, and Wade, it continues the adventures of the scientists from The Black Star Passes. ***Four men (Fuller included), reputedly the most brilliant scientists on Earth, under the leadership of Dr. Arcot, embark on a tour of the incredible vastness of intergalactic space. After helping to resolve a global war on Venus and thwarting the invasion of the Nigrans, the people of the Black Star, the scientists have developed vast new technological resources. Their own inventions, with the help of the Venusian and Nigran scientific advances, lead them to new capabilities, interstellar travel. Using superconductor technology, a new method of power storage is invented, which progresses to a space-warp drive making intergalactic travel possible. The first trial of the new ship takes them to the neighborhood of Sirius, about nine light-years, in a matter of minutes, on one-sixteenth power. Sirius B, a white dwarf star, has been moved away, and in orbit around Sirius A are the Nigran planets. This solves the problems with the Nigrans, as they now have a live star of their own. From here on, the steps get larger as the scientist head out 30,000 light years to the edge of the Galaxy, and decide to head out toward other nebulae, as Arcot decides to use half-power for ten seconds. Morey makes swift calculations, using his slide rule, of the distance they had come by measuring the apparent change in the diameter of our Galaxy. They travel from island universe to island universe, visiting some of the strangest worlds every imagined. As the story goes on, they find a frozen planet which once had a humanlike population, destroyed by a supernova. Problems come along during their adventurous explorations which are thought out and solved as they go. They have worked out a most ingenious means of charting a course among the islands of space but inevitably they overlook one factor, and they become lost in the appalling emptiness, so far from home that our universe has shrunk to a mere point of light, lost among myriads of similar “star.” Finally they find themselves involved in an interplanetary war. This section of the story may well be a precursor to The Mightiest Machine. ***After three-quarters of a century much of the science used by Campbell is flawed, though through his protagonists he makes it all seem so logical that it’s easy to suspend disbelief. It is even easier to become caught up in the story, the inventions fly as the advances take place as instant solutions to problems encountered along the way. Campbell generates a simple faith in his heroes that nice guys can win by force of their good characters, which is still easily believable, and writes a great adventure story while doing so.
Science fiction novel. ***Novelized versions of the stories “The Vortex Blaster,” “Storm Cloud on Deka” and “The Vortex Blaster Makes War. ***A churning nuclear vortex, appears out of nowhere, wreaking utter destruction—and countless numbers of them are menacing planets throughout the galaxy. Philip “Storm” Cloud, nucleonic genius, sets out in his spaceship, Vortex Blaster, to track and destroy the vortices, embarking on a saga of discovery among the stars and worlds of the Lensmen. Storm Cloud is a Type 6 mentality, which puts him past Kim Kinnison and his friends, who are Type 5. As second in charge of the top-ranked nucleonics lab on Earth, his specialty is run away nuclear reactions known as atomic vortexes. It becomes personal for him when his wife and their children are destroyed by one. Storm thinks up a suicidal scheme with his lightning calculator mind. Badly damaged enough to justify being given the Phillips Regeneration Treatment, Storm’s premise has been proven correct, it is possible to stop the atomic vortexes. Only Storm has the required reactions and calculative powers required for the job. But he has another problem as well as he discovers that the vortexes have been created intentionally. ***The Lensman universe stuff is peripheral, but creates the context for the overall action of the story
An unaccredited jacket was printed by Eshbach in 1990 from a Ric Binkley illustration.
The last Arcot, Wade, and Morey book, printed by Fantasy Press to complete the set for charter subscribers. ***Russ Evans, Rocket Squad member, is goofing off, watching a girl on the rooftops of New Jersey from almost a billion miles out in space with a telectroscope, an electronically enhanced telescope, when he sees the alien spaceship, unthinkably huge, enormously powerful, apparently irresistible. It came from the void and settled on Earth, striking awe and fear into the hearts of all who saw it. Its burden, however, was not bombs and weapons, but a desperate plea for help! ***First contact and full communication were obviously jobs for Wade, Arcot, and Morey. The scientists are busy at their research on Earth as the alien vessel lands on top of the Arcot Research Building. Discussion via telepathy reveals that the invaders are a friendly race, evolved from canines. They have come to warn the Earth of an evil, destructive race spreading across the stars, with unstoppable weapons. The brilliant young scientists tackled this challenge with their usual daring and imagination, leaping from a few clues to astonishing—but astonishingly correct—conclusions. They work with the full cooperation of the alien visitors. They had much to offer Earth, and Earth had plenty to give them. That is, if either of the two races survive! From a fascinating, suspense-filled opening, the story soars to ever greater heights of excitement and speculation. It becomes a virtual odyssey of the entire universe, as the famous scientific trio and their new allies, the Ortolians, blast off on a search for weapons and defenses against the invaders. World after world they visit, secret after secret they learn, and still the enemy seems to grow in power and ruthlessness. Mighty battles involving huge space armadas are but skirmishes in the galactic war. Cities and planets are devastated as greater and greater forces are unleashed. And always the invincible aliens advance. Blow after blow—pure blots of ravening energy—is hurled by each side, until it appears that the universe itself may end in a final flare of unleashed, torrential power. Arcot is able to create anything out of “artificial matter,” out of space itself, and the final battles are fought with a gigantic thought-controlled cosmium spaceship, made of tightly compressed cosmic rays. The turning point comes as the final hidden secret is unfolded in one of the most dazzling climaxes of all science fiction as thought-controlled creations, made from artificial matter, of the enemies’ nightmares are used by the scientists to win the day. ***Typical Campbell, well worth reading.
Polaris Press Books
Fantasy Press also had a subsidiary imprint devoted to reprinting pulp novels for the collector. It flopped.
A fantasy novel. ***An excellent introduction by Lloyd Arthur Eshbach. ***The “dust of purgatory” sends three persons (Trenmore, Trenmore's sister Viola, and Drayton) to a strange world, Ulithia, which is later revealed to be a preparatory stage for entry into many other worlds, the half-world of Ulithia, with its wraithlike riders, its grotesque dancers, and its Gateway of the Moon, and its White Weaver. After passing through the Moongate of Ulithia, the three find themselves in a Philadelphia of 2118 which is part of the Penn Service. A strange Philadelphia in which modern municipal politics has evolved into a religious tyranny, Penn Service and its Superlatives rule the city with the proverbial iron hand. City Hall, with its statue of William Penn looking over the city, is the scene of much of the action of the story, but a transformed City Hall, now become an ornate temple to the great god Penn! Penn Service is a disguised racketeer state, with a council of twelve and a ruler, who have as titles, strange abstractions: Quickest controls the police; Loveliest is technically queen; Pity is a judge and so on. Into this strange tomorrow appear three men and a girl from today. Knowing nothing about this future age, they run into difficulties immediately, and before their adventures end, they succeed in standing Philadelphia on its figurative head. The strangers are soon entangled in a cruel parody of civil service examinations to show their right to survive, with, as the fate that awaits them if they fail, impalement upon a metal monstrosity in a pit. They escape only by using the bell of Penn. It seems that when Penn Service had been established, the Liberty Bell had been recast as something whose vibrations would destroy the land, if it were ever struck, and the bell is used as a threat to restrain the populace. As a result the culture of thought-control, incredible corruption, and cruelty had perpetuated itself until the coming of the strangers. Trenmore strikes the bell, and the three find themselves back in their own Philadelphia. ***It is not clear just how the world of Penn Service is to be interpreted. It may be a parallel world, or more likely, it may be a projection, a mental phenomenon created from the psychologies of the three adventurers by the weird magic of Ulithia. Miss Stevens also may not be disregarded. ***An interesting thriller which is especially attractive in much of its interesting detail, and in avoiding trite formula writing from both the past and present. Overall it is a very enjoyable work.
A fantasy novel. ***With an excellent introduction by P. Schuyler Miller. ***John McGoff (Shan Makaroff of the wizard blood), reared in the small town of Hambleton, is always unusual. Pursuant to an old family tradition he is interested in the Far East, and soaks up traditions and languages from Chinese Charley Ling, a Chinese laundryman-scholar resident in the town, and Russian Ivan, a cobbler who had been exiled to Siberia at one time. The Gobi and its mysteries are the center of their interest. And then one day John discovers that he is the great shaman Shan Makaroff, and evokes the spirit-shaman; and following its bidding the three friends, members of the Brotherhood of the Blue Wolf, set off by different routes for the Gobi, along with the tawny-haired and golden-eyed girl of his dream life. They search hoping to come to the lost race of the lost kingdom Tuholo, which was once on an island in the distant past when the Great Gobi Desert was a sea, where is to be found the Lodge of the Blue Wolf, and the tomb of the great Mongolian conqueror, Genghis Khan—awaiting there his next incarnation that he may again conquer the world. After many hardships and marvels, including spirit voices, black furred man-like beings, they reach Tuholo, which is discovered to be the last center of the oldest race in the world, a race which possessed a fantastic science while Gobi was still a sea. ***In plot The Abyss of Wonders is only a routine thriller of the period, but in development it is very unusual, departing from ordinary pulp adventure stories in many ways. Although slim in places, it carries extraordinary conviction, perhaps because of the dreamy quality which the author has attained. It is worth reading as a rather good specimen of pulp fiction of World War I days.
Golden Fantasy Library
Fantasy Press also published a few paperbacks. They are identical to the hardbound editions but soft-cover.
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SF&F's only hardbound (which see); two little known Burroughs novelettes. See also their entry as chapbooks under Fantasy Press.
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Science fiction adventure story. ***[a] Beyond Thirty. Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote “Beyond Thirty” as an imaginative, though false, prediction of the future. It was written in the late of summer of 1915 and first appeared in a New York newspaper and several months later it appeared in “All Around Magazine.” ***Lieutenant Jefferson Turck, Commander of the Coldwater, a Pan-American Navy “aerosubmarine,” establishes the events of the last 200 years concerning the escalation of hostilities in Europe to the present (2137). All travel and communication beyond 30 and 175 has been outlawed by the Federation. While patrolling the borders the Coldwater is damaged by a storm and forced toward Europe. While repairs are made, Turck takes out a fishing boat with three other men. The repaired Coldwater maroons the men, leaving them to their fate. Turck and his crew of Snider, Taylor and Delcarte land on the southern coast of England and uncover signs of an ancient German occupation, as they head for London through uninhabited territory. They land on the Isle of Wright and see the first “natives,” who speak a bastard form of English, calling England “Grubitten.” The natives don’t know who won the First World War and have degenerated into barbarians. Landing near the deserted site of London, Turck rescues a captive Grabritin girl who is relieved that he is not one of the “men from over there.” Buckingham has slain her father, the king, and wants her because family descent is through the female. Mary and Turck are captured by Buckingham who kills the queen and takes her sister, Victory, to be his. Arriving at the Camp of Lions, Turck is left as a sacrifice. Victory returns his firearms to him, just in time, and they flee into an overgrown London. Turck reads the final writing found behind the throne, indicating the people left England in pursuit of the enemies and from fear of both “the Death” and the animals which had escaped the zoos around the end of 1937. They flee from London, chased by a lioness, finally meeting up with Delcarte and Snider. Turck introduces Victory, Queen of England, and they return to the launch guarded by Taylor and their new guide, Thirty-Six, a captured warrior. They take the launch and explore the coast up the Rhine, finding all the cities razed by war and the land reclaimed by nature. While hunting game, Snider fatally wounds Thirty-Six, takes the launch and Victoria. The three stranded men chase after the launch, finding it with Snider dead from a knife to the heart, and Victoria missing. Turck is captured by uniformed black soldiers who take him to Colonel Belik. During the next month he learns their language and becomes the personal servant of Belik from whom he learns that 50 years earlier Emperor Menelek began expanding the Abyssinian empire north. They travel to New Gondar, a city built on the ruins of Berlin, Menelek’s temporary headquarters in fighting the advancing “yellow” army, which besieges the city. During a banquet Turck sees that one of the slave girls is Victory. He strangles Menelek and rescues Victory from an attempted rape during a bombardment. Turck declares his love and they kiss as the bombs drop. They are captured by yellow soldiers and marched to a Chinese city at the site of ancient Moscow. Their stories are believed and they are sent by rail to the emperor at Peking through a prosperous countryside. All of Asia, Japan, and the Philippines are ruled by China. The emperor plans to take Europe from the Abyssinians. Meanwhile, Alvarez, the officer who stranded them, has been convicted upon his return to Pan-America. The ban on crossing beyond 30 is removed. A fleet is sent and finds Turck on his wedding day. Turck returns home a hero with Victory, planning to return to England to reclaim her throne.
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Adventure short story. ***[a] The Man-Eater. It was first published in The New York Evening World newspaper in 1915. ***The Reverend Sangamon Morton is an American Methodist missionary to the Belgian Congo. He meets Jefferson Scott, Jr., an American big-game hunter and his companion, Robert Gordon. Scott becomes the husband of his daughter, Ruth. Morton entrusts Gordon with stock certificates to take back to America to be held by Jefferson’s father. A year later Morton, Mary, his wife, and Jefferson are killed during a Wakandas attack. Ruth takes her daughter, Virginia, back to Virginia. The elder Scott takes care of them for the next 19 years. The “stocks” prove to be a single sheet of paper which he hides in a wall cupboard. Old Scott dies and Virginia meets Scott Taylor, his nephew, a dissipated collegian looking for money. Taylor stands to inherit half of the estate and through Virginia means to have it all. Drunk he proposes to the reluctant Virginia, demanding the whole estate and claiming Virginia’s birth is illegitimate. Mrs. Scott writes to Robert Gordon for help as he witnessed the marriage. Dick Gordon is the son of the recently deceased Robert and get Ruth’s letter. Thinking the marriage certificate might be in the ruins of the mission, he books passage to Mombassa with his man servant, Murphy. Taylor intercepts Dick’s reply to Ruth and follows him to Africa, intent on murdering him. Ruth and Virginia discover Taylor’s perfidy and Virginia follows them to Africa. Arriving in Mombassa she is a month behind Gordon’s safari and a week behind Taylor’s. When her safari attempts to mutiny she shoots the leader and becomes her own headman. Dick finds an envelope at the old mission. Three American crooks plan to stop him at a native village where a woman has just been taken by a man-eating lion. The white men kill a lioness and the natives capture her mate in a pit. Virginia arrives at the village and is tied up by the villains, who get drunk. Dick Gordon frees the lion in the pit, but is attacked by the lion who does not harm him, because the lion knows which white men are guilty of killing his mate. Taylor makes a drunken pass at Virginia who attempts to flee, but is stopped by Taylor’s henchmen. They decide to rape her, but just as they pin her to the ground the lion arrives for revenge. One of the men is killed, but Virginia and the other two escape. Dick rescues Virginia from a wild hyena. She warns him about Taylor who comes upon them, Virginia grabs Dick’s pistol and wounds him in the forearm. Taylor gets away but plans to have his revenge in America. Dick and Virginia sail to America with the friendly lion who has been caught and caged. The lion becomes “Ben, King of Beasts, the Man-Eating Lion” in a traveling circus. After a brief interlude Dick arrives at Virginia’s home, The Oaks. Taylor plans to murder him in his sleep as he waits for Virginia to return. She has been delayed by a train wreck. Ben, King of Beasts, is aboard the wrecked train. Free, he picks up the scent of his friend Gordon. The lion enters the house and chases Taylor to Gordon’s room. Taylor knocks Gordon unconscious during a struggle and finds the envelope and escapes. Gordon revives and follows. Ben catches up with Taylor and kills him in the headlights of the stalled car containing Virginia. Gordon rescues Ben from hunters, buying him in order to send him to the N.Y. zoo. The envelope reveals valuable stock certificates but no marriage certificate. But the will and certificate are finally discovered. Virginia and Gordon kiss above the loyal head of Ben, King of Beasts. ** “Beyond Thirty” is by far the better of the two short stories. “The Man-Eater” is not one of Burroughs better works.
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This pocketbook is the only collection of Merritt's short stories. ***The contents are: [a] “The Fox Woman.” An unfinished fragment, discussed elsewhere. [b] “The People of the Pit.” Men searching for gold discover hidden lands in Alaska. They find a staircase into an abyss, where living lights have an alien civilization. [c] “Through the Dragon Glass.” A mirror stolen during the sack of Peking after the Boxer Rebellion is the gateway to a Chinese fairyland inhabited by a beautiful girl and a malicious old sorcerer and his dragons. [d] “The Drone.”Two stories of therimorphy told at the Explorer’s Club. The latter one tells of gradual metamorphosis into a bee-like man. [e] “The Last Poet and the Robots.” A story of the future, taken from the round-robin science fiction novel, Cosmos, which originally appeared in Fantasy Magazine. ***Robots have taken control of the Earth, but the scientist-artist Narodny lives in an underground stronghold created by alien beings, which is his private universe, sends forth vibrations to destroy the robots. A battle ensues leaving mankind in possession of space, and Narodny still contemplating his garden universe. [f] “Three Lines of Old French.” A soldier, in World War I, used in a psychological experiment, passes mentally to an idyllic land which is almost paradise. When he awakens, to discover that his experience had been a suggested dream, he rages, until he looks at the bit of paper that suggested the dream, to discover on it three lines of Old French, written by the girl in the other world. There is no explanation given. [g] “The White Road.” A short fragment based on the theme of “Through the Dragon Glass.” [h] “When Old Gods Wake.” A short fragment of unfinished work, meant to be a sequel to his novel The Face in the Abyss. [I] “The Woman of the Wood.” McKay, a soldier recovering from the effects of World War I, discovers harmony and then the dryads living in the trees of the Vosges. A local French family has vowed enmity against the Women of the Wood. The dryads in the trees turn to McKay for help. ***It should be noted that [d], [e], [i] are slightly variant versions of the stories usually entitled, respectively, “The Drone Man,” “The Rhythm of the Spheres, and “The Woman of the Wood.”In each case, the versions not in this collection are preferable. [f] and [i] are recommended as slightly sentimental fantasies; [b] is a good adventure story. Much of the other material is best forgotten.
The Milwaukee Fictioneers were an informal fan group made of active fans most of who were professionals or would be later. Most notable members were Roger Sherman Hoar (better known as Ralph Milne Farley), Raymond A. Palmer, Arthur R. Tofte, and Lawrence Keating at the time one of their most popular members died. They decided to publish a memorial volume, and contacted well-known fan printer Conrad H. Ruppert, of New York.
This is the so-called Weinbaum Memorial Volume, privately published soon after Weinbaum's death. ***[a] Dawn of Flame, the short novel described under The Black Flame because of context. [b] “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. [c] “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. [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 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. [f] “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 master-mind, 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. [g] “The Red Peri.” A space-adventure story of a girl pirate who preys upon commerce to recoup losses her father had suffered from a monopoly. The plot is simple adventure and romance, but there are the usual fanciful creatures. Crystal-like life that eats various elements and the ability of the human body to withstand pressure or removal of pressure are story devices. ***A good collection, but impossibly rare. All its stories are in print in other volumes hence this book need not be sought. ***The better stories in this collection, [b], [c], [d], and [f] are noteworthy, despite all their defects, for a certain charming personality that emerges from the writing, as well as occasionally brilliant strokes of fantasy, lightness, and buoyancy. This personal charm is also apparent in the better stories of the other volumes.
Fantasy Press: Checklist
Polaris Press Books
Golden Fantasy Library
Part One appeared in eI27, August 2006.
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