THE RED PERI (1952) by Stanley G. Weinbaum

Weinbaum, Stanley G - The Red Peri

Last time out, I had a look at one of the oldest and most valuable SF books in my collection, the original 1949 Fantasy Press US 1st Edition hardcover of A Martian Odyssey and Others, which contained a dozen of the best pieces of short fiction written by classic 1930’s SF author Stanley G. Weinbaum. Now I’m going to take a look at a second Weinbaum short fiction collection, The Red Peri, another US 1st Edition hardcover, also published by Fantasy Press, in 1952.

TITLE: THE RED PERI
AUTHOR: Stanley G. Weinbaum
COVER ARTIST: John T. Brooks
CATEGORY: Short Fiction
SUB-CATEGORY: Single-Author Collection
FORMAT: Hardback (with dustjacket), US 1st Edition, 270 pages
PUBLISHER: Fantasy Press, Reading, Pennsylvania, US, 1952.

Contents (8 stories):

  • “The Red Peri” (novella, Astounding Stories, November 1935)
  • “Proteus Island” (novella, Astounding Stories, August 1936)
  • “Flight on Titan” (novelette, Astounding Stories, January 1935)
  • “Smothered Seas” (novelette, Astounding Stories, January 1936)
  • “Redemption Cairn” (novelette, Astounding Stories, March 1936)
  • “The Brink of Infinity” (short story, Thrilling Wonder Stories, December 1936)
  • “Shifting Seas” (novelette, Amazing Stories, April 1937)
  • “Revolution of 1950” (novella, Amazing Stories, October-November 1938)

This one can be regarded as the companion collection to the earlier A Martian Odyssey and Others, and between them, they contain all but a couple of Weinbaum’s entire short fiction output. There are fewer stories in this one – eight as opposed to twelve – but there are three novellas, four novelettes and only one short story in The Red Peri, whereas A Martian Odyssey and Others contained no novellas, eight novelettes and four short stories.

It’s been a long, long time since I read this one, and my memories are understandably hazy. I do remember preferring A Martian Odyssey and Others to The Red Peri, as the earlier collection did contain more of Weinbaum’s “better” stories. But this collection also contains several of his best longer-form stories. I distinctly remember enjoying both “The Red Peri” and “Proteus Island”, although my memories of the other stories range from extremely vague to non-existent.

Like A Martian Odyssey and Others, this 1st US hardcover edition of The Red Peri comes with the original dustjacket, showcasing some very nice art by John T. Brooks. As with the earlier collection, the dustjacket of this one is in remarkably good condition considering its age. A little frayed around the outside, but otherwise pretty intact.

Overall, The Red Peri is a very nice collection, and in great condition, considering the fact that it’s almost sixty-five years old and has been around the block a bit. Along with A Martian Odyssey and Others, it’s definitely one of the real treasures in my SF book collection.

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A MARTIAN ODYSSEY AND OTHERS (1949) by Stanley G. Weinbaum

A Martian Odyssey and Others by Stanley G. Weinbaum

This time out, I’m going to take a brief look at one of the oldest and most valuable SF books in my collection, the earliest collection of short fiction by classic 1930’s SF author Stanley G. Weinbaum. I bought this book a long time ago from a UK used book dealer, must’ve been thirty-five years ago or more, way back when I was just becoming an obsessive book collector for the first time. It actually came as part of Weinbaum two-book set by the same publisher, Fantasy Press, the other book being The Red Peri, another collection of Weinbaum’s short fiction, which will also be the subject of the blog post after this one.

TITLE: A MARTIAN ODYSSEY AND OTHERS
AUTHOR: Stanley G. Weinbaum
COVER ARTIST: A. J. Donnell
CATEGORY: Short Fiction
SUB-CATEGORY: Single-Author Collection
FORMAT: Hardback (with dustjacket), US 1st Edition, 289 pages
PUBLISHER: Fantasy Press, Reading, Pennsylvania, US, 1949.

Contents (12 stories):

  • “A Martian Odyssey” (novelette, Wonder Stories, July 1934)
  • “Valley of Dreams” (novelette, Wonder Stories, November 1934)
  • “The Adaptive Ultimate” (novelette, Astounding Stories, November 1935)
  • “The Mad Moon” (novelette, Astounding Stories, December 1935)
  • “The Worlds of If” (short story, Wonder Stories, August 1935)
  • “The Ideal” (novelette, Wonder Stories, September 1935)
  • “The Point of View” (short story, Wonder Stories, February 1936)
  • “Pygmalion’s Spectacles” (short story, Wonder Stories, June 1935)
  • “Parasite Planet” (novelette, Astounding Stories, February 1935)
  • “The Lotus Eaters” (novelette, Astounding Stories, April 1935)
  • “The Planet of Doubt” (novelette, Astounding Stories, October 1935)
  • “The Circle of Zero” (short story, Thrilling Wonder Stories, August 1936)

This collection is notable for containing Weinbaum’s most famous short story, “A Martian Odyssey” and its sequel, “Valley of Dreams”. There are also a few other good ones, including “Parasite Planet” and its sequel “The Lotus Eaters”, “The Mad Moon”, “The Worlds of If” and “The Adaptive Ultimate”. “The Adaptive Ultimate” has also been (if you’ll pardon the pun) adapted to film, television and radio a number of times over the years.

Overall, A Martian Odyssey and Others contains most of the best of Weinbaum’s short fiction, and, combined with the eight stories in The Red Peri contains almost all of the short fiction that Weinbaum wrote, with the exception of a handful of stories.

The dustjacket is in pretty good condition, considering its age, showcasing some lovely artwork by A. J. Donnell. As an aside, the edition that I have also bears a very interesting hand-written inscription/dedication on the front inside page. The inscription goes as follows:

“FROM SCIENTI-CLAUS 1955
FOR ALF GREGORY’S HG WELLSIANS
IN RESPECT OF THE MEMORY
OF THE GREATEST*
OF THEM ALL.

*HGW: 1886-1946″

It’s an extremely sobering thought that, at the publication date of this book (1949), the Great Man (H.G. Wells) had only been dead a mere three years. 😦

It looks like this book was bought as a Christmas gift for someone, and this dedication is a tribute to a H.G. Wells fan group active in the UK, possibly in the late-1940s and the 1950s. At least that’s the assumption that I’m making from this. I know that it’s a long shot, as we’re talking more than sixty years ago here, and this group may or may not have been anything more than a small local fan group. But does anybody out there have any information on an old UK-based SF/HG Wells fan group by the name of ALF GREGORY’S HG WELLSIANS? If so, I’d be very appreciative if you’d let me know the details.

THE COMPLETE ADVENTURES OF LUCKY STARR by Paul French (Isaac Asimov)

LuckyStarr

Last time out, I listed some of the SF novels that I picked up recently, among them two of Isaac Asimov’s Lucky Starr juvies that he wrote back in the 1950’s under his Paul French pseudonym. Well, that set me to searching for the only single-volume omnibus of all six Lucky Starr novels, which I found on Amazon. It’s quite hard to come by, being out-of-print, and quite expensive. But I took the plunge and bought it, and it arrived by mail in double-quick time.

So what’ve we got? Let’s look at the details:

 

TITLE: THE COMPLETE ADVENTURES OF LUCKY STARR
AUTHOR: Paul French (Isaac Asimov)
CATEGORY: Novel
SUB-CATEGORY: Omnibus
FORMAT: Hardback, 701 pages
PUBLISHER: Science Fiction Book Club, in association with Doubleday & Co. Inc, New York, 2001
ISBN: 0-7394-1941-2

CONTENTS:

  • Introduction to the Adventures of Lucky Starr
  • Introduction to the Further Adventures of Lucky Starr
  • David Starr – Space Ranger (1952)
  • Lucky Starr and the Pirates of the Asteroids (1953)
  • Lucky Starr and the Oceans of Venus (1954)
  • Lucky Starr and the Big Sun of Mercury (1956)
  • Lucky Starr and the Moons of Jupiter (1957)
  • Lucky Starr and the Rings of Saturn (1958)

The reason for the two introductions is that the books were released in two volumes back in 1985, with a different introduction for each volume. So both introductions have been republished in this single volume. The introductions alone are very interesting, and give some nice insights into Asimov’s thoughts on his old juvies from a vantage point of thirty years later.

Asimov spends much of both introductions, explaining, almost apologizing for how wrong he got the planetary science in his novels. I found all of this very entertaining, but, in effect, totally unnecessary. He wrote those books according to the knowledge that science had in the early 1950’s, from telescopic observations of the planets, before the radar imaging and planetary probes of the 1960’s and 1970’s made that old knowledge totally obsolete.

Sure, the planetary science is in those books is wrong and way out of date. Hey, so what? All planetary science before the Mariner space probes and those that followed is hopelessly out of date. There are no oceans on Venus, and it is a boiling, poisonous, high-pressure inferno to outdo any religious visions of hell. There has never been any advanced life or civilizations on Mars, no canals, and only an extremely thin, cold atmosphere. Mercury does not keep one side only to the Sun, Saturn’s rings are radically more complex, and the lunar families of both Jupiter and Saturn are much larger than they ever suspected back then, and the lunar ecologies of both planets much more complex than they could ever have imagined.

But you know what? I don’t give a hoot. That kind of thing has never bothered me too much, any more than the “wrong” planetary science in the books of earlier “greats”. I just shunt these Lucky Starr stories into the same alternate solar system where all the mythical planets of great earlier writers reside. Asimov is in some great company there: Stanley G. Weinbaum, Edgar Rice Burroughs, H. G. Wells, Olaf Stapledon, Edwin Lester Arnold, C. S. Lewis, Raymond Z. Gallun, P. Schuyler Miller, Ray Bradbury, Clifford D. Simak, James Blish, Clark Ashton Smith, John Wyndham, Frederik Pohl, Cyril M. Kornbluth, Henry Kuttner, C. L. Moore, Leigh Brackett, Edmond Hamilton, Theodore Sturgeon, Robert A. Heinlein and many, many other giants of the genre. These earlier solar system tales exist in their own little continuum, untouched by cold, hard, modern scientific facts. Nor should they be.

I first read most of these novels (all except Lucky Starr and the Oceans of Venus and Lucky Starr and the Big Sun of Mercury) way back in my early teens, usually on loan from local libraries. These were the classic NEL (New English Library) UK paperback editions, with those beautiful covers. Even now that I have the hardback omnibus, I still want to pick up those paperbacks in good condition, just for the covers.

I’ve been reading a little of the first novel in the series, and the writing holds up surprisingly well today. I think I’m going to really enjoy reacquainting myself with David “Lucky” Starr, Bigman and the rest in these fun books.

SCIENCE FICTION OF THE THIRTIES edited by Damon Knight

TITLE: SCIENCE FICTION OF THE THIRTIES
EDITED BY: Damon Knight
CATEGORY: Short Fiction
SUB-CATEGORY: Anthology
PUBLISHER: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc., Indianapolis/New York, 1975
FORMAT: Hardback, 1st Edition, 464 pages

CONTENTS:

  • Foreword by Damon Knight
  • “Out Around Rigel” by Robert H. Wilson (1931)
  • “The Fifth-Dimension Catapult” by Murray Leinster (1931)
  • “Into the Meteorite Orbit” by Frank K. Kelly (1933)
  • “The Battery of Hate” by John W. Campbell, Jr. (1933)
  • “The Wall” by Howard W. Graham, Ph.D. (1934)
  • “The Lost Language” by David H. Keller, M.D. (1934)
  • “The Last Men” by Frank Belknap Long, Jr. (1934)
  • “The Other” by Howard W. Graham, Ph.D. (1934)
  • “The Mad Moon” by Stanley G. Weinbaum (1935)
  • “Davey Jones’ Ambassador” by Raymond Z. Gallun (1935)
  • “Alas, All Thinking” by Harry Bates (1935)
  • “The Time Decelerator” by A. Macfadyen, Jr. (1936)
  • “The Council of Drones” by W. K. Sonnemann (1936)
  • “Seeker of Tomorrow” by Eric Frank Russell and Leslie T. Johnson (1937)
  • “Hyperpilosity” by L. Sprague de Camp (1938)
  • “Pithecanthropus Rejectus” by Manly W. Wellman (1938)
  • “The Merman” by L. Sprague de Camp (1938)
  • “The Day is Done” by Lester del Rey (1939)

What SF Master Damon Knight has done for Science Fiction of the Thirties is to plough his way through hundreds of classic “pulps” from the 30’s, mining them for a few of the forgotten gems from that era, and picking out the best of them for this anthology. He has reappraised the best of the tales from the 1930s SF magazines, with the added condition that his choices are stories which have rarely, some of them never, been published before in SF anthologies. And it’s a real thrill to read these stories, particularly for a jaded old fan like me who thought he’d read all the good old stuff worth reading.

Reading the short but fascinating Foreword to this anthology, we come to understand that Knight had been a life-long critic of the stories in the pulps, but had undergone a recent change of heart. Sturgeon’s Law (“Ninety Percent of Everything is Crud”) applies to the pulps just as much as it does to everything else, and it is the ten percent of stories which are not crud which make it worth persevering, and wading through the crap, to find the diamonds in the rough. And these stories are all good ‘uns. Damon Knight, former unrelenting critic of the “pulps”, is a hard taskmaster, and his standards are VERY high.

So, given that I’ve read a LOT of vintage SF, how has he done? The good news is that I’m totally unfamiliar with at least six of the authors in this anthology. The rest of them are names that I know, but the real surprise is that I have never read most of these stories before. I’m familiar with only THREE out of the eighteen stories – Weinbaum’s “The Mad Moon”, Campbell’s “The Battery of Hate” and Bates’ “Alas, All Thinking” (all of which I read many, many years ago) – which is a pretty amazing strike rate for Knight and the stories that he has chosen here. He has really come up with the goods, producing an anthology of stories that few SF readers will have seen before.

Most modern SF anthologies showcasing stories from “the old days” have long since started to reprint the same classic stories over and over again, so an avid SF fan would very likely have read most of them before. As good as many classic SF stories are, it becomes a bit tiring and disheartening to see them in every other anthology – “The Cold Equations” and “It’s a Good Life” are two examples of classic SF stories that come to mind. I have these two in so many old anthologies that I could scream every time I see them in yet another. I love these stories to bits, but too much of a good thing, etc…

Which raises the question: if Damon Knight could find these forgotten gems, surely there are many, many more in those SF magazines, just waiting for some adventurous researcher and editor to find them? And now that Damon has sadly passed on from us, to that great everlasting Science Fiction Convention in the Sky, who is willing to step into his giant shoes and continue to unearth these hidden treasures of the past? Or do hardcore fans like me have to continue ponying up exorbitant amounts of money for the old SF magazines or rare, out-of-print anthologies from the dim and distant past, in order to unearth more forgotten SF gems?

SF editors need to start using a bit of imagination and initiative, as in “Great story, but it’s been published a zillion times before. How’s about something that hasn’t been published before?”. I know that great editors of the past (and present) have produced many excellent anthologies of vintage SF. Editors like Groff Conklin, Terry Carr, Isaac Asimov, Martin H. Greenberg, Gardner Dozois, Brian Aldiss, Mike Ashley, and many others have produced some amazing anthologies over the years. But many of the classic editors/anthologists have now sadly passed on, and we have a dire need for newer editors to come forward and take up the gauntlet, to continue the great work that Damon Knight and the other great editors of the past have done to unearth the forgotten SF treasures of the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. Sure, I’d be the first to say that we need new authors producing great new SF. But we should also never, EVER forget the old masters.

So what’s my verdict of Science Fiction of the Thirties? Overall, I think this is an excellent anthology. Taking into account that these are NOT modern literary SF masterpieces, and that the stories are 1930s pulp SF tales, churned out at a few cents per word, it’s amazing that ANY of them were any good. But some were real beauts. Even for as low grade a market as the “pulps”, many talented writers took extreme pride and joy in their work, and went way beyond the line of duty, producing something much more than the miserly word rates they were being paid could ever merit. Damon Knight has uncovered a few of those forgotten gems for us and put them together in this very nice anthology. For someone like myself, who is a huge fan of finding good old SF stories that I haven’t read before, this type of book is just right up my alley.

I wish there were a few more volumes of anthologies containing similarly rare old SF magazine stories out there. Here’s hoping that someone will continue on with the good work of finding classic stories from the “pulps” that we haven’t read before. I, for one, will be eagerly watching out for more.

It’s a Geek’s Life… (Part Two)

The Golden Years – Geek Nirvana During the Seventies

The start of our teenage years is the sweet spot for the vast majority of us, particularly geeks, the beginning of what is probably the most fondly remembered period of our lives.

It’s long enough ago that most of our memories are fond, rosy ones, but it’s also the first time in our lives from which we retain reasonably accurate and continuous recollections of events (unlike our earlier childhood – most memories from our first decade are pretty vague and fragmented). And it is also during these years that many of us have the most fun and freedom to do what we want (after we finish our homework, of course), before adulthood arrives and the bland banalities, responsibilities and worries of “grown-up” life start to descend upon us.

I mentioned in my previous posting that my childhood was a far from happy one. Things got even worse when I was eleven years old, when my parents separated, leaving my father to raise five kids on his own. He was forced to leave his job, and our descent into poverty became even more severe. To top it all off, my father’s health began to decline sharply after my mother left, and, as the “oldest”, I was shoehorned into the role of “surrogate mother” from this very tender age, taking over the extremely heavy responsibilities of not only looking after my father, but also the other four kids, one of whom was also very severely disabled.

To be blunt, I was a very unhappy young boy as a teenager, one who sought refuge in a world of make-believe. Any kind of an escape from this dreary and depressing reality was a welcome one, and I immersed myself in an alternate world of comics, sci-fi worlds on television, in films, and in great SF literature. I also became very preoccupied with drawing and writing.

To refer to these interests as mere “hobbies” would be a complete understatement. They were obsessions, a vital lifeline for me, and I depended on them utterly to keep me sane, when everything around me was so gloomy and depressing. Since childhood, and throughout my entire life, these “obsessions” have been entrenched as fundamental pillars of my personality and way of thinking, and I simply cannot imagine my life without them.

I may already have been a proto-geek from a much earlier period in my life, but the beginning of my teens marks the time from which I can seriously start referring to myself as a true, hardcore geek. Things may not have been rosy on the domestic and personal front, but my hobbies and obsessions certainly first started to kick into overdrive in a very big way at this age, almost certainly to compensate for my miserable “Real Life”. I was also now growing old enough to be much more sophisticated, systematic and discerning when it came to what I was “into”. And what I was into, and I mean REALLY into, was the Holy Trinity of SF literature, Sci-Fi on television and in films, and Comics.

All through the 1970’s, up until around 1977-78, was a “Golden Age” for me, from a geek perspective anyway, the completely opposing mirror image of my crappy “real life”. All during my teens there was a steady procession of classic sci-fi TV shows and films on local television, and although I had my favourites – Doctor Who, Star Trek, UFO, The Time Tunnel – I loved them all to a lesser or greater extent.

By this stage of my life I was also a totally obsessive reader of both comics (particularly the Marvel UK reprint comics) and SF literature. I’d started off initially in my pre-teens with Wells and Verne, then moving onto Clarke, Asimov, Heinlein, and anything else that I could read. By my early teens, the whole world of SF literature was my oyster. I was discovering great new (to me, anyway) authors like H. Beam Piper, Cordwainer Smith, Cyril M. Kornbluth, Frederik Pohl, John W. Campbell, Jr, Alfred Bester, Henry Huttner, C. L. Moore, Leigh Brackett, Edmond Hamilton, Jack Williamson, Stanley G. Weinbaum, Robert E. Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Clark Ashton Smith and many, many others.

By my mid-teens, I was neck-deep in my alternate geek world, spending every available second on my hobbies. I just couldn’t get enough of the whole Sci-Fi/Comics/SF Literature thing, and it seemed like the good days would never end.

But I was wrong.

To Be Continued…