Archive for the 1954 Category

Close Up: The Forgotten Planet

Posted in 1954, Close Up with tags , , on May 13, 2012 by Aaron

closeupMurray Leinster
1954

Treasure.  I already have The Forgotten Planet (see that Close Up), but I’ve been looking to get my hands on a copy with this jacket for quite a while.  I first learned about this variant of the jacket from my good collector friend Chris over in France.  I made an entry about it on the Trivia Page, and put the acquisition of it into the category of meantime pipe dream.  Well, I have one now.  This is only the third time I’ve seen this jacket come up for auction in my almost 4 years of collecting.  The first was a pristine jacket with a married book (see the ‘Binding’ section at the end..) on eBay that I should (shouldn’t, upon reflection) have bid on, but went to the man himself for $102 (is that right Chris?).  Actually, I posted on that here.  The second was maybe a couple of months ago that came up at Heritage Auctions.  I competed for that, but it went for $350 – more than I was willing to bid.  I feel I was lucky to get this one, especially as this copy does have some special provenance.

Just a word on Heritage Auctions.  The people that participate in the auctions there are serious – real collectors.  That’s a generalization of course, but the sums I’ve seen paid for GP books there are generally greater than equivalent titles that come up on eBay.  Those people don’t mess around.  It’s another reason that I feel quite lucky to pick this up, despite it being my most expensive book so far.

Let’s look at it.  There’s little to explain and no issues with this copy at all, excepting one small thing which I’ll seek input on later in this post.  First the cover.

Beautiful.  It’s not flawlessly beautiful like Chris’ copy of the jacket, but it’s fine nonetheless.  If you check out the details at the tail-end of this post, you’ll see that there was some concern at the time of the jacket’s suitability for a library distribution.  Chalker & Owings make the comment about it being good Emsh art, but I don’t totally agree.  However, it does illustrate the story much better than the normal distribution artwork.  Without the jacket is at least as good.

No problems.  Slight bumping to the head and tail of the spine.




Top, bottom, head, tail.  No problems.  Well, some slight wear there, especially at the tail of the spine.  No rubbing at all though.  Nice.

I mentioned some provenance earlier, let’s look at it now.  This copy was the Gnome Press file copy and is signed to that effect by Martin Greenberg.  Nice association for such a rare issue!!

The back reflects the condition we have seen thus far and is beautiful and free from rubbing.

Zooming in though, we can see an issue that I have a query about.  Have a look.

Look closely at the listing for Children of the Atom and Wilmar Shiras’ name.  Can you see that the ‘S’ is slightly obscured?  Closer examination reveals that the view of the ‘v’ at the end of Mr. Asimov’s name is partially impeded also.  To anyone who has a copy of this, is this also the case on yours??  Let us know…

Year: 1954
Paid: $300
Art: Ed Emshwiller
Copies: 5000 (Eshbach, wikipedia)
Binding: Currey priority ‘B’ binding. Greenish-yellow boards with greenish marbling and green lettering on the spine. When I posted regarding this jacket a couple of years ago, I indicated that this jacket didn’t see release on a book, but according to Chalker & Owings, this is the correct binding as issued with this variant of the jacket, for the library market at least.  As an aside, like the Currey ‘D’ binding I have, there’s a nice sprinkling of celestial spheres on the front board.
GP Edition Notes: 1st edition so stated.
Chalker & Owings: THE FORGOTTEN PLANET, by Murray Leinster [pseud. William Fitzgerald Jenkins], 1954, pp.177, $2.50. 5000 copies printed. Jacket by Ed Emsh[willer]. Points: Four bindings, cream cloth is first state, cream boards second, tan boards third. A small number were bound in gray cloth in 1957. Two jackets also exist; most have map design, but some have different Emsh cover of man facing giant beetle-like creature. Most of the latter went to libraries in second state and rarely show up; bulk were pulled when school librarians complained that the jacket was too repulsive, although it’s actually very good Emsh. Greenberg has over the years told different versions of this, the most common one indicating that none of the beetle jackets went to schools, but the ones in Baltimore public schools had it.
Currey: THE FORGOTTEN PLANET. New York: Gnome Press, Inc., [1954].  Four bindings, first two probably as listed, last two later: (A) Cream cloth lettered in yellow-green (copy thus deposited in the Library of Congress); (B) Cream boards with yellow-green marbled pattern lettered in green; (C) Tan boards lettered in green; (D) Gray cloth lettered in red. First edition so stated on copyright page. Murray Leinster, pseudonym. Note: The dust jacket incorporates a map design. A variant dust jacket depicting a man confronted by a giant scarab beetle was prepared to promote the only title in the short-lived Gnome Press “Gnome Juniors” experiment, an attempt to reach the public library juvenile market. Publisher Martin Greenberg states that this design was commercially unattractive and all copies of this title were issued with the map jacket. However, examples of the beetle variant survive and infrequently appear on copies of the book.
Comments: I want your opinion on a couple of things.  First, did I pay too much for this?  Second, if you have a copy, let us know about the aforementioned flaw on the back.  Interestingly, if you look carefully, Facsimile Dust Jackets‘ reproduction also exhibits this aberration.
Expand Upon: wikipedia.com, Internet Speculative Fiction Database

condition

The Forgotten Jacket……

Posted in 1954, New Arrivals with tags , , on May 11, 2012 by Aaron

This arrived today.  Anyone who knows Gnome Press knows what this is.  I am very proud to have it in my collection.  I’ll get a Close Up done in the next few days, but in the meantime:

Close Up: Mel Oliver and Space Rover on Mars

Posted in 1954, Close Up with tags , , on February 22, 2012 by Aaron

closeupWilliam Morrison
1954

It’s been about eight months since the last Close Up, and I just completed the review a couple of days ago so this is timely.  I have quite a few books on the Gnome Press Flickr site that are still waiting to be delivered here, and this is one.  This is one of those books that isn’t that expensive, but notoriously difficult to get a decent copy of.  Mel Oliver and Space Rover on Mars is one of the few genuine GP juvenile (or YA) novels and I’m guessing that the reason why it’s hard to get a decent copy is that they tended to fall into the hands of libraries where books get a hard time, and also into the clutches of said young people who themselves are not known for their upstanding book care practices.  I sure know I wasn’t when I was young.  Do I have a nice copy?  I think so, so let’s check it out.

Looks super, the cover art by the great Ed Emsh is still nice and bright, thought there is some slight rubbing around the title area.  The bluish stripe down the leading edge is an artifact of reflected light and not present on the jacket.  You can see at the base of the spine that this is proclaimed as ‘A Mel Oliver Adventure’, implying that there have been, or would be others.  Sadly, this wasn’t the case and we saw no more of Mel and Rover.  A shame.

Nice binding.  I like the Mel and Rover impression there.  Again, my lighting lets me down a little here.  The upper left area looks a bit dark.  It’s actually a slight shadow.  Let’s crack it open and have a peek inside.

Nice white pages and the images of our heroes are repeated here.  Nice touch, I like it.


The only issue in these views is the small tear to the top edge of the jacket visible just to the right of the ‘M’.  More prominent in the photo below, along with some slight wear and tear on the jacket at the head of the spine.


The base of the spine looks beautiful, but we finish on a slight downer with the back of the jacket with some obvious rubbing and soiling here.

Year: 1954
Paid: $15
Art: Ed Emshwiller
Copies: 4000 (Eshbach, wikipedia)
Binding: Yellow boards with red lettering on spine and red Mel & Rover design on front.
GP Edition Notes: 1st edition so stated
Chalker & Owings: MEL OLIVER AND SPACE ROVER ON MARS, by William Morrison (pseud. Joseph Samachson), 1954, pp.191, $2.50. 4000 copies printed. Jacket by Ric Binkley.
Currey: absent
Comments: Chalker & Owings have stated the jacket is by Ric Binkley.  Quite obviously Ed Emsh has his name on the cover.  It’s quite uncommon to see this title in this condition, and I’m very happy to have it.  15 bucks was a great deal.
Expand Upon: wikipedia.com, Internet Speculative Fiction Database

condition

Review: Mel Oliver and Space Rover on Mars

Posted in 1954, 4:Stellar!, Review with tags , , on February 16, 2012 by Aaron

William Morrison
1954

This book achieves the distinction of being the first of my collection that I’ve read for review without actually reading the book itself – it was read through the Kindle app on my iPhone.  I talked a bit about that in a recent post.  I have two more books to get through in this way Invaders from the Infinite and The Vortex Blaster, and I’m looking forward to it.  Three actually if you count Highways in Hiding when I re-launch into that.  The whole Kindle experience has re-inspired and reinvigorated my reading.  There is also the not-insignificant benefit of eliminating the chance of accidental damage to my precious books!!  Another advantage of reading on the iPhone is that it’s very easy for me to make notes for the review.  I can bookmark pages or highlight text for reference later using Kindle, or pop out of the app and make short text or audio memos using the Evernote app that will sync with my MacBook the next time I connect to the ‘net.  This is awesome.

I’ve occasionally mentioned in this blog about my formative reading years, checking Mr. Heinlein and Hugh Walters out of the Napier Public Library.  This was a time around 1980 just before I became a teenager.  I used to love going to the library after school.  My mum (that’s British English. For those who use inferior versions of the language, translate that as ‘mom’) , took me there and let me go for an hour or so while I grazed along the shelves, sampling the fare on offer.

Just to digress a little here, I hardly ever write in British English anymore (I think it’s referred to as International English these days..), I almost always use American English.  The reason for this is that in Korea here, where I’ve spent the last 8+ years living and teaching, the education system uses American English – a legacy of the American participation and occupation since the Korean War.  If I slip up and spell a word on the black/whiteboard the way I was taught in school, the kids pull me up about it.  “Teacher!!  Wrong spelling!!”  So I’ve adopted ‘color’ instead of ‘colour’ and ‘theater’ as opposed to ‘theatre’ to name a couple of examples.  The students find it quite interesting when I explain some of the differences between the two versions of the language.  Some foreign English teachers here are quite militant one way or the other, but it doesn’t worry me too much.  Just so long as the kids understand that neither is right or wrong, they’re just different.

Anyway… the Napier Public Library.  It’s not there anymore.  At least, not the one I enjoyed going to.  It was bulldozed and rebuilt nearby.  Rebuilt as a big, bright, airy and soulless structure in the late ’80s I think.  Actually, if I’m objective about it, it needed to be.  It had become way too small for Napier’s growing population and a new facility was badly needed.  I’m just bemoaning the fact that it’s gone, the place that I loved so much.  The place where books like Starman Jones and Journey to Jupiter became touchstones of my lifelong love of science fiction literature.

I’ve gotten (more British English, got, for you AE speakers..) quite a bit off track here.  Why have I spent some space rambling about stuff not related to Mel & Rover?  Books like this and those I’ve mentioned bring back treasured reading memories.  Despite my younger brother turning 40 in September last year, I still just love well written juvenile SF, and this particular book falls into that category for me.  There is a real skill writing in this style.  Heinlein was an absolute master at it.  To be able to connect to the young reader, to make you feel as a youngster that this really could be you.  The protagonist in these tales thinks and reacts to fantastic situations in ways that you yourself could imagine or relate to, or aspire to from the point of view of the young reader looking up to teenage maturity.  It’s a skill I fear is disappearing, or at least, no longer viable as the young reader these days (are there any?) is so much more sophisticated and cannot relate to a time when the telephone for example, was a household fixture in the same way as refrigerators or toilets are.  Of course, there’s a tried and true formula for writing YA novels which I’ll touch on later, but I can’t really think of any decent modern YA or juvenile SF around at the moment.  Paolo Bacigalupi’s Ship Breaker is probably the best example I’ve read recently.  The Hunger Games also springs to mind.  But they’re just not the same.  Or maybe I’m somewhat blinded because I’m older now and fall prey to nostalgia.  I’m getting off track again…

What this reinforces to me, and the reason I give this a Stellar! rating, is that if you enjoy YA SF then you’ll enjoy this.

But what about the author William Morrison?  Joseph Samachson (William Morrison was a pseudonym) was a biochemist and besides writing in that capacity, of interest to us he wrote for comics and magazines, and this was apparently his one and only novel.  A pity.  You can learn more about him on wikipedia or check out his bibliography on the ISFDB.

Finally I might start talking about this book now!! Mel is a teenager whom we meet while he’s stowed away about a thousand miles above Earth’s surface, accelerating into a journey to Mars.  He ventures forth, meets fellow stowaway Rover, gets in (and out) trouble, joins the circus and all the while is uncovering a murderous plot against him.  That’s it!!  In true YA fashion the story is as straight as an arrow.  I would just like to elaborate on some aspects of the book.

First, the science, or aspects of the science.  Mr Morrison tries to keep everything grounded in reality, but of course this is the reality of the 1950s, so many ideas are of course dated.  One example is when Mel & Rover are in transit between Earth and Mars.  Mel sends a message ahead to his father’s business partner, Mr Armstrong.  When no reply is forthcoming, it’s assumed that Mr Armstrong is traveling and won’t get the message until he returns home.  Reasonable assumption 60-odd years ago, but today I can get email or messages on my iPhone from anywhere worldwide instantly wherever I might be.  Mel’s human race are a part of a system-wide civilization, inter-planetary travel is routine, yet they can’t receive messages because they aren’t home??  Hmmm…  But, being the die-hard golden-age scientific fiction aficionados we are, we accept these things.

In terms of the hard science that keeps the book grounded (excuse the pun, you’ll see why in a moment..), Mr Morrison employs gravity in several different ways.  There are several examples throughout the book, in fact, I felt he could (or should) have found other devices to showcase his skills in illustrating his grasp of literary hard science. Before I mention a couple of gravitational examples, one non-gravitational example he did use (also on more than one occasion..) was the thin Martian atmosphere – distance didn’t significantly diminish clarity.

With regards to gravity, he used a couple of very interesting examples.  One was when Mel and his circus employer/friend, Bolam the strongman were in a taxi.  Mel becomes frustrated at the lack of speed.  When they hit a low or high spot in the road, the cab’s wheels left the ground to spin uselessly.  Bolam comments that there are some advantages to higher gravity such as that on Earth.  Mel wonders why not just make the vehicles heavier to simulate a higher G?  Bolam responds that it would be a waste of precious materials and power.  They also encounter the necessity to remove a lot of speed to negotiate corners.  Bolam explains that due to the low gravity that applying hard braking easily capsizes the vehicle going around the corner or leads to spinning out. “Accidents of that kind are fifty times as frequent here as on Earth, although it’s true they’re less serious when they do happen.”

Mars has apparently just the right gravity for circus-style acrobatics.  The Moon allows prodigious leaps, but everything is performed much too slowly to engage the audience.  Earth’s gravity allows for fast and exciting routines, but the higher gravity raises the risks of injury.  Mars in comparison offers the large leaps yet the one third G means that the potential for injury is greatly reduced while still providing an engaging performance for the punters.

As I mentioned earlier, the plot is crystal clear and there are no side issues or significant deviations.  We’re with Mel the whole way.  It’s well paced and the book maintained my interest consistently by keeping the action up.   These things are typical (and important) for a juvenile novel, and there’s still a bit of a twist at the end to keep things interesting.  If I had one gripe about the story it’s that we never get a satisfactory resolution for Rover.  Why was he stowing away en route to Mars?  He was the number two character in the book after all… I felt there was a story there to be told.  Perhaps William Morrison planned to explore Rover a bit further in a subsequent volume.

This is clean, innocent fun, and any fan of golden age YA fare will absolutely enjoy this.  I really wish that Mr Morrison took Mel and Rover on further escapades around the solar system.  An interplanetary circus would have been the perfect vehicle for some simple adventure.

Seen: The Forgotten Planet – juvenile dust jacket

Posted in 1954, Close Up with tags , , on June 15, 2010 by Aaron

One of the hardest-to-come-by items from Gnome Press is the alternative jacket for The Forgotten Planet.  I mention it on the GP Trivia page, but in case you can’t be bothered to go and have a look, it’s was the product of a experiment in pitching the books at the juvenile market.  An undertaking that never flew and the jackets were never released ‘on book’ so to speak.  However, they do surface occasionally and one did on eBay a couple of weeks ago.

Harry at Ravenwood Books on eBay kindly allowed me to use his pics here for our interest and information.  Thanks Harry. The jacket came with a slightly soiled copy of the book.  I had a couple of questions about this and was a little concerned about the jacket being a copy.  I put this to the seller and was satisfied with his answers, the book comes from a source he has had no issue with in many previous dealings.  Considering this, and the fact that these covers should have seen no ‘reading use’  (never being released and of interest only to true collectors), as well as that it does make sense to put it on a reading copy of the book to make it easier to safely store and transport or post.

Here they are:

Looks to be in beautiful condition.  Both front and back.  Slightly awkward cover art by Ed Emshwiller.

Why the hell didn’t I bid on this??  I’m going to be kicking myself for I while, I suspect…

No wear down the wrap-around at all.  You can see the condition of the book (Currey ‘D’ binding) vs the jacket, which initially made me think twice.  But as I said, after consideration I had no issue with it.

It finished up going for $102 – an excellent price I thought.  Congrats to the winning bidder.

Review: The Forgotten Planet

Posted in 1954, 4:Stellar!, Review with tags , on May 8, 2009 by Aaron

Murray Leinster
1954

Murray Leinster was a pseudonym for William Fitzgerald Jenkins, a very prolific writer from Virginia in the US.  Get ready to celebrate as the State of Virginia has declared June 27th, 2009 as ‘Will F. Jenkins Day’ in honor of his achievements as a Virginian.  You can view the resolution here on the Virginian Government’s website.  I recommend you check it out as the resolution nicely itemizes his significant achievements as a writer and an all-round Virginian.

I enjoyed this book very much, and one of the reasons for this is that the pace is rapid right from the get go.  Well, not really right from the start; there is a more mundane prologue chapter that sets up the situation.  A sterile planet is terraformed over hundreds of years until it is inadvertently forgotten and lost from the records.  Lost that is, until the crew and passengers of an interstellar ship find it, only to be marooned on this world that never actually received the final stage of the terraforming process.  That is, never received higher animal life and the final push towards it becoming a world truly becoming of man.  Once this stage is set, the story begins.

But, a little more trivia before we get into the story.  Back in the ’70s, I remember enjoying a TV show called ‘Land of the Giants‘.  It was aired in the ‘States from 1968 to ’70 I think, but of course in New Zealand it didn’t get to air until several years later – early to mid ’70s if I remember correctly.  It was really cool.  Men (and women) against giant cats, lizards and people, negotiating giant foliage and utilizing giant everyday items such as needles and thimbles and things.  This book is in a similar vein.  Indeed, Murray Leinster wrote three novels in the late ’60s supporting the show.  This book is kind of like that – humans crash-land on a planet where everything is much larger that what we are used to.  In the case of The Forgotten Planet, the lack of the higher animals (mammals specifically) meant that insects and fungal life-forms – like mushrooms and things – are able to grow to giant proportions.

We pick up the story with our protagonist, Burl.  A member of a very small tribe of humans separated by about forty generations from the original castaways.  I got the impression that there are other tribes around, but it’s never explicitly mentioned. Humans have regressed.  They exist in the lowlands, permanent cloud cover overhead, rain every night, they have never seen the sky and the sun is but a slightly brighter fuzzy patch that traverses the clouds.  They eke out a kind of hunter gatherer existence, nibbling on the giant mushrooms and scavenging giant beetle meat when they can find it.  They lead a furtive life, always ready to bolt for cover whenever a giant spider or giant wasp is around.  Burl and his chums have dispositions not too dissimilar to that of a bunch of field mice.  Language appears to be rudimentary at best.  Indeed, there is no dialogue at all until page 132, and the dialogue from the entire book would only fill about one page, if that!!

Through a series of fortuitous circumstances, events and revelations, Burl starts to become more proactive and aware of their plight, and takes a leadership role within the traditionally leaderless group.  Guiding them eventually from their poor lot to a place where they find some companionship and is more secure from the highly hazardous wildlife they once shared their existence with.

Once the main story is underway, it cracks along well.  There is no let up, no down-time in the tale.  It’s a real-time non-stop adventure from beginning to just about the end.  Towards the end, we leave the immediate lives of Burl and the tribe and take a more detached viewpoint.  It’s a little disappointing as it would be nice to know Burl’s thoughts and feelings given the enormity of the events at the close of the story.

This again from Gnome Press, is three short stories cobbled together in novel form – a fix-up.  But unlike ‘The Philosophical Corps‘, it’s put together seamlessly.  Interestingly, the first two stories are from 1920 and ’21, and the third from 1953.  A long time between drinks.

There is plenty of scope in this for criticism of the outdated technology (the planet was forgotten because a punch-card fell off the stack and got lost…  was a solitary punch-card really the only record of this planet??), and some things about man’s regression on the planet that just don’t seem right (in Tom Godwin’s ‘The Survivors‘, the marooned population did more with less on a planet at least as hostile… admittedly they weren’t there for forty generations, but still…).

I’m not going to get into those questions, I raised them and we’ll leave it at that.  This is a very entertaining book.  Fast paced, well researched (in terms of the flora and fauna) and an interesting scenario.  I found it a real page-turner.

Close Up: The Forgotten Planet

Posted in 1954, Close Up with tags , , , on May 3, 2009 by Aaron

closeupMurray Leinster
1954

This is a book I have been looking forward to acquiring, and I’m glad to be able to do the Close Up.  I owe Mike at Mars Books & Wood a big thanks for allowing me a bit of flexibility in picking up this and ‘This Fortress World’.  It’s certainly an attractive cover, one of my favorites.  I think I’ll read it next.  There were two different versions of the dust jacket for this book.  See the Reference Errata, Anomalies, Trivia & Other General Info page for more detail on that.  This is one of three books in my library that have come from the library of Gregg and Tina Riehl, you will see their stamping on the first free end paper.  ‘This Fortress World’ and ‘The Shrouded Planet’ being the other two.  There are a couple of small issues we will examine, so lets have a look.

Beautiful cover, nice and bright.  Likewise the boards.

I really like that sprinkling of planets on the front of the boards there.  If you have been following the Close Ups, you’ll know I really appreciate those nice little touches.  The top of the text block is a little dust stained.

And as you can see, the bottom of the block look quite nice.  The block itself hasn’t succumbed to significant browning.

If we compare the head and tail of the spine, we can see that in a similar fashion to the block, the exposed boards at the top of the book have rust-colored spotting and the bottom is quite free of these blemishes.  The dust jacket is in fantastic condition apart from some small wear on the tail and those few nicks at the head.  The only problem is that it is price-clipped.  Darn.

There’s also a bit of glue staining you can see there.  The Riehl’s library stamp is on the front free end paper.  I’m not sure whether I prefer this kind of statement of ownership, or a regular book plate.

It does look quite classy though.  The cover art is credited to Ed Emshwiller as you can see below.

Or more precisely, the jacket design.  I don’t know if that is significant, but the actual art itself proclaims something different.

You can see quite plainly that Ric Binkley’s name graces the cover.  Interesting.  Let’s close the book on this Close Up and look at the clean rear cover and the vital stats.

Year: 1954
Paid: $45
Art: Ed Emshwiller credited, but Ric Binkley’s name on the cover.
Quantity: 5000 copies.
Binding: Currey priority ‘D’ binding. Grey cloth with dark red lettering on the spine. Nice sprinkling of celestial spheres on the front board.
GP Edition Notes: 1st Edition
Comments: A nice copy of this book, very pleasing.  An interesting little tidbit regarding the cover artist.
Expand Upon: wikipedia.com, Internet Speculative Fiction Database

condition

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