Archive for the 1950 Category

Close Up: Minions of the Moon

Posted in 1950, Close Up with tags , on January 27, 2013 by Aaron

closeupWilliam Gray Beyer
1950

I originally got this as one of three or four GP titles I picked up in NZ back in mid-2009. I bought it then because it was cheap $18 and would expand my collection. But like the rest of those I bought on that occasion (with one exception), I wasn’t satisfied. They were all of inferior condition and I probably shouldn’t have picked them up. However, I did, and disregarding the sunning on the spine that copy of Minions was in pretty good condition.

Fast forward three years and I got hold of a copy that didn’t exhibit the endemic issue that seems to plague certain GP titles of which this title is one.  The aforementioned sunning.  Just digressing a little and I think I have mentioned this before somewhere, there seem to be three or four books that are notoriously difficult to find without a (usually severely) sunned spine – Pattern for Conquest, The Porcelain Magician, Minions of the Moon and Castle of Iron.  You can get sunning on any book, and I of course have quite a few that are, but these four books…  I’ve been collecting GP for about 5 years, only a short period of time admittedly and due to my location here in Korea my experience is limited to online contact, but I have never seen a copy of any of these books that hasn’t been affected by exposure to the sun.  Just to illustrate the point, a mint unused copy of Castle of Iron‘s dust jacket went for about $325 on eBay a few years ago.  A crazy price perhaps, but it does illustrate the desirability of a pristine jacket for a book that jacketless in Fine condition probably wouldn’t fetch 40 bucks. What is it with the prevalence of this condition on these titles? Is it the color? Is it the grade of inks used?

Ok, back to what we have in hand here.

William Gray Beyer - Minions of the Moon

No sunning at all. Beautiful.  There is a little rubbing to the cover though.  The art isn’t exactly inspiring for me as to what the contents might be, but I guess we’ll find out in due course.

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The boards look nice. Clean and minimal bumping to the extremities of the spine.

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Immediately apparent here is the slight cock to the spine. The jacket edges are excellent – slight wear is quite noticeable due to the dark color of the jacket. In handling the book this is far less significant.

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You can see that the ink still retains that vivid quality which is so quick to disappear with exposure to sunlight. There are a couple of cracks and chips on the jacket at these points, but no big deal really.

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Some rubbing evident on the back, but this doesn’t detract too much from the overall quality and great impression this copy shows in real life.

Year: 1950
Paid: $45
Art: Edd Cartier
Copies: 5000 (Eshbach, Chalker & Owings, wikipedia)
Binding: Jade cloth / red lettering on spine, red title logo with crescent moon on the cover.
GP Edition Notes: 1st edition so stated
Chalker & Owings: MINIONS OF THE MOON, by William Gray Beyer, 1950, pp.190, $2.50. 5000 copies printed. Jacket by Edd Cartier.
Currey: Absent
Comments: I was very happy to pick this up as a replacement for my previous copy which itself was nice aside from the sunning. Not an expensive title but one I hold dear because of it’s condition – especially the spine of the jacket.
Expand Upon: wikipedia.com, Internet Speculative Fiction Database

condition

Review: Cosmic Engineers

Posted in 1950, 1:No Launch, Review with tags , on September 19, 2009 by Aaron

Clifford D. Simak
1950

Clifford D. Simak’s novel City has the reputation of being one of the classic SF tales, and being in the Gnome Press stable, I’m looking forward to picking it up sometime (it’s one of the big ticket books, so I’ll have to save for while…).  As a result, I had high expectations of Cosmic Engineers.  Expectations which were sadly left unfulfilled.

Clifford D. Simak, according to Wikipedia began writing in the Space Opera but later developed his style to be more ‘pastoral’, which I guess means more considered, sensitive and sedate.  City (from what little I have read about it) appears to fall under the pastoral label, but Cosmic Engineers most definitely does not.

All Space Opera is ridiculous to a certain extent, that’s the nature of the beast and serious SF readers know this, can accept it and enjoy these tales for what they are.  A skill especially important for today’s reader when taking in tales from the Golden Age of Science Fiction.  Sadly though, it’s a skill that I suspect is dying out as the ‘pool’ of people who really understand the literary significance and cultural context of this period’s stories gets smaller and smaller.  I like to consider myself part of that pool despite being two generations  removed from that period – I’m thankful I spent my formative reading years (in the mid-late 1970s) enjoying books of that ilk.

Getting back to the book at hand, Cosmic Engineers is Space Opera of the particularly hard to stomach kind, even with reference to what I just talked about.  But before I lambast it too much, what was there to appreciate and enjoy??  I guess the biggest thing was the pace of the book.  Like most Space Opera the pace is rapid, and as I mentioned in the Review of Pattern for Conquest (a better book though with similar issues), I enjoy never having a dull moment.  Another positive was the start.  A newsman and photographer(!) doing the rounds of the solar system, diverted out to Pluto for a breaking story, encountering a derelict ship with a beautiful young woman in suspended animation.  Despite being in this state for about a thousand years, when they awaken her she tells them her brain has been active the whole time.  She’s been thinking for a millennium and in partial communication with some unknown intelligence.

Ok, great so far.  Sounds intriguing, where’s this tale going??

Our band of three make it to Pluto where they engage the assistance of  a genius scientist and a gung-ho spaceman.  Contact is established with the mysterious message-senders and our party finishes up at the edge of the universe where the ‘cosmic engineers’ enlist their help to stop two universes colliding. Which of course they do thereby saving each from total annihilation.

I liken reading this story to a discovering train wreck from the caboose end.  While walking down the tracks we find the end of a train.  The final carriage is nice, it looks good.  However, the further up the tracks we walk the less organized things become – paint flaking off here, a wheel dislodged there – until eventually the devastation we encounter is truly alarming.  The front of the train is smashed beyond redemption and the machinery of the business end is strewn all over the place.

So maybe I’m being a little dramatic and perhaps it’s not quite that bad, but you get the picture.  We’re talking time travel, universes in collision, using ultra advanced mathematics to break off mini-universe ‘sand-boxes’ (to use a modern expression), fourth and fifth dimensions, the mysterious area between universes…  It’s all just so mind-bogglingly bizarre, outlandish and 224 pages is hopelessly inadequate for stuff of this magnitude and it’s all just given cursory treatment besides.  Wow, I am being a bit rough.

I always have rose-tinted glasses on when I read Gnome Press books and I really, really wanted to enjoy this story.  I tried, and tried hard too.  Unfortunately my effort remained unrewarded.

Great cover though.

Close Up: Cosmic Engineers

Posted in 1950, Close Up with tags , , on July 22, 2009 by Aaron

closeupClifford D. Simak
1950

I was looking forward to receiving this.  Picked up as an add-on to my eBay purchase of Pattern for Conquest, posted after ‘Conquest’ and received before.  I expect ‘Conquest’ will arrive in the next day or two.  I expected this copy to be in Fine condition and was initially very pleased when I managed to finish unwrapping it.  It was packaged very well – like one of those trick gifts where you keep unwrapping until finally you realize there’s nothing there.  Qdos to Peter for superb packaging. My first impression was very, very good.  But I have to say my joy was tempered somewhat.  I feel I have to downgrade my initial estimation (and the sellers claim) to Near Fine.  Why??  Have a close look and see if you can detect why.  The answer will come at the end.
You can see it’s in fantastic condition.  Absolutely beautiful cover art by classic pulp artist Edd Cartier.  With garments off it looks equally good.
Beautiful cloth binding – the very desirable Currey priority ‘A’.  Much more attractive than the tan colored boards of the ‘B’ binding.  I just love the rocket stamped on the front there.  Super.  From the top and bottom it looks great too.
Very, very little discoloration to the block.  Inside is nice and white too.  Practically no wear to the edges of the boards also.  If we take a close in view of the head and tail, you might detect the issue that the jacket has.
The pinkish color on the leading edge in the tail view is a reflection and not coloration or wear on the jacket.  The head and tail of the binding shows a small amount of bruising.  The problem I mentioned earlier might be visible here to someone with a keen eye.  Can you pick it up??  No??  Then have a look at this:
See it now??  Blue ink.  The jacket has been touched up along most edges.  I must admit, it’s a pretty good job – all but invisible to a casual inspection.  I wonder when it was done??  I’m really going to highlight it now.
I took this pic under the most unflattering lighting.  It really is visible now.  Again, the leading edge of the jacket shows a reflection and not wear.  I must get some proper strobes sometimes so I can avoid that.  Anyway, the touch-ups on the jacket kind of disappointed me, but even so it’s still in great condition.
The back is very nice, a little soiling from shelf-wear, but no problem.

Year: 1950
Paid: $98
Art: Edd Cartier
Quantity: 6000 copies.  5000 in hardcover, 1000 paperback armed forces issues.
Binding: Currey priority ‘A’.  Blue cloth with stamped yellow spine and front board lettering with rocket motif.
GP Edition Notes: 1st edition so stated.
Comments: Despite the ink application, at $98 this is a great price for a copy in this condition.
Expand Upon: wikipedia.com, Internet Speculative Fiction Database

condition

Close Up II: Men Against the Stars

Posted in 1950, Adventures in Science Fiction Series, Close Up, Comparisons with tags , on June 4, 2009 by Aaron

closeupMartin Greenberg, editor
1950

A little bit against my better judgment, I bought another copy of Men Against the Stars.  The attractions were price, condition and second state jacket.  The price was good – only $16, the condition of the book itself is NF and the jacket is VG (with a proviso), so I have both states of the jacket now.  I’ll compare the two books briefly here.  Click the pics to step through to larger images.
MATS01The newer copy is on the left.  You can see it’s a bit brighter and has much less wear.  That strange cracky/flaky wear I mentioned in the initial Close Up is evident on this jacket too, but to a much lesser extent.  I’ve been thinking about that and I suspect it might be a result of such a black-ink-loaded jacket.
With the jacket off, we can really see a difference.
MATS02Apologies for the inconsistency, but the newer acquisition is on the right here now.  It’s very obvious that the spine is much cleaner and it’s a little difficult to tell, but the boards are a lot sharper and in like new condition.
The other major area of interest is the second state of the jacket.
MATS03You just need to check out the vintage of the titles promoted on the back to determine which is which here.  Interestingly, you can see Gnome Press relocated sometime between the printing of these jackets.  Note that unusual wear on the older jacket.
Just a couple of other areas of interest on the more recent copy, a quick peek inside reveals that the pages and, more particularly, the free endpapers and paste-downs are very clean.  No marking at all and only a little discoloration.
MATS05In the original Close Up I pointed out and commented on the spotting on the edges of the block.  There is absolutely none here.  Very nice.  The last thing I want to look at is the tape on the inside of the jacket.
MATS04Someone has applied reinforcing tape to the wrap- around on the spine.  This is invisible externally, but it does bug me that it’s there.  I hope that over time it’s not detrimental.  It could be special book tape.  I would like to remove it and if anyone has some advice on that it would be appreciated.
All in all, I think it was worth getting this copy.

Review: Men Against the Stars

Posted in 1950, 5:COSMIC!, Adventures in Science Fiction Series, Review with tags , on May 20, 2009 by Aaron

Martin Greenberg, editor
1950

My high expectations of Martin Greenberg’s ‘Adventures in Science Fiction Series’ continues to be met.  Published in 1950, this is the very first in the six volume series, and the best of the four I have read so far.  I haven’t reviewed the 1953 installment The Robot and the Man yet, but you can read the Reviews for 1951’s Journey to Infinity and All About the Future from ’55.  I also have Travelers of Space sitting in the library waiting for me.  I’ll get around to it.  Come to think of it, I’m going to make a promise here in writing, I will read again and Review ‘Robot & Man’ before I get into ‘Travelers’.  There.  It’s been too long and I must do it.

As I have always done in the Reviews for these books, I mention the concept behind them, and because this book is the very first I’ll go into it in a little more depth.  Gnome Press co-founder and editor of the series, Martin Greenberg, came up with the idea of a collection of short stories that reflected a certain set of ideas or progression of ideas.  From the perspective of the modern SF reader, this is nothing new.  It could even be considered ‘old hat’ with themed collections for everything imaginable, from SF crime to gay vampires.   However, it was new 60 years ago and this particular book represents perhaps the very first published ‘theme anthology’ in SF history.  This is a view reinforced by Eshbach:

Probably Marty’s [Martin Greenberg’s] greatest contribution to the SF field (other than Gnome Press itself) was his concept of theme anthologies which began with Men Against the Stars.  So far as I have been able to determine, this and the others that followed were the first collections of this nature to appear, setting a pattern for future anthologists.  These were the most successful of Gnome Press books, their sales figures only approached by Asimov’s Foundation stories.

Eshbach, p 210

I’ve reproduced here both the Foreword by Greenberg and the Introduction by science writer and space commentator Willy Ley.  The Foreword sets the tone not only for this book but for it’s companions to follow, and is an excellent guide on how to read this collection – not just as a simple collection of stories, but in a broader sense as a progression of themes, ideas and issues that future spacefarers might have to consider, be challenged by and eventually surmount.

Ley gives us an excellent ‘in a nutshell’ history of the rocket and a glimpse into a possible future with regards to our first steps to the moon and beyond.  It is really a fascinating piece.  Here they are.  Enjoy.

View this document on Scribd

Well, it’s about time we get into the stories that make up this anthology.  The title of this tome is of course ‘Men Against the Stars’ and it really is.  Contained therein are stories of men.  Men who face challenges from the first flight around the moon until the rejuvination of a stagnating Mother Earth by her children from the stars.  Men who face problems ranging from public resistance, to mutiny, to economics, to politics, to time and even being locked out.  All in the quest to push succeeding generations further from home.  There are twelve tales, and I’m not going to address them all, I’ll just pull out  three or four to talk about.

I’m not going to touch on the opening and closing stories, suffice to say they are well chosen and represent very suitable, natural ways to begin and end this collection.  Nor will I mention the penultimate tale ‘Bridle and Saddle’ with which Foundation fans should be very familiar, and for which reason I didn’t read.  A not-well-known fact about that story though; ‘Bridle and Saddle’ in this volume is the very first occasion an Asimov story was in published in book form.

The second and title story “Men Against the Stars’ by Manly Wade Wellman describes the courage, daring and mortal sacrifice of the men who rode the very unreliable rockets to Mars from their base on the moon.  By taking chances with dodgy technology, the tale invokes the character of such long-haul aviation pioneers such as Lindbergh, Kingsford-Smith, Earhart and Batten.  The principal action takes place on the moon, but the main thread of the story is punctuated by short vignettes of the crews that are making the Mars shot, often immediately before their spectacular demise in transit.  As I mentioned, this is the title story and also provides the beating heart of this anthology.

A.E. van Vogt’s ‘Far Centaurus’ is a familiar tale along the lines of Starman’s Quest.  Space travel is much safer now, and four men set out for the distant stars on a centuries-long journey in stasis only to be overtaken by technology long before arriving.  Greeted at their destination, they discover a civilization that has passed them by.  It’s an interesting situation to ponder…

Hal Clement is renowned for his hard science fiction.  He performs up to his considerable reputation here with ‘Cold Front’.  Men attempt to forge a trading relationship selling global climate control to a newly discovered alien civilization.  They do this on a planet with extremely complex weather patterns that aren’t fully understood by the non-natives.  Their poor grasp of the situation and subsequent embarrassment however, leads to another opportunity that is adroitly taken advantage of – testimony to the wiles of inter-species human traders.  Clement is at his best – some extremely convincing (if somewhat dated) speculation on cause and effect in planetary and solar meteorology here.

Having not long completed Murray Leinster’s The Forgotten World, I was amused that his installment was about fugitives from piracy, crash-landing on a planet dominated by… flowers.  ‘The Plants’ tells us of how three parties – fugitives, pirates and semi-sentient flowers – interact after an almost-bungled heist.

Some very, very famous names from early science fiction are represented here.  Asimov, Clement, Leinster, Hubbard, van Vogt and Padgett make up about half of the contributors.

If you are a SF fan, especially of classic SF, this book should be in your collection.  It’s not expensive, you could pick up a resonable copy (if you can find one) for much less than $50.  I’m going to make a prediction: In the fullness of time, this book will become a real sought-after and valuable collectors item.  I guess given enough time anything will be, but what I mean is though maybe not in the league of Gnome titles such as Asimov’s and Heinlein’s, it will certainly be elevated far above the obscurity it is in now.  This book represents a genuine piece of SF publishing history.  Aside from that, it is a fantastic collection.  From Edd Cartier’s magnificent cover art to the full circle arrived at in the final story by L. Ron Hubbard, I can find very little negative to say, and that’s really saying something for a bunch of twelve very early SF tales.

If you appreciate SF, if you have an interest in SF history, you need this book.

Close Up: Men Against the Stars

Posted in 1950, Adventures in Science Fiction Series, Close Up with tags , , on May 10, 2009 by Aaron

closeupMartin Greenberg, editor
1950

Fantastic cover. This is one of my favorites. It’s a shame it’s not in better condition, but nevertheless, it’s a pleasure to have a copy. There are numerous little issues with the book, which we will examine presently. The book does have significance as it is the first of the very successful ‘Adventures in Science Fiction Series’ which was the brainchild of Gnome Press co-founder and series editor Martin Greenberg, but I’ll talk a bit more about that in the Review. This volume was issued in two printings according to Eshbach.  5000 in the first run and 3000 in the second.  I have reason to suspect that there are two states to this jacket.  Though the fact that there were two printings is a strong indication anyway.  I’m trying to get that confirmed, but I’m sure that the jacket on this is a first state.  You will see why later.  Right now, let’s take a closer look.


Beautiful.  This was the sixth book from Gnome Press and definitely the best cover up to that time.  The title of the compilation and the art combine so well.  Actually, I would venture to suggest that artist Edd Cartier has elevated this up among the very best covers produced by Gnome Press, along with maybe Ric Binkley’s ‘Robots Have No Tails’, ‘The Survivors’ by Wally Wood and ‘I, Robot’ also by Cartier.

Fawning aside, we can see some issues very plainly.  Numerous chips off the cover and cracking along all edges.  There is a little rubbing to the cover too.  We’ll have a closer look at the chipping soon.  Once we remove the garments we can see that this book hasn’t been cared for in the past.  Soiling of the cloth shelf back is evident with some wear staining which is clearly visible at the tail of the spine.

The boards are nice and clean though.  There are a couple of nice details that deserve a closer look.Nice impression of a couple of stars there, and at the bottom of the spine…

..you can see an impression of the men going up against them.  Lovely.  Unfortunately, the wear and soiling is also quite visible here.  It looks more like dirt than anything, I wonder if this could be cleaned.  Anyone have any ideas??
There is some dust-spotting on the edges of the block as you can see below.

Actually, I’m not sure whether it’s dust or foxing.  In any event, it’s only evident on the edges of the paper, internally the pages are quite nice.  No age browning at all.  The spine sits nice and square despite being a bit on the loose side.

The head and tail of the spine show wear consistent with the overall impression of the dust jacket – general edge wear and a bit of splitting.

Which leads us to have a closer look at the worst instances of the chipping and splitting.

You can see a significant chip off the rear edge of the spine and what looks like flaking of the cover rather than wear.  This is evident on all four edges of the dust jacket.

It seems to be a rather unusual type of wear.  I wonder if it is brought about by a special set of circumstances.  Anyway, the top front corner has a loose piece there.Looks like a bit of moisture has gotten in at some point too.  You can see the front paste-down is a bit mottled and darkened.  This is true on the rear paste-down too, and both exhibit a bit of foxing.A price is written on the front free end-paper.  I wonder when… It’s the same price that the book originally cost.  I mentioned earlier about this being a first state jacket.  I’m pretty sure this is true as the GP books promoted for sale on the rear of the jacket all precede this one.  The two that are advertised as ‘forthcoming’ are the two immediately after this.As you can see, the back is quite clean though there is a bit of rubbing apparent in the area at the top right.

Year: 1950
Paid: $30
Art: Edd Cartier
Quantity: Two printings according to Eshbach – initially 5000, second printing 3000 copies.
Binding: Slate grey boards and purple cloth shelf back. Silver lettering to spine. Nice spaceship and stars imprinting on the cloth.
GP Edition Notes: 1st edition
Comments: I just love the cover.  A significant book and well worth the $30 price for mine.  Pity about the poor condition of the cloth spine though.
Expand Upon: wikipedia.com, Internet Speculative Fiction Database

condition