Archive for the 1952 Category

Review: Robots Have No Tails…

Posted in 1952, 5:COSMIC!, Review with tags , , , on March 4, 2009 by Aaron

Lewis Padgett
1952

I have never read anything like this in scifi before.  But before I talk about the book, a little background on the author. Lewis Padgett was a pseudonym for the husband and wife collaboration of Henry Kuttner and Catherine Lucille (C.L.) Moore, taken from their mothers’ maiden names according to Wikipedia.    As a team they wrote three books for GP (I have two of them so far – this and Mutant), and C.L. Moore wrote an additional three.  ‘Wrote for Gnome Press’ is really the wrong turn of phrase, GP collected the stories from the earlier pulps (as they did for so many of their books) and published them as collections or, as in this case, a coherent set.  These stories, there are five in this book, were all penned in the 1940s.

All stories revolve around one character – Galloway Gallegher.  This man is an inventor.  A very good inventor.  A genius, in fact.  Well… his subconcious is.  But only when Gallegher is drunk.  Very drunk.  So drunk in fact, that Gallegher can never remember exactly what his subconcious (Gallegher Plus) invented, or why.  This device is the lynchpin around which all these stories are constructed.  However, though all five stories employ this situation, it doesn’t get tired.  As you have probably guessed by now, this is comedy.  A risky combination that – science fiction and comedy.  It works here though.  You could almost call it a sci fi sitcom.  In fact I would.  This is a science fiction sitcom series.

Gallegher recovers from being drunk and discovers a robot with narcissistic tendencies in his lounge that Gallegher Plus has invented – he must find out why.

Gallegher recovers from being drunk and finds an earth eating, monofilament manufacturing contraption that Gallegher Plus has invented – he must find out who for and why.

Gallegher recovers from being drunk and discovers a machine of unknown purpose, a deadly heat ray, three small furry aliens and his own dead body repeatedly showing up in the garden…

Gallegher recovers from being drunk…

You get the picture.

Other elements in these stories are the characters that are either a) wanting an invention that they paid an advance on that Gallegher can’t remember, b) trying to do away with or otherwise interfere with Gallegher but he has no idea why or c) his equally lush, crotchety Grandfather.

He also has this wonderful invention called a ‘liquor organ’ that dispenses all manner of alcohol while he reclines on the couch.  He employs this to great effect throughout the book.   He has no idea how he made this liquor organ. Indeed, he is always in search of a drink, being drunk helps him think and brings Gallegher Plus to the fore to solve his problems.  Must get me one of those…

The stories are well paced and the puzzles are well constructed, and genuinely funny.  Gallegher’s inventions are hard to fathom, they seem to be a mixture of Heath Robinson, Rube Goldberg, scientific genius and pure fantasy.  In fact, if I was to level a criticism at the book, it would be on these grounds.  The contraptions defy logic.  I know this is a little unfair – it is science fiction after all – but one doesn’t really expect to encounter extreme incredulity.  For example, after bombarding a locker with gamma rays it turns into a device within which the universe has stopped expanding, and leading to time travel.  Well, it was either the gamma rays or the paint, Gallegher explains.  But however, on the other side of the coin, this is part of the comedic charm of a book that doesn’t at any stage take itself seriously.  And it never stood in the way of my enjoyment.

As an aside, the 1973 Lancer edition is credited to Kuttner only.  Ms Moore writes the introduction in which she states ‘…not a word of any of them is mine’.

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Close Up: Robots Have No Tails…

Posted in 1952, Close Up with tags , , , , on March 2, 2009 by Aaron

closeupLewis Padgett
1952

I ask all the people whom I purchase books off to try and give me a bit of provenance on the book – anecdotes, history… that kind of thing.  I’m very interested in where these books have been.  I’ve had some interesting stories and been able to glean one or two surprising  snippets on some of these books myself.  Faye, the very nice lady whom I got this book from sent me this interesting tale.

This book came from the collection of an elderly neighbor on Pleasant Valley Rd in Woodstock, Illinois. He was a single gentleman who had lived in the family house all his life. He had all sorts of collections in there, and after his death his sister sold his things.  Towards the end of the sale she got tired I guess, and when Lyle showed up a couple of times she offered to sell him whatever books were left.  She also persuaded him to take the fellow’s pet squirrel, which he had raised after it was blown out of a tree during a storm when it was a baby.  He must have been an interesting man because he had a quite a variety of books – astronomy, geography, various branches of science and science fiction, and other fiction and we were sorry we had not gotten to know him.

Great stuff…  I love stories like this.  As I have mentioned elsewhere on this site, they make these books come alive.  Thank you very much Faye.

In my previous post I gave Dave from Lipson Robotics a plug.  He asked me a question about this book over on The Great Gnome Press Sci Fi Odyssey Flickr site, and I then discovered his fine examples of robot manufacture.  The point I’m trying to make is that Daves ‘bots are a perfect match for this book.  Lets begin by having a look at the cover.

What a superb cover it is.  Inked by the incomparable Ric Binkley, it’s deserving of a closer look so we can fully appreciate this fine example of ’50s Sci Fi art.

Absolutely stunning.  Now, you go and check out what Lipson Robotics are turning out and come back here and tell me that any one of their creations wouldn’t be perfectly at home on this cover.

Didn’t think so.  Congrats Dave, you’ve nailed that retro look you are after.

So, while the dust jacket looks great at first glance, if we check it out a bit closer we can see some wear and a sizeable chunk out of the top front edge.

We can see the wear quite plainly now.  That chunk is a bit nasty…

Right in the center of the jacket too.  Damn.  Looking at the ends we notice that it sits nice and square.

And we also can see that the pages are refreshingly white – albeit a little discolored due to dust on the top.  Illustrating the nice white pages below:

Beautiful.  You know, it’s so refreshing to read nice white pages, as opposed to the nasty yellow and sick looking fare that we now get in GP ‘s later books as a result of the cheap acidic paper they used.

A close up of the extremities reveals a couple more little issues, chiefly the erosion of the boards, though the jacket isn’t too bad at these points.  The top of the spine also has a bruise.

I’ve highlighted the erosion there.

The boards are quite clean, although you can see a little staining in the odd place.  The pic below also better illustrated that bruise to the top of the spine.

Actually, the staining looks a lot worse here due to the light.  In real life it isn’t as prominent.  Indeed, you probably wouldn’t notice them unless I pointed them out.  The top rear corner also has a bit of a ding.

Well, to wrap it up lets check out the back.

You can see the general scuffing is quite evident here, especially on the creases.  There are also a couple of closed tears that you can’t see in these locations also.

Year: 1952
Paid: $73
Art: Ric Binkley
Quantity:4000 copies
Binding: Orange boards with black lettering on spine.
GP Edition Notes: 1st edition stated on copyright page.
Comments: This is a very sought-after title and I’m very happy to have it, especially at that price. I just love the cover. The flaws I’ve highlighted here don’t seem as bad in real life. A fantastic addition to my library. What do you think??
Expand Upon: wikipedia.com, Internet Speculative Fiction Database

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