Drag myself to the keyboard…

Posted in Gene Wolfe, Uncategorized with tags , , on September 17, 2012 by Aaron

This seems to be the cycle: Post a few times, then sleep for a couple of months.  Repeat.
It’s been about ten weeks since the last post and quite a bit has happened in that time.  Well, some stuff has happened.  Got hold of a few more books and things, bought a new (old) camera, got myself a pet, busted up with the girlfriend…. and started reading again.  A couple of topics there aren’t really relevant to this blog, but hey, they are interesting and give me something to post about.  Lets address things one at a time.

When a first got into photography as an adolescent, it was with my father’s camera.  An Asahi Pentax H2 he bought as a 13 year old in 1959.  That particular model was known as both the Honeywell Pentax S2 and H2 in North America, I believe.  I really love that camera and I still have and use it occasionally.  A few years ago, I got into the history of Pentax cameras from around that time (late 50s – very early 60s), and there is a sub-culture that exists around the collection of Pentax cameras and lenses of that vintage.  They were technically groundbreaking cameras then, and still are one of the most aesthetically beautiful camera designs EVER.  I’ve had at one point or another every model from that time, the Original or AP model from 1957, the ‘K’ model from 1958-59 and of course Dad’s H2 which was the next model along in ’59.  Subsequently were the H3/S3, then the H1/S1, H1a/S1a and the H3v/SV up until the legendary Spotmatic series came out in ’64, though these later models are not considered truly collectable yet.  The H2/S2 is still reasonably common as it was manufactured in greater numbers than the other ’50s models, still, a mint working example with the brown leather case will fetch somewhere around a hundred dollars, or maybe a little more.  Of both the AP and K, around 19 – 20 000 units respectively were manufactured.  Nice examples of these with the leather case will cost you upwards of $250 (UPDATE 2012/09/18: A nice K model without leather case just went for $305 on eBay).  Both the AP and K that I had disappeared into eBay to fund my Gnome Press addiction.  Remember I said I’ve had every model from that time?  Not true.  I neglected to mention there is a model that sits between the AP and the K.  It’s the Asahi Pentax S.  Produced in ’58-’59 concurrently with the K, this is to Asahi Pentax collecting what I, Robot is to Gnome Press.  There are no clear records for volumes of any of these camera models, but the estimates for units of the ‘S’ produced range from slightly less than 5000 down to only 3000.  They are as rare as hen’s teeth, massively prized by collectors, and I picked one up in an auction in New Zealand.

I got a pet snake.  I’m from New Zealand as you may know, and we have one attribute that we share with very few other countries in the world.  We have no snakes.  Antarctica, Iceland, Greenland, Ireland and New Zealand are the only major landmasses that have no snakes.  Actually, Ireland does have snakes now (pets and zoos), but they have no native population of snakes.  Anyway, there are absolutely no snakes in NZ, not even in zoos.  Of course the odd few make their way over in shipping containers, but they are quickly disposed of, and I guess the odd one has been smuggled in.  A guy I used to work with about 20 years ago, his brother apparently brought one back from Australia in some pool furniture made from PVC tubing.  I don’t know what became of that.  As a person from New Zealand though, actually seeing a snake in the flesh (let alone having one) is a unique experience.  She’s a ball (or royal) python – python regius.  Her name is Chichi and she’s about six months old and as long as my arm.  She’s quite tame and I can pick her up and handle her no problem.  She eats frozen mice and rats (I thaw and warm them slightly before feeding her of course..) and will grow to about four feet long eventually.  She’s wonderful.

We broke up about a week ago.  A shame.

Gnome Press and Book Stuff
It’s been ongoing.  What was the last report on that??  Ah, right.  I picked up The Porcelain Magician and it appeared in my 75% report.  The only other GP items I have picked up since then are Lewis Padgett’s Tomorrow and Tomorrow & The Fairy Chessmen, a much nicer copy of Minions of the Moon (no spine fading!! Yay!!) which hasn’t arrived yet, and a Gnome Press Fall 1953 Science Fiction Book Catalog which has also to arrive.  An interesting item that last, photos when it arrives.  It’s been sluggish on the GP front, but my Gene Wolfe signed first edition collection has expanded considerably.  I’ve picked up the collections Plan[e]t Engineering, Endangered Species and (not here yet) Innocents Aboard, the novels Pandora by Holly Hollander and Nightside the Long Sun and Lake of the Long Sun (which when added to Calde of the Long Sun and Exodus from the Long Sun completes The Book of the Long Sun series for me).  I also picked up one of Gene Wolfe’s  limited chapbooks containing the short story Christmas Inn.  What’s a chapbook I hear you inquire??  See here.  What makes me very happy though is the acquisition of the complete The Book of the New Sun.  This is Mr Wolfe’s most famous and popular work and it’s my all-time favorite piece of writing.  All four books are in fine condition and have identical signed loose pages laid in.  The Shadow of the Torturer is below by way of example.

I’m reading again!!  Started on The Seedling Stars by James Blish.  Here’s hoping I actually finish this one!!

The Starchild Skull

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on July 3, 2012 by Aaron

Several years ago, I stumbled over a mystery on the Internet.  I stumble over many mysteries here and there as I take a passing interest in odd or unusual things and alternative explanations to accepted theories.  Most of these things are, of course, interesting, and not to be taken too seriously.  However, occasionally the odd thing that initially seems to fly in the face on convention stacks up to scrutiny and presents a real and credible challenge to established point of view.  I used to be a manufacturing engineer and have a very practical problem solving approach.  Rather than just accept all the facts that fit and ignore those which don’t, I prefer to focus on what can’t be explained and look for that issue(s) to be addressed satisfactorily.  Some things demand to be addressed rather than dismissed out of hand or swept under the carpet without serious investigation.

One of my pet interests and one which I follow very carefully is the Electric Universe.  There are so many things out there in astronomy, cosmology and planetary science that when we look at them really closely and objectively, defy conventional explanation.  The myriad features of ‘impact’ crater morphology is just one of many, many fantastic and extremely compelling examples in this field.  I noticed some news on the NASA website a couple of days ago that ‘hidden portals’ have been discovered between the earth and the sun.  Surprise, surprise, they are electrical in nature.  If you have been taking notice over the last ten years or so, you will have noted that the role of electricity in the universe is becoming more recognized and acknowledged by the establishment.  I wrote a bit about the Electric Universe theory here.

Anyway…  that’s not what I’m talking about here.  Since about 2001/2002 I’ve been following with a great deal of interest the saga of the Starchild Skull.  How I first happened upon this I don’t recall, but I do remember thinking something like “Wow, that doesn’t look human.”  I looked a little more into this and found there was some guy called Lloyd Pye trying to establish exactly what this thing might be.  To cut a long story short, the road that Lloyd has traveled to get to the bottom of this has been long and difficult.  In the process, there has been a lot learned about this skull and the mystery is getting closer to being solved and no less unusual.

Because of Lloyd’s background and the angle he comes at this from, he kind of alienates (pun intended) the establishment.  Lloyd postulated from the outset that this was the skull of an alien.  Not something that would engender trust or participation from most medical professionals or scientists, and indeed this has proven to be the case.  However, the recognition or involvement by most experts doesn’t change what this skull is.  The fact is that a few scientists and credible medical experts have, and are examining this thing and the closer it is examined the closer we seem to be getting to something truly extraordinary.

Just let me back off a bit here and give my personal view on this.  As I said, my immediate reaction as I recall was that I didn’t think this thing looked human.  That’s not to say it isn’t, but aside from the general structure – everything appeared to be in the right place to at least resemble something human – the overall feel I got from looking at the skull said something else.  Not scientific at all by any stretch of the imagination, but what I’m saying here is that you know that feeling you get when something just doesn’t look or feel right??  I had that.  And I imagine that this gut reaction is what most people have when looking at it for the first time.  If Lloyd’s anecdotes from the early days of his quest are true, this is borne out by the medical professionals that wouldn’t even touch the thing and wanted him out of the office when it was presented to be examined.

Whether the skull is from an ‘alien’ or not shouldn’t be the focus.  The focus should be on what this thing actually IS.  Regardless of what anyone thinks or Lloyd’s take on it, the overall reaction from medical science has been both dismissive and deafening in it’s silence.  If it is just human as is assumed, then the combination of physical differences presented in this way should have doctors, experts and scientists all over this thing trying to get their names in lights for exposing something truly unique to medicine.  Shouldn’t it?  Or is this just a quirky or ho-hum kind of case.  It certainly doesn’t look ho-hum to me.  It looks serious.

It’s looking even more serious now that solid DNA evidence is coming to light.  It might prove to be human though based on the evolving DNA situation, that seems unlikely.  But if it does, then great – at least we will have an answer.  Below is a video summarizing several aspects of the skull from both the physical and current DNA perspectives.  On Lloyd’s YouTube channel and on www.starchildproject.com there is much more detailed information on the history of the research and the various aspects of the skull’s many unique elements.  If you watch this video as a starting point, I’m sure you’ll agree that whatever the hell this thing really is, it’s absolutely extraordinary.

After thinking on what I’ve written here, I just want to add a few follow-up thoughts as if you’re like me the very next thing you’ll do is look for the other side of the coin.  There is a lot of misguided opinion and disinformation out there regarding the Starchild Skull.  Lloyd deals with it all very effectively in the information he presents, but unfortunately many people don’t do their due diligence on this subject before offering their view, or believe the opinion of those that have never actually seen the skull let alone examined it carefully.  If you can’t be bothered availing yourself of everything Lloyd presents then here are a few things I want to add here.

1. ‘Starchild’ is a misnomer.  It’s a label unfortunately picked up when research began 12 or 13 years ago.  At that time it was assumed to be a child, but since proven not so through it’s dental condition.  The ‘star’ part has also unfairly prejudiced opinion and has been very unfortunate from the credibility perspective.

2. People on discussion boards and in blog articles claim it to be cradleboarded or hydrocephalic or suffering from progeria or any number of physical deformations and/or genetic disorders.  These people have not actually examined the skull.  All of these conditions have been discounted.  Again, do your own research before arriving at a conclusion.  Forming your opinion based on that of people like these, rather than those that have spent time physically examining the skull is irresponsible.

3. People on discussion boards and in blog articles often claim that Lloyd is in it for the money.  He’s using the skull’s fame (or infamy, however you want to look at it) to make an easy living and scam the gullible out of money.  I can assure you he’s not, but even if he was, that still doesn’t change the nature of what he holds.  People use this as a smokescreen to cloud the issue.  I prefer to stick with the facts.  It IS a real bone skull.  It IS incredibly unusual and it DOES deserve a full scientific explanation, whatever that may be.

4. One popular question is that if it really is that unusual, why aren’t experts clamoring to be involved?  A great question.  Lloyd has been like a bulldog on this thing for a long time, he been consistent and persistent with his research and efforts.  He hasn’t backed down in the face of ridicule, personal attacks and personal hardship.  All the while, the evidence has been growing steadily.  Now, I’ll ask the first question in a different way; if this thing has such a simple, mundane explanation, why haven’t the ‘experts’ been queuing up to disprove, debunk and discredit?  In fact the skull is available to be examined by ANY scientist.  It’s open to those who might wish to conclusively disprove, debunk and discredit by proper objective examination or DNA testing or whatever.  The fact is none have been willing to step up and do so.  Why??

Something is for sure, one way or another, the Starchild Skull will prove to be an amazing artifact.

Three Parts… Three Quarters… 75%.

Posted in 75%, Progress Report with tags on July 1, 2012 by Aaron

The first 25% took 6 months, it took a little over a year to bring it to 50%, and now achieving 75%, has taken one year and nine months. As I explained in the 25 – 50% review, the book split for the last half of this endeavor is 21/21 – I now have 65 of the 86 books required to reach my goal.  While bringing my collection to this point is gratifying from a purely statistical perspective, this has been the most unfulfilling period from the point of view of my commitment to reading and this blog.  In addition, I’ve been several hundred dollars distracted by Gene Wolfe and Brian Aldiss.

In the last progress report, I bemoaned the fact that my reading and contribution to this blog was poor.  This time around it has been poorer, and is a reflection of my lifestyle and general deportment over the past year or so.  But setting my personal situation and attitude aside, what about the books??  Let’s check out these 21 books.

Gnome Press: 50 - 75%

You’ll notice an odd detail on these books.  Aside from the nasty reflections, they all have a kind of seam-line down the center of the spine.  This is the heat-shrink plastic casing I put on all my books now in addition to the standard Brodart dust jacket covers that I apply.  This extra layer of protection keeps the atmosphere (humidity, dust etc.) away from the books.  Vacuum-packing them would be nicer, but I don’t have access to that kind of equipment here.

If you were counting, there are actually 22 books here.  You will see the group includes the Gnome Junior jacketed version of Murray Leinster’s The Forgotten Planet.  As you may know, I picked up this title in the regular issue jacket some time ago.  This version is here because it’s a high profile addition to my GP collection.  But because I already have this title, I haven’t factored it’s $300 price tag into the ‘Most Expensive’, ‘Cheapest’ and ‘Average Price’ categories below.  You might say something like “Hey, what about the limited edition The Thirty-First of February.  You’re including that as a stand-alone title.”  Yes I am.  I consider that a completely different publication to the regular version.  It has several important binding differences and was specially created to stand apart from the other.  The Forgotten Planet here is a dust jacket variant only.
Another thing you may have picked up on is that The Menace from Earth has no dust jacket.  This is because the jacket is away at Craft Bookbinding Co. getting restored.

Best Condition:
Interplanetary Hunter by Arthur K. Barnes – a solid Near Fine if not Fine.  Pohl’s Drunkard’s Walk and The Bird of Time by Wallace West both come close.

Worst Condition:
The Carnelian Cube by Fletcher Pratt and L. Sprague de Camp – Poor.  Quite frankly, I don’t know why I bought it.

Most Expensive:
Against the Fall of Night by Arthur C. Clarke – $235.

The Bird of Time by Wallace West – $10.  A nice little bargain.

50 – 75% Average Price:
$54.  If we include aforementioned variant of The Forgotten Planet, then this average leaps to $65.  But we don’t, so it’s up from the $47 for the second quarter, but less than the $57 for the first.

Best & Worst Read:
Reading is an area where I hang my head in shame.  Of the books in this bracket, I have only read Mel Oliver and Space Rover on Mars.  Sure, I read The Thirty-First of February and The Forgotten Planet earlier as part of the previous sections, and did listen to both The Menace from Earth and Against the Fall of Night a long time ago in audio form, but of the titles we are really concerned about here I’ve actually read only the one.  However, Mel & Rover is a super read, classic quality YASF.

Surprise Package:
Surprises can be both positive and negative, right??  Is a negative surprise called a shock??  Anyways, Robert Heinlein’s The Menace from Earth fits that bill.  I commented on that in detail in this post here.

Best Moments:
Procuring Against the Fall of Night and the limited edition The Thirty-First of February at reasonable prices – $235 and $52 (wow) respectively.
Adding the Gnome Junior jacketed version of The Forgotten Planet to the bookshelf.
My first Conan title – Conan the Conqueror.  Getting a Conan title is a nice satisfactory tick off the list.

The Grey Magician with a Porcelain Beard??

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on May 29, 2012 by Aaron

Picked up another couple of titles over the past couple of days.  The Porcelain Magician by Frank Owen and Brian Aldiss’ Greybeard.  The acquisition of The Porcelain Magician is significant as it brings my GP collection up to the 75% mark.  Expect a Progress Report when it arrives.  Greybeard is just another Aldiss first edition to add to the library.

Close Up: The Wolfe Archipelago

Posted in Close Up, Gene Wolfe with tags , , , on May 15, 2012 by Aaron

closeupGene Wolfe

Another small expansion to my collection of signed Gene Wolfe firsts, and another Wolfe title from specialty publisher Ziesing Brothers.  A long time ago, I picked up a signed The Castle of the Otter (not one of the 100 signed limited editions, but one of the 420 blue cloth bound regular editions that had been subsequently inscribed and signed..) which (as I understand it..) was Ziesing’s first real book publication.  I also have Free Live Free, which was Mark V. Ziesing’s (as they were now known) fourth book and Wolfe’s last with them.  The book we’re concerned with here was their second.  So, the brief history of Gene Wolfe as related to Ziesing publishers has been covered, let’s take a look at this lovely book.  Click the images for a larger view.
This copy is almost perfect.  It’s a solid Fine if not Mint.  That’s Mr Wolfe himself flying across the cover, by the way…  Presumably that’s his archipelago below.
Looks fantastic.
As issued with the DeMarco bookplate laid in.  I specifically asked about this before I made the purchase.  There was another copy I inquired about that did not retain the bookplate, and they were asking $80.  This is why resources like Currey and (in this case) Chalker & Owings are so valuable to collectors.  They tell you about these little details that are so important to the value of a book.  Do your research before buying collectable books!
A slightly unusual detail in this book is that the signature page is tipped in at the back of the book, not at the front as seems to be usual.
Signed by Gene Wolfe, Carl Lundgren and Rick DeMarco.  As you can see, this is one of the exclusive 200.

Year: 1983
Paid: $60
Art: Cover: Carl Lundgren, Interior: Rick DeMarco
Copies: 200 (a further 820 were bound differently, see below)
Binding: Orange cloth with gold lettering on the spine and Mr. Wolfe’s signature in gold on the front.
Publication: Ziesing Brothers; 1st edition so stated
Chalker & Owings: THE WOLFE ARCHIPELAGO, by Gene Wolfe, 1983, pp.119, 200 copies bound in orange cloth with tipped-in signature and numbering sheet, signed by the author and both artists in the back, $16.95; 820 copies bound in vinyl covered boards without limitation page, $35.00. Contents: Foreword/ The Island of Dr. Death and Other Stories/ The Death of Dr. Island/ The Doctor of Death Island. Illustrated by Rick DeMarco; jacket by Carl Lundgren. Points: A Demarco bookplate that is a bookplate was laid in all copies. (huh??)
Currey: Absent.  I think because this was published after Currey was compiled.
Comments: Not much to add.  A beautiful copy.  Ah, the back of the jacket is blank – just solid white, which is why I didn’t feature it here.
Expand Upon: wikipedia.com –  see Gene Wolfe’s page, Internet Speculative Fiction Database


Close Up: The Forgotten Planet

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

closeupMurray Leinster

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


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: