Archive for Men Against the Stars

Beautiful Cover Art

Posted in Adventures in Science Fiction Series with tags , on June 5, 2011 by Aaron

I mentioned recently that I’d picked up a couple of nice dust jackets.  I thought I’d scan them and share.  Both are first state jackets; I have the second states as well.  Check out Close Up II for Men Against the Stars and the Close Up for Journey to Infinity for second state views.  Click the images to go through to my Gnome Press Flickr site where you can enjoy big 3000 pixel wide images.

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A New Jacket…

Posted in New Arrivals with tags , , , , , , on May 25, 2011 by Aaron

Well, three jackets actually… And two new books.

From Jim at The Exiles Bookshop over at abebooks.com

Near Fine copies of The Bird of Time by Wallace West and Judith Merril’s SF’59, which completes the SF’xx series from Gnome Press.  Though starting with GP, the series ran on under a different title with other publishers into the 1960s, – up until 1967 with SF12, I believe.

The two of the jackets I picked up are first states of Men Against the Stars and Journey to Infinity, and the other is from Earthman’s Burden.  All three are in mint condition – never having been on books by the look – with absolutely no creasing at all.  Can someone answer me as to why?  Could they be surplus from print runs?  This begs the question: what should I do with them?? Should I put them on the books (I have them all)?  I’m inclined to think that a protected jacket is safest actually on a book rather than stored away somewhere…

Anyway, I’m very happy with the service I got from Jim and recommend you drop by for a look.

The Complete Book of Outer Space – Part 10 of 14

Posted in 10 - Interstellar Flight, 1953, The Complete Book of Outer Space with tags , , , on August 9, 2009 by Aaron

Interstellar Flight

This installment was written by Leslie R. Shepherd, then technical director of the British Interplanetary Society.  It is a very interesting piece, as many of the challenges and much of the science haven’t changed a lot in the intervening years.  Distance and time being the two major considerations along with possible methods of propulsion to help overcome these issues.
A couple of the observations within reminded me of Brian Aldiss’ novel Non-Stop, A.E. van Vogt’s short story ‘Far Centarus’ in Men Against the Stars and another Gnome Press book Starman’s Quest by Robert Silverberg.

View this document on Scribd

I don’t know what the next chapter is, I’m in New Zealand at present and this book isn’t.  You’ll have to wait a couple of weeks to find out…

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.

First time for everything…

Posted in Book Care with tags on May 23, 2009 by Aaron

I’ve been working on a post regarding my philosophy in collecting these titles.  What I mean by that is the way I go about it.  Do I buy acceptable copies or save up for the best or whatever.  Anyway, for the first time a couple of days ago, I picked up a copy of a book I already have.  I’m not too certain of the wisdom behind it, but it was of one of my faves – Men Against the Stars.  The attraction factors were manifold.  Great price – $16, better condition book and second state jacket (I have the first, as you know).  The jacket does have a little tape internally, we’ll get a closer look at that when it arrives.  Here’s hoping it lives up to my expectations…

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

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