Archive for Ric Binkley

Review: Mutant

Posted in 1953, 3:Lunar, Review with tags , , , , on December 29, 2009 by Aaron

Lewis Padgett
1953

This is the third of three books by the Kuttner/Moore team that Gnome Press have in their stable, and like the one other copy I have – Robots Have No Tails… – this is a collection though presented (albeit rather thinly) in novel form.

Each chapter is a short story in the ‘Baldy’ series. There is a brief intro to each that provides a linking device by which these tales are tied together. A Baldy crashes his ‘copter in some remote mountains and accesses shared memories recollecting important events in Baldy history while he waits against hope for rescue. I found this glue rather unnecessary and again, for me, it was a distraction and detraction from tales that were on the whole pretty good as stand-alone pieces – I could have quite readily inferred the progression satisfactorily myself.

Baldies are a post-apocalyptic (or post ‘Big Mistake’ as it’s called) human mutation that have telepathic powers. In actual fact, ‘mutant’ is a bit of a misnomer. The term is traditionally used to describe a one-off genetic aberration such as those sported by the various X-Men, by Johnny Alpha and his Strontium Dog colleagues or to a lesser extent the abilities of the Children of he Atom. Baldies are really a different species arising from a mutation – not ‘mutants’ per se, but a brand new species of the homo genus. This Big Mistake caused an identical genetic modification in some people so a small percentage of post-Mistake offspring exhibit dominant Baldy traits – Baldies become a permanent and growing percentage of the population.

So, I hear you ask, why were they called ‘Baldies’? Well, they are bald as you can see from Ric Binkley’s cover art, but further, have a complete lack of bodily hair. Because of this, they were able to be readily identified and most resorted to the habit of wearing hairpieces to camouflage themselves from society at large. A prudent move as Baldies often engender a certain amount of fear in most normal people due to their mind-reading abilities and as a result suffer from some discrimination. But outside of the extremist ‘Paranoid’ Baldy faction, they are generally understanding of many humans’ attitude towards them in their obviously dominant position, and seek to bring a reconciliation that will be satisfactory in the long term.

Just on the note of conflict, I just want to mention a cultural idiosyncrasy of the times – the duel. All men carry a dagger so they can engage in duels if challenged. What is it about this form of conflict resolution that so appealed to SF writers back then? It seems a bit odd and rather antiquated from the viewpoint of today, The great RAH used this device in his early work Beyond This Horizon (with firearms though, not blades). But as I so often encourage, you have to read these books with a certain amount of tolerance and with one mental foot in the 1940s or 50s. These things (the duels) go to the death, so they aren’t taken lightly and to engage with a Baldy is tantamount to suicide as they can read your mind as to what moves you’re about to pull.

As I mentioned earlier, the stories depict several key scenarios in Baldy history – they are snapshots of events leading to the inevitable confrontation between them and regular humans. This culminates in a solitary Baldy having to make the final decision as to whether to extinguish the threat to Baldy existence or let fate determine how the relationship between the two species develops.

Aside from those unnecessary linking intrusions I really enjoyed the tales. In contrast to mutant fare we have been getting in the modern sci-fi era – isolated and/or disparate mutations affecting individuals in radically different and bizarre ways – I liked the treatment here. A single mutation consistent and breeding human mutation evolution that has the potential to subsume the inferior (or at least non-telepathic) regular human version. In some ways this brings to mind John Wyndham’s story The Midwich Cuckoos, but the Baldies aren’t evil as the children in that story apparently are.

What Henry Kuttner (all subsequent editions are credited to him, see the book’s ISFDB page – I suspected as much from the style of the prose) does well here is conveying the sense of community that Baldies experience. They have a telepathic link that’s kind of analagous to the Internet – each individual is kind of server. They can all choose to partake of the resource, or ‘log out’ and resist intruding on, or intrusion from others. It’s quite skillfully handled given that it’s a tough thing to try to impart what is actually happening in the mind. Let me give you an example:

They looked at each other in silence. Their minds touched and sprang apart and then touched again, tentatively, with light thoughts that leaped from point to point as gingerly as if the ideas were ice-floes that might sink beneath the full weight of conscious focus.
I thought I loved you . . . perhaps I did . . . yes, I too . . . but now there can’t be . . . (sudden, rebellious denial) . . . no, it’s not true, there can’t ever be rightness between us . . . not as if we were ordinary people . . . we’d always remember that picture, how I looked (abrupt sheering off from the memory) . . . (agonized repudiation of it) . . . no couldn’t help that . . . always between us . . . rooted too deeply . . . and anyhow, Cas – (sudden closing off of both minds at once, before even the thought-image had time to form.)
Alexa stood up. “I’m going to town,” she said.

page 105/106

That’s a bit lengthy, but it gives you a great example of how he’s handled it. Pretty slick if you ask me. Short passages of mind communication are scattered throughout the book and really help us become part of the Baldy experience – not just a third-party to it.

To wrap this up, Mutant is an enjoyable read that presents some interesting dilemmas and makes us think about how we might handle being in such a position as they. However, you don’t need to be a telepath to work out what’s happening over the course of the stories, so if you read this collection, keep in mind they are tales separated in time and just skip the linking interludes. You will enjoy it a bit more.

Close Up: Mutant

Posted in 1953, Close Up with tags , , , , on December 3, 2009 by Aaron

closeupLewis Padgett
1953

It arrived almost one year ago – the longest any book in my collection has been before before making it onto the blog.  This was listed as a Near Fine when I purchased it, but I think it’s not really up to that standard.  More like a VG or VG+.  Interesting if somewhat disturbing cover by my fave Ric Binkley, not one of his better efforts in my opinion though.  Let’s have a look see.
Very bright cover.  The jacket is in pretty good condition except for the spine.  The boards aren’t too bad either.
No staining or any other major problems except this:

It’s had a bump on the top front edge at some time.  You can see the corresponding knock on the jacket below.


The block shows no discoloration though is perhaps a little grubby around the edges.
The head of the spine is the major issue with this copy, it’s been bumped and the jacket is damaged.

The tails ok though, if a little soiled.

The back of the jacket looks nice but also a bit soiled.  Not too bad though.

Year: 1953
Paid: $75
Art: Ric Binkley
Quantity: 4000 copies
Binding: Turquoise blue boards with darker blue lettering on the spine.
GP Edition Notes: 1st edition so stated.
Comments: A little overpriced at $75 perhaps, but after all this is the Lewis Padgett team. Reasonable condition all-round except for the top of the jacket on the spine.
Expand Upon: wikipedia.com, Internet Speculative Fiction Database

condition

Close Up: The Starmen

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

closeupLeigh Brackett
1952

This was a snatch buy from eBay, one of those ones that comes up every so often. I have favorite searches set up so they are emailed to me every day. I know exactly when they arrive so I can get the latest listings as soon as I can. This was listed as a ‘Buy It Now or Best Offer’ auction. Well, as soon as I saw it was listed for only $60 I grabbed it. It’s always a risk – I could only see the cover – but it looked pretty good and this is quite a pricey title to pick up from a dealer.  You would have to pay at least $100 or so for for a copy in this condition from a dealer, and more likely much more.  There is a bit of foxing inside the jacket too.  Lets have a look.

Wonderful cover art from Rick Binkley.  Cover is nice and bright, no damage.  Just a bit of wrinkling at the top of the spine.  Concern becomes apparent when we remove the jacket.

You can see the mildewy stains on the front board and particularly on the spine.  The rear board is in much the same condition as the front.  If anyone knows how to perhaps remove or treat this issue somehow, please let me know.
The top and bottom view reveal no surprises, just a bit of dust spotting and discoloration on the top there.
And the bottom looks pretty good.  The spine sits nice and the block is hardly discolored at all.
Likewise the head and tail.  Just a touch of wrinkling at the head…
..and no problem on the tail.  Very, very nice, in fact.  There is no chipping and any rubbing is practically non-existent around the whole book.
I mentioned the foxing inside the cover, we can see a bit externally too.

The edge of the wrap-around is pretty mottled there.
Like a few other books, this one has that little touch that I really appreciate.  You can see the twelve signs of the zodiac introducing each chapter.

Fantastic.
The jacket has one small score with a small hole in it.  You can see it on the edge of the wrap-around center-pic below.

The rear looks great.  No significant staining or wear.  Super.

Year: 1952
Paid: $60
Art: Ric Binkley
Quantity: 5000 copies
Binding: Slate gray boards with black lettering on the spine.
GP Edition Notes: 1st edition so stated.
Comments: A nice copy. This is definitely a very good buy at $60.  Shame about the staining on the boards. Anyone know how to clean them??  Can they be cleaned or at least tidied up a little??
Expand Upon: wikipedia.com, Internet Speculative Fiction Database

condition

Close Up: The Mixed Men

Posted in 1952, Book Care, Close Up with tags , , on September 28, 2009 by Aaron

closeupA.E. van Vogt
1952

This was the second Gnome Press book I purchased after Iceworld.  It arrived back in November last year and I read it not long after.  I just love the cover.  As you probably know, I’m a huge Ric Binkley fan and this is period SF art at it’s best.  What a crazy setup for the bridge of a starship, and I just love it.
It’s a little tatty around all edges, especially at the head and tail of the spine there is some chipping.The spine is a bit loose, you can see in these pics that it’s standing on a slight angle.  With a tight spine it would stand nice and straight.

This is also the second Gnome Press book I read (or third? The Robot and the Man may have been second…), and is a victim of an early attempt at book care wisdom.  The staining you can see on the boards comes from my very own hands.  I thought in order to protect the dust jacket I should remove it to avoid undue wear because of all the handling that gets done while reading.  Big mistake.  I have read elsewhere on the Internet that removing the dust jacket is a good idea, but experience tells me otherwise, as you can see.  The staining comes from the oil on your hands – no matter how clean your hands are there is always a small amount of moisture and oil present.  Repeated handling like this rubs it into the boards.  The wisdom is, as far as I’m concerned and what I would strongly recommend: DO NOT remove the dust jacket for reading.  However, you MUST ensure that the jacket is in a Brodart or similar protective sleeve.  If not, don’t subject the book to any handling (or as little as possible) until you do get a sleeve on.  In my experience, having the jacket in a protective sleeve and on the book is excellent protection while reading.

So, lets move on and check out the rest of the book.
You can see the lean on the spine quite clearly.  I think this is the worst book I have for this particular defect.  Note the scuffing and wear on the bottom edge of the boards and the base of the spine especially.
A closer look at the head of the spine reveals that chipping I mentioned earlier.
Also present on the tail, and you can see very well that wear there.  The jacket also has a distinct crease on the front running the length of the hinge.
The front paste-down has a beautiful bookplate glued in.  Austin P. Haller, MD.  I wish I had some way of finding him, I’d love to ask him about the book.
That is one stylish bookplate.  The pages are fox-free.  Very little discoloration at all.
The back of the book exhibits a few chips and some wear.
Quite clean though.  I remember distinctly when I got this title, looking at the back and thinking, “Wow.. will I ever get these books?  They look so cool”.  Well, I have all of those four now.  Men Against the Stars, Journey to Infinity, Five Science Fiction Novels and Travelers of Space (which I haven’t read yet).

Year: 1952
Paid: $41
Art: Ric Binkley
Quantity: 5000
Binding: Navy boards with red lettering on the spine.
GP Edition Notes: 1st edition so stated.
Comments: The dust jacket is a little poor and I wish I was more aware when I was reading the thing.  Maybe a tad over-priced at $41.
Expand Upon: wikipedia.com, Internet Speculative Fiction Database

condition

Close Up: Shambleau And Others

Posted in 1953, Close Up with tags , , on August 10, 2009 by Aaron

closeupC.L. Moore
1953

I live in South Korea as you might know, but searching the wonderful Internet, I found this copy in New Zealand a few weeks ago.  I’m a Kiwi, and I was going back to NZ for summer vacation, so I purchased this (along with a couple of other GP titles) and had it sent to my folks house to await my arrival.  I knew the significant flaw it had, but aside from that I also knew it was pretty good.  It met my expectations.

Now, I’m in a bit of a quandary as to how to grade this.  I hope someone can offer an opinion.  I think this is a solid Near Fine if not for that darned flaw.  I’m just not sure how far to downgrade it.  Have a look.
You can see it in this pic, but before we focus on it, let’s enjoy the good stuff.  The cover is just a little soiled but still nice and bright.  The art is another super Ric Binkley special.  Edges are nice as you can see.
A bit of reflection down the spine – I shot this outside in the fantastic sunshine of my hometown, Napier, not in the semi-controlled pseudo-lightbox I have back in Korea.  Sunshine isn’t exactly the best, but it’s served it’s purpose here. You can see a bit of darkening on the bottom of the front board in the center – this comes from reading the book without a dust jacket on.  Otherwise, aside from that and the ever-present bruising on the head and tail of the spine the boards are nice.
If we crack it open there is some foxing on the rear free endpaper.

Strangely enough, the rest of the book is free from such blemishes.


The block looks nice.  Very white and the spine sits nice and square.  A couple of spots on the top there and the edges of the jacket are a touch worn.  From the bottom you can see the big problem.  Lets take a closer look.
 
Big tear, not good.  It speaks for itself.
The spine extremities are reasonable though.


A small amount of general wear.  A bit of unfortunate chipping to the book at these points however.  If we flip it over and check out the back at the top there is a short closed tear.

Nothing too major though.  The back is reasonably clean and clear.

Looks good.  All in all a pretty nice copy of a sought-after book.

Year: 1953
Paid: $31
Art: Ric Binkley
Quantity: 4000 copies
Binding: Green boards with deep red lettering on spine.
GP Edition Notes: 1st edition so stated.
Comments: That darned tear is the big let-down. Despite this, $31 is a darned good price for a very popular and usually pricey title.
Expand Upon: wikipedia.com, Internet Speculative Fiction Database

condition

Close Up: Space Lawyer

Posted in 1953, Close Up with tags , , on July 6, 2009 by Aaron

closeupNat Schachner
1953

This is a title I’ve been looking forward to acquiring.  It’s always had some sort of mysterious allure for me.  I’m not sure why, perhaps it’s the name, perhaps the color(!), perhaps it’s because I love cover art by Ric Binkley.  Whatever it is, I have it now and we get to check it out in detail.  It’s a little on the rough side, but not too bad.  Let’s have a look at the cover.  Just love the art.  Cool.
The major issue with the jacket (well, one of the two major issues) is a bit of soiling.  It’s evident on all parts of the jacket, and particularly noticeable on the spine.  The other issues on the dust jacket are the wear and chipping.  We’ll get a closer look at them later.
The boards also have a couple of issues.  A little staining along the bottom of the front board and some kind of discoloration on the upper area of the back.
I wonder what caused that…  Anyway, the spine is nice and square and still quite tight.  Not much damage to the edges of the jacket.
Very little staining to the block, good.  I did mention wear earlier, so let’s have a closer look at the head and tail of the spine.
The head is quite nice, no real damage there.  The tail shows some chipping though.  That’s not the worst of it on the jacket, however.  But before we look at the real nasty, I just want to take a peek inside.
Very slight discoloration starting to become apparent, but what I really wanted to show were those nice arcs.  Yet again, nice little touches from Gnome Press which I (as you know) appreciate and love.
There is a bit of foxing to the rear free end-paper and paste down.  It’s a bit hard to make out in the photo, but there’s some wrinkling to the free end-paper too.
And a bit of wear to the right-had upper corner there.
I pointed out the soiling earlier, it’s quite prominent on the spine.
Nice close-up of Ric Binkley’s spacecraft.  But you can see that soiling.  At first I thought it may have been foxing coming through from the rear side of the jacket, but after having the jacket protector off for these pics, I could see it wasn’t.  Does anyone have any advice with regards to removing this?  Gentle work with a soft eraser seems to be mildly successful.
And there it is.  The worst part of the book.  Nasty, nasty chip off the top rear corner and a significant chip off the front corner, along with a closed tear.  This is what really lets this copy down.  Quite obvious from the rear view too.
Dammit.  Anyway, you can see the general soiling here also.
Those faults aside, this copy still represents a pretty good bargain.  $15 is a very reasonable price for this book even in this condition.

Year: 1953
Paid: $15
Art: Ric Binkley
Quantity: 4000 copies
Binding: Yellow boards with emerald green lettering on spine.
GP Edition Notes: 1st edition so stated.
Comments: Reasonable condition.  A few quite significant flaws, but $15 is still a nice price.
Expand Upon: wikipedia.com, Internet Speculative Fiction Database

condition

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