By 1955 I had exhausted all of the books in the Bellaire, Texas library on earthquakes, volcanoes, and dinosaurs. It was a sad day when I finished the last Roy Chapman Andrews book. So I began looking around for something else to read and came across a book called Danger, Dinosaurs! By Richard Marsten. Well, it had dinosaurs in the title, so what the heck. After all, I had whined, kicked, cried, and eventually badgered my parents into taking me to see the film Blackboard Jungle, certain that Tarzan had to be in any movie with “Jungle” in the title. Was I ever disappointed. But how can a book called Danger, Dinosaur! go wrong? And I read it, and it was great. The protagonist goes on a tour back in time to hunt dinosaurs. The problem was, the group got stranded, and the leader of the hunt was killed, and if you die before you were born, you never existed.
Holy cow! This stuff was great. Well, I looked around and found The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron. Zowie this stuff was good. And then I went on to Asimov and Heinlein and all the wonders of science fiction, with the occasional fantasy thrown in, like Three Hearts and Three Lions.
There wasn’t much fantasy in those days, actually, not much until Donald Wolheim pirated LoTR. I was a teen-ager by then and found a copy of The Fellowship of the Ring in a little mom and pop bookstore one day on my way home from my paper route. So I bought it, but didn’t read it. I hated reading book 1 of anything. Once I had accumulated all three of the books I read them non-stop. I still remember lying on the couch with my mother yelling, “Bud (that was my nickname), get off of that &%$@# couch and go do something!” To get my attention, Mother sometimes displayed the vocabulary of a sailor. Eighteen hours, I think, it took me 18 hours to read LoTR one weekend.
About that same time I discovered Andre Norton’s Key Out of Time in the High School library, and it went on and on…in those days there was so little published it was easy to read everything that came out every month and still have time to catch up on old stuff at the library. I never discovered the pulps. I don’t know why. Maybe when I saw them I didn’t have any money, or what I had I spent on comics. Ha! Robert Silverberg told me he once had a quarter and had to chose between buying a pack of cigarettes or a copy of Galaxy magazine. He chose Galaxy. Good choice!
It was also about that time that I discovered Analog magazine and that was the first magazine to which I subscribed. John Campbell and his corral of writers—man was that a sight for sore eyes every month—in my mail box. And I loved the reviews by P. Schuyler Miller. In Fort Worth, Texas it was hard to tell what new books were out, much less find them.
Which brings us to the cover of Planet Stories here. This Alfred Coppel story led to his novel The Rebel of Rhada which he wrote under the pen name of Robert Cham Gilman. Miller reviewed the book so I had to have it, but he also mentioned that this was a pen name for a famous SF writer. “Who,” I wondered? Asimov? Heinlein? Well, I finally found out, but being deprived of the nutritional goodness of Planet Stories during my formative years, I was not enlightened. Alfred Coppel?
So, I have watched the field grow and shrink over the past 55 years pulsing like…well, like a pulsar. SF shrinks to almost nothing and fantasy grows, threatening to absorb everything—then it reaches a limit of some sort—some invisible consumer-driven wall—and now SF is growing again with John Scalzi and Robert Charles Wilson and Michael Flynn and Ben Bova (who has been there all along) and Richard K. Morgan and there’s lots of good stuff to read.
And that’s what this blog is about—good stuff to read, old and new, with a slight lean toward the pulps, hence the blog name. But anything science fictional or fantastic is likely to show up here. Comments and guest blogs appreciated. “Gort…” now where did I leave that automaton?
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