The original Star Wars came out when I was in elementary school, and it was a mind-warping experience. I had come to science fiction and fantasy through comics, but it was the sense of wonder and excitement this movie generated that turned me from reading mystery books to reading science fiction books checked out from the school library. As I read above grade level, I was soon searching out science fiction in the adult section of the public library and in book stores. Like a second hand book store at the flea market.
This place sold second hand paperbacks for a quarter, IIRC. The covers were stripped, which meant the books had been reported to the publishers as having been been pulped and the covers returned for credit. In other words, they were technically stolen. I didn’t know that then. There were a number of titles I recognized, such as some H. P, Lovecraft. I picked up The Best of Jack Williamson there, and later The Best of L. Sprague de Camp.
The Williamson volume started with stories from the 30s and went up to the 70s. There was an introduction by Frederik Pohl and an afterward by Williamson. This was the pattern of the series. An introduction by an author or editor associated with the writer of the book, and if the author was still living (most were but not all) he or she contributed an afterward. My mind was blown. David Hartwell once said the golden age of science fiction is thirteen. I was, and it was. Continue reading →
“The Veil of Astellar” Thrilling Wonder Stories, Spring 1944
There are going to be spoilers in this post. I’ll put them below the Read More cutoff, but be advised they’re there.
Edmond Hamilton wrote in his introduction to The Best of Leigh Brackett that the narrator of this story, Steve Vance, was modeled on Humphrey Bogart. This was pure speculation on Hamilton’s part because Brackett wasn’t saying. I’ve been a big Bogart fan ever since we watched Casablanca in sophomore English in high school, and it’s still my favorite film. It’s not hard to hear Bogart’s voice when you read this story. Hamilton said he did every time he read it.
“The Last Days of Shandakor”
Originally published in Startling Stories, April 1952
So here’s a Mars story, a planet we’ve not looked at yet in this series of posts on Brackett. As cool as her Venus stories are (and we’re not done looking at them), Brackett’s stories of Mars are what made her reputation.
In this one, an ethnologist named John Ross is on Mars studying the various tribes and hoping to be awarded an endowed chair at a university on Earth for his work. He’s sitting in a dive, waiting for the final preparations to be made for his caravan, when a man walks in. Ross can see immediately there’s something different about this person. Everyone pretends he’s not there. When Ross asks his caravan master about the man, the caravan master tells him to forget about him. Curiosity getting the better of him, Ross approaches the man and engages him in conversation. He’ll wish he’d heeded the caravan master’s advice. Continue reading →