by James Wallace Harris, Thursday, March 1, 2018
For the past few weeks, I’ve been reading and researching stories from the pulp magazine Astounding Science Fiction (1930-1960). I’m slowly learning its history, impact, and legacy. I never bought a new issue of Astounding at the newsstand. I did start buying Analog Science Fiction & Fact in the mid-sixties. That was Astounding’s new name starting in 1960. However, by then I was already reading stories from Astounding reprinted in old books I found in libraries and used bookstores.
From reading blogs and writing people on the internet I’m learning there are different generations of fans. The first generation, the G.I. generation, started reading Astounding in the 1930s and 1940s. This generation has mostly died off. The second generation, the Silent generation, bought Astounding in the 1940s and 1950s and bought the hardback reprints new in bookstores in the 1950s. If they are still alive they are well into their 70s, 80s, and 90s. The third generation, the Baby Boomers, never bought new copies of Astounding or the first edition hardbacks that reprinted Astounding but discovered its stories in anthologies and novels on dusty library shelves.
I’m meeting those Baby Boomers now online at Facebook, Yahoo! Groups, Goodreads, and other websites, who fondly remember discover the legacy of Astounding Science Fiction. As youngsters we grew up reading science fiction books for young adults by Robert A. Heinlein, Andre Norton, and those published in the Winston Science Fiction series and then stumbled onto the classic anthologies by Healy & McComas, Groff Conklin, Martin Greenberg, John W. Campbell, and then finding the novels from Gnome Press, Fantasy Press, Doubleday, Simon & Shuster, and Prime Press that reprinted the legendary serials from Astounding.
This all happened in the 1960s. I sometimes call it Baby Boomer science fiction, but that describes the readers and not what was read. The stories we loved originally appeared in Astounding Science Fiction in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. The best its content was reprinted in hardback in the 1950s. By the time we found those volumes in the 1960s they were well read and worn. Some still had the classic dust jackets that make them expensive collector items today, but others were already rebound in hideous orange, tan, brown, and aqua colors that libraries used back then.
For the nostalgic thrill of it, I’ve decided to recall those first edition hardbacks. If I was rich and reckless with owning things, I’d collect them. However, I’m quite happy when I can find beautiful hi-resolution scans of the dust jackets just to trigger those remaining synapses that remember seeing them in my favorite libraries of childhood.
Links are to Wikipedia or whatever has the most useful and descriptive content about the book. Most of the dust jacket scans were nicked from the Internet Science Fiction Database, and I did almost all of my research at that invaluable site. I’m trying to find the highest resolution scans possible. If you know of better copies let me know. Of the anthologies and fix-up novels, I’ve worked to only remember volumes that mostly used content from Astounding Science Fiction.
I put in parenthesis the dates the tale originally ran in Astounding and the publisher. I’ve probably left out many famous titles, just let me know.
Adventures in Time and Space edited by Raymond J. Healy and J. Francis McComas
Slan by A. E. van Vogt – (Sep-Dec40) Arkham House
The Legon of Space by Jack Williamson – (Apr-Jul34) Fantasy Press
The Mightiest Machine by John W. Campbell (Dec34-Apr35) Hadley Publishing Co.
Venus Equilateral by George O. Smith – (collection) Prime Press
The Weapon Makers by A. E. van Vogt – (Feb-Apr43) Hadley Publishing
… And Some Were Human by Lester del Rey – (collection) Prime Press
Beyond This Horizon by Robert A. Heinlein – (Apr-May42) Fantasy Press
Divide and Rule L. Sprage de Camp – (1939, 1941) Fantasy Press
Final Blackout by L. Ron Hubbard – (Apr-Jun40) Hadley Publishing
A Treasury of Science Fiction ed. Groff Conklin – (collection) Crown
Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell – (collection) Shasta
Without Sorcery by Theodore Sturgeon – (collection) Prime Press
The World of Ā by A. E. van Vogt – (Aug-Oct45) Simon & Schuster
The Humanoids by Jack Williams – (Mar-May48) Simon & Schuster
Pattern for Conquest by George O. Smith – (Mar-May46) Gnome Press
Sixth Column by Robert A. Heinlein – (Jan-Mar41) Gnome Press
The Skylark of Valeron by Edward E. Smith – (Aug34-Feb35) Fantasy Press
The Cometeers by Jack Williamson – (May-July36, Apr-Jun39) Fantasy Press
Cosmic Engineers by Clifford Simak – (Feb-Apr39) Gnome Press
Fury by Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore – (May-Jul47) Grosset & Dunlap
Gather, Darkness! by Fritz Leiber – (May-Jul43)
I, Robot by Isaac Asimov – (collection) Gnome Press
Needle by Hall Clement – (May-Jun50) Doubleday
Masters of Time by A. E. van Vogt – (fix-up) Fantasy Press
Men Against the Stars ed. Martin Greenberg – (anthology) Gnome Press
Nomad by George O. Smith – (Dec44-Feb45) Prime Press
Seetee Shock by Jack Williamson – (Feb49-Apr49) Simon & Schuster
The Voyage of the Space Beagle by A. E. van Vogt – (fix-up) Simon & Schuster
Waldo and Magic, Inc. by Robert A. Heinlein (collection) Doubleday
Dreadful Sanctuary by Eric Frank Russell – (Jun-Aug48) Fantasy Press
Foundation by Isaac Asimov – (fix-up) Gnome Press
Gray Lensman by Edward E. Smith – (Nov39-Jan40) Fantasy Press
Journey to Infinity ed. Martin Greenberg – (collection) Gnome Press
Renaissance by Raymond F. Jones – (Jul-Sep44) Gnome Press
SeeTee Ship by Jack Williamson – (Jan-Feb43) Gnome Press
Tomorrow and Tomorrow and The Fairy Chessmen by Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore (1946, 1947)
The Astounding Science Fiction Anthology ed. John W. Campbell – (collection) Simon & Schuster
City by Clifford Simak – (fix-up) Gnome Press
Cloak of Aesir by John W. Campbell, Jr. – (collection) Shasta
The Currents of Space by Isaac Asimov – (Oct-Dec52) Doubleday
Foundation and Empire by Isaac Asimov – (fix-up) Gnome Press
Judgement Night by C. L. Moore – (collection) Gnome Press
The Legion of Time by Jack Williamson – (May-Jul38) Fantasy Press
The Red Peri by Stanley G. Weinbaum – (collection) Fantasy Press
Robots Have No Tails by Henry Kuttner – (fix-up) Gnome Press
Assignment in Eternity by Robert A. Heinlein – (collection) Fantasy Press
Children of the Atom by Wilmar H. Shiras – (fix-up) Gnome Press
Iceworld by Hal Clement – (Oct-Dec51) Gnome Press
Mutant by Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore – (fix-up) Gnome Press
Revolt in 2100 by Robert A. Heinlein – (Feb-Mar40) Shasta
Second Foundation by Isaac Asimov – (fix-up) Gnome Press
Second Stage Lensman by Edward E. Smith – (Nov41-Feb42) Fantasy Press
Children of the Lens by Edward E. Smith – (Nov47-Feb48) Fantasy Press
Three Thousand Years by Thomas Calvert McClary – (Apr38-Jun38) Fantasy Press
Double Star by Robert A. Heinlein – (Feb-Apr56) Doubleday
The Dragon in the Sea by Frank Herbert – (Under Pressure Nov55-Jan66) Doubleday
The Naked Sun by Isaac Asimov – (Oct-Dec56) Doubleday
They’d Rather Be Right by Mark Clifton and Frank Riley – (Aug-Nov54) Gnome Press
Methuselah’s Children by Robert A. Heinlein – (Jul-Sep41) Gnome Press
Agent of Vega by James H. Schmitz – (fix-up) Gnome Press
Orphans of the Sky by Robert A. Heinlein – (fix-up from 1941) Putnam
The Winged Man by A. E. van Vogt and E. Mayne Hull – (May-Jun44) Doubleday
12 thoughts on “The Hardback Legacy of Astounding Science Fiction”
There are, of course, suppliers of facsimile dust jackets for old books like these, if you want to “cheat” by replacing an old dust cover on one of your books, or want to dress up your later edition in the cover of the first edition.
Needless to say, these are prohibitively expensive, so they remain in the realm of eye candy (for me, at least).
As an example, here is the page with John W. Campbell’s book covers:
I’ve been seeing those jackets on sale at ABE Books. $22 is a lot of money for just the dust jacket, but there are some beautiful book covers I might be tempted to buy.
JW – I am apparently a sport when it comes to this level of discovery. I’m not a collector (unless you think of my giant pile/stack of books in the garage as a collection). What I do believe is that I am a lover of SciFi books and stories, if only to resurrect the love of books in my youth. All of your incredibly knowledgeable (well beyond my ken) experts are covering issues that I believe are important when it comes to ensuring that Sci-Fi of the 40’s-50’s are not forgotten, and are in fact kept current enough for those that wish to read them.
But it seems to me that this entire discussion is beyond my understanding. Or at least beyond my limited capacity to understand the fervor of both collecting and deciding which and who should be annointed as those stories that matter.
Frankly, I do not think for a minute that I have correctly explained this. What I do think is that this may not be the appropriate place for me to both attend – and comment.
Thank you for all that you have done.
Thanks, Jim, for all the encouraging words. But don’t be fooled – I’m not that knowledgeable. My mind is like a sieve. I use the internet to research everything I write. Every morning as I start my day I think about a writing project to pursue. Then I start researching and writing. It’s a kind of therapy or mental workout. On most days I can accomplish my goal in two or three hours. Yesterday’s task took all day. I had to keep pushing myself until almost bedtime. During the weeks I’m writing on Astounding Science Fiction I’ll learn a lot, but I probably won’t remember most of it when I go to my next subject. I’ve never been good at storing information, and now that I’m older I retain even less.
Writing these essays gives me something challenging to do. The whole day yesterday I kept wishing I could do some reading, or watch TV, or listen to music. But I kept pushing myself. I usually don’t push that hard. I prefer to take it easy and enjoy my passive pastimes. However, I don’t want my mind to turn to mush, so I work at my hobbies. I sometimes feel like I’m choosing to climb a small mountain each day. It feels good when I get to the top. Usually, it’s a very small mountain and I have plenty of time to go goof off without guilt.
Great covers and great books! I enjoyed the walk down Memory Lane!
George, I got to thinking this afternoon that probably for many folks, it’s the paperback covers they remember the most. Maybe I’ll do a gallery of them in the future.
Yep, it’s the paperback covers I remember, the paperbacks I picked up in card shops and from drug store racks back in the day. And about 2/3rds of them were ACE books. None of these covers are familiar. Grew up in a small town, and about all the books I distinctly recall getting from the library were the Heinlein YA hardcovers, with their cool interior B&W illustrations.
My father was in the Air Force, and we moved around quite a bit. I lived in big cities, small towns, and out in the country. When we were stationed at Homestead Air Force Based I got to use the base library. It had a great section of science fiction with all the Gnome, Fantasy, Shasta, etc. specialty press editions. Of course, they were well read and worn when I got to read them in 1962-66.
But I also lived in places where the only new books for sale were on a twirling rack in an old-timey drugstore on a town square. I’d buy a Popular Science, a Mad Magazine, and if I was lucky, a paperback.
I’d love to see a gallery of your favorite ACE Doubles!
Thomas Parker of BLACK GATE just posted a nice gallery of ACE Double covers. But there are plenty more where those came from!
Thanks, George, loved those covers. I even sent out a tweet promoting that page.