Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Planeteers unite!

I was late getting to my MRI appointment yesterday so I grabbed whatever reading material I could find from my office. I've been carting some books and magazines to the basement. As it happened, the material handiest was two copies of Planet Stories.

You want to bet me that I was the only person in a medical waiting room ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD reading two issues of Planet Stories from 1953?

I have a small, maybe thirty issues, collection of them but I hadn't read them in a long long time. It was fun. I'd forgotten all the then-young writers who wrote for them back in the early `50s. Philip K. Dick, Robert Sheckley, Gordon Dickson, Poul Anderson and of course RAY BRADBURY. They were late working me in so I had time to read about ten stories and they were surprisingly good. Tight pulp tales of the kind I'll always have a fondness for. One guy who went on to have a distinguished career as a Pulitzer prize winning historical novelist was Michael Shaara. He was a hell of a good science fiction writer. At the time he was selling to Planet, he was also hitting Astounding, Galaxy and Startling and Thrilling Wonder. A very good pulp career.

I wish the covers were as good as the stories. Gaudy doesn't quite capture their tone. Lurid would be better. The women are semi-beautiful (as David Frye used to say of LBJs daughters) but the monsters-- Those babies are laughable.

And then there are the story titles. Calling World-4 of Kithgol!,The Brain Sinner! Mirage for Planet X! and of course The Virgin of Valkarion! (In fact, in my collection I counted four stories with Virgin in the title. Musta been a lotta altar boys in the audience looking for sexy "good" girls.)

I have to admit I got several glances from other patients. It's those covers, I tell ya. Nobody could get any respect holding up magazine covers like that.


Blogger Todd Mason said...

I've read a couple of later PLANET STORIES over the last year or so, and find that they compare favorably with ASTOUNDINGs of similar vintage...doesn't surprise me too much, given that the two magazines were perhaps the most distinctive in the sf field at the time, or at least the most distinctive in a mostly good way (while AMAZING was still milking the Shaver Mystery, and the Thrilling group were solid but trying to split the difference between ASTOUNDING, PLANET, and the Futurian-related thread that was about to burst forth in GALAXY, particularly). There was little, if anything, in ASTOUNDING in the late '40s more sophisticated than Leigh Brackett's work, or more imaginative than Charles Harness's. The pulp-clumsy filler in the one no worse than the engineer-hobbyist-clumsy filler in the other.

10:04 AM  
Blogger Todd Mason said...

Oh, yes, I meant to mention that Shaara, in his too-short, too-sparse career as a writer of excellent fiction, also distinguished himself as one of our better latter-day sports-fiction writers, as well...his novella FOR THE LOVE OF THE GAME was filmed, of course, and I lucked into a copy of his boxing novel THE BROKEN PLACE a year or so back. He did some boxing when young; he'd been a cop as well as Korean War veteran, iirc, and was a college professor as well as Pulitzer laureate by the end, when he'd dropped some more interesting sf on us. Now his son, rather like Brian Herbert, is making a career sequelizing his best-known novel...dunno how good either series is, haven't dipped in.

10:10 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home