Dedicated to the memory of K. H. Scheer and Walter Ernsting, who first gave us Perry Rhodan in 1961 and of Forrest J and Wendayne Ackerman, who first brought his adventures to the United States in 1969.

Monday, March 10, 2014

A good, albeit outdated, article on the history of Perry Rhodan in English

Wendayne and Forrest J. Ackerman (sitting,
with Ray Bradbury at the podium), 1967 [source]
It's hard to believe it's been well over a year since I updated this blog.  I keep thinking about thinking about trying to get back into it.  Maybe this year I will.

In the meantime, however, this article, "Peacelord of the Universe: Perry Rhodan in English" [link], being as far as I can tell via an Internet search originally from ca. 2011, gives a very thorough overview of the history of the German-born Perry Rhodan pulp science-fiction series in English.

An excerpt:

"That Rhodan came to be published in English at all is due to [German co-creator Walter] Ernsting’s recognition of its potential in that market and his friendship with the man who was to become the series’ ‘English language representative’ and managing editor during its 1969-1978 English run. Forrest J Ackerman was still an active contributor to SF fandom rather than prodom back in the 1950s when he helped found the Science Fiction Club Deutschland alongside Ernsting, then still trying to break into the German market as an author. Because the only SF being published in Germany in the fifties came from American and British writers, Ernsting wrote his first novel under the American-sounding pseudonym ‘Clark Darlton’ and pretended he had merely translated it from English; consequently he was saddled with the pen name throughout the rest of his career.

"In 1965 Ackerman and his German-born wife Wendayne met Ernsting in person for the first time at a book fair in Europe and spent a few days as his houseguests. During their visit Ernsting made Forry a present of a complete set of the Perry Rhodan series he had created in 1961 with noted German author KH Scheer (Ernsting was responsible for the name, supposedly from a combination of Perry Mason and Japanese movie monster Rodan, ‘Americanized’ with the addition of the H). He also suggested that Ackerman could introduce Rhodan to the US market and, in a famously oft-to-be-repeated quote, that 'Wendy could translate it in her spare time'. By 1975, when the series was appearing in English three times a month, Wendy was perhaps wondering what she had let herself in for...."

Read more here [link].

Cheers!, and Ad Astra!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Art of Gray Morrow

Gray Morrow's iconic painting for
Perry Rhodan #50
Happy New Year!

I spent a couple of hours today exploring various of my favorite bloggers' blogrolls, just to see what new and interesting blogs I might come across, and I found one which, I'm sure, will be of interest to all fans of the American ACE editions of Perry Rhodan.  One of the most attractive features I remember drawing my eye to those paperbacks nigh on forty years ago was the striking art of Gray Morrow.  While, regrettably, very seldom having any specific relevance to the story contained within the pages of the Perry Rhodan volume which cover it graced, a Gray Morrow painting was guaranteed to grab the casual browser's attention and thus fulfill its primary purpose of selling the book.  His renditions of the main characters, Perry Rhodan (at left), Thora (from #70), and Khrest (from #91), to this day dominate my own mental images as I read through the early volumes of the saga.

Although I have not fully explored it, Shades of Gray:  An Internet Celebration of the Illustrative Art of Gray Morrow is, according to the opening post, "The Importance of Being Gray," devoted to maintaining a web presence for one of the truly great illustrators of both book covers and comic books during the the mid to later decades of the 20th century.  This it does by posting a variety of examples at the rate of one every few days over the past three years.

I do not have a wide enough historical and artistic perspective to properly assess the statement in that opening post that Morrow "toiled virtually unheralded in the industry for more than fifty years."  I do have a memory that Gray Morrow's distinctive, realistic style made him one of the earliest comic book artists whom I recognized, probably from work on various of the DC "mystery" titles that still thrived in the late 1960s to early 1970s.  The character -- besides Perry -- with whom I most identified Morrow was the western hero Vigilante based on a couple of short-lived back-up features in Adventure Comics #417 and #422 from 1972 and World's Finest Comics #245-248 from 1977, as celebrated here and here.

I have added Shades of Gray to my list of "Sources of Images and Other Information" at right.  I hope you find as much enjoyment browsing it as I have.

Cheers, and Ad Astra!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Perry Rhodan #19, Mutants vs. Mutants (1972)

By Clark Darlton ( = German issue #26, “Duel of the Mutants,” Friday 2 March 1962)

A space pilot training mission is ambushed near Mars by one of the destroyers previously stolen in the first move by the as yet unknown supermutant against the New Power. Captain Hawk is killed in the initial attack, but cadet Julian Tifflor, “Tiff,” takes charge and is able to turn the tables and capture the enemy pilot. The attacker is brought back to Terrania, but under telepathic/hypnotic interrogation he simply dies at the Mutant Master's mental command.

A New Power defensive fort outside Terrania attacks the New Power's space ship manufacturing plant. We read this section from the perspective of one of the soldiers who manages to keep some degree of awareness for a time but is unable nonetheless to resist the mental compulsion of the supermutant. Using Arkonide technology, Perry Rhodan manages to quell the attack, but these two assaults are just the beginning of attacks around the world on various fronts. The Mutant Corps is running ragged resisting the enemy's campaign, simply putting out fires until Fellmer Lloyd captures the Russian telepath Tatjana Michalowna.

Tatjana is subjected to interrogation by telepath John Marshall. In this section we receive a clear statement of Perry Rhodan's philosophy:

Mankind [has] to learn that it is not the only intelligent life in the universe. Should mankind remain in isolation in order to one day become the victim of a hostile invader's surprise attack? Or isn't it better to adjust to your surroundings? That's all we are really doing! Only a united Earth, with a strong leadership, will not fail to join up with the rest of the galactic civilizations – on a par with them. Not too long ago, such developments seemed to lie in the very remote future for mankind; they were looked upon like the wild dreams [of] fantasy writers. But today it has become reality. ...”

Tatjana protests Rhodan's statement: “Do you consider yourself the policing force of this globe, or even the peacelord of the universe?”

Rhodan answers her: “In a way. But we are mainly trying to pave the way for a better understanding among the nations of this Earth and a peaceful existence with the rest of intelligent life all over the universe.” (pp. 55-56)

These arguments make an impression on Tatjana, but the clincher is when she learns that the Mutant Master unscrupulously compels his followers to suicide, whereupon she reveals to Rhodan her ability to block the supermutant's compulsions, and furthermore that she knows his identity: Clifford Monterny.

This is the break the New Power needed. With Tatjana's help, working with Allen Mercant and the world's intelligence organizations as well as the FBI, Rhodan and the Mutant Corps nullify as many of Monterny's mutants as they can and mount a raid on his stronghold in the Utah desert. Ray guns and atomics versus Arkonide force shields! Telekinetics versus Arkonide robots! Hypnotics versus ground troops! – until finally Tatjana and Arkonide technology (hypno rays) overwhelm Monterny's forces. Monterny himself cuts and runs, fleeing in one of the other captured destroyers into space. Tiff and a crew in high orbit as a picket line see the launch and follow, but Monterny demonstrates the ability to gain control of a subject's consciousness even through a communications link and gets away – leaving Tiff and his crew compelled to attack Reginald Bell in the pursuing Stardust II until Pucky teleports into Tiff's ship and disable it.

Back on the ground, once Monterny was gone Rhodan and company managed to free the mutants he left behind, about a dozen, who seemingly were none of them following the supermutant willingly but who were helpless against his powerful hypnotic compulsion. They all join Rhodan, but tell him that Monterny has one other secret, and very powerful, mutant as an ace-in-the-hole.

Calm seemingly restored, and Monterny having slipped away into hiding, Rhodan convenes a summit of world leaders. The crisis precipitated by the Mutant Master simply highlights the dangers that face the still-divided world. He gives the world's leaders an ultimatum: They have one year to put aside their differences and bring true unity to the world, or he, Rhodan, would impose unity by force.

* * *
I'm very curious about Tatjana's question to Perry Rhodan: “Do you consider yourself the policing force of this globe, or even the peacelord of the universe?” (p. 56, quoted above, emphasis added here). “Peacelord of the Universe” – virtually a subtitle to the series included on many of the covers of the Ace paperbacks. My question is, however, whether that phrase is original to the German or is it (as I suspect) something that Forrest J. Ackerman dreamed up? Hopefully a reader can elucidate that in the comments.

Judging from the comments from Tom and Peter Brülls to the previous book (see here), Julian “Tiff” Tifflor becomes a very important character. His prominence in this story maybe would have tipped me off to that even were I not clued in by their comments. From the similar emphasis given to Tatjana Michalowna, I would guess she also will be at the very least a recurring character. I have no memory of either of them from my teen-aged reading, which was mainly of English numbers seventy or so onward to about #140-ish (and not every one of those), and only very spottily outside that range. I do remember Monterny's “ace-in-the-hole,” despite Peter's surprise that I remember him and not Tiff. I remember him as a member of the Mutant Corps. ([Spoiler – Highlight to see] But the image of a two-headed giant who can telekinetically create nuclear explosions made quite an impression on teen-age me!)

Captain Hawk who meets an early demise in this book immediately reminded me, solely because of the name, of the rather ill-conceived avian warrior of the same name introduced in the equally ill-conceived second season of the 1970s TV show, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, as played by Thom Christopher. But once the image was in my mind, it stayed.

One feature of the Ace series pretty much since it started regular publication with #6, I believe, was little blurbs at the end of each chapter announcing what adventure would be coming ten, twenty, fifty, a hundred or more volumes after the current book. I was mildly amused to learn on p. 106 of this issue that “300 ADVENTURES FROM NOW [we would] Gasp at The Fantastic Four.” Needless to say, that didn't happen; publication of the English translation of Perry Rhodan had ended far short of that mark, but for what it's worth I believe that the adventure in question would have been German #327, Die vier Unheimlichen, “The Four Terrifying Ones,” by K. H. Scheer, accounting for various discrepancies in numbering.
* * *
The Gray Morrow cover on the Ace paperback edition – I got the 1974 2nd edition, but the first edition had the same cover – sports what I most remember about the 1970s Perry Rhodan covers in that the man and woman (Rhodan and Thora?, except her hair is too dark) are clad in garb that is very much like then-current comic book super hero costumes.  I find the design aesthetic in this case very reminiscent of Mike Grell's costumes for the Legion of Super-Heroes
And doesn't that Arkonide robot's face on the Johnny Bruck German edition cover look very Cylonish?

This volume is dedicated “to the late ROG PHILLIPS who, among many other stories, wrote 'The Mutants' in 1946. Gone but Not Forgotten” (p. [4]). Wikipedia has a very short entry on Phillips here; his bibliography appears on The Internet Speculative Fiction Database. “The Mutants” appeared in the July 1946 issue of Amazing Science Fiction.

For the first time in I believe several volumes, there's actually an interior illustration – of our favorite mousebeaver, Pucky – on p. 6:

Ackerman gives over his “Stardust Editorial” to a rebuttal against an Australian reviewer who went by the nom de plume “Mouser,” who in SFNews #36 evidently heaped a good amount opprobrium on Perry Rhodan, specifically #6, The Secret of the Time Vault, which ultimately considered and rejected coining a new term for “this sort of stuff … moroni-fiction” before concluding “that there is already a completely satisfactory category: trash.” Ackerman's retort? – “One man's trash is another man's treasure” (p. 9). … I'll bet that made “Mouser” reconsider his judgment!

As insulting as it is, I'm kind of tickled by the term, “moroni-fiction” ….

After the Perry Rhodan lead story abstracted above, there is a “Shock Short,” “Relics from the Earth,” by John Pierce. An archaeological expedition makes its way from Triton to the mother world of humanity and back, retrieving the Woolworth Building (the tallest building in the world at the time of this story's writing – 1929 says the introduction although it was published in Science Wonder Stories' March 1930 issue according to the ISFDB here) as well as the Eiffel Tower. Frankly, however, I can't figure out the point of this story. It's pretty straightforward as a narrative although there is some kind of undefined trouble on the return trip.

We are then treated to Part Four of the serialization of Garrett P. Serviss' unauthorized sequel to H. G. Wells' War of the Worlds, “Pursuit to Mars,” comprising two more chapters, seven and eight, “Mars' Mask of War” and “Mars' Great Surprise.” [ Links to Parts One, Two, and Three. ] The retaliatory expedition headed by Thomas A. Edison tours the red planet at a high alititude, then the a black smoke screen forms enveloping the entire globe. The Earthlings realize that they do not have time to outwait the Martians because their provisions, packed for three years, have mysteriously spoiled. They have only ten days left, not even enough time for them to abandon their campaign and return to Earth. It's imperative that they win a quick victory and, moreover, find some way to reprovision. Edison intrepidly determines a way through the cloud layer to attack the main population center. A great aerial battle ensues, and the Earthlings inflict great damage on the Martians – but they are outnumbered and lose about a third of their forces before they retreat back to above the cloud layer. A new strategy is deployed – attempt to land a task force on the other side of the planet and attack the Martians from the rear. The narrator joins this force, so we follow them to man's first actual landing on Mars. Exploring the area on foot, he and his companions hear the unexpected sound of Earthly music – from a human girl!

A second “Shock Short” featurette is entitled “Little Johnny,” written by Oscar G. Estes, Jr. (originally published in Fantasy Book, February 1948). Maybe I'm obtuse or something, but again I'm not sure what the point or even the plot of this story is. On the surface, it's the tale of the narrator being beguiled by some spider-like creature into believing it is his distant son, then another individual is affected the same way.

Finally, an expanded “Scientifilm World” column bumps thePerryscope” letters column this month, announcing the First Annual Science Fiction and Film Convention in typically Forry overblown bombast. Assuming it took place as announced (I can find no Internet record of it under that name), it was 72 straight hours of “imagi-movies” over Thanksgiving weekend 1972 at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.

Next issue, it's Clark Darlton again for The Thrall of Hypno ….

Thanks for reading! Cheers!, and Ad Astra!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Neil Armstrong, R.I.P.


Along with much of the world, seven-year-old Kent sat mesmerized in front of the TV to see mankind's first steps on another world on the evening of Sunday, 20 July 1969.  At that moment, like millions of other kids of my generation, I conceived a deep interest in science, astronomy, and so forth.  Like millions of other kids, I wanted to grow up to be an astronaut.  That didn't happen.  I didn't even become a scientist -- although I was an engineer for a time, and did try to join the Air Force as an engineer (severe myopia shot that down).  Star Trek had, sadly and ironically, aired its last new episode only six or seven weeks before (3 June), but by the next year I discovered it in early syndication and that conception was nurtured to manifest itself in my life-long love of science fiction and fantastic fiction in general.  Within a few years, I discovered Perry Rhodan.  Had I not been primed for it by the sense of wonder inspired by Neil Armstrong's first steps onto the moon, however, would I have ever picked up that first novel and gotten so caught up in it?

To play off the words spoken from Tranquility Base six or so hours before those steps, "The Eagle has ascended."

Ad Astra!  As Jerry Pournelle states in his own blog entry of last night, "We will be back."

Friday, August 10, 2012

Perry Rhodan #18, Menace of the Mutant Master (1972)

By Kurt Mahr (= German issue #25, “The Overlord,” Friday 23 February 1962)

On the very eve of Perry Rhodan's return from his extended stay on Venus, Terrania is hit by acts of sabotage and hijacking. Rhodan – and the Robot Brain – perceive that this has to be the work of other mutants besides those who have been identified and enlisted in the ranks of the New Power. They are, of course, right. The mastermind – German Overhead “Overlord,” English “Mutant Master” – is Clifford Monterny, whose powerful talent is mind control. He hates Perry Rhodan and the New Power for no good reason other than Rhodan's success. He aims to bring them down and establish his own political and economic dominance.

Almost immediately after the incidents which open this story, Monterny starts exploiting advanced technology on the market. Rhodan and the Mutant Corps cannot predict his next target. So Rhodan travels to California and confronts the president of one front company. When the Arkonide hypnoray does not work against his target, Rhodan is almost captured, but turns the tables and takes him prisoner instead, sending him back to Terrania for interrogation. Meanwhile, another of Monterny's enthralled agents inflicts a major economic blow against the New Power through Homer Adams and the General Cosmic Company – but that agent chickens out from carrying through with the complete plot, leaving the damage incomplete.

In Terrania, Khrest and Thora psychoprobe Rhodan's captive, getting nothing useful. Rhodan, however, formulates a plan and sets the Mutant Corps on lookout and guard. Eventually a hostile effort is made to abduct Khrest. The mental control from outside Terrania is detected by John Marshall, and teleporter Tako Kakuta surprises and follows the hostile teleporter as he jumps away. Reappearing in Monterny's base, Kakuta comes under overwhelming psychic attack and barely manages to jump back to Terrania. During his debriefing, Kakuta then attempts to assassinate Rhodan – but Rhodan had foreseen this and is prepared. Rhodan's people have managed to track Kakuta's jump through hyperspace, which gives them a rough idea where their enemy is based. Major Nyssen is therefore dispatched to Osaka.

Monterny's agent Ted McMurray makes a second foray into Terrania. This time he goes undetected because Monterny realizes his previous error – that it was his constant sending of mind waves to his agent that had been detected. McMurray abducts Khrest and jumps away. While in captivity, Khrest discovers that Monterny has crude technological means to augment his telepathic commands.

Nyssen having made progress in Osaka, Rhodan leads a team to support him. But Nyssen is abducted. Tracking Nyssen by means of a subdural micro-telecom allows Rhodan to further narrow the strike. Nyssen finds Khrest and coordinates their rescue/escape with Rhodan. Monterny eludes capture – abandoning his agents, including McMurray, who are all killed by a neutron bomb set in the base by Nyssen when they believe Rhodan's warning to be a ruse.

In the face of the continuing threat, Perry Rhodan sends Betty Toufry off to protect Homer Adams and the General Cosmic Company from further mental influence. Rhodan remains bothered by the nature of the sabotage which began the book – which took the form of a localized nuclear detonation in an area where no nuclear materials were detected – but receives an unexpected vote of confidence from Thora that he would solve the mystery.

Another synopsis may be found at .
* * *
Well, overall I found this a much more engaging story than the “Venus Saga” which preceded it, but it wasn't as good as I hoped. Doubtless it is an effect of my essentially burning myself out on Perry Rhodan last year; notice how long it has been between my last and this entry. I will persevere, however, but likely nowhere near the pace I established at the beginning. I am curious how the “Mutant Master Saga” will progress....
* * *
I have nothing snarky to say about the covers, other than the bad guy with the pet monster on the English edition looks like Lex Luthor, and that I particularly like the look of sheer terror on the face shown on the German cover.

The dedication is “to (quite naturally) the Master Mind of Nexialist Fiction A. E. 'SLAN' VOGT.”

Ray Bradbury contributes the foreword, “Apollo Murdered: The Sun Goes Out.” Forty years later, we know that Bradbury's impassioned plea against gutting the US space program went tragically unheeded. Since I can find no trace of this short essay on the Internet, I am going to fly in the face of copyright restrictions and reproduce it in whole at the bottom of this post.

“Scientifilm World” is essentially a set report from Forrest J. Ackerman about the mishaps which plagued Riders to the Stars (1954, Directed by Richard Carlson) during production, which included one fatality. This is accompanied by a couple of typically low-quality, murky black and white photographs.

The first of two “Shock Shorts” is “The Survivor” by Spencer Strong, telling of an old, bald scientist who is offended by the visual appearance of a long-haired young assistant – “No hairy hippie is going to ride in my time machine!” The younger man nevertheless stows away as the older man begins his first attempt to travel forward in time. Something goes wrong and they end up tens of thousands of years in the past, where a group of Neanderthals are horrified at the old man – “Tesku targu!” they cry as they kill him. Inexplicably, they welcome the young man, who proceeds to jumpstart human technological advancement and only over time comes to understand their language, and that “tesku targu” means … “hairless monster.”

Garrett P. Serviss' unauthorized sequel to H. G. Wells' War of the Worlds, here titled Pursuit to Mars, continues its serialization with Part 3, containing Chapters 5, “The Martians are Coming!,” and 6, “Touchdown: Enemy Planet.” The Martians who were detected last installment land on the asteroid, but the humans win the subsequent firefight. They then engage in some fun experiments with extremely low gravity ballistics before launching on the last leg of their flight to Mars. This includes shooting some gold toward Earth. I haven't run any of the math to know if the figures given here are in any way plausible. As they approach the red planet, they manage to learn some aspects of their single prisoner's language, establishing some rapport. Its glee as they arrive at Mars and the realization of the odds that they face are sobering. They begin their high-altitude reconnaissance of the planet ….

The last “Shock Short” is introduced with a short editorial blurb: “Careful: if you have a heart, this story by the widow of E. Everett Evans might break it.” She wrote “When the Marsboy's Time Came” under the name, T. D. Hamm. It tells of how a ten-year-old boy raised on Mars feels like an outsider on Earth and eventually comes to a bad end through a misunderstanding exacerbated by his heightened sense of hearing in Earth's far denser atmosphere.

Finally, the “Perryscope” prints several pages of fan letters and 4SJ's (half-)witty responses.
* * *
A few random thoughts that came to me as I read or wrote this blog entry....

According to Perrypedia here, “Ted McMurray” was in the original German “Freddy McMurray.” Those of us old enough to remember My Three Sons – or the actor's long career prior to that, including the honor of being the visual inspiration for artist C. C. Beck's rendition of the original Captain Marvel – can easily see why the Ackermans changed this character's name

I didn't know there was a technological means of analyzing a teleporter's jump through hyperspace.

I'm not sure we've had such an explicit description of a teleporter in action as on p. 83: “A few seconds later … the outlines of his figure began to grow blurred and shortly afterwards he vanished completely.” The teleporter in action here is Monterny's agent, McMurray, and I'm assuming the manifestation is the same for all teleporters. My impression hitherto was that teleporters basically popped out of and into existence rather than fading in and out.

It's rather quaint that this is obviously a world without general usage of mobile or cell-phones – p. 85: “Nyssen arranged with Michikai [an Osakan whom Nyssen has enlisted] that from now on they would communicate with each other only by phone. This meant that Michikai would be at a certain restaurant at certain set hours where and when Nyssen would be able to reach him.” Of course, in our world just about anyone would have such a device. On the other hand, according to the internal chronology of the series, these events are happening in 1981 according to Perrypedia. It stands to reason that the boost from the acquisition of Arkonide technology would not have spread so far as a low life in Osaka by that time, only a decade or so into the overall story.

The fate of Monterny's men is rather sobering – pp. 107-108: “Rhodan was informed of Khrest's and Nyssen's rescue. At once he ordered the attack to be stopped. One of his men, armed with a microphone and a loudspeaker, penetrated into the interior courtyard of the villa and broadcast an announcement which could be clearly heard by everybody, even the guards down in the cellars: 'Clear these premises immediately! You have five minutes to get out! Then a bomb will be detonated which will annihilate all life within a radius of 100 yards.'

“Naturally the effect of this warning was practically nil. Everyone in the farmhouse believed it to be a trick. The men tried to ask Monterny for advice but he was unavailable.

“The men decided then to wait and after the five minutes had passed without anything untoward happening, all began to triumph.

“However neutron rays can be neither seen nor heard nor smelled. Not even neutron flows of 1017 neutrons per 0.155 square inch per second.

“That the bomb actually had exploded was not noticed by Monterny's men until their skin suddenly turned red and started to hurt. Within a few seconds they lost their eyesight. In sheer panic the blind men started racing through the corridors, trying to get out of the house. But by then it was too late.

“Only two guards who had obeyed the evacuation order escaped the catastrophe. They surrendered to Rhodan's men.”

This is not exactly the effects of a neutron bomb as described here, which would seem to be from a much larger-yield weapon, although the idea is the same – killing personnel while preserving infrastructure. The specificity of the “neutron flows” given above makes me believe the effect was derived from some kind of scientific report. The technology had been conceived a few years earlier according to Wikipedia here.

* * *
And now, as promised above, I end with an unauthorized reproduction of Ray Bradbury's essay that served as the foreword to this volume. If the copyright holders – presumably his estate – contact me and insist, I will remove it, but until such a time it stays. While I do not agree with all its details, it deserves to be read, and widely.

The Sun Goes Out
By Ray Bradbury

One billion years from this night, men and women sitting around on some far world, many light years away, will cast their minds and talk back to a special year, a special decade, a special century.

What was the finest century, the finest decade, the finest year of man?, they will ask.

And the answers will come: The 20th Century. The seventh decade therein. And the date July 20th, 1969.

The special day when, after three billion years of genetic waiting, genetic dreaming, Man reached up to Touch Space, Touch Moon, Touch Eternity.

I wonder, those people in the far future will muse, did all the billions of people alive on the night of Apollo 11 know how special their time was? How privileged they were to be alive and witness the fulfillment of a dream? Or were their eyes in the dust and their minds with the worms and their dreams only under their fingernails and behind their ears?

If so, they let the most important date in the entire history of man pass unnoticed. How sad for them. How silly to be alive in a special fine time and not know it.

How even more silly and sad, in the middle of the time of Apollo, to dismantle the rockets, refuse Eternity, and discard the dream.

And yet, right now, that is what we are doing.

The talk is of priorities.

Why are we spending all that money on the moon?!, is the cry.

As if there were a huge crater on the moon into which, by the bushel, we were heaving tons of cash.

The facts are otherwise.

We have spent not one dollar, not one dime, not one penny on the moon.

It has all been spent right here. To buy houses, put food in mouths, purchase cars, educate people who are black, white, brown, or name your color.

Priorities? What grander priority is there than the Life force, realizing its position in a strange and cold universe, struggling to survive not just here but on other worlds, forever and forever?

Priorities? Is it better to spend $60 billion destroying the country and the peoples of Vietnam or $2 billion insuring the immortality of God's flesh on far worlds that we cannot now even imagine? $60 billion or $100 billion wasted on annihilation? Or $1, $2, $3 billion invested in some new strange green Garden into which we will invite ourselves on a morning of rebirth when our rockets touch down 6 light-years off in the Abyss?

We are so busy fighting, drawing blood, rending flesh that our eyes are on our spilled guts and not on the stars that promise us that very Life Everlasting told of in our Bibles. The fictional heavens of our half-blind ancestors have withered. The real heavens of Apollo and beyond Apollo beckon with real territory and real survival for our very real flesh.

Go out and look at the stars tonight.

Let the darkness between the stars warn you.

There is more dark than light in the Universe.

We must be part of those small touches of fire that fill an otherwise empty Space.

We must choose Light and not delay. Otherwise, Darkness chooses us.


The money we invest in Space is money that will pay dividends beyond Alpha Centauri three billion years from this afternoon.

It is money invested in a revival of faith and an idealism so great and beautiful as will grow boys tall to men and make them truly proud. We go to save Mankind from itself.

Unless, of course, our priority is Vietnam and murder and death. Then, of course, let us invest all our money there and go mad.

As for me, I know where all the money is.

It lies in the hands of the military.

I would seize it away from their claws.

If you are really interested in big money, don't take away the penny I would bank for the Apollo rockets.

Grab the tens of thousands of millions of dollars that are basted each day devastating the Orient.

I will help you shout for it and grab it to invest in cities, clean air, good water, rapid transit, but save out a penny or a dime for tomorrow's rockets.

When the Sun dies, they will be our salvation.

The unborn speak to us from a million years ahead.

They are in the Garden, waiting to be secured.

Would you murder them?

Then, by all means, please, shoot down Apollo.
(pp. 8-10)
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Thanks for reading.  Ad Astra!

Next (but I can't tell you when): Mutants vs. Mutants, by Clark Darlton.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Perry Rhodan #17, The Venus Trap (1972)

By Kurt Mahr (= German issue #24, Im Dschungel der Urwelt “In the Jungles of the Prehistoric World,” Friday 16 February 1962)

In a nutshell, we have a race between several groups to gain access to the Arkonide Venus Base and its technologies. Rhodan and his men win. All is well. Tomisenkov and his men remain on Venus as colonists.

Truthfully, I can't write a better succinct summary than that provided by Mark Golden at , to which I cheerfully refer the reader rather than working up my own.
* * *
By the time I finished this book, I felt like I'd been slogging through the wilderness right along with them – and I don't mean that in any good sense, i.e. that the story was that engaging. Short as these books are, frankly I thought this one would never end. I definitely get the sense that by this point in the series the story is being padded out somewhat. I have a tentative theory as to why.

According to the Infallible Authority Wikipedia, in the beginning Perry Rhodan was conceived to run for thirty volumes. Of course, it has gone far longer than that, with no end in sight that I know of. I have wondered what the overall planned story for those thirty volumes was. If it was what would eventually become the First Cycle of the overall saga, The Third Power, that ended up being 49 issues. Perhaps early on, when the publishers realized they had a hit on their hands and determined to keep it going beyond the original plan, they started retooling stories that maybe had been outlined for a single issue so that they became two or even three issues in length. Of course, that would necessitate them hitting on what became the overall rhythm of the series, “cycles” of fifty or so issues, quite early on as well, which I'm not at all sure is the case.

Whatever, the past few books, “The Venus Interlude” I might call it, have definitely seemed like a whole lot of running around without a whole lot of progression to the story. I hope that doesn't remain the case. The next little group having to do with something called the “Mutant Master,” is something I've looked forward to reading since I was a kid. I previously related the synchronicity of my discovering Perry Rhodan ca. 1975 with my discovery of Marvel's New X-Men about the same time. Of course, at that time publication of PR was way past here – somewhere around Ace volume #70, and I only ever managed to scrounge up scattered copies of the earlier books during the next few years – not all of which I actually read. I don't think that the “Mutant Master” stories were any that I managed to acquire or read until last year when I embarked on this crazy Perry Rhodan Reading Project. I know them only from the tantalizing titles in the order forms at the back of the issues that I did have as I read forward to the end of the Ace/Master Publications era. I hope I'm not going to be so disappointed in these next few books as I have been with these just past.
* * *
UK edition, 1976
Thematically at least, Gray Morrow's painting for the Ace paperback is probably the closest to Johnny Bruck's for the German magazine of any that I've seen. Of course, if Tomisenkov (?) is shooting at something he considers more threatening than the blue T. Rex looming behind himself and Thora, they are in deep trouble! (I must say, the UK edition has an interesting cover....)

Once again, there are no interior illustrations – well almost, but I'll get to those. As far as line drawings within the story itself, are those a thing of the past?

Editorial – “Son of Science Fiction Week”: Forrest J. Ackerman reminisces about a stillborn “Science Fiction Week” proclaimed by Hugo Gernsback in 1932, his appearance giving the opening speech at the University of San Francisco's own “individually proclaimed SF week” forty years later (p. 8), and announces The Thirtieth World Science Fiction Convention for 1-4 September 1972 in Los Angeles.

“Scientifilm World” gives a fairly straightforward summary of Journey to the 7th [sic] Planet (1962).

The first of two “Shock Shorts” this issue is “Ranger of Eternity” by Donald F. Glut. The unnamed hero, an anachronistic Space Ranger who has outlived his purpose, manages to have one last confrontation with his arch enemy and assure that “for all eternity there would exist a Space Ranger” (p. 117) – basically by creating a time loop.

Part 2 of the 1898 sequel to H. G. Wells' War of the Worlds that began last issue, Garrett P. Serviss' Pursuit to Mars, contains two more chapters, 3 and 4, “The Monsters on the Asteroid” and “A Golden Planetoid” respectively. The force from Earth has its first encounter with the Martians, a group stranded on an asteroid. There is a battle, they capture one of the Martians, and discover that the asteroid is of pure gold – and that another force of Martians is approaching. One interesting point – besides the fact that in the age before radio the Earth ships must communicate with each other via other means, mainly flashing lights – is that the writer had no conception of what explosive decompression in the vacuum of space would do to the human body. The only danger identified is that of asphyxiation when the air rushes out of a hulled ship. A rescue party from another ship has time to put on space suits and rescue some of the victims in time for them to be revived.

After a subscription offer and a blurb for future “Shock Shorts,” we get the second “Shock Short” for this issue, “A Martian Oddity” by Weaver Wright. Look, I know FJA does not have a monopoly on bad puns, but reading this story that is filled with groaners based on Martians misunderstandings of Earthly sayings that they heard on radio in advance of the first men to travel to the red planet, e.g., “a burp in the hand is worth two in the bush” (p. 150), that lead to the death of said human astronauts because “one man's meat is another man's poison” (p. 151), inevitably made me wonder, “Who is Weaver Wright?” Sure enough, searching for Wright on Wikipedia redirects you to its entry on Forrest J. Ackerman and lists that name first among a rather lengthy list of pen-names Ackerman used, which includes “Dr. Acula,” and proclaims itself “incomplete”!

The “Perryscope” letters column is followed by two black and white photos that are of such poor quality that it is only the captions, “The Brain of Uranus” and “The Monster of the 7th Planet,” that reveal them to be associated with the movie summarized in “Scientifilm World.”

Next up (but I'm not sure how soon), #18, Menace of the Mutant Master. It's gotta get better from here, right?

Cheers, and Ad Astra.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Perry Rhodan #16, Secret Barrier X (Aug 1972)

By W. W. Shols (= German issue #23, Friday 9 February 1962)

After a short chapter establishing that even mutant teleporter Tako Kakuta cannot penetrate Secret Barrier X from the helplessly orbiting Good Hope V – the attempt subjects him to literally hours of subjective time in hell during which pass only seconds for his crewmates  the balance of the story takes place on Venus itself. Basically, in addition to the wounded Perry Rhodan and Son Okura traveling slowly to catch up with John Marshall who has gone ahead to try to establish telepathic contact with the semi-intelligent seal-like creatures whom they encountered in their initial explorations of Venus (#4[b], Base on Venus), Gen. Tomisenkov with the captive Thora makes his way toward Venus Base while being harried by the rebel Lt. Wallerinski's “pacifists,” and a new force is added to the mix – the remnants of the Eastern Bloc reinforcements that were decimated before ever they landed on Venus (Menace of Atomiggedon), whose commander Col. Raskujan has declared himself the sole authority on the planet and launched an attack on Tomisenkov's forces with vastly superior forces and equipment, including helicopters. Early on, Tomisenkov ambushes and destroys Thora's robotic companion R-17, but by the end both himself and Thora have been captured by Raskujan. Meanwhile, Marshall has not found the “seals,” but has been rejoined by Rhodan and Okura, and together the three have made first an abortive attempt to steal a helicopter from Raskujan's forces, then managed to get away with an inflatable life raft and supplies with which they mean to cross a 200-mile wide stretch of Venusian sea that lies between them and Venus Base.

So, ultimately, not a whole lot happens except pieces being moved around on the playing board.

* * *
The Ace cover is a pretty generic science-fiction cover by Gray Morrow – literally, pretty but generic, having nothing whatsoever to do with the story. The original German cover by Johhny Bruck at least illustrates the ambush of poor R-17 by Tomisenkov's men. Once again there are no interior drawings.

The dedication is to Otis Adelbert Kline, “Whose Grandon of Terra Once Had Grand Adventures on Venus too.” Kline was an early 20th-century pulp science-fiction and adventure writer who penned planetary romances much in the vein of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Mars and Venus series. The oft-repeated story that Kline and Burroughs engaged in a running feud over Kline's supposed imitation of Burroughs is almost certainly not true. Kline was also important as a literary agent for Robert E. Howard.

Both the editorial and the “Scientifilm World” column are repeats from the previous issue, q.v. This period in the books' publications seems to have been rife with such production snafus.

But with this issue, Perry Rhodan does become more of a true paperback/pulp “magabook” with the inclusion of two shorter stories at the end. First there is the initial installment of Garrett P. Serviss' almost immediate sequel to H. G. Wells' War of the Worlds that began in the New York Evening Journal within weeks of Wells' original reaching its first US publication conclusion in Cosmopolitan (yes, you read that right, except that here we're not talking about the modern women's magazine, rather an earlier and “far more erudite publication whose broad remit included journalism, serious comment and stories from some of the best known writers of the age” – War of the Worlds website). Serviss' original 1898 title gives away one of the major conceits of his story, which had as its hero none other than the “Wizard of Menlo Park” – it was called Edison's Conquest of Mars. Here the tale is retitled Pursuit to Mars. Besides Thomas Edison, who in short order invented both an electrical means of space propulsion and a disintegrator beam weapon, other characters include Lord Kelvin and physicist Wilhelm Roentgen – all part of leading the Earth's effort to pick itself back up to take the war back to the Martians! By the end of the second chapter reprinted here (in Forrest J Ackerman's heavily edited form), the new united Earth fleet has launched for the red planet.

Second there is the first of what FJA calls “Shock Shorts,” short one-to-two-page stories with some twist at the end. This one is by Clive Jackson, entitled “The Swordsmen of Varnis,” and is a pretty typically ERB-esque tale of a brave hero and a beautiful maiden valiantly holding off seemingly hopeless odds on Mars ... until one of the attackers says “To hell with this!” – or to quote it exactly:

“Leaping backward out of the conflict he flung his sword on the ground in disgust. 'Bah!' he grunted. 'This is ridiculous!' And, so saying, he unclipped a proton gun from his belt and blasted Lehni-tal-Loanis and her Warrior Lord out of existence with a searing energy-beam.


Frankly, I found Pursuit to Mars and “The Swordsmen of Varnis” both more engaging than this installment of Perry Rhodan. It just confirms that W. W. Shols is my least favorite Perry Rhodan writer (see also here). Luckily, he wrote only one more issue after this one.

Next: The Venus Trap by Kurt Mahr.

Cheers! … Ad Astra! … and Happy New Year!