The Invaders by Robert Spencer Carr (plus Ray Bradbury and John D. MacDonald)

American Science Fiction Magazine #20Published un-numbered as the 20th issue in the American Science Fiction magazine series (Australia: Malian Press) in about December 1953, with stylistically simple artwork by Stanley Pitt, this issue packs a hefty punch, with two very competently-written short stories to chase the thrilling novelette by Carr.

The Invaders by Robert Spencer Carr
Original source: The Saturday Evening Post (24 September 1949) as “Easter Eggs”

The title seems to imply a slew of aliens invade our planet, but, in fact, we are looking only at two Martians. Operating on a shared-mind system, they fly about in red-egg-shaped ships. One lands in Washington D.C., while another lands in Moscow. After reported attempts to blast the ship(s) to pieces, both country leaders learn that an impenetrable H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds-like shield protects them from assault. The alien in each vessel finally contacts each country’s leader, and negotiations begin for coming to live here on Earth. But, each country wants the vessels abilities to counteract war and/or to annihilate their enemy. The alien in Moscow agrees to the deals made there without his “brother’s” agreement, which goes against every Martian code and silences their joint contact. This results in an aerial Martian war between the two all across the skies of America. Finally, one wins, and departs for Mars. It ends on a note that suggests the D. C. visitor won, as a very human-like victory lap is performed over D.C.

Dwellers in Space by Ray Bradbury
Original source: Maclean’s (15 September 1948) as “The Long Years”

An expedition led in 2017 finds a 1997 expedition alive and well on Mars. Bizarrely, the 2017 crew begin to wonder how it is that the professor has aged, yet, his wife and children are the same age that they were 20 years ago, unchanged!!! This fact is clarified simply that his family died 20 years ago and he created robots from the surrounding Martian city which man had set up long ago, but abandoned after nuclear war engulfed Earth. Decades later Earth had rebuilt itself, to a limited degree, and 2017 got its first active ship back to Mars. The aged professor dies of a heart-attack, and the robot family is baffled as to how to behave. The crew eventually departs, leaving the creepy robots “alive.”

Flaw by John D. MacDonald
Original source: Startling Stories (January 1949)

The magazine is securely finished with John D. MacDonald’s short thriller Flaw. Imagine if going into space resulted in your returning a year later the size of the 50 Foot Woman. Just so, the four space pioneers return and slam into earth and die. The narrator has figured out the “why” and figures it is only a matter of time before scientists on earth eventually learn, but, in the meantime, the third exploration ship is due back in three months… and how big a crater will they create on re-entry?

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Walter Kubilius’ weird classic “The Other Side”

Whereas my last blog entry wasn’t palatable to write nor read, the cover story [on this issue] had me salivating for more. Published unnumbered as the 21st entry in the American Science Fiction Magazine series, it boasted a truly wonderful illustration rendered, as usual, by the highly adept Australian artist Stanley Pitt.

Cover illustration is for Walter Kubilius The Other Side. Jim Carrington, a farmer’s son, comes to the realization that something just ain’t right about his folks, the doctor, and, well, just about everyone else. They’re all skittish about the “dome” that protects them from the outside radioactive elements, yet, the lake that he swims in has never caused him any harm. The lake is cut in twain by the dome’s rim, and, while diving down, he accidentally discovers that he could swim under dome’s rim, to the radioactive war-obliterated side. Naturally, it stands to reason that if the doctor’s daily check-ups do not detect any radiation upon him, that the lake is clean. He later learns (from the school library) that he is not living in the 1970s, but, rather, decades, centuries even, possibly, in the future. After trying to discover the truth from his family and the doctor, late at night, he sneaks out of the farmhouse, swims under the dome, and emerges into total darkness. Nearby is a ramp that seems to literally ascend most the length of the dome’s height! He finds some “levers,” touches them and the first states “Species: Man.” The second lever explains that the human race was conquered and annihilated, and that this human male inside the dome is the last known being on the planet. The dome is nothing more than a “zoo,” and the other people inside are cleverly created robots to maintain the facade. The second lever further details that if the male escapes, he’s to be caught, detained, and delivered to the dissection chambers. No sooner than this is transmitted to him, he hears an alien, slithering sound approaching…Death.

Honestly, I FREAKING LOVED this grim story. I like realistic stories, where the “hero” doesn’t always win the girl, the day, the world, or survive, etc. I highly recommend this tale.

The booklet is padded with two short tales.

The first is The Two Shadows by William F Temple, which merely expounds upon what is probably Temple’s personal life views, and fails to realize that helmetless humans on Mars would not be a pretty sight.

The last entry is Walk to the World by A. J. Budrys, a semi-deep philosophical story detailing man’s worldly conquers and what happens when they run up against another race of “humans” that also conquer worlds, but, without violence. Will we kill this other race or embrace their non-violent ways and mesh with them and therefore, join their race to discover new worlds, peaceably….who knows?

There Shall Be Darkness by C. L. Moore (American Science Fiction Magazine series)

"There Shall Be Darkness" by C. L. Moore

“There Shall Be Darkness” by C. L. Moore

Here we have the first full solo publication of C. L. Moore’s epic space opera There Shall Be Darkness published in Australia by the Malian Press as part of the American Science Fiction Magazine series. I hope fans of Moore don’t take this in the wrong way, but, I rather call this novella a “slush-opera.” No disrespect to CLM, but, it’s plain awful. When I first attempted to read it, I kept putting it down. (DISCLAIMER: Just because I do not like a story by an author, this does not mean I dislike all their works.) But hey, it is a redeemable edition since it is graced by the usually wonderful and original Stanley Pitt cover art.

The plot?

All Terrans are being removed from the barbaric planet of Venus. Commander James (Jamie) Douglas—whom really should purely be referred to as Jamie altogether, as Moore never touches upon his true birth name save the initial meeting—is instructed to pack and depart for Earth. His love interest, a sensual Venusian beauty, comes up with numerous deceitful ways to try to trick him to either take her with him to Earth, or to stay on Venus with her forever.

In the end, it really does not matter, because WOW! suddenly Venus and Earth are assaulted by these grotesque parodies of Earth men—as Moore refers to them (I’m sure these far-flung aliens find us equally as ugly parodies of themselves, right?)—and Jamie joins forces with Venus’ rebels to do battle. It quickly turns into a farce of a Flash Gordon action scene, lasers beams and all as “blue fire fanned downward again from the Earth ship and touched the other vessel with a gout of flame” and “the barbarians’ weapon shot skyward again, and the Terrestrial ship slid deftly sidewise as the ray shaved it…” LOL. Seriously? I almost could hear Freddie Mercury belt out “Flash! Aaaahhh! Saviour of the Universe!

If you hate anyone, this is the book to recommend to them.

If you feel outwardly repugnant toward me for this review… I don’t care. It’s my personal opinion. What matters is that I want to hear YOUR opinion. What did YOU think of the story? Was it good? Horrible? How did it stand the test of time? Was it poorly written SF even then?


Never Trust a Martian by Paul W. Fairman (American Science Fiction Magazine series)

Let’s continue this week with the wonderful American Science Fiction Magazine series published in Australia by the Malian Press. These Australian published pamphlets are a wonderful way for this wallet-stricken collector to purchase and read classic, quality pulp fiction stories at a fraction of the cost against what the original pulp magazine, while still retaining that “feel” of holding an old publication. Once more, we have Stanley Pitt creating an eye-appealing cover that has nothing to do with the internal contents.

But we’ll forgive him. I love all of his covers.

Never Trust a Martian

“Never Trust a Martian” by Paul W. Fairman

Our cover story read is “Never Trust a Martian” by Paul W. Fairman.
The novelette opens with Post, interplanetary renowned super sexed-up explorer dude that has women and men alike falling at his feet (hey, that’s the impression you get, okay!) is beset upon by a trio, trying to kill him. He disarms them and learns that the lone girl assailant convinced the two thugs to give him a beating, while she intends to incinerate him for betraying her brother. Story comes about that Post thought his best friend betrayed HIM, blah blah blah, they go to investigate, have dealings with a Martian high priest, blah blah blah, story has numerous craters afflicting the plot, but is still enjoyable for 1940s-era fiction, I suppose. I won’t ruin the story by revealing the soap-opera conclusion(s).

Excited to read Walter Kubilius “Turn Backward o’ Time.”
Sick and dying, Donovan is sent back in time. Fearing that the Criminal Destroyers might pursue him in Time to eliminate time-altering consequences on his part, he avoids his profession and lands in 1926. Jobless, he writes science fiction stories for the pulp market. Each decade, his aging body becomes younger and younger, and now, one year, his fiction is rejected. In fact, he has gone from old man to a very young man in appearance. Sadly, he realizes his plight and that he must return to the future to reverse the process and live a longer life again. But when he realizes that he can’t remember how to return to the future, he dimly recollects that his first pulp sale contained the exact specifics and goes in search of the original pulp editor. On arriving, he learns the editor is ill, etc, someone else in the office. The original manuscript is awaiting him, but, so is, a member of the Criminal Destroyers division….

The Barrier” by Murray Leinster is an excellent short story.
Here we have a narrator explaining the fate of Joe Harper, hero. He explains that Harper, while brilliant, was also really stupid, and knocks this Harper fellow down a peg or so, explaining the incidents that led to his demise and being put up on a pedestal to the world. Cliche ending, sure, but, it’s great stuff, and I’m simply NOT going to explain it any further than THAT, lest I ruin the story for YOU.

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Derelict of Space by Randall Garrett—plus Poul Anderson and Tarr Roman

Let’s dial back to the October 1954 issue of American Science Fiction Magazine, published in Australia by the Malian Press. There isn’t a “loser” tale in this issue. The cover is illustrated by the usually imaginative Stanley Pitt, but this cover is all straight lines, and lacks any real evidence of his capabilities.

American Science Fiction Magazine #30The cover title, DERELICT OF SPACE by Randall Garrett, originally appeared in the American pulp Future (March 1954) as “The Wayward Course.” Intriguing tale of the far-flung future in which humans are at a stalemate with aliens over border territory. We then stumble (in space, of course) across a derelict space vessel that turns out to be thousands of years old. Encased inside are humans, perfectly preserved. Thawing one out (a woman) they discover within these ancient humans a higher intellect, mind-reading and hypnotic abilities. Fearing she is a plant by the aliens, they lock her away and plan to blow up the rest of the frozen bodies. But when she escapes an impregnable cell, all hell breaks loose. As they hunt her down, the question remains, until solved at the end: Is she Friend, or is she Foe?

The novelette is chased by Poul Anderson’s THE CHAPTER ENDS, debuting in Dynamic Science Fiction (January 1954).
Humans have explored and conquered the stars, but the aging battle-scarred Earth is now to be surrendered to an alien race, to keep the peace. All humans are evacuated, save for an elder, whom remains behind, and eventually, alone and surrounded by the quiet and impending darkness, goes quickly insane, in mere minutes….

Tarr Roman’s CAPTAIN BARNES AND THE LAW is a short story of merit, playful tongue-in-cheek wit of how to solve the invasion of an intelligent race from claiming their spaceship  while not causing harm. Intergalactic Law states and forbids harming a new and intelligent race, etc. Standard law found in many SF stories. You get the idea. However, when the less-than-pint-sized aliens fail to acknowledge the mountainous humans as rightful owners of their own spaceship (the aliens, so tiny, think it a metallic asteroid or planet, worthy of harvesting for its precious ores, and have already drilled through the hull), Captain Barnes must come up with an ingenious plot to remove the vicious invaders, before they kill his entire crew. The solution is amusing. This story originally appeared in Future (March 1952).



“The Guthrie Method” by Raymond Z. Gallun / “Desperate Remedy” by Mack Reynolds

ASFM 37The 37th issue in the American Science Fiction Magazine pamphlet-format pulp reprint series, published in Australia by the Malian Press, features original cover art by Stanley Pitt. If not for the original illustrations, it’s hard to fathom just how desirable these magazines would be to collectors….

Originally printed in Science Fiction Quarterly (May 1954) “The Guthrie Method,” by Raymond Z. Gallun, honestly, is entirely droll. The slow, plodding pace of the plot and the obvious solution to Guthrie’s plight bored me to tears. The inexcusable insertion of a romance between himself and the weak feminine lead was utterly absurd. ‘Nuff said.

“Desperate Remedy” by Mack Reynolds is a space-opera, and one must indeed be desperate to finish reading this “chaser.” Like the preceding tale, this hails from the very same titled magazine, Science Fiction Quarterly (November 1954). A ship’s crew is sent on a secret mission to investigate a nuclear explosion deep in space only to learn the mission is twice as long as normal, and fear of space cafard (depression) soon runs rampant. But when an inexplicable murder occurs, one that has never occurred in space fleet history (an assertion that is laughable), cafard flees before the swell of the magnitude of the crew’s shock, and sudden interests flair and continuous catastrophes occur monthly. The killer is obvious from the start, despite Reynold’s attempt to disguise the culprit.

Granted, we are reading their fiction today rather than from a 1940s-50s viewpoint. At the time, this post-war stuff, written with a WW2 flair, would have been satisfying fare. To me, it simply fails to make the mark nor stand the test of time, unlike some of the other stories in these ASF magazines. I’m eagerly already delving into the next issue and it is filled with far-better stuff than this edition.

“As You Were” by Henry Kuttner in Australia’s “American Science Fiction Magazine” series

ASFM 38“As You Were” by Henry Kuttner debuted in Thrilling Wonder Stories (August 1950) and was reprinted (unnumbered, as the 38th title) in the American Science Fiction Magazine series, published by the Malian Press, circa June 1955. As with all titles in this series, it features original cover art by renowned Australia illustrator Stanley Pitt. No other stories filled this issue, making this Kuttner’s first solo appearance of this story.

I read this novelette late one night during a mental catastrophe that kept me awake for hours, but in between, Henry Kuttner kept me company. With my love for vintage fiction, I am grateful that Kuttner came through for me during my darkest hours….

Graced by Stanley Pitt’s excellently enticing cover, one can’t help but wonder what sort of military presence is represented inside, due to the spaceship and the title. Nope. No military. In fact, no space ship. Say what?!?!?!?! No, it is a tale of time-travel. Our hero, a mutt of a youngster, drinks something foreign (no explanation for this is duly provided) that was supposed to be beer brought by Dr. Kraftt, a batty-ass old scientist that lacks any real scientific abilities and is oblivious to the one surrounding him throughout the story. Anyhow, our hero must somehow discern how a seamless blue clock permits time-travel, how long it lasts, the ramifications of multiple alternate possibilities, hopes he doesn’t run into himself or other others, save his sweetheart from a doomed acting career (typical slush), save an inept police officer’s job while inadvertently solving the crime of his asshole uncle’s stolen gold coins, not to mention the daffy Dr.’s missing stone frog. The plot is amusingly intricate at times and Kuttner’s tongue-in-cheek humor keeps you smiling as our hero deftly manages to fix situation after situation while creating new ones and having to keep all the past pasts straight. The only TRUE fault I ran into was that the clock would only wind back SO FAR, not far enough to see who stole or perpetuated the gold heist, yet, at the end of the story, the clock does just that. Clearly a mistake, unless I missed something……phew!

The Irrationals by Milton Lesser (American Science Fiction Magazine series)

by Morgan Wallace

The Irrationals by Milton Lesser
Let us continue with our ongoing thread on Australia’s American Science Fiction Magazine pulp reprint series, as published by the Malian Press, in the 1950s. As always, each cover is gorgeously illustrated by Stanley Pitt.

Our cover feature is “The Irrationals” by Milton Lesser. The story reminds me of the movie version of Philip K. Dick’s Minority Report, albeit, very loosely. If you’ve read Dick’s story or viewed the movie, then, you really do not need me to elaborate any further. The story itself was decently written.

Nelson Bond’s “The Man Who Could Walk Through Walls” was terribly stale, but typical of Bond’s easy-going fantastic fiction stylings. Not great, but not horrible either. Just a good, easy read for the late-night armchair reader, kickin’-it old-school by a roaring fireplace.

Ray Bradbury’s “The Pedestrian” is epic, to a fault. Ray expresses no imagination regarding televisions over a hundred years later from whence this story was originally written. Nor does he alter the “shows” the people are watching, etc. It’s as if they are all watching 1940s television in the year 2131. Hardly believable. I found that irredeemable of a man capable of writing cleverly constructed stories. Despite my personal grievances against the background-plot, it was well-written, and engaging enough to make me wonder just what WAS the point that Ray would eventually drive home. According to Ray, this story is the beginning of what would become FAHRENHEIT 451. So, maybe I shouldn’t knock the story…. Not entirely.

American Science Fiction Magazine “Common Time” by James Blish

by Morgan Wallace

Common Time by James BlishThe feature story in this issue of the Australian published American Science Fiction Magazine series is “Common Time” by James Blish. Admittedly a fine science fiction yarn, but bogged down when Blish gets a wee bit technical. I prefer my science fiction to be more escapist than scientifically instructive.

Next novelette inside is H. Beam Piper’s “Genesis.” Initially, I feared that Piper would trod the Adam-and-Eve path, but he chose the nearly equally beaten path of humans historically being aliens that came from a doomed planet. A fun read with the usual ending.

Shockingly, it is David Grinnell’s “Last Stand of a Grenadier” that entranced me entirely to the point that I refused to drop out until finished. It’s a typically easy read by this writer, alias of Donald A. Wollheim. Here, we have DAW Books founder poking fun at fandom, with a lot of tongue-in-cheek and the consequences of children watching the tube. Far distant aliens have hijacked one specific science fiction show and are stealing their minds while they sleep, calling their number from deep in space to pilot bombs on suicide missions. Only truly “imaginative” members are called to the post and while their bodies do not die, some suffer emotional trauma, develop amnesia, and some even die. In an effort to avoid their number being tapped, two young fans realize the plot and begin a hefty effort to recruit more SF fans. The plan goes awry when more and more kids are taken. Eventually, they will run out of replacement kamikaze pilots, and then, well, you’ll have the last Grenadier….to avoid this fate for his own son, our narrator, a newspaper reporter, unhooks his television set and offers to sell it cheap to any reader, so long as they do not have children….

This issue sports a stunningly gorgeous cover by the ever-competent hand of Australian artist Stanley Pitt. As with some other issues in this AMSF series, this cover has nothing to do with the text inside.

The Thing from Another World by John W. Campbell, Jr.

by Morgan Wallace

Hello. I’ve been invited to write pulp-relevant articles and share them with an audience whom will readily appreciate the literature, and receive a broader scope of exposure. After some vacillating, I decided to give this adventure a try, and delved into my own older blog entries, and post them here, where you, the more relevant and direct pulp audience, may readily receive, and hopefully, contribute your thoughts and opinions with the world. You see, fandom has deteriorated in recent decades and lost all sense of direction, and, fan-family. The world as fandom knew it, eons ago, that sired the wonderful fanzines of a forgotten era, and the jubilantly wild and crazy conventions, are dead and past. Most, if not all members of First Fandom, are dead, and I’m not too sure how many members of Second Fandom are around, but thankfully, there are a number still kicking.

My initiation began with collecting a variety of vintage paperbacks, and not having any real direction. When the Internet was introduced (to me) my world expanded, quite quickly. What little I learned and gleaned from the occasional fanzine that came my way or letters of correspondence I received suddenly was like opening my eyes to the sun and having it violently engulf me. Then I met Howard DeVore, and he insisted I drive up to his house in Dearborn, Michigan, and have a damn good time romping through his garage (mostly mass market paperbacks and filing cabinets of fanzines and a couple mimeograph machines). I helped to heave him upstairs, to the attic, where his quality pulps, paintings, and foreign publications, were stored (downstairs, in the tiny living room, were bookshelves of hardcovers). It was upstairs that my collecting interests took an altered course.

Now, Howie was by no means responsible for my insatiable desire to the collect the (Famous) American Science Fiction (Magazine) series that was printed by the Malian Press, in Australia, during the early 1950s, however, one can readily trace my foreign collecting interests directly to his attic (but THAT is for another future article). The “magazines” are actually digest-sized side-stapled pamphlets; all 41 issues are 36-pages in length, and each sport original full color cover art by Stanley Pitt. That latter alone makes them quite collectible. Naturally, for collecting enthusiasts, the fine grades are the most desirable, and, given the vibrant quality of the art, rightfully so….

Many can be found for reasonable prices. Some are just downright expensive by virtue of either being the author’s first full-length novel in “book” format (reprinted from the pulps, of course), or, a collection entirely by one author, or, such as the collection below, it simply has a lot going for it…and I certainly do not need to elaborate any further than that. Anyone in and out of fandom reading this blog should have some working knowledge of … THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD

The Thing From Another World by John w. Campbell, Jr.

Without further ado, let’s touch upon issue #5, THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD, printed September 1952.
The novella originally debuted in the pulp fiction magazine, Astounding (August 1938) under John W. Campbell Jr.‘s alias, Don A. Stuart, as “Who Goes There?”

The story opens with Campbell’s usual haphazard-disjointed “fast-action” style of writing, where the expedition’s core characters are assembled and described, with the leader absurdly depicted as a veritable man of bronze. They bring together the full Antarctica crew, and unveil the monstrosity, discovered while researching metallic anomalies far beneath the ice. After they have carved the alien free, the crew nearly annihilate themselves while trying to detonate a path into the alien vessel. The spaceship explodes into smithereens (which, if you’ve never read the story but seen the movie(s), well, shit, this is the best thing that could possibly happen, right?)

Deciding to learn the secrets of the alien race, they slowly thaw the sinisterly evil-looking critter (always a great idea, right?). One of the crew remains awake to watch over the melting process, (drip drip) goes about his work, (drip drip drip) and the floor creaks (no more dripping)….

Shift to next scene; said guy watching over critter wakes up the commander, and proclaims the alien has escaped! But, when their pack of dogs begin screaming, howling, and roaring, they soon know where to search. They find a monstrosity out of hell, a shape-shifter, midway between alien and dog dimensions, being ripped and torn asunder by the frenzied dogs. One of the crew goes insane and calls them (the humans, that is, not the dogs) all aliens, distrusting the whole lot of them, and they lock him away, far away, in an isolated room of “junk” and “parts,” where he can do himself and others, no harm.

Realizing that The Thing has shifting capabilities, the crew panics, and determine that the crew member originally assigned to watching over the “melted one” may himself be an alien. Various “tests” are concocted…. The truth is learned; there are numerous “replaced” humans among their own kind!

Fast-forwarding, the humans finally kill off all the aliens, or have they? What about the fellow that went insane and was put into isolation? Is he human? Or was he merely mimicking? The crew dart out there, pry open the doors and….let me assure you, the story has nothing to do with the movies, so I do suggest you read the story.

Get off your duff and grab a copy of the tale yourself. Copies abound in “cheap” reprint editions.