Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Science Fiction Beautiful British Book Jacket Design of the 1950s and 1960s

Ever since I established Existential Ennui's first permanent page, Beautiful British Book Jacket Design of the 1950s and 1960s, five years ago, the bulk of the dust jackets I've added to the gallery have wrapped books of a crime or spy fiction bent – those being the genres I've been most interested in, and accordingly have collected the most of, for most of those five years (and even before that). But right from the get-go I've included dust jackets from books from other genres (and indeed no genre at all) besides, notably science fiction. Among my earliest additions to the page was Roy Sanford's wrapper for the 1951 Rupert Hart-Davis first edition of Ray Bradbury's The Silver Locusts (alias The Martian Chronicles) – one of my most prized books – alongside John Rowland's jacket for the 1957 Heinemann edition of Nevil Shute's On the Beach and Donald Green's one for the 1959 Constable edition of Pat Frank's Alas, Babylon.

With my recently reignited fervour for SF, I thought it high time I added some more science fiction jackets to the gallery. Most of the SF I've been picking up over the past eight months or so has either hailed from the 1970s onwards or been paperbacks – or both – but I have acquired a handful of hardback firsts from the '50s and '60s as well, plus there are one or two other books I've had in my possession for longer than that which, for whatever reason, I haven't got round to adding to the page. Such as this one:

A British first edition of Poul Anderson's Brain Wave, published by Heinemann in 1955. This was one of the first books I bought when I moved down to Lewes from London nine years ago and got seriously into book collecting, acquired from Lewes' Bow Windows Bookshop for a tenner – on reflection something of a bargain, even given its damaged – but still complete – dust jacket; the cheapest comparable copy I can see online at present is listed for over £100. That jacket is by Eric Mudge-Marriott, whose work also appears on, among others, the 1954 Cassell edition of (John) Ross Macdonald's Experience with Evil (alias Meet Me at the Morgue), the 1955 Heinemann edition of David Duncan's Dark Dominion, and the 1965 Cassell edition of William Haggard's The Hard Sell (a copy of which I have in the loft somewhere).

A more recent acquisition from Bow Windows is this British first edition/second impression of Ray Bradbury's early short story collection The Golden Apples of the Sun, published by Rupert Hart-Davis in 1953. Boasting among its tales an all-time Bradbury classic, "The Sound of Thunder", the book's dust jacket is by Bradbury's longtime artistic collaborator, American designer Joe Mugnaini, who also designed the differing jacket of the 1953 US Doubleday edition, as well as this:

The 1959 Hart-Davis edition of The Day It Rained Forever, a 1962 second impression/ex-library copy of which I acquired for a couple of quid from Jamie Sturgeon at the last but one Lewes Book Fair. I bought a bunch of SF off Jamie at the most recent Lewes Book Fair in October too, including this:

A first edition of Jonathan Burke's intriguing Pursuit Through Time, published by Ward, Lock in 1956. Sadly there's no art credit for the dust jacket (the style looks very familiar to me but I can't place it) so I've added it to Beautiful British Book Jacket Design of the 1950s and 1960s under 'Designer Unknown'.

Also from the most recent Lewes Book Fair, from a different dealer, came this British first of Andre Norton's Catseye, published by Gollancz in 1962 (and once owned by a Prof. Spratt, according to the ex libris stamp on its endpaper). The wrapper is by Alan Breese, who created jackets for over a dozen Gollancz editions of Andre Norton books throughout the 1960s.

Lastly, from where I'm not quite sure – it's a recent-ish acquisition but I can't recall where from – a first edition/second impression of James Blish's A Life for the Stars, published by Faber in 1966 (originally 1964), dust jacket by Robert MacLean, who I believe was an American artist and children's book illustrator. Bizarrely, this is actually the second copy of the Faber edition I've owned; I did have a third impression but I've no idea what I did with it, hence why I bought this second impression from... somewhere... that and the fact that I also own Faber first/seconds of the other three novels in Blish's Cities in Flight sequence (which have rather different dust jacket designs). Anyway, I've added this and all the other SF wrappers in this post to Beautiful British Book Jacket Design of the 1950s and 1960s under their relevant designers (where known), all of whom are new to the gallery.

Friday, 3 November 2017

Peril for the Guy by John Kennett, a Lewes Bonfire Book Bargain

Guy Fawkes Night, or Bonfire as it's known locally, is a big deal here in Lewes. Each November the 5th (or, as it is this year, the 4th; Bonfire never takes place on a Sunday) thousands line the streets to witness the six bonfire societies – whose memberships number in the many hundreds – and visiting societies from across Sussex parade around the town in a cavalcade of flames and firecrackers, costumes and pageantry, tableaux (the term for the huge, topical – often controversially so – papier-mache effigies the societies build and then blow up) and centuries-old tradition, culminating in the ritual exploding of the Pope and subsequent firework displays at six fire sites dotted around town.

How apposite, then, that in a Lewes charity shop I should come across this:

A first edition of Peril for the Guy by John Kennett, published by Brockhampton Press in 1955, dust jacket and interior illustrations by Stuart Boyle (who also illustrated Evelyn Waugh's The Loved One, and whose daughter Catherine Brighton is herself an illustrator). A children's adventure novel about young Kim Hunter and his four friends – the 'Black Circle' Gang – who set out to collect 'pennies for the guy' but wind up falling foul of the sinister Colonel Hugo Cannon, I suppose its main claim to fame these days is that it became a Children's Film Foundation production the year after publication, directed by James Hill, starring Fraser Hines – later of Doctor Who and Emmerdale – and now available to view in its entirety on the BFI website.

Kennett didn't write that film adaptation, but he did write or edit around fifty other books for children – history and biography as well as fiction – including two sequels to Peril for Guy: Walk into Peril, 1957, and Peril All the Way, 1959. He was also a teacher at Knebworth County Primary School in Hertfordshire, a former pupil of which establishment recalls that mention of the film adaptation of Peril for the Guy was for some reason taboo.

Whatever objections Kennett may have had to the film, they evidently didn't prevent him from signing this copy of the novel on its front free endpaper in the same year the adaptation was released:

How this first of Peril for the Guy – the only signed copy I know of, and an uncommon book in either its 1955 Brockhampton Press edition or its 1973 White Lion reissue – wound up in a Lewes charity shop I couldn't say; the curious religious bookmark that was slipped inside its pages might be a clue, or more likely the inscription on the reverse of the front endpaper:

To a Robert from his Auntie Eve and Uncle Dennis on the occasion of his twelfth birthday. One to ponder over the weekend, perhaps, as Lewes once more bursts into flames.

Linked in this Friday's Forgotten Books roundup. Bonfire photos © Rachel Day. 

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

2017: Science Fiction Odyssey Three

I suppose really this post should be titled '2017: Science Fiction Odyssey Six' or something, given that besides two prior similarly-titled posts on my continuing science fiction book collecting odyssey, '2017: A Science Fiction Odyssey' and '2017: Odyssey to... Bookshops in Worthing, Leigh-on-Sea and Tunbridge Wells', I've done SF-book-collecting-odyssey posts centring on the Isle of WightBrighton and the Lewes Book Fair. But Arthur C. Clarke only wrote four books in his series – I've been riffing on the titles of Clarke's 'Space Odyssey' novels, you see – and I'd already ballsed up the numbering by not making the Isle of Wight post the second part of the odyssey, so '2017: Science Fiction Odyssey Three' it is.

And the odyssey this time takes in Littlehampton, Worthing (again), Brighton (again), Tonbridge and Sydenham, all of which I've trekked to in search of secondhand SF over the past month or so. A warning: anyone expecting picturesque (unlikely in the cases of Worthing and Sydenham I know, but anyway) shots of those far-flung locales is likely to be sorely disappointed; as in previous odyssey posts, this one will largely consist of photographs of my hand holding books outside – and mostly obscuring, helpfully – secondhand bookshops, so depending on your mileage for partially obscured secondhand bookshops/books/hands, you may want to stop reading now.

My first stop on this leg of the odyssey was the coastal town of Littlehampton, about an hour from Lewes (where I live) by car or indeed by train, which was how I travelled on this occasion. I ventured there drawn by the Fireside Bookshop, which relocated to Littlehampton from the Lake District a couple of years ago and which I'd been meaning to visit ever since I learned of that relocation. Situated in a small arcade at the far end of the high street from the train station, it's an attractive shop with a diverse stock arranged around one large and one smaller room, but though its (largely paperback) fiction section in the main room stretches the length of its front windows, when I visited there wasn't much in the way of science fiction on offer. However, the owner had just bought in an SF collection, and although he hadn't yet catalogued it all, he did have a few bits behind the counter. After a look through the two small proffered piles I selected this:

A pristine first edition of Greg Bear's alien invasion/end of the world epic The Forge of God, published in hardback by Gollancz in 1987, dust jacket illustration by John Harris. That'll do nicely.

Heading back towards Lewes I stopped off at Worthing in order to have another look for SF in Badger's Books. The box of SF paperbacks I found before was still there, and this time I plucked from it three paperback firsts of early novels by Ian WatsonThe Martian Inca (Granada/Panther, 1978, cover illustration by Peter Gudynas), Alien Embassy (Granada/Panther, 1979) and Miracle Visitors (Granada/Panther, 1980) – and two paperback firsts of novels by Bob Shaw: Ground Zero Man (Corgi, 1976) and The Ceres Solution (Granada, 1983). However, as I was paying for those, I spied in the shelf of signed books running high up along one wall in the first room a Peter F. Hamilton book, which on closer inspection turned out to be this:

A copy of the signed, limited, numbered, slipcased edition of The Temporal Void, published by Macmillan in 2008, dust jacket and box illustration by Jim Burns. The second in Hamilton's Void Trilogy, it's the sequel to 2007's The Dreaming Void, a first edition of which I'd found in the Lewes Book Centre not long before. Splendid.

Living in Lewes as I do, it's not unusual for me to buy books in nearby Brighton; but it is unusual for me to take a picture of whichever books I've bought outside whichever bookshop I've bought them in – which is precisely what I did one sunny Saturday early in September (when I was ostensibly in Brighton for my friend – and Brit comics/dinosaur art superstar – Steve White's stag do) at Colin Page Antiquarian Books (which, sadly, will be closing down quite soon, passing trade apparently not being enough to justify the cost of keeping a shop in the centre of Brighton) after buying some SF paperbacks from the table outside the shop, so I figured I might as well include that picture in this post. On the top is a 1982 New English Library first paperback edition of Search for the Sun!, the first novel in Colin Kapp's Cageworld series, cover illustration by Gerald Grace; then a 1979 Hamlyn paperback first of Healer, the debut novel by F. Paul Wilson (who recently wrote the foreword to a book I project edited, The Art of the Pulps); and a 1969 Coronet paperback first of SF anthology Seven Trips Through Time and Space, edited by Groff Conklin and featuring stories by among others Larry Niven and Cordwainer Smith.

While Brighton is for me a frequent destination, Tonbridge, in Kent, about an hour's drive north from Lewes, isn't (I've probably been there a handful of times, one of which I only have a dim recollection of as it involved drunken boating on the Medway with my friend Mike). But on a whim I motored there in order to have a mooch around the excellently-named Mr. Books, which I'd been meaning to check out for a while, and especially so since it reopened under new management in August. A bijou one-room split-level affair, the shop's hardback fiction section up the back didn't hold anything of interest for me, but the paperback fiction section down the front, with its shelf of film tie-ins, was another matter entirely:

On the top there is a first edition/first printing of Michael Crichton's original Westworld screenplay, published straight to paperback by Bantam in 1974. Quite a rare book – especially so in the UK – it includes 32 pages of stills and behind-the-scenes shots and an enlightening essay by Crichton about the tribulations of making the film, worth the price of admission alone – which in my case was three quid, significantly less than first printings usually go for.

Underneath that is a 1947 first Penguin paperback edition of Graham Greene's travelogue The Lawless Roads (I do still buy non-SF books, y'know); a 1978 Paradise Press paperback first of Bob Balaban's making-of memoir Close Encounters of the Third Kind Diary – another rare book, later reissued by Titan as Spielberg, Truffaut and Me (which is the edition I read it in when I worked at Titan); a 1950 Cherry Tree Books paperback first of Edward Woodward's Dead Man's Plaything – an incredibly rare book (there's not a single copy for sale online) which I bought because I wondered whether the author might be the Edward Woodward, who would have been 20 when it was published; a 1970 Pan first paperback edition of Kingsley 'Robert Markham' Amis' Bond novel Colonel Sun; a 2004 Gollancz first paperback printing of Alastair Reynolds' Absolution Gap, the final part of his central Revelation Space universe trilogy and, weirdly, the one book I was hoping I might find when I decided to make the journey to Tonbridge (and lo and behold, serendipitously, there it was, hidden behind some other SF paperbacks, almost as if it was waiting for me...); and a 1993 HarperCollins first paperback printing of Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars.

Not a bad haul. But Tonbridge wasn't done with me yet, because on the way back to the car I had a look in the local Oxfam Books and emerged with a 1980 Orbit/Futura paperback first of Larry Niven's short story collection Convergent Series, cover illustration by Peter Jones; a 2008 Gollancz paperback of Greg Egan's Diaspora; and a 2002 US Baen hardback first edition/fist printing of Andre Norton's Warlock, which collects the three Forerunner novels Storm over Warlock (1960), Ordeal in Otherwhere (1964) and Forerunner Foray (1973).

Lastly on this leg of the odyssey, Sydenham, and the Kirkdale Bookshop, which I swung by one Sunday when I was up at my folks' for the weekend (they live in nearby Beckenham). A browse through the first edition bookcases and (mostly paperback) SF section in the secondhand basement produced a 1962 Corgi paperback first of Planet of the Dreamers (alias Wine of the Dreamers), the first SF novel by crime writer John D. MacDonald, cover art by Josh Kirby; a 1976 Orbit paperback of Larry Niven's Protector; a 1981 Orbit paperback of Jerry Pournelle's Future History; and a 1967 Hodder hardback first of Edmund Cooper's A Far Sunset – a scarce edition that one, especially so in its jacket.

The odyssey, inevitably, continues...

NB: Linked in this week's Friday's Forgotten Books roundup.

Monday, 9 October 2017

J.G. Ballard's The Drowned World and Other eBay Delights

I've got a bunch of new eBay auctions up and running, including something quite special:

Volume 4 No. 24 of Science Fiction Adventures, published in January 1962. What's so darn special about it? Well it features the first appearance of J.G. Ballard's dystopian classic The Drowned World, which debuted in this issue of Science Fiction Adventures months before it was published in hardback by Gollancz – making this effectively the true first edition. (See this post for more.) It's a pretty scarce publication, with lovely Brian Lewis cover art illustrating Ballard's tale, and it's got a low starting price, so someone could potentially nab a bargain.

All of my latest eBay offerings can be found here:

Existential Ennui on eBay

Or by clicking on each picture for the individual auctions...

Among them a 1964 first edition (later printing) of The Man Who Sold Death by James Munro (alias Callan creator James Mitchell)...

....a 1989 first edition of Quiller KGB by Adam Hall...

and a 2016 omnibus of Avengers: Time Runs Out, which collects the climax to Jonathan Hickman's brilliant Avengers run. Quite a mix of books, then, plus there are some others I've offered before  – some of them signed – but which now have lower starting prices. Have at it.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Infinite Stars, Space Opera, Alastair Reynolds' Revelation Space: Night Passage, and Cordwainer Smith's The Rediscovery of Man

I seldom request advance review copies of books – I get offered them quite a lot but my blogging is so intermittent these days and I've such a backlog of old books (and comics) to blog about that the thought of having to do a timely post on a new book as well is almost too much to bear – but when Titan Books (where – full disclosure – long ago I ran the graphic novels department) sent out an email about this:

Infinite Stars, an anthology of space opera and military science fiction to be published on 24 October (jacket illustration by Luca Oleastri), I couldn't resist nabbing a copy. Put together by writer and editor Bryan Thomas Schmidt, the near-700-page hardback collects short – and not-so-short – SF stories both new and vintage by authors both neophyte and veteran, among the latter Robert Silverberg, Anne McCaffrey, Poul Anderson, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. Silverberg also provides a fantastically entertaining introduction explicating the origins of space opera – the phrase and the form – concentrating especially on the exuberance of its early–mid twentieth century pulp-magazine incarnation; stories in the words of one critic of "incredible heroes, unbelievable weapons, insurmountable obstacles, inconceivable science, omnipotent villains, and unimaginable cataclysms" – or as Wilson Tucker, who in 1941 coined the term space opera as a pejorative, put it: "the hacky, grinding, stinking, outworn space-ship yarn".

All of which might by itself have been enough, given my recently rediscovered fervour for SF, for me to want a copy. However, my real reason for getting the anthology was that it contains a brand new Revelation Space universe story by Alastair Reynolds. Titled "Night Passage", it's set 200 years before the events of Revelation Space (2000) and details humanity's first encounter with a mysterious region of altered spacetime – which will become known as a Shroud – and a potentially cataclysmic rupturing of trust between the command crew of an interstellar spaceship, the Equinoctial, and a contingent of their Conjoiner (a hive-minded human faction) passengers. It's a fine tale, told in the first person by the ship's captain, Rauma Bernsdottir, and exploring notions of shame and forgiveness and how false assumptions can lead to catastrophe.

Of the twenty-three other stories in the anthology I've only read a handful thus far, but of those, one I really liked was a beautifully written vintage story by Cordwainer Smith, "The Game of Rat and Dragon". First published in 1955 (in Galaxy Science Fiction), it's a far-future tale of the conflict between a force piloted by telepathic "pinlighters" and their feline partners – the cats' lightning-swift instincts having been found to complement the humans' intellects – and ferocious alien Dragons, and forms part of Smith's Instrumentality of Mankind series. I was drawn to it in particular because a couple of months ago in Leigh Gallery Books in Essex I picked up this:

A 1988 Gollancz first edition of The Rediscovery of Man (jacket illustration by John Avon). Originally published in the States in 1975 as The Best of Cordwainer Smith, it includes "The Game of Rat and Dragon" alongside eleven other stories from Smith's Instrumentality universe – led off by the first story set in that future history, 1950's "Scanners Live in Vain" – and an insightful introduction by John J. Pierce (who also provides brief intros to each of the tales). The portrait that Pierce paints of Smith, alias Dr. Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger, is an intriguing one. Godson of Sun Yat Sen, founder of the Chinese Republic, the Milwaukee-born Smith was a colonel in US Army Intelligence, advisor to the British forces in Malaya and the US Eighth Army in Korea, Professor of Asiatic politics at Johns Hopkins University, and author of Psychological Warfare, "still regarded as the most authoritative text in the field".

But as fascinating as all this is, it's Smith's fiction that's arguably the most extraordinary thing about him, especially those stories set in his Instrumentality universe. "In Cordwainer Smith's epic of the future," writes Pierce, "the Instrumentality of Mankind has the hallmarks of both a political elite and a priesthood. Its hegemony is that, not of the galactic empire so typical of less imaginative SF, but of something far more subtle and pervasive – at once political and spiritual. Its lords see themselves not as mere governors or bureaucrats or politicians, but as instruments of human destiny itself." Highlighting "the spontaneity of his work", the "elusive... allusions in his stories" and "the strong sense of vocation expressed by the scanners, sailors, pinlighters, Go-captains and the lords themselves", Pierce notes that "Smith was a mythmaker in science fiction", stating in closing: "The work of Cordwainer Smith will always retain its enigmas. But that is part of its appeal. In reading his stories, we are caught up in experiences as real as life itself – and just as mysterious."

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

The Quantum Science Fiction Programme (1977–1981): Isaac Asimov, Ben Bova, John Varley, Gregory Benford et al

In 1977, a self-described "international publishing venture" was launched. Selected and edited by authors Isaac Asimov and Ben Bova (ostensibly; as Todd Mason notes in the comments, the real editor was D. R. Bensen) and published in the first instance by the Dial Press in the US, the Quantum Science Fiction programme proclaimed on the cover of its first book that it would be "presenting the best in modern science fiction". Over a five-year period nine books would be published under the Quantum umbrella – two per year, then one in the final year of the programme – penned by some of the brightest new talents in SF (plus a couple of older hands, including one of the editors). It was a Quantum project for the quantum age... and yet these days it barely merits a footnote in the history of SF.

I learned of the Quantum Science Fiction programme recently having become interested in the work of SF authors John Varley and Gregory Benford, who both had early novels issued under Quantum's imprimatur. Though the programme seems to have been a Dial Press (where Asimov was an editorial board member) initiative – aside from an isfdb list of series titles (which neglects to include Orson Scott Card's Songmaster) there's next to no information about it online – most of the books included (bar Card's two entries) were also published by Sidgwick & Jackson in the UK, and it's in those editions that I bought Varley's debut novel, The Ophiuchi Hotline, and Benford's fourth, In the Ocean of Night. With the books in my hands it was hard to miss the Quantum connection: where in the US they were issued with illustrated wrappers utilising a border design that deployed the Quantum identification discreetly, in the UK Sidgwick & Jackson used the Quantum 'Q' logo as the key element in their near-uniform typographic gold dust jacket designs.

The authors and books published in the Quantum Science Fiction Programme were as follows:

1. John Varley, The Ophiuchi Hotline (1977)
2. Gregory Benford, In the Ocean of Night (1977)
3. Gordon R. Dickson, The Far Call (1978)
4. John Varley, The Persistence of Vision (alias In the Hall of the Martian Kings) (1978)
5. Spider and Jeanne Robinson, Stardance (1979)
6. Ben Bova, Kinsman (1979)
7. Orson Scott Card, Songmaster (1980)
8. Joan D. Vinge, The Snow Queen (1980)
9. Orson Scott Card, Unaccompanied Sonata and Other Stories (1981)

I've no idea how well received the programme was at the time – the scant information available online suggests it's at least not terribly well remembered – but it certainly started strongly. Varley and Benford were I guess back then the (relatively speaking) 'hip young gunslingers' of science fiction, The Ophiuchi Hotline and In the Ocean of Night the opening shots in their respective Eight Worlds and Galactic Centre sagas: distinctive, exciting SF offering fresh perspectives on space opera. Thereafter, while the fourth Quantum offering, Varley's first short story collection, The Persistence of Vision – UK title In the Hall of the Martian Kings – was and is highly regarded, the third one, veteran Gordon R. Dickson's The Far Call, was and is perhaps less so – witness this withering contemporaneous Kirkus review and this scathing 2015 one (although this review from 2000 is kinder) – while the inclusion of fellow veteran Ben Bova's own Kinsman smacks slightly of favouritism.

In any case, the Quantum brand clearly propagated further than the Dial Press and Sidgwick & Jackson first editions. Subsequent paperback editions of some of the Quantum books also carried the 'Q' logo and the "international publishing venture" legend, while Sidgwick & Jackson seemingly did their best to extract as much capital as possible out of the brand by publishing three Quantum Specials – omnibuses which paired the initial six books in the series (counterparts to the publisher's long-running Science Fiction Special series), as follows:

Quantum Special 1 (1979): The Ophiuchi Hotline and In the Ocean of the Night
Quantum Special 2 (1981): The Far Call and In the Hall of the Martian Kings
Quantum Special 3 (1981): Stardance and Kinsman

Despite all this, by 1981 the Dial Press had dropped any mention of Quantum from the jacket (front or back) of the final book in the programme, Orson Scott Card's Unaccompanied Sonata and Other Stories (although it still carried the Quantum logo and the legend "A Quantum Book" on its title page). And that was pretty much it for Quantum Science Fiction – and pretty much as much as I've been able to find out about it. Still, at least in the unlikely event that anyone else goes looking for information about the programme – and I'm still wondering what on earth possessed me not only to do so myself, but to then write a fairly lengthy blog post about it – there's a bit more readily available now. And if anyone can shed any more light on Quantum, please do leave a comment.

Linked in Friday's Forgotten Books, 29/9/17.