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June 8, 2012

Odds and Ends (We’re Back)

The Martian Chronicles
The Martian Chronicles from 1954.

We’re back with our first update in over a year! I’ve been putting my efforts into other areas (namely attempting to make a living), as it seems not too many are appreciating the efforts here (at least not judging by the numbers of visitors), but it’s hard to tell because the only messages I’ve gotten so far from the contact page is courtesy of spammers looking to sell SEO, or offering to make me more manly! Though I haven’t been completely idle as far as the site goes, I’ve still been collecting and fixing up books in my spare time, and have a fair-sized pile completed that I’ll be posting over the next couple weeks or months, depending on how inspired I get to post them.

At any rate, it’s time for an update! No particular theme for this update, just various odds and ends that I’ve been meaning to post. So, let’s get right into them….

First up, I have to note the passing of one of the greats in fantasy and science fiction, Ray Bradbury. Ray was 91 when he passed on Wednesday, just about the last of the great, old-time masters, one of those elite few sf authors who’s name everybody knows, whether they read a lot of sf or not. I’ve added his two classic works: The Martian Chronicles and Fahrenheit 451.

Speaking of classics, I’ve also just added H. Beam Piper’s Little Fuzzy. Published when George Lucas was a teenager, I’ve always thought Fuzzies must have been the inspiration for Ewoks, as this cover surely attests. And, speaking of Lucas, we’ve got Marvel Comics’ paperback compilation of the original Star Wars saga from 1977.

The planet Venus
The planet Venus silhouetted against
the sun, which I shot on Tuesday
with my Canon Rebel XSi and a
heavily filtered 300mm lens.

This week, we also got to witness a rare transit of Venus, as it crossed in front of the sun. Though only appearing as a small dot against the much larger sun, I could almost imagine the characters of our next book, Destination Infinity by Henry Kuttner, as they struggle to free themselves from the Immortals and escape Venus. This also happens to be one of the books that appeared on those drug store book racks in the first episode of The Twilight Zone (as we saw in our last update). Just a few more and I’ll have them all!

Finally, we’ve got a smorgasbord of odd books that I’ve been meaning to post for some time including: Mutiny in Space by Avram Davidson, J.G. Ballard’s The Impossible Man, The Insect Warriors by Rex Dean Levie, Frederic Brown’s The Lights in the Sky are Stars, and The Worlds of Robert A. Heinlein.

Hope you enjoy these new old books, and remember you can get your own copies, as well as support this site, by buying from Amazon using the links on each page. Be sure to come back for more updates in the coming weeks.

April 29, 2011

SF Paperbacks in The Twilight Zone

Earl Holliman browses the books in The Twilight Zone.
Earl Holliman browses the books in The Twilight Zone. How many sf paperbacks can you spot?

I’ve written before about how great I thought it would be to have been around in the 50s or early 60s. To be able to pop into a corner store and find racks of brightly colored science fiction paperbacks, all for just the change in your pocket. Well, I got a small dose of exactly that recently while watching The Twilight Zone.

This last week, the complete collection of episodes from The Twilight Zone appeared on Netflix and, though I’ve seen a lot of the episodes in reruns throughout the years, I’ve never watched them all through in order. So, I thought I’d give it a shot. In the very first episode of the very first season (from 1959), titled “Where is Everybody?”, a man finds himself in an abandoned town not knowing how he got there. He eventually ventures into the local ice cream shop where he finds racks and racks of beautiful new paperbacks. As he walked through the racks, spinning them as he went, I immediately recognized quite a few science fiction books, many of which we have right here on SFPaperbacks.com.

I was able to spot Lester del Rey’s Robots and Changelings, The Green Odyssey by Philip Jose Farmer, Isaac Asimov’s The Martian Way and Clifford D. Simak’s City, The Case Against Tomorrow by Frederik Pohl and A Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne, as well as a few that are not yet in the SFPB database: VOR by James Blish, Henry Kuttner’s Destination Infinity, and Earthlight by Arthur C. Clarke.

I was so thrilled I wished I could step through the TV screen — back to 1959 — and grab up some of those brand-new books! If only I lived in The Twilight Zone I could probably do just that, but no such luck. So, the next best thing is to look at them on SFPB and imagine those golden days of science fiction gone by.

Also, in honor of The Twilight Zone for bringing us those great stories and images from that by-gone age, we’ve added several books to SFPB by none other than Rod Serling himself. Our update this month is dedicated to Rod and his famous show and includes Chilling Stories from Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone, Stories from the Twilight Zone, and More Stories from the Twilight Zone.

Another interesting note about that first episode of The Twilight Zone: the lone man stops on a rack of books that are all titled “The Last Man on Earth” which, of course, was a movie starring Vincent Price. The odd thing about it is that the movie was released in 1964 (five years after this episode aired). The movie was based on a story by Richard Matheson called “I Am Legend” (remade in 2007 starring Will Smith) written in 1954. Richard Matheson has a connection with The Twilight Zone, he wrote many episodes over its life and had several of his short stories adapted into episodes (including one from last month’s SFPB update). It’s curious then that a book with that title should appear in the very first episode of The Twilight Zone. I wonder if Serling knew something back in 1959, or if it was just a strange coincidence?

March 29, 2011

Science Fiction by the Numbers — a SFPB Countdown

Rocket
5, 4, 3, 2, 1…
Blastoff!

What’s more analogous to science fiction than a rocket blasting off to parts unknown? And what’s more integral to a rocket blasting off than a good, old-fashioned countdown? So, in this month’s update we’re counting down six new books with numbers in the title. It’s T-minus five and counting so join us for our countdown to see what we mean:

Five….
5 Tales from Tomorrow, edited by T.E. Dikty with stories by Albert Compton Friborg, Tom Godwin, Clifford D. Simak, Robert Abernathy and Everett B. Cole.

Four….
Four from Planet 5 by Murray Leinster, cover art by Paul lehr

Three….
Third from the Sun by Richard Matheson

Two….
Second Stage Lensmen by E.E. “Doc” Smith, cover art by Jack Gaughan

One….
First on the Moon by Hugh Walters

Zero!
Planet Big Zero by Franklin Hadley, cover art by Ralph Brillhart

February 25, 2011

Two and a Short Bits

35-cent
Remember when a paperback
could be had for the change in
your pocket? We do.

I’m old enough to have been born in an era when two coins from your pocket could buy a brand-new science fiction paperback (heck, I’m old enough now to refer to myself as having been born in an “era”). Back in the late 50s to early 60s, a quarter and a dime* would net you any one of the books in this month’s update (sans the lint from your pocket). Today, the same paperbacks, new, will cost you more than 22 times as much! So, enjoy the offerings this month as we journey back to a time when, with enough luck, you could scrounge enough change from your parents’ couch to run out and buy one of these brand-new books:

The Man Who Sold the Moon
The Planet Explorer
The Status Civilization
Venus Plus X
War with the Newts

And, if you’d like to see more 35-cent paperback books, check out our 35-cent theme page.

*You’ve probably heard a quarter referred to as two-bits, but did you also know that, back in colonial times, the dime was often called a short bit? The reason for this was that — in order to make change — dollar coins were commonly cut up into eight bits (which is how the dollar coin of the day acquired the moniker “pieces of eight”). Hence, a bit, or one eighth of a dollar, was worth 12 and a half cents and when the dime came along, being worth only 10 cents, it was colloquially referred to as a “short” bit.

January 19, 2011

GROFF!!!

Groff!!!
What is a Groff?

Is it a sound effect from a Don Martin cartoon, or perhaps from an episode of Batman from the 1960s TV series? Nope. Maybe it’s a strange new Martian word from a Robert A. Heinlein novel? Nope. It’s Groff Conklin, one of science fiction’s leading anthologists.

To kids growing up in the 1940s, 50s and 60s, Groff Conklin was the most recognizable name in science fiction anthologies. Mainly because of his unusual name, but also because his anthologies were of the highest caliber. Many new fans in those sf boom years were introduced to the best of magazine science fiction by Groff Conklin. In fact, in 1946 Groff produced the second sf anthology ever created (The Best of Science Fiction, Crown Publishers), and over the course of the next two decades he edited more than 40 sf anthologies.

We don’t have all of Groff’s many anthologies, but we’ve got a growing collection including these new additions to the SFPB database:

The Big Book of Science Fiction
50 Short Science Fiction Tales
Great Stories of Space Travel
Invaders of Earth
Possible Worlds of Science Fiction
Science-Fiction Thinking Machines
Science Fiction Omnibus
Worlds of When

To see all of the Groff Conklin anthologies in our collection, see our Groff Conklin page, and if you are interested in more anthologies by other editors, see our Anthologies page.

December 15, 2010

December Double-D Duty

Ace doubles
Our gift to you!

It’s December and that’s the gift-giving time of the year, and we’ve got a special gift for you this month with an update that is double the fun! And it’s double in more ways than that, it’s double the size of our normal monthly updates and, best of all, the books are all Ace Doubles from the original “D” series. (Ace began publishing science fiction in the head-to-toe double format in the early 1950s with their “D” series of books denoted by the letter D followed by a unique number for each book. Doubles were also published in later series that included the F-, G-, H-, and M-Series as well as a series that contained five-digit numbers with no preceding letter.) Here, for your holiday viewing pleasure, are the new additions to the SFPB database, all wrapped up with a bow:

First up, is D-205 which features The Earth in Peril a collection of stories edited by Donald A. Wollheim backed by Lan Wright’s Who Speaks of Conquest? Next, enjoy D-345 with Andre Norton’s Plague Ship and Voodoo Planet (both published under her pseudonym, Andrew North). Following this is D-358 starring Milton Lesser’s Recruit for Andromeda and Calvin M. Knox’s The Plot Against Earth. Next up is D-403 featuring The Mutant Weapon tagging off with The Pirates of Zan, both by Murray Leinster. And finally we have D-453 with Kenneth Bulmer’s The Earth Gods are Coming and Margaret St. Clair’s racy The Games of Neith.

Also, it should be noted, if you’re an art fan like we are, just about every one of these covers were painted by the Ace dynamic duo of Edward Valigursky and Ed Emshwiller (the lone exception being Who Speaks of Conquest illustrated by Stanley Meltzoff).

Happy holidays everybody!

November 30, 2010

Science Fact Paperbacks

The 1950s and 60s were wondrous times for science fiction primarily because they were wondrous times for scientific and technological advancement. And not just any kind of technological advancement, but the kind that really captured the public’s imagination, stuff that they could wrap their minds — and their hearts — around … like space exploration.

Naturally, because of this, many of the leading science fiction authors took a break from imagining the far future to speculate on what the near future might be like. The author of the time that was most well known for this (and certainly the most prolific) was Isaac Asimov. In fact, Asimov loved to tell the story about how he and Arthur C. Clarke made a pact in the back of a NYC taxi that, should Asimov always refer to Clarke as the greatest science fiction writer of all time, Clarke would concede that Asimov was the greatest science fact writer.

Of course, Clarke was no slouch in the science-fact arena having written volumes of articles throughout his career, including, most famously, one in 1945 that predicted man-made earth-orbiting satellites. So, this month we pay tribute to these science fact stories by including a few of the books we have in our collection starting with one of Clarke’s greatest works in this area: Profiles of the Future. This book was once cited by Gene Roddenberry as inspiration for many of the futuristic ideas contained in his Star Trek TV series.

Our next addition is a fantastic work of non-fiction by Sam Moskowitz which features biographical essays of 22 of the period’s best writers (including the aforementioned Asimov and Clarke), aptly titled Seekers of Tomorrow.

Next, we’re including three books about the era’s most popular subjects: space, rockets, and U.F.Os: Judith Viorst’s Projects: Space, Captain Bertrand R. Brinley’s Rocket Manual for Amateurs, and Edward J. Ruppelt’s Report on Unidentified Flying Objects (from way back in 1956).

Our final entry this month isn’t really science fact, it’s actually a collection of science fiction stories, however, we’ve included it because Clarke, as editor, made an effort to choose stories that each represented certain branches of scientific study, like mathematics, cybernetics, meteorology, physics, and so on. The anthology is called Time Probe: The Sciences in Science Fiction, and we think that pretty much sums it up.

Want more science fact paperbacks? Keep an eye on our new science fact theme page.

October 31, 2010

MONSTERS!

Since Mary Shelley penned Frankenstein (which, rightly or wrongly, is frequently cited as the first science fiction story) in 1818, horror and science fiction have been on-again, off-again bedfellows. In Hollywood the line between science fiction and horror is, more often than not, quite thin. Consider the Alien franchise of movies, for example, and you will see what I mean. Many classic elements of traditional science fiction are there as well as all the elements of a good horror story. It’s difficult at times to decide what category some stories really fall into.

Case in point: one of the earliest of this style of science fiction cum horror story is A.E. Van Vogt’s Black Destroyer, the story most often associated with the start of the Golden Age of science fiction in 1939. Black Destroyer has been repeatedly presented as an inspiration for the movie Alien though, to my eyes, the resemblance is negligible (other than the basic idea of a murderous alien creature on a space ship).

This month, in honor of our favorite horror holiday, we’ve added a couple books to the SFPB database that are a little more horrible (in a good way) than usual. First up is Monsters a collection — by the aforementioned A.E. Van Vogt — of short stories featuring all manner of horrible beasties. Following that is another author whose stories often blur the line between horror and science fiction, Fritz Leiber, who gives us another horrifying collection of stories in Shadows with Eyes.

Interested in looking at more books featuring monsters, beasts and aliens? Check out our creatures and aliens theme pages on SFPB.

September 21, 2010

SFPaperbacks at the Movies

Inspired by last month’s update that featured John Campbell’s “Who Goes There?” we decided this month that we’d add a few more sf paperbacks that have been made into movies, or in one case, made from a movie. The SFPB database already contains plenty of books that inspired movies, so if you want to check them out, just go to our movie theme page. And, if you’ve already done that and are hankering for more, check out this month’s new additions:

First up is The Shrinking Man by Richard Matheson, who also wrote the screenplay for the 1957 movie version of his book, The Incredible Shrinking Man. There’s also a rumored remake in the works slated for 2012.

Next up is Jack Finney’s classic, The Body Snatchers. This book has been made and remade no less than three times, starting with 1956’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The story was updated in the 1978 movie of the same name starring Donald Sutherland, and then again in 2007’s The Invasion, starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, fresh off his Bond debut.

Another flick being readied for a 2012 remake is the classic sf thriller from 1976, Logan’s Run. Written by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson, the movie version stars a young Michael York as Logan, and also includes a small role by one of our favorite 70s icons: Farrah Fawcett.

Flash ah ahhh savior of the universe! Our next book, Flash Gordon: The Time Trap of Ming XIII, while not directly translated into a movie, certainly helped inspired 1980’s Flash Gordon starring Max von Sydow as the merciless Ming, and Timothy Dalton as the duplicitous Prince Barin. (To say nothing of the Buster Crabbe Flash Gordon movie serials of the 1940s, as well as numerous Flash Gordon television series throughout the decades.)

Lastly, comes Isaac Asimov’s take on 1966’s Fantastic Voyage, starring another of our favorite childhood movie icons: Raquel Welch. Interestingly, for years, people thought that this movie was made from Asimov’s book, rather than the other way around. The reason for this is that the movie’s producers were only interested in releasing the paperback version at the same time as the movie, and gave Asimov permission to get a hard cover version published. Little did they know that Asimov, being a famously prolific writer, would be able to complete the book’s manuscript so quickly that the hard cover version would actually come out six months before the movie was released. People just naturally assumed that the book was an Asimov original and had subsequently inspired the movie.

Oh, and by the way, Fantastic Voyage is also up for a remake, this time slated for a 2013 release. It’s about time some of these old classics were updated. We hope they’re done a little better than other recent sf movie remakes that have failed to capture the spirit of their older, original counterparts.

August 31, 2010

A Dell-ightful Update

The mapback side of H.G. Wells' The First Men in the Moon.
The "mapback" side of H.G. Wells’
The First Men in the Moon.

Dell Books has a long history in publishing paperbacks. And, having started producing paperbacks in the 1940s, they’ve naturally published plenty of science fiction over the years. In the process of publishing, they’ve also created several highly collectible lines of books. Chief among these are the so-called mapbacks, named for the colorful, illustrated maps on the back cover. There weren’t too many science fiction books in the mapbacks line, but you can see a great example in the SFPB database: H.G. Wells’ The First Men in the Moon. The map, in this case, is a wonderfully whimsical depiction of the moon.

So, on to this month’s update. This month we’re featuring books published by Dell over the years, and the first of these is from another of Dell’s very collectible lines: the Dell First Edition, which published only first editions of new books (a pretty novel idea for paperbacks at the time). We’ve got Kendell Foster Crossen’s futuristic tale of the year 1990, the Year of Consent.

Dell has also published some highly collectible classics in their normal lines as well, like our next book: Who Goes There? By John W. Campbell, Jr., arguably the greatest editor in science fiction history, and a fair writer too! Science-fiction fans may know this book by another name as it was the basis for both John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) and Howard Hawks’ The Thing from Another World (1951), two fantastic films in their own rights (though Carpenter’s adheres closer to the events of the book). Need we add that it also sports another fantastic cover by the prolific Richard Powers?

Next up is Gordon R. Dickson’s Soldier, Ask Not that features a monochromatic, ethereal cover by Paul Lehr, from his later, more stylized period. Lehr also did the cover for our next addition, Robert A. Heinlein’s young-adult story Farmer in the Sky, which features a very cool multi-legged farming machine. This book is from the Laurel-Leaf Mayflower line that specialized in books for young adults, something that Bob Heinlein excelled at writing, as further illustrated in our final book this month: Starman Jones, also from the Dell Mayflower imprint.

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