My father always loved science fiction. He still does, but the events I'm going to relate occurred in the past, so I'm going to use the past tense here. When I was about 6 or 7 years old I was fascinated by a catty-corner bookshelf in our house that was packed with paperback books. Made of reddish-brown wood and mirrored in the back (so the books looked like double rows on each shelf), it stood three or four-tiered in the corner of a cluttered "music room" containing an upright piano and nearly the entire published output of the G. Schirmer Inc., Music Company, then one of the best known publishers of classical music books, and a room my brothers and I all learned and studied the piano under our father's tutelage.
I would sit down on the floor in front of that bookshelf and pull out books, enthralled by the strange covers, images of weird creatures and ethereal space scenes. The publishers, titles and authors meant nothing to me, ..... Ballantine, Pocket, Lancer, Dell, Avon, and those cool double books from Ace ..... Expedition to Earth, Shock, The Dunwich Horror and Others, The Unhumans ..... Lovecraft, Asimov, Bradbury, Derleth, Matheson, Clarke. The books were seemingly endless and shelved in no particular pattern or order. Here are some actual examples of the originals on that shelf:
90% of the books were anthology compilations as my dad preferred them to longer sci-fi novels, finding it easier to get a complete story read in the down time he had. His favorite authors, hands down, were H.P. Lovecraft and Arthur C. Clarke. Now at that age I really couldn't read them and there were no pictures inside, except for one book by Ray Bradbury (with a gorgeous Frank Frazetta cover!) that did indeed have comic book type pictures of the stories (advertised as such on the cover, they were actually old E.C. Comics reprints).
In the evenings, when my brothers and I went to bed, our father would often tell us stories in the dark, as any parent would do to his young children. Once in a while the stories were read out of a book with a flashlight, although most were seemingly made up on the spot, or as I later found out, many weren't. But the stories were often quite frightening and I'm certain I wasn't the only one who found sleep difficult after hearing stories called "The Peabody Heritage", "The Whistling Room", "Exile of the Eons" or "The Haunter of the Dark". Yes, I would daresay that some of those stories scared the wits out of us as my father set an incredible mood in the pitch blackness, with the consequence that often my mother would poke her head in and yell at him for frightening us.To be fair, he also told or read us stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, including stories of Sherlock Holmes, The White Company, and the adventures of Sir Nigel.
But there was one additional book on that shelf that was not a paperback book. It was a hardcover, battered and well-read, with some pages even starting to come loose. The book was plain steel-grey in color and the entire spine was bound in grey duct tape for reinforcement. It stuck out like a sore thumb, on the left-hand corner of the top tier (where it fit because the top was open), propping up the books next to it .There was no colorful picture on the cover (only a strange blue design) and the publisher was Random House, with the year of publication 1946, literally a century ago to a 7 year old. Inside was written in fountain pen ink, the name of the original owner, Seymour D. Nachamis, with several different addresses written on the inside front cover, each scratched out as he moved from Fort Washington Avenue in Washington Heights to Baxter Avenue in Elmhurst (and later to Continental Avenue in Forest Hills).
Seymour was known to our family as Nick Nack, a jazz aficionado friend of my father who frequented jazz clubs in the 1940's through the 1960's, and was somewhat well known as a clubber by jazz musicians of the time in New York, including, Billy Taylor, Mary Lou Williams and Marion McPartland, at venues including The Hickory House on 52nd Street (where my father also briefly played). During the second world war, Nick Nack served under Captain Ronald Reagan in Culver City, California, and over the decades, although my dad and Nick Nack's meetings in person were infrequent, they spent hours and hours on the phone discussing jazz, musicians, classic noir films and the latest jokes they'd heard.
(The meetings became more and more infrequent due to the fact that each visit to my parents house often coincided with a potentially serious mishap. 1) Nick Nack was hit (bumped) by a car while waiting for my father to pick him up on Northern Blvd. 2) Nick Nack went into hypoglycemic shock before a backyard BBQ, causing him to be rushed to the hospital. 3) My brother fell down a flight of stairs while carrying a bicycle when Nick Nack arrived one Sunday for dinner. It reached the point where my mother probably felt it was "safer" for everybody if Nick Nack and my father just spoke on the phone.)
|Inside front cover original owner's signature and addresses: "Nick Nack Copy"|
Nick Nack must have given or loaned the book to my father. There was no title on the cover, instead that weird little blue graphic that made no sense to me. The title was also on the spine and visible by virtue of a window of gray duct tape cut out. In fact, I guarantee it was my father who duct-taped the book together, probably frustrated that the book given/loaned to him was literally falling apart. Archival? No, but the book is still together as can be seen.
Inside I found the title, Adventures in Time and Space: An Anthology of Modern Science Fiction Stories. The book was massive, nearly 1000 pages and filled with 35 stories, some with authors I recognized from the paperback books. The volume was beat up, sparse and enigmatic to me. What intrigued me further was that every story in this book had been published even longer ago, in a strange sounding magazine called Astounding Stories, in the 1930's and 1940's (actually, from 1937 to 1945). What was this magazine? I had no idea but the question and the intrigue helped lead me to a lifelong journey and fascination into pulp and science fiction history over the long years.
|"Nick Nack" copy|
Eventually, after decades of comic books, pulps and science fiction, I revisited this book, wanting to really read it in its entirety for the first time, and was transported back to my childhood as I realized that most of the stories here I already knew, burned as they were ... no, better yet, hard wired as they were into my memory. "As Never Was", "The Time Locker", "Farewell to the Master", "The Sands of Time" and others, all recalled and told to me and my brothers in the dark with a flashlight, and all originally published in the Street & Smith science fiction pulp Astounding Stories (or its later name, Astounding Science Fiction)
I also wanted to get a better copy of this book. The duct-taped battered "Nick Nack" copy was fine from a nostalgic family sense, but I wanted a copy that came closer to what it was like when it was originally published. A little research turned up the fact that the book originally possessed a dust jacket and also had several printings.
|Random House 1946 original printing listing 35 stories on cover|
The original June 1946 first printing of this thick volume had over 1000 pages, including the five page introduction by the editors, Raymond J. Healy and J. Francis McComas. The designer and cover artist was George Salter. Inside were 35 stories culled primarily from the pages of Street & Smith's Astounding Stories / Astounding Science Fiction. One each hailed from Street & Smith's Unknown, Teck's Amazing Stories and Fiction House's Planet Stories. Here is the full story list, including where they were originally first published:
- Requiem - Robert Heinlen - [Astounding, Jan/40]
- Forgetfulness - Don A. Stuart (John W. Campbell) - [Astounding, June/37]
- Nerves - Lester Del Ray - [Astounding, Sept/42]
- The Sands of Time - P. Schuyler Miller - [Astounding, Apr/37]
- The Proud Robot - Lewis Padgett - [Astounding, Oct/43]
- Black Destroyer - A.E. Van Vogt - [Astounding, July/39]
- Symbiotica - Eric Frank Russell - [Astounding, Oct/43]
- Seeds Of The Dusk - Raymond Z. Gallun - [Astounding, June/38]
- Heavy Planet - Lee Gregor - [Astounding, Aug/39]
- Time Locker - Lewis Padgett - [Astounding, Jan/43]
- The Link - Cleve Cartmill - [Astounding, Aug/42]
- Mechanical Mice - Maurice A. Hugi (ghosted by Eric Frank Russell) - [Astounding, Jan/41]
- V-2: Rocket Cargo Ship - Willy Ley - [Astounding, May/45]
- Adam And No Eve - Alfred Bester - [Astounding, Sept/41]
- Nightfall - Isaac Asimov - [Astounding, Sept/41]
- A Matter Of Size - Harrry Bates - [Astounding, Apr/34]
- As Never Was - P. Schuyler Miller - [Astounding, Jan/44]
- Q. U. R. - Anthony Boucher - [Astounding, Mar/43]
- Who Goes There? - Don A. Stuart (John W. Campbell) - [Astounding, Aug/38]
- The Roads Must Roll - Robert A. Heinlein - [Astounding, June/40]
- Asylum - A.E. Van Vogt - [Astounding, May/42]
- Quietus - Ross Rocklynne - [Astounding, Sept/40]
- The Twonky - Lewis Padgett - [Astounding, Sept/42]
- Time -Travel Happens! - A. M. Phillips - [Unknown, Dec/39]
- Robot's Return - Robert Moore Williams - [Astounding, Sept/38]
- The Blue Giraffe - L. Sprague de Camp - [Astounding, Aug/39]
- Flight Into Darkness - Webb Marlowe - [Astounding, Feb/43]
- The Weapons Shop - A.E. Van Vogt - [Astounding, Dec/42]
- Farewell To The Master - Harry Bates - [Astounding, Oct/40]
- Within The Pyramid - R. DeWitt Miller - [Astounding, Mar/37]
- He Who Shrank - Henry Hasse - [Amazing Stories (Teck Pub.), Aug/36]
- By His Bootstraps - Anson MacDonald (Robert Heinlen) - [Astounding, Oct/41]
- The Star Mouse - Fredric Brown - [Planet Stories (Fiction House), Spring/42]
- Correspondence Course - Raymond F. Jones - [Astounding, Apr/45]
- Brain - S. Fowler Wright - [?, 1932]
The author line-up is science fiction royalty, the stories some of the most respected of the genre. At least two of the above were later turned into films, Harry Bates' Farewell To The Master was the basis for the classic The Day The Earth Stood Still in 1951, while John W. Campbell's (writing as Don A.Stuart) Who Goes There? gave rise to a less stellar The Thing From Another World also in 1951. It makes me wonder whether this anthology played a big part in bringing these great stories to Hollywood's doorstep, as buried as they had been in old pulp magazines, were less likely to be seen and remembered.
The anthology was conceived in 1944 and much credit for the high literary bar set goes to John W. Campbell, the writer/editor of Astounding Stories/Science Fiction who first published most of the stories. Campbell assumed the editorship in late 1937 and his tenure breached what is known as "the golden age of science fiction".
Astounding Stories debuted cover date Jan/30 under the editorship of author Harry Bates and published by Publishers Fiscal Corp, a sub-publisher of Clayton Magazines. It was clearly influenced by Hugo Gernsback's Amazing Stories but was really only a knock-off, trending more towards pulp-ish fiction than harder science. The first 34 issues, ended with Vol 12, #1 (Mar/33). After a hiatus of 7 months the title was bought by Street & Smith and re-launched with Vol 12, #2 (Oct/33) and F. Orlin Tremaine as editor, ushering in a standard of fine literary fiction wrapped around elements of scientific speculation and innovation. These stories would become the gold standard for intelligent science fiction that would be continued in Dec/37 when John W.Campbell became editor (see letter from Campbell to Aug/47 Writer's Digest below), a tenure that would last until Dec/71. The title would change to Astounding Science Fiction in Mar/38 and to Analog Science Fiction/Fact in 1960, continuing to this day.
John W. Campbell's long editorship would shepherd the early careers of some of the giants of the genre, individuals whose influence will be long felt in science fiction. When Martin Goodman launched his science fiction pulp Marvel Science Stories Aug/38, he shakily modeled the editorial slant on Astounding Science Fiction, leaning the content towards intelligent harder science speculative fiction and even launching a letter page "Under the Lens" that was patterned after Astounding's "Brass Tacks".
|Vol 1, #1 (Aug/38) [Norman Saunders]|
|Vol 1, #2 (Nov/38) [Frank R. Paul]|
|Vol 1, #3 (Feb/39 [Hans Wesso]|
|Vol 1, #4 (Apr-May/39) [Norman Saunders]|
Unfortunately, after only five issues, Goodman's title reverted to a traditional pulp fantasy bordering on shudder-pulp content and readers lost a possible companion magazine, as science fiction held no special place in his eyes. Goodman would just as well cancel it as change it to another redundant western pulp. Goodman also cancelled Marvel's sister publication Dynamic Science Stories after only two issues at this same time of the content changeover.
|Vol 1, #1 (Feb/39) [Frank R. Paul]|
|Vol 1, #2 (Apr/39) [Norman Saunders]|
A sampling of Astounding Stories/Science Fiction:
|Vol 1, #1 (Jan/30) [Clayton]|
|Vol 12, #1 (Mar/33) [last Clayton]|
|Vol 20, #4 (Dec/37) [1st John W. Campbell editor]|
|Vol 12, #2 (Oct/33) [1st Street & Smith]|
|Vol 22, #1 (Sept/38)|
|Vol 23, #5 (July/39)|
|Vol 28, #4 (Dec/41)|
|Vol 29, #5 (July/42)|
|Vol 31, #5 (July/43)|
|Vol 33, #2 (Apr/44)|
A second printing of this Random House volume came out in September 1946, which I believe was identical to the first. A third printing came out February 1947. The fourth printing in August 1950 is slightly larger in size and physically thicker, but comes in at only 824 pages, editing out the final 5 stories listed above. The books is substantially thicker due to a better paper stock. A 5th printing followed in August 1951 and a 6th printing in July 1952. I don't know if the second and third printings featured 35 or the shorter 30 stories that the fourth contained..
|Random House 1950 printing listing only 30 stories on the cover|
Portions of the book were also released as a paperback in the 1954 by Bantam's Pennant Books, #P44. Only eight stories from the original anthology were included:
- Requiem - Robert Heinlen
- Black Destroyer - A.E. Van Vogt
- Time Locker - Lewis Padgett
- Mechanical Mice - Maurice A. Hugi
- As Never Was - P. Schulyer Miller
- Quietus - Ross Rocklynne
- Robot's Return - Robert Moore Williams
- Farewell To The Master - Harry Bates
A second version of the paperback is here:
A third here, January 1966 edition. Same contents of the 1954 paperback edition:
There was also an edition published in 1957 under Random House's Modern Library Giant series, #G-31. This volume has a different cover but reprints the original 35 stories once again, coming in again at over 1000 pages, including a new uncredited 6-page introduction detailing the history of the book's genesis. This edition went through a total of 9 printings up to October 1964.
|3rd Printing : Modern Library Giant #G-31|
In 1975 Del Rey Books, the new science fiction imprint of Ballantine Books (and owned by Random House) released a softcover version of the original hardcover edition, clocking in at 997 pages, with all of the original 35 stories.
In 1985 Random House Value Publishing released it again in hard cover, although I don't know what the entire contents are. In actuality, there may even be further permutations of this book that I've missed. If anyone knows of any, please let me know.
Finally, there appears to have been a British version of this book published by Grayson and Grayson in1952. The full contents are unknown to me.
As I pored through decades of Writer's Digest, I was surprised to come across several issues in 1946 where this book was referenced. The first reference was from before the book was even published and I realized that this tome was actually one of the earliest hardcover anthology collections of science fiction stories in history by a "name" American book publisher.
The references were in The Forum, the letter pages of the trade journal and centered around a discussion of royalty payments to the original pulp authors. For months prior to this the letter pages were filled with discussions of "writer's rights" (from an editorial article I do not have) and what policies various pulp houses had in enforcing these "rights" (example, first North American Serial Rights). Pulp editors and authors all chimed in, including Ray Palmer of Ziff-Davis. The back-and-forth is fascinating, and showcased the types of debates that original creators/authors had been fighting with publishers for decades with respect to their just compensation in both the "first" publishing as well as the "reprint" rights as anthology publishing began to rise post-war. A window can also be seen into how the lowest tier of authors were treated, namely these authors in the pulp houses.
I'm going to present these discussions in their original, unedited form. The original letter by author P. Schulyer Miller (referenced just below) I do not have, as it was sent by Miller to Bennett A. Cerf, President of Random House, and forwarded to Writer's Digest by Bennett (and I don't believe actually printed). Miller had 2 stories reprinted in the volume, The Sands of Time and As Never Was.
Since we're dropping into the middle of an already raging letter page controversy, I'm starting with a letter from Ziff-Davis editor, Ray Palmer:
“Ziff-Davis Pulps Buy First Rights Only”
- RANDOM HOUSE is bringing out an anthology of science fiction and several of our readers who are included in it want to know about payment. In some cases, the science fiction story was published first by pulp houses who owned all rights. Should RANDOM HOUSE pay the pulp publisher a fee and let it up to the pulp paper to retain the entire amount, or should RANDOM HOUSE go out of their way to see that the author gets his payment even if the pulp house holds on to it? We don’t know what any other book publisher would do, but RANDOM HOUSE, on the basis of its past, will do the big thing. It’s just another point showing how the pulp publisher who buys all rights can, IF HE WANTS TO, play hell with the writer. –Editor.
- What this whole thing boils down to is this: Random House is owned and run by square shooting people. Over a period of years, free-lance writers are far better off because Random House exists than they would be if there were no Random House; and so is American literature. On a specific deal like this one, it seems to us though the free-lance writer who sold a stf story for $40 and receives a $20 bonus because it is reprinted in an anthology can’t buy much bread on that kind of business. We would have suggested, on this kind of book which plumbs ground hitherto 100% ignored, that a flat check of $50 would have been The Thing To Do because it would set a higher standard for the next fellow and anything that makes it tougher for the next publisher makes it better for high caliber firms like Random House.
- (If the big pulp houses would agree to a base minimum NOW of 2½c a word for all pulp fiction they buy it would be the biggest single factor in keeping out of their pie the sleazy, cheesy, shyster beat-the-printer, beat-the-writer two-bit pulp publisher who will march on this section of the publishing business in 1952 just as he did in 1932. Keep the rascals out by erecting a high word-rate barrier.)
- We agree that if Random House had paid $50 flat for each story it would have been the sort of unselfish act one is always asking the other fellow to do. In addition, Random House does its share of these things, we learn from our readers.
- Editor Healy didn’t do the far reaching Big Thing, but he did the commercial fair thing. – Editor.
As an aside, the May/46 issue below also carried a note that Random House was set at that moment to move into the building in back of St. Patrick's Cathedral:
"The trend of the month has been toward much enlarged quarters – buy or build – by all types of publishers to allow for their enlarged production plans. This has involved purchase of entire office buildings by several publishers, as Random House recently bought the elaborate house back of St. Patrick’s Cathedral at 457 Madison Avenue. Their move from 57th Street is due about May first."
The primary comment I can make from the writer's point of view is that to date we have not bought any story whatsoever from anyone who has not read the magazine. Science Fiction is a specialist's field. Within that field Astounding Science Fiction is a specialized magazine. Unless the would be author understands the philosophy of science fiction and the basic editorial concept of Astounding, his chance of making a sale is about as remote as his chance of flipping a coin and have it stand on edge. Possible but not probable.
John W. Campbell, Jr., Editor,
Street & Smith Publications,
122 East 42nd Street, New York 17, N.Y.
My parents retired 20 years ago and moved their residence out of Queens, New York up into the Adirondacks, in the northern part of Lake George. In January of 2007 they received a phone call from the next door neighbor of Nick Nack. He had passed away at the age of 87 on the 17th and previously left instructions for the neighbor to contact my father for him to avail himself of all Nick Nack's worldly goods, as he had no real family to speak of. I drove down to Forest Hills for my father and all I retrieved were his music albums and books, packing up hundreds of jazz records from the 1940's through 1960's and a score of vintage film books, all loaded in crates. I also took an old yellow manila folder I found stuck between the albums. As I left, I took a photo of his door, knowing the name plate would shortly be removed and no further evidence of Nick Nack ever having lived there for over 40 years would exist, the man who was a disembodied voice on the phone with my father for most of my entire life from age 5 to 50.
When I got home that night I left everything in my garage except for the books and the envelope. I dusted off the books, paging through coffee table books about the great film studios and jazz personalities, interestingly coming across annotated copies of Hollywood Babylon and Jazz Anecdotes where whole paragraphs were underlined, highlighted or cross-out in pencil with the words "wrong" or "didn't happen that way" written in the margins, including the frequent phrase "I was there that night ... not true".
I also opened the envelope, finding a stash of vintage studio publicity photos of jazz musicians, all autographed to Nick Nack. On the top of the pile were vintage autographed photos of jazz greats Bill Evans, Billy Taylor, Mary Lou Williams and Marion McPartland. At the bottom of the pile was a signed publicity photo of my father!
I wonder if Nick Nack ever wanted that book back.
|my father, Michael D. Vassallo (circa 1960)|
- Adventures in Time and Space: An Anthology of Modern Science Fiction Stories (introduction to 1946 edition by editors Raymond J. Healy and J. Francis McComas )
- Adventures in Time and Space: An Anthology of Modern Science Fiction Stories (introduction to 1957 Modern Library Giant G-31 edition by unknown)
- Writer's Digest, January 1946
- Writer's Digest, June 1946
- Writer's Digest, July 1946
- Writer's Digest, August 1947
- Collection of Michael J. Vassallo
- Collection of Seymour D. Nachamis (the "Nick Nack" collection)