Friday, January 11, 2013

Classic Space Opera

In getting the creative juices flowing for some Star Trek gaming--and also thinking about doing some more Pulp Space posts--I've been reading some old school pulp era Space Opera. While (as anybody who reads this blog regularly knows) I'm a big fan of the pulps, I'm not as versed in science fiction pulp stories.  I figured it was time to remedy that.

I picked up Best of Edmond Hamilton in digital edition. I haven't read any of it yet, but I did snag a story by Hamilton from Project Gutenberg called "The World with a Thousand Moons" from Amazing Stories. That story has a spacecraft full of rich kids at play getting commandeered to rescue a dastardly space pirate and his crew from where they've crashed on an asteroid inhabited by nervous system-controlling parasitic insect-things.

Following the pattern of "writer whose wife I'm a big fan of," I also got the collection of Henry Kuttner stories, Thunder in the Void. I've only read a couple of stories so far, but they've been good ones with all the pulp flavor one could ask for. "Raider of Spaceways" has the son of the President of the Americas (who happens to be slumming it as a farmer on Venus) take on a space pirate and a deadly entity from Venus's eternally dark side. In "Thunder in the Void," a wrongly convicted man is broken out of a prison in Antarctica to take part in a daring raid to steal radium fuel. It's daring because space travel is certain death (thanks to xenophobic entities on Pluto) without the protection of a race of energy beings. When the heist goes wrong, and the Plutonian menace strikes someone close to him, our hero goes on a seemingly suicidal assault against that distance world!

What I've read so far has made me interested in reading more. The stories from both these authors really move--and though they both lack their respect wive's subtler hands with mood and character, Kuttner and Hamilton write stories with cool ideas.


Jim Shelley said...

The World with a Thousand Moons sounds like a good premise.

I've wondered about some of the older Pulp SciFi myself. I would be interested in a follow up post in this vein once you have read more to see what you thought.

M Harold Page said...

None of these on, alas!

Trey said...

@Jim - Sure!

@zornhau - Well, at least you can get access to the Prject Gutenberg story.

Jeremy said...

Baen used to have a lot of Hamilton.

My favorites are The Star Kings, sort of a Zenda in space plot, an Earthman from today (or the 50s) changes minds with a prince of a galactic empire in the future, and The Star of LIfe, which seems like it must have been the inspiration for the tv show version of Buck Rogers. Frozen 20th century spacemen wakes up in the future.

Jeremy said...

And forgot the Starwolves trilogy, which inspired Traveller a lot, as well as was turned into a Japanese TV show, some of which ended up in the West on MST3K as Fugitive Alien

Trey said...

Thanks for the recommendations, Jeremy! I think, though, Buck Rogers's origin may have influenced Star Kings and not the other way around. Nowlan wrote the book that introduces Anthony (later Buck) Rogers in 1928.

Scott said...

From my limited exposure they're bilge, but the Lensman books come highly recommended by some folks.

As a kid I thought the "Four Lords of the Diamond" books by Jack Chalker were total tits, haven't read them in literally decades.

de Camp's Krishna books are also fun, although I don't know that I'd call them "good."

The Vance "Planet of Adventure" books are good, full stop.

I haven't checked on it recently, but I remember some really good-looking Flash Gordon comic strip collections were on the horizon. If you like him, you might also look for a collection of Adam Strange ... Gardner Fox was the main writer and I always thought it was a pretty cool title.

I got that Edmond Hamilton as a freebie in a Leigh Brackett auction a while back, and gave it away in one of my periodic purges before I ever got around to reading it. :(

Trey said...

I'm with you on the Lensmen. Boring.

I've got the Adam Strange Archives. They're good stuff.

Haven't read the Krishna books (though I do have the GURPS supplement) nor any Chalker.

Thanks for the recommendations!

Scott said...

The Chalker "Diamond" books are a little like Vance's "Demon Princes" ... a sequence of unusual villains, each on a different weird-ass world. I suspect they're a lot crappier than I remember them, but I liked them a lot in high school.

Trey said...

Understood. :) I'll keep an eye out for them.

Jay Exonauts said...

I just picked up the Legion trilogy by Jack Williamson. Haven't cracked it open yet, but I'm excited to see what it's about!

Also, consider this thread BOOKMARKED.