The men of Earth came to Mars: speculative fiction in the Mottram collection, part 2

And this disease was called The Loneliness, because when you saw your home town dwindle the size of your fist and then lemon-size and then pin-size and then vanish in the fire-wake, you felt you had never been born, there was no town, you were nowhere, with space all around, nothing familiar, only other strange men.

(From: Ray Bradbury, The Martian chronicles, 1950)

Part 1 of this post took a look at Ballantine Books in the Mottram collection, and how Ballantine championed the rise of the speculative fiction paperback in the 1950s. Professor Eric Mottram’s Ballantines included others in addition to Bradbury and Lovecraft, however: we hold Synthetic men of Mars, Edgar Rice Burroughs’s ninth Barsoom book (Bob Abbett’s typically colourful cover illustration depicts a lot of shirtless sword fighting), and the only published edition of The seed by Dan Thomas. The seed was one of only three science-fiction novels by Dan Thomas, a pseudonym of Leonard Sanders, who otherwise wrote thrillers and Texan historical fiction. Added to these, excitingly (and appropriately), is a rare 1968 printing of Childhood’s end, the iconic classic penned by King’s College London alumnus Arthur C Clarke – the Ballantine paperback is the eighth printing of the novel’s first edition, published in 1953.

Ballantine were far from alone in the 1950s – maCover showing a warrior fightingny other paperback imprints were also picking up on sci-fi. Brown, Watson Ltd in the UK had Digit Books, through which they published an array of spacefaring adventures and apocalyptic calamities. Held in the Mottram collection is a rare Digit Books edition of The space merchants, the still-relevant satire on 1950s advertising by Frederik Pohl and CM Kornbluth. Kornbluth sadly passed away at the age of just 34, five years after The space merchants saw publication; Pohl, before moving onto editorial positions for magazines, had acted as literary agent to Isaac Asimov in the late 1930s, and we hold a rare Digit Books edition of Asimov’s most famous work, too: I, robot. The front cover depicts a towering automaton just slightly different to those in the Will Smith movie, and Asimov’s first name is misspelt ‘Issac.’ Like Bradbury’s The Martian chronicles, this book is a ‘fixup’ novel, reworking earlier published short stories into a more seamless narrative – this edition of I, robot, however, excludes two of the stories from the collection’s original publication.

The New American Library ventured into sci-fi in the 1950s, utilising their previously established paperback imprint, Signet Books. Both of our Signet Books are by Alfred Bester: a rare paperback of the very first Hugo Award winner, The demolished man, and a first edition of his 1958 short fiction collection, Starburst. The vivid, dramatic cover of The demolished man was painted by Stanley Meltzoff, who not only provided cover artwork for a number of other Signet science-fiction books, but who also painted for Life and National geographic.

Sci-fi innovator of the mid-20th century, Robert A Heinlein, is also represented with two paperbacks in the Mottram collection, both from other publishers: a Berkley Medallion edition of Stranger in a strange land from 1968, and a Four Square edition of Starship troopers from 1961. These are two of Heinlein’s most prominent works, with Starship troopers popularising the idea of the ‘space marine,’ to which concept modern science-fiction cinema and videogames owe a massive debt.

Of all the authors featured in Mottram’s sci-fi, however, it is Samuel R Delany who is most present, with nearly 20 books. Whereas some of the science-fiction and horror mentioned thus far may have made it into Mottram’s library through various means, Delany is the writer that Mottram most perceptibly sought out – particularly as at least one of the books, Starboard wine, is a signed first edition.

Delany remains an important figure within the world of fantasy and science-fiction; it is not hard to see why, and it is not hard to see why he was a writer of great interest to Mottram: Delany was one of the first major African-American authors of speculative fiction, and also one of the first openly gay authors of it; his first novel was published in 1962 when he was just 20 years old, and he has since accumulated numerous awards for his writing. Of particular interest to Mottram was Delany’s subversion of tropes: in his essay ‘American fiction in the sixties,’ Mottram wrote that Delany used his 1967 novel The Einstein intersection to ‘[exorcise] … the petty gangster cowboy, Billy the Kid, as an American folk hero,’ going on to say that, ‘Delany knows that myths of destruction are man-made, not simply “natural” or part of necessity, and that their analysis and elimination is a necessity.’1

The ‘first novel’ referenced above, The jewels of Aptor, is a combination of science-fiction and fantasy, and the Mottram collection contains a 1971 Sphere Books edition. This edition contains the full, restored text – unlike William S Burroughs’s Junkie, edited by Ace Books in the 50s to remove and/or dilute overt references to homosexuality and drug-taking, the first edition of The jewels of Aptor was only trimmed to make room for its Ace-Double, Second ending by James White. Had they still been his publisher into the 1970s, Ace would most definitely have found question with Delany’s more ‘explicit’ novels.

Ace Books went on publishing Delany’s works (mostly as Ace-Doubles) throughout the 1960s, and Sphere Books continued to publish them in the United Kingdom later on – we hold Sphere copies of Out of the dead city, The towers of Toron, City of a thousand suns and The Einstein intersection, as well as Nova, which was first published by Doubleday. Completing Delany’s run at Ace, we also hold an Ace Book that compiles The ballad of Beta-2 and Empire star together. It is uniquely satisfying, in such an eclectic collection, to hold a complete run of something!

In the 1970s, Delany published four novels, including some of his major works; we hold first editions of both Dhalgren and Triton – their celestial cover illustrations were painted by Mitchell Hooks, who provided art for a great many books and magazines, and who also designed the poster for Dr. No (look closely at the cover for Triton and you’ll see that the grand structures are actually household objects!2). From 1979 and into the late 1980s, Delany worked on a series of sword and sorcery stories, set in the land of Nevèrÿon. We hold the Bantam-published first editions of the first two Nevèrÿon publications: Tales of Nevèrÿon, and Neveryóna. The cover illustrations for these are painted by Rowena A Morrill, one of a small number of women artists providing art for paperbacks at the time.

It is certainly an assorted mix of science-fiction and horror that Professor Eric Mottram collected – while the speculative fiction only makes up a small portion of the wider wealth of his other literature, plenty of the genres’ big names and titles are represented, and we have interesting copies of a mingled range of books. Nearly all of these are paperbacks. While many of the publishers and imprints mentioned here have since been absorbed by the larger publishing houses, their impact for speculative fiction at the time was unmistakable: Ballantine Books, Ray Bradbury’s early supporter, went on in the 1960s to publish a popular edition of The lord of the rings, and shortly after the company’s purchase by Random House, it published Star wars: from the adventures of Luke Skywalker, a novelisation of Star wars that made it to the public in November 1976 – six months before the film.

All of the items mentioned, and many more, are currently being catalogued and formally added to our Special Collections holdings; we are happy to answer any enquiries pertaining to them (including arranging viewing) at: specialcollections@kcl.ac.uk.

Footnotes

1 Eric Mottram, ‘American fiction in the sixties,’ Mottram collection, King’s College Archives, MOTTRAM: 9/19/22-28

2 RC, ‘Look here: seven covers for seven novels by Samuel R. Delany,’ Ragged Claws Network, [https://raggedclaws.com/2013/06/10/look-here-seven-covers-for-seven-novels-by-samuel-r-delany/, accessed September 19, 2018]

The cover illustrations for Synthetic men of Mars, Starburst, and Triton shown here are reproduced courtesy of Penguin Random House.

We have undertaken reasonable endeavours to trace the copyright owners of the cover illustration for I, robot; if you are the rights holder and are concerned that permission was not granted for this image, please see the King’s College London Notice and Takedown Policy at the bottom of this page, and the Archives & Special Collections Takedown Policy here.

Such an odd business: speculative fiction in the Mottram collection, Part 1

This post is written by Jack Gleeson, Special Collections Assistant in the Foyle Special Collections Library at King’s. 

‘What kind of people go up in roller coasters?’

Ralph Banghart rolled his cigar a full thirty seconds. ‘People wanna die. That rollie coaster’s the handiest thing to dying there is.’

(From: Ray Bradbury, ‘The dwarf’ in The October country, 1955).

Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers Ltd
© 1963, HP Lovecraft.

Nestled amongst the Norman Mailer and the Elmore Leonard in the Mottram collection is a neat run of science-fiction and horror paperbacks, predominantly published in the 1950s and 60s. Professor Eric Mottram (1924-95), Professor of English and American Literature at King’s from 1982 to 1990, was far from picky when amassing his library collection, leaving some gems of mid-20th century speculative fiction as part of our holdings in the Foyle Special Collections Library.

This blogpost marks the first of a two-part look at these items and further information about Mottram’s collection is available here.

Cover of Fahrenheit 451Ray Bradbury, science-fiction pioneer, is represented with a number of items in the Mottram collection, not least of which is a first paperback edition of his most widely-known work: Fahrenheit 451. Damaged, but thankfully not burnt, this edition was published by Ballantine Books in 1953 (simultaneous with the book’s first hardback edition, and only a year after the company’s founding), and is appended by two short stories.

The novel, famed for its decrying of censorship, was Bradbury’s second, following The Martian chronicles, and was Ballantine’s 41st original paperback publication, priced at 35₵ and intended for drugstore racks. Fahrenheit 451 marked the publisher’s swift adoption of science-fiction into their repertoire – having started out with crime and Western novels, they branched out early on by publishing Star science fiction stories in 1953, and, that same year, Frederik Pohl’s and CM Kornbluth’s The space merchants.

Cover of The October countryJoseph Mugnaini’s striking cover illustration for Fahrenheit 451 bears a secret, however: hidden amongst the folds of the central figure’s newspaper attire is the phrase ‘gothic ages.’ Bradbury, Illinois-born conjurer of autumnal fictions, has his love of the macabre intimated even here, and this dark heart is embellished in another Mottram collection item: a rare 1955 reprint of Bradbury’s The October country, also published by Ballantine.

This (not to be biased) perfect short story collection contains haunted tales ripe for Hallowe’en digestion: ‘The lake’ (inspired by a tragic incident Bradbury witnessed in his youth), ‘Homecoming’ (which somewhat evokes The Addams family or The Munsters), and the touching, creepy story ‘The emissary’ (which tells the tale of a young bedridden boy who sends his dog to bring things back from the outside world) are all designed to be read to the sound of dead leaves being blown past the window. The majority had been featured in earlier forms in Dark carnival (published by August Derleth and his company Arkham House in 1947), and retain their sense of morbidity, merging ruminations on death with ruminations on mid-20th century life.

Happily, Bradbury is one of the most heavily represented authors in the Mottram collection: the Foyle Special Collections Library holds not just the above, but also rare editions and reprints of The Martian chronicles, The illustrated man, The golden apples of the Sun, A medicine for melancholy, and The wonderful ice cream suit and other playsall published by Bantam Books.

Detail from the October country

The year before Bradbury’s very first short story was published in Imagination in 1938, one of speculative fiction’s greatest benefactors had passed away. Howard Phillips Lovecraft, Rhode Island-born conjurer of indescribable tentacular fictions, is behind a small, eclectic set of paperbacks found in the Mottram collection. Not having achieved widespread fame in the 1920s and 30s, Lovecraft’s stories found homes at the same imprints responsible for numerous crime, Western, horror, and science-fiction works in the following decades.

Included in our special collections are rare editions of The case of Charles Dexter Ward (prominently featuring an asylum – Gotham City’s own Arkham Asylum is in fact named after Lovecraft’s fictional town), and The haunter of the dark, which collects some of the author’s best-known stories, including ‘The call of Cthulhu,’ ‘The rats in the walls,’ and ‘The Dunwich horror.’ Panther Books followed up these 1963 reprints with Tales of the Cthulhu mythos in 1975, a multi-volume set which consisted chiefly of stories set in Lovecraft’s universe but written by other authors, such as August Derleth (Lovecraft’s early publisher), Clark Ashton Smith, and Robert E Howard. The cover of the first volume, held in the Foyle Special Collections Library, features a nicely moustachioed Cthulhu.

Cover of The case of Charles Dexter Ward

Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers Ltd
© 1963, HP Lovecraft.

1975 also saw Panther’s reprint of Lovecraft: a look behind the Cthulhu mythos by Lin Carter, first published three years earlier, and accompanying all of the above is a rare edition of Lovecraft: a biography, written by L Sprague de Camp and published by Ballantine in 1976 (first published a year prior). This abridged edition contains much fascinating discussion on the author’s early life, its influence on his weird and fantastical visions, and includes significant conversation pertaining to Lovecraft’s disparaging views on race.

To head, finally, back farther still: most are unlikely to think immediately of The lady of the shroud or The jewel of seven stars when asked to name works by Bram Stoker, yet rare paperback reprints of these appear in place of Dracula, in the Mottram collection. These Arrow Books were published in 1962 – The lady of the shroud takes a non-supernatural twist, while The jewel of seven stars was very loosely adapted into the 2017 Tom Cruise/Russell Crowe bonanza The mummy, and elements of the television series Penny dreadful. The latter book, originally published in 1903, features the text of a 1912 edition, in which the ending was rewritten by Stoker, and a chapter on religion was removed. The final paragraph of the revised 1912 edition, and this Arrow Book, reads:

‘Do not grieve for her! […] She dreamed her dream, and that is all any of us can ask!’

While the original 1903 edition ends rather more damningly:

It was merciful that I was spared the pain of hoping.

All of these Mottram collection items are making their way through our cataloguers and onto our shelves – we are naturally happy to answer any and all enquiries pertaining to our Special Collections.

Please stay tuned for part 2, in which we turn to robots and rocketships…

The cover illustrations shown here are reproduced courtesy of Penguin Random House; and HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.

Junk and Justice

This post is written by Jack Gleeson, Special Collections Assistant, who is currently working on the Eric Mottram collection.

Presented to King’s College by his siblings in 1996, and now held in the Foyle Special Collections Library, the library of Professor Eric Mottram (1924-95) is a wide-ranging and varied collection, reflective of an academic with diverse tastes and scholarly interests.

Professor Mottram spent much of his life teaching both English Literature and American Studies, lecturing in numerous places throughout the United States and the world, and holding the position of Professor of English and American Literature at King’s from 1982 to 1990. As a result, a significant portion of his extensive collection is devoted to American novels and poetry, and, in particular, poetry from the Beat scene.

junkieIn the 1960s, Mottram met and corresponded with a number of figures in underground literary movements, and at the close of the decade he befriended and spoke with key Beat personage William S Burroughs (1914-97), who was living in London at the time.

Burroughs was of particular interest to Mottram, who around this time wrote The algebra of need, one of the first critical works to look at Burroughs’s output up to that point. This piece was initially published in Intrepid magazine’s special Burroughs issue of 1969-70, which was edited by Mottram, and then later as a monograph in 1971.

With this background and context in mind, Mottram naturally amassed a large number of books by Burroughs, and in cataloguing the collection we have so far come across signed copies of his later works Cities of the red night (1981) and The western lands (1987). Most captivating as a piece of literary and social history, however, is a first edition of Burroughs’s first published novel, Junkie (1953).

narcoticLater retitled Junky by Penguin in 1977, though even today never published under Burroughs’s intended title, Junk, the first edition of Junkie was put onto drugstore shelves under the pseudonym ‘William Lee,’ and was published as an Ace Double Book, bound together with the previous decade’s Narcotic agent by Maurice Helbrant, the ‘gripping true adventures of a T-man’s war against the dope menace’.

Chiefly autobiographical in nature, a work entitled Junkie was unsurprisingly full of references to opiate use and drug dealing, not to mention ‘alcohol depression,’ ‘crustacean horror’ and ‘junk sickness’; and additionally delved into pickpocketing, and homosexual relationships between Burroughs and others.

Tethered by the much stricter social mores of the 1950s, Ace Books set to work editing and censoring Burroughs’s manuscript, going so far as to insert a number of editorial notes, intended to protect themselves from legal liability for, or moral association with, the writer’s statements that they did not cut out.

These notes are inset throughout the text to rescue the reader from the world of drugs, asserting that Burroughs’s declarations that ‘Sex is more enjoyable under the influence of weed’ and that ‘Weed is positively not habit-forming’ (p. 33) are ‘contradicted by recognized medical authority’ (p. 34). Solomon and Ace Books likewise distance themselves from Burroughs’s disparaging comments about the United States justice system later in the book.

While a number of Burroughs’s remarks about junk and justice were included but accompanied by disclaimers, references to the author’s homosexuality were removed entirely from this first edition, and entire paragraphs and pages detailing relationships between Burroughs and other men were not seen until Penguin restored the complete manuscript in 1977. Further text, taken from letters written to Allen Ginsberg, was reinstated by scholar Oliver Harris for Penguin’s 2003 edition of Junky.

Carl Solomon, a friend of Allen Ginsberg, and nephew of AA Wyn, the founder of Ace Books, assured the readers in his publisher’s note that the text was published purely with noble intent: to ‘forearm the public’ against the ‘drug menace’ and to ‘discourage imitation.’

This seemingly honourable resolve and the social mores of the period did not however stop the publisher from unleashing the book with a lurid, attention-grabbing image on the cover, along with a vivid subtitle: Confessions of an unredeemed drug addict, both of which seem to capitalise on the plight of individuals suffering from drug addiction, and appear unambiguously aimed at a thrill-seeking reader base. It is worth noting that nothing quite as melodramatic as the scene depicted in the cover illustration actually happens in the novel.

The Junkie of this double books edition is a revealing item: we are now able to look back at the Ace Books censored novel, featured in this article, with the 2003 edition of Junkie in hand, and know exactly what was removed. We can witness the trajectory of Burroughs from the author of a throwaway subway paperback, advertised with the slogan, ‘TWO BOOKS IN ONE – 35c,’ to heavily-studied, hugely influential novelist and writer, whose personal life, far from having entire components cut out of texts by publishers, has been thoroughly exposed and explored through countless biographies and collections of letters.

Both of the eye-catching covers of this double book edition are shown here, courtesy of Penguin Random House.

Special Collections staff continue to sort and catalogue the Eric Mottram collection and are happy to answer enquiries on this or other areas of the collection.

Bibliography and references:

Jed Birmingham, ‘Eric Mottram and The Algebra of Need,’ RealityStudio, [http://realitystudio.org/bibliographic-bunker/my-own-mag/the-my-own-mag-community/eric-mottram-and-the-algebra-of-need/, accessed June 21, 2017]

William S Burroughs, Junkie (New York: Ace Books, 1953)

William S Burroughs, Junky: the definitive text of ‘Junk’ (London: Penguin Books, 2003)

William S Burroughs. Rub out the words: the letters of William S Burroughs, 1959-1974 (London: Penguin Books, 2012)

Maurice Helbrant, Narcotic Agent (New York: Ace Books, 1953)

Barry Miles, William S Burroughs: a life (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2015), 491