Golden Age of Sci Fi
My Nephew really missed out.
Sorry, but I think that, for the most part, Sci Fi is a boy thing. I’m not judging! Just Saying!
Books had a major effect on my youth.
I have always loved reading books. Among my earliest memories are watching adults reading things, and wanting so much to read myself. I can vividly remember my first grade at Jenny E. Smith elementary school, and the big letter cards that hung around the upper level of the classroom showing how to make the letters!
I just wanted to know what those signs meant and how could I use them to read. It was just so important to me. I made the effort and did learn how the letters were sounded, and how they were put together into words. Once I had that mastered that, then I would learn how to put those words into sentences. For me that was an unbelievable sense of power. I could now read books and turn those words and sentences into thoughts. I could read and I could extract those thoughts of the author and I could use them to create and express my own thoughts.
By the third grade I was wanting to master that magical place, the library! It was the library that I considered the holy grail, there was where nuggets of knowledge (books) were kept and where they were organized. It would be years before I learned how to master the Dewey Decimal System and how to use those Index Card Files, but it was worth it!
For the younger set, you must remember that this was the 50’s and the 60’s. There was no internet, there were no laptops. And there was no computer smaller than a mainframe! It will be hard for you to believe, but it was not until the latter half of the 60’s that my father was using an IBM 1130 mainframe, and he would let me help in typing up the program cards and then put them into the feeder for the computer to begin working. That was magical as well!
So the guts of the library magic was those Dewey Decimals, and the Index cards, with drawers of cards ordered in three different ways: Author Name, Title Name, and finally Dewey Decimal Order. It was my first Operating System, and I did become a master.
I think that it is not an exaggeration to say that from the third grade on, I always had a book or two within reach of my fingers. I felt that I could be called from then on, a Literary Maven. I had begun a book collection, a library of my very own.
Pseudonymous Juvenile Sci Fi Books that my brother and I collected.
There will of course be disagreement of exactly what period of time is covered by the term “Golden Age of Sci Fi”. For me it is the period of time covered by the end of WWII and ranging through the 1960’s. The earliest books that I can clearly remember collecting, and my younger brother collecting were ironically pseudonomically published.
For me it was the Tom Corbett, Space Cadet series (attributed to a Carey Rockwell, but never copyrighted!). And for my brother it was the Tom Swift series (attributed to Victor Appleton II, these were copyrighted, but it was well known that Appleton was a pseudonym). I can remember one cover of my brothers collection vividly.
All of the Victor Appleton II books had brightly illustrated covers, that were very dramatic for a tween boy.
In the course of my research for this essay, I ran across a MOBI file that I was able to download from Project Guttenburg. A file that I hope that my brother will enjoy seeing once again.
My collection of Tom Corbett, Space Cadet books were plain covered with no dramatic covers. I have not been able to find any images of my old beloved collection.
However, I can advise my readers that both these collections are available on Amazon©. You must search by author.
In the case of Tom Swift, you must search on Victor Appleton II, remembering that there are four series of books written over a period of six decades! The books that were brother had were from series two, thusly “written” by Victor Appleton II. Remember this is a pseudonym!
In the case of the Tom Corbett series that I had, you would have to search on “Carey Rockwell.” It is only recently (1977) the Robert A. Heinlein confirmed that he wrote the series under the name of Carey Rockwell. Claiming that he did so because it was a very early work and he felt it not “polished”. He would in 1948 rewrite it as Space Cadet a book that he felt was much more polished and satisfactory.
It was this book that that started me on my “Heinlein” phase. As I accumulated enough money, I would head to the bookstore and buy another one of Heinlein’s paperbacks and would add it to my shelf of Sci Fi.
Nowadays, of course, I have all of his ‘juvenile’ novels, the ones that I most remember and treasure as a tween and a teen, in Kindle form! I still read them from time to time. And what do you know? I still love these coming of age tales. In the 50’s and 60’s they would be serialized in Boys’ Life© the boy scout magazine before being printed in hardback and paperback form. As a boy scout I would read them in the magazine, and then would purchase the paperback as soon as I could.
I would carry those paperback books around the world with me as I served in the Air Force. I still had many of those self same paperbacks as late as 1999! But being, for the most part, printed on cheap paper by the time the 21st century came around they were flaking and falling apart. I was heartbroken, but with the advent of electronic publishing I was able to collect them once again, but now in a permanent format.
So Many Classic Sci Fi authors.
I would in time be drawn to the likes of Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Silverburg, and Poul Anderson. All of them giants in this age of Sci Fi. It was June of 1969 and America put a man on the moon. It was one of those climatic events that would fuel an interest in Science Fiction for several more decades. Asimov would become a giant in the Sci Fi world, writing so many novels that it would be folly for me to attempt to list them.
Asimov and also Clarke would also become famous for their Science Books as well as for their Science Fiction. I would collect, once again in paperback form, a myriad of their books to add to my collection. As my resources expanded, I was able to get some of their key books in hardback form. It was these books that would form the cornerstone of my library.
I was also fortunate enough to get some books in Leatherbound Editions, and those I consider among my treasures. But more about one of those treasures later.
I expand my library.
While I can honestly say that it was this Golden Age of Sci Fi that got me started off into a lifelong love of books. I would in time spread beyond the cool world of science fiction and into action thrillers as well as histories, biographies, mathematics and cosmology.
Every time I was assigned to a new airbase, I would very quickly find my way to the base library and open a borrowing account. I would become a friend of librarians around the world. In a like manner I would search out bookstores, and when I found a particularly interesting book, I would purchase it. By the 90’s whenever I moved, it would be with a large number of book boxes!
I began to find a way to cut down on the weight of the books when I purchased my first eBook, a Sony Reader™ with an LCD screen on 7/11/2010. I began to purchase in electronic form of books, and I began to browse Project Gutenburg looking for free copies of books that I could download and enjoy.
Then on 9/10/2011 I would upgrade my ebook capability by purchasing my first Amazon Kindle™. This enabled me to be able to carry 30 books on my Thanksgiving Day cruise without taking along a case just to hold the books that I wanted to read! I could carry those 30 books in one hand with my Kindle, amazing!
I have since upgraded my Kindle two times, now I sport an Amazon Kindle Paperwhite™ even allowing me to read in a dark room should I feel like doing so. So it is pretty easy to see that books have made a huge difference in my life! Bringing me back to that Literary Treasure that I mentioned earlier.
My Literary Treasure
I have a leatherbound issue of the Foundation Trilogy by Asimov. It was a book that my older brother also coveted. In point of fact, at one time my older brother (Fred) expressed the hope that if I should happen to predecease him, he would like to have the book. He assured me that he would treasure it just as much as I had. And I assured him that should I predecease him then he could have it with my pleasure.
However, as it turned out Fred predeceased me, and it did leave me desolate. It is wrong to repine for too long, and I put it out of my thoughts for a year and more. Yet, it did leave me to think that this book did mean so very much to me, and it had meant so much to Fred. I had a responsibility to think about what the BOOK would want. Yes, Yes, I know that it is the height of anthropomorphic silliness to consider what a book would want. Yet it brought to mind yet another one of my “treasures”.
“The Dangerous Book for Boys”©2007
I am speaking of the book with that name written by Conn and Hal Iggulden. It is a curious book, and I will freely admit that it was the title that prompted me to pick it up and peruse. It consists of articles that would mostly interest boys. Articles such as “How to build a periscope”, and “How to play Table Football”, and even “How to Play Poker”.
It is all the sort of things that boys are curious about, some obscure things, some funny things, and things you can do with magnets! Somehow, I don’t think this is the kind of books that my nieces would find useful. But my Nephew?(!)
While he is all grown up now, if I had this book when Nathan was a little boy, then I would certainly give it to him, and I think that he would have had a ball with it! But his dad is probably glad that I could not give him this “Dangerous Book for Boys”. And yet I still think that someday Nathan might have a boy, and that boy I contend would LOVE this book.
As for anyone curious about this book, well, I suspect that there might be an interesting article about it on Wikipedia, perhaps after proofing this blog post, I shall check it out.
What do books mean to me?
How can I put it more succinctly? I love books. When I had trouble speaking (sometimes Fred and I would stutter, for some reason that never bothered Robert). I could always find pleasure that I could read powerfully and confidently. I could take pleasure in considering that while there was so much information that I did not know, I was confident in that my expertise in the library could enable me to find any information that I needed. This was POWER for me, and eventually I would want the power to not only find the information that I needed, but the power to express it!
I was most unsteady in speaking information, but I was determined that I could express this information in writing. That is why I always had a portable typewriter with me when I traveled. And when the technology permitted, I would always have a computer of my own with me. For I was confident that in the written word I could be a master, if not a master in speaking. This was, as I said, power for me, a literary power that I prize.
And I owe this power that I can now exercise to my love for books. It was reading as many books as I could that has brought me to this point. I am very pleased that I can express my literary feelings and ambitions to all of you.
Oh, By the way Nathan.
That exquisite copy of “The Dangerous Book for Boys” that I own is on the top left shelf of my bookcase next to my boxed sets “From Earth to the Moon” and “Pride and Prejudice” , two other books that had a great influence on me. Just Saying.