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Friday, May 17, 2019

Comic Cuts - 17 May 2019

My life has turned into one of those sliding tile puzzles. What started out as a need to find some old photocopies so that I could maybe think about writing another book, has, two weeks later, resulted in the living room looking like a paper bomb has gone off. To get to one box, I have to move other stuff out of the way and shift yet another box over there to make room. Over a period of a fortnight, I think all the boxes have been in all the four corners of the room at different times.

Having said that, I'm slowly whittling down the piles. What was a six foot mountain of boxes with a rugged terrain, will eventually be a neatly stacked four foot hill, labelled so I know what's in them. That's the plan... at the moment it still looks like the boxes erupted and piles of lava paper spewed out, creating a slowly cooling lava lake with the occasional kipuka amongst the flow.

One thing I'm pleased with is that I managed to put up another couple of batches of books, magazines and oddments on Ebay. Click the Ebay symbol to the left to go to my sale page... you might find something you want.

My trip to the dentist on Wednesday was another quick in and out job to get a small filling done. I went to visit a friend afterwards and my lip felt like it had inflated to the size of one of those long balloons used to make balloon animals. Thanks to the anaesthetic, I had no sensation in the left side of my mouth, so I didn't notice that I'd had the skin stripped off the inside of my lip. I found out a few hours later when sensation returned... with a vengeance. The inside of my lip still looks like it went a couple of rounds with Tyson Fury.

Sorting through boxes continues to turn up bits of my past that I hadn't thought about for years. I thought you might enjoy these early examples of lists that would eventually turn into the book British Science Fiction Paperbacks and Magazines 1949-1956.

The above is dated 11 June 1981 and was compiled when I was 19.  I read science fiction almost exclusively from the age of 13 and had developed an interest in old 1950s paperback SF and magazines after reading Mike Ashley's History of the Science Fiction Magazine series in SF Monthly and in book form. Two years earlier, in June 1979, I had found addresses for Mike and for Phil Harbottle  and wrote to both. Friendly replies came back and I started working on a school project that started as a history of British SF magazines, became more focused on the ten years after the Second World War, and eventually became all about one magazine that had published one single issue before folding due to poor sales. (This was my proudest school project and the one I regret not having. I do still have one on Winston Churchill and I may still have one on trees. Why these survived and my Outlands project disappeared is still annoying.)

The magazine project led me to visit the Science Fiction Foundation, whose library was then housed in Barking (although my memory says Dagenham) at the North East London Polytechnic. As a member of the British Science Fiction Association, I had the opportunity to visit – two visits, in fact, which were overseen by Malcolm Edwards and David Pringle. My main aim was to look at old pulp mags (Tales of Wonder, Fantasy) and the earlier issues of New Worlds and the like. I also made copious notes from Walter Gillings' 'The Impatient Dreamers' series in Vision of Tomorrow and spent some time nosing around the shelves.

It was there that I first spotted Vargo Statten, a name I knew from Phil Harbottle, who was the world authority on John Russell Fearn, the author behind the Statten pseudonym. Through my membership of the BSFA, and ignoring Malcolm's dire warning that "They'll rot your brain," I borrowed some of the books and some of the non-Fearn books from the same period. Their awfulness was captivating.

I seem to have a fascination for awful books and movies. Not a constant craving to just bury myself in this rot, but as an irregular and occasional treat. Mel and I enjoy Mystery Science Theatre 3000, which has shown some pretty rotten films, and we sometimes dip into the pleasures of a Sharknado or Ice Sharks. I don't read as many bad books as I used to, but there's still some joy to be derived from an old Badger Book or a Digit.

I've found myself taking another look at some of these old books recently to see if I can i.d. a few more of the authors. The second typed checklist – the index – dates from around the same period of 1981/82 when we were still stumbling towards identifying more of the writers.

All these decades later I'm still trying to figure out some of them and the research is ongoing. Only recently I managed to nail down the three authors behind Vektis Brack, although I'm still trying to discover one author who was behind at least three novels for Curtis Warren... still a mystery after forty years!

Today's random scans ties in with this ongoing research. One of the few authors I'm still struggling to find information on is Brian Holloway. He was active at least as early as 1949 and his known work is primarily a series of SF novels in 1952-53, along with a handful of westerns. I was thinking about Holloway recently and wondered what he was doing in 1950/51. Hunting around in my collection, I dug out a couple of novels described by Curtis Warren as "Aero Fiction". There were ten of these novels, all published in 1951, five by Glen Allen, five by Ken Ford. I have one of each and both seem to be by the same author, who may be Brian Holloway.

It would be interesting to see more of these, or get some feedback from someone who has read them. It would be nice to know if any of these are science fiction (near future inventions, fictional countries at war, for example). Anyone?

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