The Jailer Mentality and Alternate Histories

One of the oldest entries in my “Commonplace Book” is from an article titled simply “Science Fiction” in the small but wonderful book Of Other Worlds by C.S. Lewis. I still own that book, but have decided to quote a passage via internet; I originally typed it on an Underwood manual typewriter in 1974 (it’s one reason for my deformed fingers).

people are so ready with the charge of ‘escape.’ I never fully understood it till my friend Professor Tolkien asked me the very simple question, ‘What class of men would you expect to be most preoccupied with, and most hostile to, the idea of escape?’ and gave the obvious answer: jailers. The charge of Fascism is, to be sure, mere mud-flinging. Fascists, as well as Communists, are jailers; both would assure us that the proper study of prisoners is prison. But there is perhaps this truth behind it: that those who brood much on the remote past or future, or stare long at the night sky, are less likely than others to be ardent or orthodox partisans.

A Pilgrim in Narnia reflects my own lifelong role as pilgrim and longer for other worlds. It feels like that “visit to the deck” when I go there. Science Fiction brought me instantaneous wonder one summer in Northern Michigan: 1963. In the checkout aisle next to the Snickers was this:

case.of.identity
Looking at the calendar to discover that it is the present year. Modern telephone on the wall.

It turned out to fit right in with Davide Mana’s Karavansa. Certainly recommended for those who have read this far.

Alternate histories locked in as a theme the moment I saw the calendar on that seemingly medieval wall. May 1964.

H. Beam Piper’s Gunpowder God provided precise detail on combining sulphur, charcoal and sodium nitrate. I was already combining every household chemical available to discover what the periodic table let me know about free ions, so I was among kindred.

gunpowder_god-schoenherr
Looking at the calendar to discover that it is the present year. Modern telephone on the wall.

Within the next month I had found a brown-paper wrapped Analog and the first printing in magazine form of Frank Herbert’s Prophet of Dune series.

It was in this mailbox on 315 Glenroy for firsthand accounts from the 50’s and 60’s. I still have the large-format magazines in mylar sleeves. They’re over there in the dining room. Make yourself comfortable.

Language, geography, literature and wonder.

And a recognition that our record-breaking incarceration economy and military armament madness destroys far more souls far more innocent than me.

An alternate history that does not press world armament manufacture and mega prison complexes loom in my mind 53 years hence.

The Rock of Three Planets

What to look for, text to accompany this post, great read to share
What to look for, text to accompany this post, great read to share

Lisa and I share an interest in the long-lost and the newly lost novel of prized genres: science fiction, circa 1911 American popular culture, Bobbsey Twins and the like in the unexpurgated original, pulp mysteries of the 1940 and 50’s written by forgotten giants, such as Cornell Woolrich. I could continue the inventory categories but you’re better served by stopping by to browse our bookshelves, to discover the unexpected titles on book spines with faded or striking illustrations. Should you encounter a loose copy of Penrod and Sam let us know. But let’s consider a recent emergent from the stacks, a youth-oriented novel (part of a trilogy even) from 1963 by A.M. Lightner: The Rock of Three Planets.

 

We frequent a library discard sale of the best-kept-secret-kind: the bimonthly  Campbell County Library Friends of the Library Discard Sale. This volume lay undiscovered among its fellow book travelers in the youth section of the sale. As is material for legend, Lisa’s eye is ever alert for the unrecognized endangered species of collectable. You’ll want to clamor for her secret power, but its a day for Ms. Lightner.

You may already wax familiar with an internet niche site that offers used copies of The Rock of:

The Amazons

You don’t always expect to find a jaw-droppingly good cult classic text among your 50-cent purchases, but this one does drop such a jaw. 1963 cover art of rare device, circulation pocket holding a card for dated rubber stamps, another page for more rubber stamps. Hey, this is the property of the Third District School Library in Covington KY and it was rebound by New Method Book Bindery. Library volume 5944.

OK Bill, you pedant. What about the story, tell us about the story.

I’ve just reread this book blurb and now realize that the last sentence contains an enormous SPOILER ALERT. If you don’t want to have the ending irrevocably spoiled, consider this a cautionary.

A thumbnail sketch of our characters. You'll get to know them well by the end of the book. Count them among your friends and join the cult following.
A thumbnail sketch of our characters. You’ll get to know them well by the end of the book. Count them among your friends and join the cult following. Keywords: rock, three, planets.

This book was published at a time in my life when science fiction opened avenues of wonder upon discovering science fiction magazines in the year it appeared. Lightner’s perspective appeals to me on just such a personal level. Lisa read it first, she kept encouraging to just read the dang thing and see how great a book we owned. Well the cover struck me right away, only upon reading though did I discover how well the illustrator captured the essence of this novel. It takes place at a crucial point in the plot. As Lisa noted the action only really gets underway in the second half, but does it get going. Yes, it gets going. The rock as character bonds with the reader, becoming a real pal upon introduction. This is not something you expect immediately from a rock of several origins but the creäture residing within its shell stays in memory. The author balances her characters deftly and with ingenuity. The book is peopled with characters you care about. The language does not condescend to a younger audience, it challenged my vocabulary. A whole-heart approval, worth the sticker shock.

Cult classics arise from the grass-roots, no exception with Rock since genuine enthusiasm is contagious, so if you’ve ever visited Google you might find points of departure and encouragement from Lightner’s fans. I offer a single warning: beware the spoiler.

Now that your appetite is whet consider that trilogy I mentioned earlier, or explore the internet, your local or non local library perhaps. We may just see you there. Just saying.

 

 

Synchronicity Gone Wild: Karavansara and Me

It has been some time since I’ve engaged in a conversation that simultaneously included Clutch Cargo, Pat Novak for Hire and Frank Herbert’s Dune series but the Déjà Vu may conjoin: much as a solar eclipse occurring concurrently with a lunar variety.

Carefully tear the brown paper wrapper, such that you do not also tear the cover. Most fortunately I did not tear it and it's still here.
Carefully tear the brown paper wrapper, such that you do not also tear the cover. Most fortunately I did not tear it and it’s still here.

Yes, billziegler1947 is referring to the latest of waking hours in a longish sized day, when a last second neuron fires a memory segment while reading Karavansara. There you may find coverage on the deservedly famous Sand Worm cover by John Schoenherr on a March 1965  Analog Science Fact – Science Fiction.

As noted by Davide Mana this is a first printing. Mine arrived at 315 Glenroy in a brown paper wrapper. Now it’s preserved in a mylar sleeve. Yellow hues on a stone-like sand swirl. Too close even for discomfort. I can’t imagine it took that behemothic beast much time to scare its way out of arid surface and into a more than unforgiving Arrakis’ afternoon.

To make a short description yet shorter, I tuned in to Karavansara on the WordPress dial and submitted “Frank Herbert.” Frequenters of the Karavan and its Sara will know now that a non-ending journey into the possibilities of Herbert’s inimitable mind wash over into the impact of an introduction to Frank. Dune spice. 17 year-old self discovering that no one could better spark a science fiction journey

That trek began in 1964, while I gazed at another famous Analog cover (Schoenherr of course) for Randall Garrett’s alternate history series, another Sherlockian look at roads taken this time/not this time in the same year on the calendar: 1964 modern times. Not like the other magazines, it was not.

Looking at the calendar to discover that it is the present year. Modern telephone on the wall.
Looking at the calendar to discover that it is the present year. Modern telephone on the wall.

Back to 2015.