Thursday, August 27, 2009

Edmond Hamilton - Haffner Press

If you grew up reading science fiction in the Twenties, Thirties, Forties or Fifties the name Edmond Hamilton was a revered one. A pioneer in creating the kind of far-flung galaxy smashing action-packed sf that fan boys of every age hounded their newstands for...Hamilton survived all the changes common to any genre. The reason was simple. He was not only a superb storyteller, he was also an innovator. Many of the sf action tropes we take for granted today (hello there Star Wars) came from Hamilton's typewriter early in the last century. Along with his wife Leigh Brackett Hamilton virtually created galaxies and universes that kept writers fed for decades.

Volume One The Metal Giants and Others are stories collected from Weird Tales and introduced by Robert Weinberg; Volume Two The Star-Stealers also come from Weird Tales and includes the complete tales of The Interstellar Patrol with an introduction by Walter Jon Watkins; the third volume is Volume One of Hamilton's Captain Future stories, introduced by Richard A. Lupoff.

Haffner Press has published these in inordinately hefty and beautiful editions. Short of having every single word you've ever written collected in leather bound editions...this has to be the kind of tribute only a handful of writers (of any kind) ever receive.

One of the most fascinating elements of Hamilton's literary history is the award-winning short story he wrote in the late Thirties. He called it "What's It Like Out There?" It was a somber realistic story about men who'd been to space and come back. Nothing like it had ever been published. Hamilton decided to hang on to it. Not until the early Fifties did he decide that the field was ready for it. While he had previously been known for action fiction he was now heralded as a writer of sensitivity and serious themes. The novels he wrote after this reflected this newly revealed side of his talent.

But why listen to me. Check out the Haffner Press webiste for yourself.


Brendan DuBois said...


Yes! "What's It Like Out There?", about the second manned exploration to Mars... I remember reading it in an anthology in the 60's and being completely blown away by it... a very gritty realistic look at the costs of exploration and the lies that go with it... a story that's haunting on so many levels...

Thanks for reminding me of such a masterpiece.

-- Brendan

Brian Drake said...

Wow, Ed, thanks for the information. I read in another book where Hamilton was invited to watch the Apollo launches when that program started. His thoughts were interesting. He said that he and writers like him may not have had a hand in building the machines flying into space, but writers like him may have filled the imaginations of the engineers and the astronauts to actually attempt what had only been written. For that, he felt that he and his writer friends who sat around and speculated and argued about the future and then wrote about it had made some sort of contribution to real space exploration. I wish I had the exact quote handy, but I don't at this time; if you'd like, I can dig it up when I return home.