Monday, January 23, 2012

A Story with 18 Writers

In 1932, the first fanzine devoted to science fiction debuted.  Four editors, 3 were 15-17 years old, started "The Time Traveller".  Mort Weisinger and Julius Swartz would become science fiction agents and later editors for DC Comics.  Forrest J. Ackerman went on to a long career with "Famous Monsters", "Perry Rhodan", and others.  Allen Glasser is the one that I am not familiar with.  Later, the fanzine would become "The Science Fiction Digest" and "Fantasy Magazine".


One of the stunts the magazines used to do was the round robin story.    When I was recently on the Sony Ereader site, I spotted a novelette with multiple authors.  It turned out to be one that the editor of a magazine had commissioned.  It consisted of 5 chapters, each written by a different author.  The authors of “The Covenent” consisted of Poul Anderson, Isaac Asimov, Robert Sheckley, Murray Leinster, and Robert Bloch.  There was a certain appeal to doing this type of story.  How would Robert Bloch finish a story begun by Poul Anderson?  Would the difference in writing styles ruin the experience for the reader?  I am sure it depended on the story.  “Cosmos” was a classic pulp story.  Just by looking at the chapter titles, you can tell that it will be a fast paced story.  Anyone who likes exciting fast paced storytelling with space battles, alien armadas, and planets destroyed as only Edmond Hamilton can do should make the effort to track down this serial.  Today, each of these chapters would be a novel that would be 500-700 pages long.  The way Palmer plotted this story, the author had to keep moving or they would get run over.  



The first time I read one of this type of story was in the back of the “Perry Rhodan” series.  Forry Ackerman reprinted, one chapter per book, a round robin serial called “Cosmos”.  It originally appeared in “Science Fiction Digest” and “Fantasy Magazine” as an insert.

"Cosmos Serial" - 
(plotted by Raymond A. Palmer)
1. Ralph Milne Farley "Faster Than Light"
2. David H. Keller "The Emigrants"
3. Arthur J. Burks "Callisto's Children"
4. Bob Olsen "The Murderer From Mars"
6. John W. Campbell "Interference on Luna"
7. Francis Flagg "Son of the Trident"
8. Otis Adelbert Kline & E. Hoffmann Price"Volunteers From Venus"
9. Abner J. Gelula "Menace of the Automaton"
10. Raymond A. Palmer (as Rae Winters) "The Return to Venus"
11. A. Merritt "The Last Poet & The Wrongness of Space"
12. J. Harvey Haggard "At the Crater's Core"
13. E. E. "Doc" Smith "Course Perilous!"
14. P. Schuyler Miller "The Fate of the Neptunians"
15. Lloyd Arthur Eshbach "The Horde of Elo Hava"
16. Eando Binder "Lost in Alien Dimensions"
17. Edmond Hamilton "Armageddon in Space"





In 1935, “Fantasy Magazine”  published another round robin story that combined “science fiction and weird fantasy”.  I have never had the pleasure of reading this one.

"The Challenge from Beyond"


SF PART:
Stanley G. Weinbaum
Donald Wandrei
Edward E. Smith
Harl Vincent
Murray Leinster 


FANTASY PART:
H.P. Lovecraft
Robert E. Howard
C.L. Moore
A. Merritt
Frank Belknap Long

As you look at the line up for each of these serials it is hard to imagine what this would look like today.  Just imagine a story that would follow “The Challenge from Beyond” format.

SF Part:
Alastair Reynolds
John Scalzi
Kim Stanley Robinson
Peter Hamilton
Jack McDevitt

Fantasy Part:
China Mieville
Brandon Sanderson
George R. R. Martin
Joe Abercrombie
Michael Moorcock

The possibilities boggle the mind.  I would personally like to see some publisher try this experiment again. 

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