Legion of Space Series

For the fictional military force which is part of the Interplanetary Alliance, see Space Legion

The Legion of Space is a space opera science fiction series by American writer Jack Williamson. The story takes place in an era when humans have colonized the Solar System but dare not go farther, as the first extra-solar expedition to Barnard's Star failed and the survivors came back as babbling, grotesque, diseased madmen. They spoke of a gigantic planet, populated by ferocious animals and the single city left of the evil "Medusae". The Medusae bear a vague resemblance to jellyfish, but are actually elephant-sized, four-eyed, flying beings with hundreds of tentacles. The Medusae cannot speak, and communicate with one another via a microwave code.

Inspiration

While attending a Great Books course, Williamson learned that Henryk Sienkiewicz had created one of his works by taking the Three Musketeers of Alexandre Dumas and pairing them with John Falstaff of William Shakespeare. Williamson took this idea into science fiction with Legion of Space.

Plot and characters

The series employs the plot device of the false document, purporting to have been written by a 20th-century American capable of experiencing the lives and adventures of his remote descendants in future centuries and writing them down. Williamson may have been influenced by the similar provenance which Edgar Rice Burroughs provided for The Moon Maid and The Moon Men a decade earlier.

The Falstaff character is named Giles Habibula. He was once a criminal, and can open any lock ever made. In his youth he was called Giles the Ghost. Jay Kalam (Commander of the Legion) and Hal Samdu (an anagram of "Dumas") are the names of the other two warriors.

The name Habibula seems to imply an Arab or Muslim background (it means "beloved of Allah" in Arabic). However, since the character displays few other signs of such a background, and since he bears an English first name going back to the Norman Conquest, Williamson seems to have rather implied a mixture of ethnicities and cultures during the centuries of spaceward expansion.

In this story, these warriors of the 30th century battle the Medusae, the alien race from the lone planet of Barnard's Star. The Legion itself is the military and police force of the Solar System after the overthrow of an empire called the Purple Hall that once ruled all humans.

In the novel, renegade Purple pretenders ally themselves with the Medusae as a means to regain their empire. But the Medusae, who are totally unlike humans in all ways, turn on the Purples, seeking to destroy all humans and move to the Solar System, as their own world, far older than Earth, is finally spiraling back into Barnard's Star.

One of the Purples, John Ulnar, supports the Legion from the start, and he is the fourth great warrior. His enemy is the Purple pretender Eric Ulnar, who sought the Medusae out in the first place, seeking to become the next Emperor of The Sun.

The Medusae conquered the Moon, set up their bases there, and went on to attempt conquest of the Solar System. The Medusae had for eons used a greenish, artificial greenhouse gas to keep their dying world from freezing. The Medusae learned from the first human expedition to their world that the gas rots human flesh, and the Medusae use it as a potent chemical weapon, attempting ecological destruction by means of projectiles fired from the Moon. Their vast spaceships also have very effective plasma weapons, very similar to those the Romulans had in a Star Trek episode called Balance of Terror.

This first Legion tale featured a secret weapon called AKKA. Using a space/time distortion, it could erase from the Universe any matter, of any size, anywhere, even a star or a planet. This weapon of mass destruction was entrusted to a series of women.

AKKA was used in the past to overthrow the Purple tyranny. In this story the Medusae tried to steal the secret weapon, but failed and their invasion force was destroyed. When they were wiped out, the Moon, where they had established their base, was erased out of existence.

At the end of the story, John Ulnar falls in love with the keeper of AKKA, Aladoree Anthar, and marries her. Aladoree Anthar is described as a young woman with lustrous brown hair and gray eyes, beautiful as a goddess.

Williamson then wrote The Cometeers, in which, twenty years after The Legion of Space, the same characters battle an alien race, this one of different origin.

In this second tale they fight the Cometeers, which are energy beings controlling a "comet" which is really a giant force field containing a swarm of planets populated by their slaves. The slave races are of flesh and blood, but none are remotely similar to humans. The Cometeers cannot be destroyed by AKKA, as they are incorporeal from the Universe's point of view and exist for the most part in an alternate reality. The ruling Cometeers feed on their slaves and literally absorb their souls, leaving disgusting, dying hulks in their wake. It is said that they do so because they were once fleshly entities themselves of various species. Hence, the ruling Cometeers keep other intelligent beings as slaves and "cattle." They fear AKKA, though, as it can erase all their possessions.

They are defeated by the skills of Giles Habibula. Giles broke into a secret chamber guarded by complex locks and force fields that the incorporeal Cometeers could not penetrate. In it the ruler of the Cometeers had kept its own weapon of mass destruction, one that would cause the Cometeers to disintegrate. The ruling Cometeer kept this weapon to enforce its rule over the others of its kind. Once the Cometeers were destroyed, their slaves were ordered by the Legion to take the comet and leave the Solar System, and never return.

Another novel, One Against the Legion, tells of a Purple pretender who sets up a robotic base on a world over seventy light years from Earth, and tries to conquer the Solar System using stolen matter transporter technology. In this story robots are outlawed, as they are in the Dune series. The story also features Jay Kalam, lobbying to allow the New Cometeers to leave the Solar System in peace, as many people were demanding that AKKA be used to obliterate the departing swarm of planets once and for all.

In 1982, Williamson published a final Legion novel, The Queen of the Legion. Giles Habibula reappears in this final novel, which is set after the disbanding of the Legion.

Critical reception

John Clute rated the series as "The best of [Williamson's] pre–World War Two work"; comparing it to the Lensman series, he noted that "Williamson's relative incapacity to impart a sense of brute scale was perhaps balanced by a very much greater gift for characterization".[1]

References

  1. ^ "Williamson, Jack", The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction
1934 in science fiction

The year 1934 was marked, in science fiction, by the following events.

Giles (given name)

Giles is a masculine given name.

Giles [dʒaɪlz] is the Medieval English form of the name of the French hermit Saint Giles,

which itself is the Old French form of the Latin name Aegidius. The modern French forms are Gilles and the less common Égide.

Jack Williamson

John Stewart Williamson (April 29, 1908 – November 10, 2006), who wrote as Jack Williamson, was an American science fiction writer, often called the "Dean of Science Fiction" after the death of Robert Heinlein in 1988. Early in his career he sometimes used the pseudonyms Will Stewart and Nils O. Sonderlund.

Mars in fiction

Fictional representations of Mars have been popular for over a century. Interest in Mars has been stimulated by the planet's dramatic red color, by early scientific speculations that its surface conditions might be capable of supporting life, and by the possibility that Mars could be colonized by humans in the future. Almost as popular as stories about Mars are stories about Martians engaging in activity (frequently invasions) away from their home planet.

In the 20th century, actual spaceflights to the planet Mars, including seminal events such as the first man-made object to impact the surface of Mars in 1971, and then later the first landing of "the first mechanized device to successfully operate on Mars" in 1976 (in the Viking program by the United States), inspired a great deal of interest in Mars-related fiction. Exploration of the planet has continued in the 21st century on to the present day.

Space Legion

For the space opera science fiction series by Jack Williamson see: Legion of Space Series

The Space Legion is a fictional military force which is part of the Interplanetary Alliance, a federation government of numerous planets in a series of books by Robert Asprin, called Phule's Company.

The Space Legion is conceptually based on the French Foreign Legion and seemed to be organized on a company basis which are then scattered throughout the Alliance on security duties.

The overall commander of the Space Legion is General Blitzkrieg.

The Space Legion is perpetually cash strapped and is a tightfisted organization.The Alliance's military includes not only the Space Legion, but also the Regular Army and Starfleet. The Space Legion is considered the lowest on the totem pole, and is the laughingstock of the armed forces.

Like the French Foreign Legion, Space Legion mandates all persons using a pseudonym chosen upon enlistment, however, commissions are purchased. It is a violation of Legion rules to release another Legion member's real name, but not to reveal one's own.

The Cometeers

The Cometeers is a collection of two science fiction novels by the American writer Jack Williamson. It was first published by Fantasy Press in 1950 in an edition of 3,162 copies. The novels were originally serialized in the magazine Astounding in 1936 and 1939, and later released as individual paperbacks by Pyramid Books.

One Against the Legion was also published in Great Britain in 1970, in a paperback edition by Sphere Books Ltd. This edition included an additional novel, Nowhere Near, chronologically the fourth in the Legion of Space series. It featured, among others, Giles Habibula, and Lilith, a new Keeper of the Peace and mistress of AKKA.

The Legion of Time

The Legion of Time is a collection of two science fiction novels by the American writer Jack Williamson. It was first published by Fantasy Press in 1952 in an edition of 4,604 copies. The novels were originally serialized in the magazines Astounding Science Fiction and Marvel Stories.

Despite the title Legion of Time, the stories do not in fact feature a body with such a name. The title may have been bestowed in an effort to emulate the success of Williamson's earlier "Legion of Space" series. The title story was originally announced as "The Legion of Probability".

Timeline of science fiction

This is a timeline of science fiction as a literary tradition.

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