The Legion of Space

The Legion of Space is a science fiction novel by the American writer Jack Williamson. It was originally serialized in Astounding Stories in 1934, then published in book form (with some revisions) by Fantasy Press in 1947 in an edition of 2,970 copies. A magazine-sized reprint was issued by Galaxy in 1950, with a standard paperback following from Pyramid Books in 1967. The first British edition was published by Sphere Books in 1977. The Legion of Space has been translated into German, French and Italian. It has also appeared in the omnibus Three from the Legion, which compiles the novel and all but one of its sequels.[1]

The Legion of Space
Legion of space
Dust-jacket from the first edition
AuthorJack Williamson
IllustratorA. J. Donnell
Cover artistA. J. Donnell
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
SeriesLegion of Space Series
GenreScience fiction
PublisherFantasy Press
Publication date
1947
Media typePrint (Hardback)
Pages259
Followed byThe Cometeers 

Plot background

The story takes place in an era in which 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. These survivors spoke of a gigantic planet, populated by ferocious animals, and of the single city of the evil "Medusae". The Medusae are elephant-sized, four-eyed, flying 'jellyfish' with hundreds of tentacles. The Medusae cannot hear or speak, but communicate with one another via radio waves.

Plot summary

The Legion is the military and police force of the Solar System. It was created to keep the peace after the overthrow of the "Purples", a dynasty that ruled all humanity for generations. John Ulnar, a young graduate of the Legion academy, shares a surname with the Purples but is an enthusiastic supporter of the Legion.

A weapon called AKKA was used to defeat the Purples. Using a space/time distortion, it erases matter from the Universe—any matter, of any size, even a star or a planet. The secret of AKKA is kept in one family, descended from its creator, and is passed down from mother to daughter. One of the Legion's most important tasks is to guard the current Keeper, a beautiful young woman named Aladoree Anthar.

Through the machinations of his uncle, a powerful politician with a hidden agenda, John Ulnar is assigned to Aladoree's guard force at a secret fort on Mars. When she is kidnapped by a huge alien spaceship, John and the three other survivors of the guard force follow her kidnappers to a planet of Barnard's Star. They crash-land and must battle their way across a savage continent to the sole remaining citadel of the Medusae.

John Ulnar's uncle and his nephew have allied with the Medusae as a means to regain their empire, and have kidnapped Aladoree to ensure that AKKA is not used against them. The Medusae, however, turn on the Purples, seeking to destroy all humans and move to the Solar System, as their own world, far older than Earth, is spiraling into Barnard's Star.

John Ulnar and his companions rescue Aladoree, but the invasion of the Solar System has already begun. The Medusae conquer the Moon, set up bases there, and bombard Earth with gas projectiles. John, Aladoree, and their companions land on a ravaged Earth. Fighting off cannibals maddened by the gas, they build AKKA and destroy the Medusae fleets (and Earth's Moon as well).

Critical reception

Brian W. Aldiss and David Wingrove, noting that Williamson had produced much better work, dismissed The Legion of Space as a Gosh-wow! epic which thundered along "on the cloven heels of Doc Smith."[2] Everett F. Bleiler, although faulting the novel's "stylistic and developmental problems . . . notably the irritating characterizations of the musketeers and John Ulnar," concluded that The Legion of Space is carried along by a drive and verve that make it one of the better early space operas.[3]

Thrilling Wonder Stories found the novel to be "space opera with a vengeance -- with passably good characterization imbedded in an interplanetary chamber of horrors that . . . seems to go on forever [and becomes] a little tiresome".[4] P. Schuyler Miller wrote that the novel "does not pretend to be anything more than a good space-adventure yarn in the swashbuckling tradition -- and formula -- of The Three Musketeers".[5] Lester del Rey. writing in 1978, praised The Legion of Space as "a classic adventure story".[6]

References

  1. ^ ISFDB publication history
  2. ^ Aldiss & Wingrove, Trillion Year Spree, Victor Gollancz, 1986, p.411
  3. ^ Everett F. Bleiler, Science-Fiction: The Gernsback Years, Kent State University Press, 1998, p.507
  4. ^ "Science Fiction Book Review", Thrilling Wonder Stories, October 1947, p. 111-12
  5. ^ "Science Fiction Between Boards", Astounding Stories, May 1948, p.94
  6. ^ "The Reference Library", Analog, July 1978, p.171

Sources

  • Chalker, Jack L.; Mark Owings (1998). The Science-Fantasy Publishers: A Bibliographic History, 1923-1998. Westminster, MD and Baltimore: Mirage Press, Ltd. p. 235.
  • Tuck, Donald H. (1978). The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy. Chicago: Advent. p. 462. ISBN 0-911682-22-8.

External links

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Analog Science Fiction and Fact

Analog Science Fiction and Fact is an American science-fiction magazine published under various titles since 1930. Originally titled Astounding Stories of Super-Science, the first issue was dated January 1930, published by William Clayton, and edited by Harry Bates. Clayton went bankrupt in 1933 and the magazine was sold to Street & Smith. The new editor was F. Orlin Tremaine, who soon made Astounding the leading magazine in the nascent pulp science fiction field, publishing well-regarded stories such as Jack Williamson's Legion of Space and John W. Campbell's "Twilight". At the end of 1937, Campbell took over editorial duties under Tremaine's supervision, and the following year Tremaine was let go, giving Campbell more independence. Over the next few years Campbell published many stories that became classics in the field, including Isaac Asimov's Foundation series, A.E. van Vogt's Slan, and several novels and stories by Robert A. Heinlein. The period beginning with Campbell's editorship is often referred to as the Golden Age of Science Fiction.

By 1950, new competition had appeared from Galaxy Science Fiction and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Campbell's interest in some pseudo-science topics, such as dianetics (an early version of scientology), alienated some of his regular writers, and Astounding was no longer regarded as the leader of the field, though it did continue to publish popular and influential stories: Hal Clement's novel Mission of Gravity appeared in 1953, and Tom Godwin's "The Cold Equations" appeared the following year. In 1960, Campbell changed the title of the magazine to Analog Science Fiction & Fact; he had long wanted to get rid of the word "Astounding" in the title, which he felt was too sensational. At about the same time Street & Smith sold the magazine to Condé Nast. Campbell remained as editor until his death in 1971.

Ben Bova took over from 1972 to 1978, and the character of the magazine changed noticeably, since Bova was willing to publish fiction that included sexual content and profanity. Bova published stories such as Frederik Pohl's "The Gold at the Starbow's End", which was nominated for both a Hugo and Nebula Award, and Joe Haldeman's "Hero", the first story in the Hugo and Nebula Award-winning "Forever War" sequence; Pohl had been unable to sell to Campbell, and "Hero" had been rejected by Campbell as unsuitable for the magazine. Bova won five consecutive Hugo Awards for his editing of Analog.

Bova was followed by Stanley Schmidt, who continued to publish many of the same authors who had been contributing for years; the result was some criticism of the magazine as stagnant and dull, though Schmidt was initially successful in maintaining circulation. The title was sold to Davis Publications in 1980, then to Dell Magazines in 1992. Crosstown Publications acquired Dell in 1996 and remains the publisher. Schmidt continued to edit the magazine until 2012, when he was replaced by Trevor Quachri.

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The second edition has an added foreword by Robert Silverberg.After the success of the work, in 1996 Barlowe and Neil Duskis wrote a second book, Barlowe's Guide to Fantasy.

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Galaxy Science Fiction Novels

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The series was started by H.L. Gold, the editor of Galaxy Science Fiction, in 1950 as a companion to the main Galaxy magazine. There was one (often abridged) novel per issue, which appeared in digest size format, which made the books in the series look like digest magazines.

In 1959, after 35 issues, the series was sold to Beacon Books, which changed the format to mass-market (small size) paperback and introduced its own numbering scheme, continuing the series for another 11 issues. They also had the contents of some books revised to add mild sexual content and changed their titles accordingly.

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

History of US science fiction and fantasy magazines to 1950

Science fiction and fantasy magazines began to be published in the United States in the 1920s. Stories with science fiction themes had been appearing for decades in pulp magazines such as Argosy, but there were no magazines that specialized in a single genre until 1915, when Street & Smith, one of the major pulp publishers, brought out Detective Story Magazine. The first magazine to focus solely on fantasy and horror was Weird Tales, which was launched in 1923, and established itself as the leading weird fiction magazine over the next two decades; writers such as H.P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith and Robert E. Howard became regular contributors. In 1926 Weird Tales was joined by Amazing Stories, published by Hugo Gernsback; Amazing printed only science fiction, and no fantasy. Gernsback included a letter column in Amazing Stories, and this led to the creation of organized science fiction fandom, as fans contacted each other using the addresses published with the letters. Gernsback wanted the fiction he printed to be scientifically accurate, and educational, as well as entertaining, but found it difficult to obtain stories that met his goals; he printed "The Moon Pool" by Abraham Merritt in 1927, despite it being completely unscientific. Gernsback lost control of Amazing Stories in 1929, but quickly started several new magazines. Wonder Stories, one of Gernsback's titles, was edited by David Lasser, who worked to improve the quality of the fiction he received. Another early competitor was Astounding Stories of Super-Science, which appeared in 1930, edited by Harry Bates, but Bates printed only the most basic adventure stories with minimal scientific content, and little of the material from his era is now remembered.

In 1933 Astounding was acquired by Street & Smith, and it soon became the leading magazine in the new genre, publishing early classics such as Murray Leinster's "Sidewise in Time" in 1934. A couple of competitors to Weird Tales for fantasy and weird fiction appeared, but none lasted, and the 1930s is regarded as Weird Tales' heyday. Between 1939 and 1941 there was a boom in science fiction and fantasy magazines: several publishers entered the field, including Standard Magazines, with Startling Stories and Thrilling Wonder Stories (a retitling of Wonder Stories); Popular Publications, with Astonishing Stories and Super Science Stories; and Fiction House, with Planet Stories, which focused on melodramatic tales of interplanetary adventure. Ziff-Davis launched Fantastic Adventures, a fantasy companion to Amazing. Astounding extended its pre-eminence in the field during the boom: the editor, John W. Campbell, developed a stable of young writers that included Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, and A.E. van Vogt. The period starting in 1938, when Campbell took control of Astounding, is often referred to as the Golden Age of Science Fiction. Well-known stories from this era include Slan, by van Vogt, and "Nightfall", by Asimov. Campbell also launched Unknown, a fantasy companion to Astounding, in 1939; this was the first serious competitor for Weird Tales. Although wartime paper shortages forced Unknown's cancellation in 1943, it is now regarded as one of the most influential pulp magazines.

Only eight science fiction and fantasy magazines survived World War II. All were still in pulp magazine format except for Astounding, which had switched to a digest format in 1943. Astounding continued to publish popular stories, including "Vintage Season" by C. L. Moore, and "With Folded Hands ..." by Jack Williamson. The quality of the fiction in the other magazines improved over the decade: Startling Stories and Thrilling Wonder in particular published some excellent material and challenged Astounding for the leadership of the field. A few more pulps were launched in the late 1940s, but almost all were intended as vehicles to reprint old classics. One exception, Out of This World Adventures, was an experiment by Avon, combining fiction with some pages of comics. It was a failure and lasted only two issues. Magazines in digest format began to appear towards the end of the decade, including Other Worlds, edited by Raymond Palmer. In 1949, the first issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction appeared, followed in October 1950 by the first issue of Galaxy Science Fiction; both were digests, and between them soon dominated the field. Very few science fiction or fantasy pulps were launched after this date; the 1950s was the beginning of the era of digest magazines, though the leading pulps continued until the mid-1950s, and authors began selling to mainstream magazines and large book publishers.

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Legion of Space Series

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

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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.

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