The latest episodes of the video cast series 1950s British Science Fiction, from author, editor, literary agent and publisher Philip Harbottle, offer a fascinating archive interview with SF and fantasy author E.C. Tubb, and a look at the rivals to Tarzan created in Britain, the first attracting legal action from the Edgar Rice Burroughs estate. There’s some news, too, of new books from Phil, out later this year.
Episode 15 of this fascinating series is taken up by the first ever online presentation of the highlights of an interview with E.C. “Ted” Tubb, recorded at the 1991 London Book Fair by John Lawrence, the author revealing the working practices of 1950’s publishers. In the audience are Philip himself and Bear Alley publisher Steve Holland, on hand to ask some challenging questions.
“Ted” is forthright in his memories of the industry, including how he was treated by agents and publishers, and fields audience questions with forthright honesty, talking about his time in United States and more. The interview extracts cut short rather suddenly, but it’s an interesting insight into publishing of the period.
E.C. Tubb (1919 – 2010) was a British author and editor who began publishing SF with “No Short Cuts” for New Worlds in Summer 1951, going on to write over 130 novels and short stories over a long career, on occasion utilising many pseudonyms, including Charles Grey, Carl Maddox and many more. Even his first SF novel, Saturn Patrol, published in 1951 was under a pseudonym, King Lang, but he soon began publishing under his own name, with Alien Impact (1952) and Atom War on Mars (1952).
The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction suggests his best work in these years was probably that as by Charles Grey, beginning with The Wall (1953), but Philip prompts his viewers towards City of no Return, published in 1954, regarding it as one of his finest early books.
Although his production moderated from the mid-1950s, he remained a prolific author of consistently readable Space Operas until the early 1980s, including some Space:1999 books.
In Episode 16, Philip departs from SF to cover the “British Tarzans“, books that had not been documented in detail until the 1990s by Philip himself – and some attracting legal action from the Edgar Rice Burroughs estate.
The mass market Tarzan books were first published in the UK in 1949 and fast became mass sellers, frequently reprinted because they sold out so quickly. Th character soon prompted imitations 30 “British Tarzan” Edgar Rice Burroughs’ pastiches, which are are now collectors’ favourites, between 1951 and 1953.
The first, “Azan the Apeman” is now hugely collectable, because Burroughs estate took legal action against publisher Curtis Warren, demanding the novels be pulped. But some copies actually survived, and the series is much sought after.
Philip provides some great insights into these “British Tarzans”, noting some plagiarism on the part of acclaimed cover artist Reginald Heade, and just how violent some of these imitators were.
There’s some news, too, of new books from Phil, out later this year.
Phil tells us Episode 17 “Nova Science Fiction Novels”, mentioning John Wyndham, is already in the can, and a further episode is being recorded this weekend.
Exploring the history of post-World War Two SF in Britain, Phil has taken us on a wonderful adventure over the 1950s British Science Fiction videocasts released so far, produced by Phil’s granddaughter. Along the way, he’s told some of fascinating stories about the growth of SF publishing in the UK in the 1950s, and shared visuals of just some of his incredible collection of rare magazines published at the time.
Philip is a life-long science fiction fan, regarded as a world authority on the works of John Russell Fearn, whose credits encompass writing “Garth” for the Daily Mirror, and the “Golden Amazon” for Spaceship Away (adapting Fearn’s stories). He’s also very kindly contributed a number of synopses of early “Garth” stories to downthetubes, which we are adding as time permits.
Back in the 1950s, he adapted some of the Radio Luxembourg Dan Dare radio shows into comics at a young age – the only record of some of these tales known to exist, since very few recordings survive.
Reginal Heade was the pre- eminent British pulp fiction cover artist of the 1940s and 1950s. His beautifully-realised, erotically-charged depictions of a parade of sexy, scantily-clad young virgins and vixens – the so-called ‘Heade women’, for some of whom he is rumoured to have used local ladies-of-the-night as models – are near-legendary amongst lovers of classic pin-up art; and the original books on which they appeared are now highly-sought-after rarities – in some cases, only a handful of copies are known still to survive.
In the lavishly-illustrated The Art of Reginald Heade, packed with hundreds of superb colour and black-and-white images, noted researcher Stephen James Walker presents the most comprehensive overview ever published of Heade’s life and work. This encompasses not only all of his iconic paintings for the famous Hank Janson range, but also dozens of other outstanding pulp fiction covers, plus his less-well-known but equally exceptional work for adult hardback fiction dustjackets, children’s books and periodicals, and even the pieces he produced at the end of his life under the alternative name Cy Webb.
The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. He is currently editor of Star Trek Explorer, published by Titan – his third tour of duty on the title originally titled Star Trek Magazine.
Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Babylon 5 Magazine, and more. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War” and “Dan Dare”.
He’s the writer of “Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies” for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.