Author Philip Harbottle has released another fascinating mini-documentary about 1950s British Science Fiction on YouTube, continuing his guide to hardcover editions of now classic stories. In Episode 32, he explains how more publishers began to release SF and the genre really took off, buoyed by increasing interest in science post war, and the developing “Space Race” between America and the Soviet Union.
Covered in this episode are publishers such as Rupert Hart-Davis, who were the first to publish Ray Bradbury’s work in Britain, starting with The Silver Locusts in September 1951, and continued to publish his work into the 1960s. Phil rightly reminds us how Bradbury’s work transcended genre, and was respected by even the most acerbic of high brow critics.
Also covered are books published by George Weidenfeld & Nicolson, who launched into the field in striking fashion with reprints of American titles such as The Weapon Shops of Isher by AE Van Vogt and New Tales of Space and Time, introduced by Gerald Heard, featuring tales by authors such as Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury – the first titles in their long-running Science Fiction Shelf “brand”.
As ever, not only does Phil offer some fascinating background to the history of British SF publishing – it’s an absolute joy to see these early books in one place, some of them incredibly rare.
Philip Harbottle 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.