The Boom and Bust of 1950s British Science Fiction explored in new videocasts

Author Philip Harbottle has released two more mini-documentaries about 1950s British Science Fiction in quick succession on YouTube, continuing the story of the early development of the genre in the UK.

Both of the latest episodes, filmed as ever by Eleanor King, focus on how publishers utilised hardcover publishing to great effect, bringing a range of both American and homegrown authors, including the brilliant Eric Frank Russell and Clifford D. Simak.

These gentle, but often candid documentaries – Philip often pulls no punches if a story is terrible! – explore how different publishers sought to reach their potential audience when SF had only just begun to be sold in as a distinct literary form.

In Episode 33 – “The 1950’s Science Fiction Boom Continues” – Philip talks about the boom in SF publishing by 1954, noting the early success of imprints such as Heinemann Science Fiction. He also gives mention to now less well known authors such as SB Hough (who also wrote under the nom de plume, Rex Gordon), David Duncan, and Paul Capon, who was better known for his detective fiction, but who Philip feels switched to SF with panache.

Episode 34 – “Boom and Bust of 1950s British Science Fiction” delivers exactly what the title describes, identifying some of the highs and lows of publishing.

Again, it’s a delight to see incredibly rare examples of early British SF novels. Some, such as Bruce Roberts first edition cover for No Man Friday, would surely not look out of place on bookshop shelves today.

It’s fascinating to learn more about the stories behind some of these books and authors, brought to bookshops at a time when publishing produced many of the pioneering authors which later generations enjoyed – and continue to do so.

Bruce Roberts striking cover for No Man Friday, published in 1956. A copy is available here from specialist American bookseller LW Currey for an eye watering price!

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.

• Subscribe to 1950s British Science Fiction YouTube Channel here

• Books edited or published by Phil Harbottle on AmazonUK (Affiliate Link)

Categories: Books, Digital Media, downthetubes News, Other Worlds

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