My life in outer space

Tales of Outer Space – Donald A Wollheim (Ed) (1954)


Tales of Outer Space

‘The most thrilling things to come will be the daring exploration and conquest of distant worlds. Here, in this brand-new science-fiction anthology, are five unforgettable novelettes which contain all the different types of excitement and peril that will follow the opening up of the universe to the rocket men.

Ralph Williams tells the strange story of the first break-away from Earth. Fox B. Holden introduces us to Mars and the incredible inheritance that waits there. Clifford D. Simak presents a mystery of one world’s inhuman inhabitants. Poul Anderson spins a cosmic web of the coming galactic empire. And L. Ron Hubbard tears through the veil of space itself to pose a turning point in humanity’s interplanetary epic.

Tales of Outer Space is an original collection of top science-fiction by top writers.

“Doorway in the Sky”

They thought their ship was the first to break into outer space until they spotted that derelict!

“Here Lie We”

The Martians had power, science, and experience — yet they were helpless before a fate that left Earthmen fearless!

“Operation Mercury”

No one knew whether the weird mimic of the Sunward Side was harmless — or crazy like a fox!

“Lord of a Thousand Suns”

He was just a man without a world until a certain space soldier blundered!

“Behind the Black Nebula”

With all the resources of super-science behind them, they still fought a losing war against that leaderless horde!’

Blurb from the 1954 D-73 Ace Double paperback edition

This volume, paired with ‘Adventures in The Far Future’ , are both edited by Wollheim. They are to a certain extent themed, since in ‘Tales of Outer Space’ we begin within the Solar System and when we reach Poul Anderson we head out to the stars.

“Doorway in the Sky” – Ralph Williams (Astounding Science Fiction , 1953, as “Bertha”)

Predating Clarke’s ‘2001’ we have the concept of an artefact left in Earth orbit to trap (for whatever reason) the first humans to visit. Although the author has encompassed the idea of weightlessness he has failed to envision that vomiting into a bucket in zero gravity would not be a good idea.

“Here Lie We” – Fox B. Holden (Startling Stories , 1953)

A Bradbury-esque and romantic tale of our first meeting with the Martian race. They are keen to teach humanity everything they know, because their species is doomed.

“Operation Mercury” – Clifford D. Simak (Astounding Science Fiction , 1941, as “Masquerade”)

A very interesting early work from Simak here, set on a Mercury power plant, where the manager is about to solve the mystery of the local natives; the energy beings known as ‘Roman Candles’.

It’s possibly only Clifford Simak who could make an installation on the Planet Mercury seem like a cosy US mid-west homestead.

“Lord of a Thousand Suns” – Poul Anderson (Planet Stories , 1951)

Vintage Space Opera in which a military commander on a planet besieged by rebels discovers a cache of Elder Race doomsday weapons and a strange helmet. The helmet transfers the digitised consciousness of Daryesh, Lord of a Thousand Suns, into his head, and it’s a bit of a tight squeeze.

“Behind the Black Nebula” – L. Ron Hubbard (Astounding Science Fiction , 1941 as “The Invaders”)

Despite his somewhat tarnished reputation Hubbard was a fairly decent writer in his day. For its time this is a very imaginative story about a mine situated ‘Behind the Black Nebula’ which is a rich source of Hubbard’s particular brand of unobtainum. The mine is besieged by monstrous creatures and is up to a new technician to discover what they are and how to neutralise them. The answer is clever and unexpected, although the basic premise of the nebula and the mine needs to be taken with a very large pinch of salt.


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