I’m getting older.
There’s been definite signs. They’re impossible to miss, as much as I have tried to.
My continued interest, nay, obsession with toys isn’t one of them.
There’s the expected like forgetting things more often than I used to. Becoming tired sooner than I used to. My body aches more often (and easier) than it used to. I find myself making involuntary noises when I sit or get up off the sofa. Things like that.
But, something I’ve noticed lately is that I have found myself looking back more than I look forward when it comes to entertainment.
I’ve grown up reading comics. I have loved comic books nearly all my life. I still read comics, although I almost exclusively wait for trade paperbacks these days. But, I don’t read nearly as much as I used to. As comic books have striven to be taken seriously as an art form, I’ve felt that more and more of the wild imagination that made the comics of the 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s so much fun has been squeezed out. I’m finding that I get more excited about the release of a trade collecting classic material than I do about a collection of more recent publications. There’s exceptions, sure. There are some great comics being produced today. But, to me, the older stories are just more fun. They’re less concerned with being as realistic as possible (within the confines of a superhero universe) and more concerned with telling wild, imaginative stories.
Modern science fiction writing has become much of the same thing. Like anything else, there are trends and themes that reflect the times in which these stories are written. These days are filled with concerns about things like the economy, war and terrorism. People are more cynical and, it seems, less accepting of flights of fancy. It would seem that audiences would crave some pure escapism, but it seems to be hard science fiction that rules bookstore shelves and cinema screens here in the early 21st century (which, ironically, used to be the subject of a great many science fiction tale of old).
So, lately (and, I’ll admit it – partially inspired by the retro funkiness of The Outer Space Men) I’ve begun looking to the past for my science fiction reading. I’ve been saddened to find that many of the greats of science fiction writing are noticeably absent from the shelves of my local book superstores like Borders and Barnes & Noble. Giants like Issac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke have only a few titles representing their vast amount of work, whereas other authors such as Larry Niven, Frederick Pohl, EE "Doc" Smith and Jerry Pournelle aren’t present at all.
When I was in high school at the beginning of the 1980s, my next door neighbor gave me a huge box containing his science fiction collection. He might as well have given me a box of treasure. I read my way through that entire box of novels and anthologies like it was a buffet. It was my first exposure to classics like Larry Niven’s Ringworld novels or Asimov’s Foundation series. Sadly, all those books have been lost over the years as I moved around. It seems that boxes of books are often the heaviest boxes to move, so they quickly become the first things to get culled when I move. And I always regret it later.
So, flash forward to today and my quest for some good old science fiction. It seems that the big chain bookstores aren’t the place to look. Not around me anyways. Our local independent bookstore doesn’t carry much sci fi to begin with, let alone having space for the oldies. I know I can order virtually anything via Amazon or another online seller, but that robs me the opportunity to browse and flip through titles in the way only a physical bookstore can.
Then I remembered Planet Stories.
Planet Stories was original an old pulp science fiction magazine that was published from 1939 and 1955. However, in 2007 Paizo Publishing (well known for their Dungeons & Dragons supplements, and, more recently, their own Pathfinder RPG and supporting products) began publishing a series of novels under the brand Planet Stories. They reprint stories that first appeared during the pulp era and have been out of print for decades. Paizo publishes a new volume every other month. Mostly they are novels, but they’ve also begun publishing some anthologies as well.
While I’ve read reports that Barnes & Noble carry the Planet Stories line in their stores, but as I mentioned earlier I haven’t been able to find them in my local B&N locations. They are available from Amazon, and directly from Paizo as well. So, I’ve ordered a couple volumes online. I am anxiously awaiting their arrival so that I might be whisked away to some fantastical worlds of yesteryear. I’ve known of the line since it’s inception, but never picked on up. I’ll admit that most of my fiction reading of the past several years has been from licensed properties such as Halo, Star Trek and Star Wars.
But if you are a fan of obscure, pulp era science fiction I would encourage you to check out the Planet Stories line from Paizo Publishing. While the proof is in the reading, it’s looking to be exactly what the doctor ordered for me.
Be sure to check out Planet Stories in greater detail at:
Also, be sure to share your thoughts and favorite science fiction authors or books here in the comments section.