Lester Del Rey

Lester Del Rey was born in Saratoga, Minnesota on June 2, 1915. He finished high school at the age of 16, receiving a certificate, but not formally graduating. In 1931 he moved to Washington D.C. to attend George Washington University, but he withdrew after taking only science classes.

He was an avid reader, especially of science fiction. Over time, he became disgusted with the low quality of the science fiction stories being published and protested that he could write a better story. On a dare from a friend, he wrote The Faithful and sent it off to John W. Campbell of Astounding Science Fiction. Campbell purchased it for $40.00, a generous sum in 1938. Campbell encourages him to send more submissions and Del Rey went on to become one of Astounding's most significant contributors.

From the 1940s, Del Rey became quite influential and did considerable work as an editor for magazines like, Fantasy Magazine and Science Fiction Adventures. In the 1950s, he was one of the main authors of science fiction for adolescents, sometimes publishing under the name Erik van Lhin. In 1957, Del Rey and Damon Knight co-edited a small magazine called Science Fiction Forum.

In 1971, he married his third (or possibly fourth, this is disputed) wife Judy-Lynn. Judy-Lynn was an associate editor at Galaxy Science Fiction. She switched to Ballantine Books in 1973, where she gained much respect and attention. In 1977, Ballantine launched a new imprint, Del Rey, named after Judy-Lynn and headed by herself and Lester. Del Rey books went on to become the most successful of all science fiction publishers. Also during this time, Lester had a review column in Analog Science Fiction and Fact titled The Reference Library.

Del Rey was awarded the 1972 E.E. Smith Memorial Award for Imaginative Fiction by the New England Science Fiction Association. The Science Fiction Writers of America named him its 11th Grand Master in 1990. He died on May 19, 1993 in New York City Hospital where he had been suffering from cardiac problems. He was 77 years old.

The Runaway Robot

""We're returning to Earth," Paul's father tells him. Paul is wildly excited, for all human beings on the planet Ganymede dream of going back to Earth some day. Then Paul finds out that he cannot take his robot Rex with him. Rex has been his constant companion for sixteen years. Leave him behind? Never! So begins a series of breathtaking adventures in space as Paul and his robot Rex attempt to outwit the forces that seek to separate them."

Original Publication: Westminster Press, 1965
This Edition: Scholastic, December 1968
Cover Art: Wayne Blickenstaff
Format: Paperback

Notes:

Collaboration with Paul W. Fairman

Review:


Best Science Fiction Stories of the Year

"Last year's inaugural volume of Best Science Fiction Stories of the Year won enthusiastic acceptance from readers across the nation. Besides plaudits from veteran Isaac Asimov, another critic called it "the finest and most perceptive science fiction of the year" and Library Journal hailed it as "a splendid preview of what should be an excellent series." Lester del Rey's second selection of short science fiction, published in magazines or original books during 1972, fulfills that promise. Here are stories that explore the chilling implications of current medical research: What is a man could be made truly immortal? What if organ transplants developed to the ultimate? Here, too, are stories of humor and surprise - the young-married set in search of the farthest-out tourist junket yet; an illegal salvage operation on the moon. Naturally, there are stories about extraterrestrial life, space vehicles and time machines, proving to the science fiction buff that new things can still be said on these familiar topics. Whether the authors are old-timers like Larry Niven and Robert Silverberg or comparative newcomers like Gordon Eklund, Del Rey has made his selection on the basis of the quality of the story and its capacity to entertain the reader. Imagination, believability, warmth, and provocative ideas are here in abundance. As Isaac Asimov advises, the reader has only to "read and enjoy.""

Original Publication: Dutton, 1973
This Edition: Dutton, 1973
Cover Art: Larry Ratzkin
Format: Hardback

Notes:

Contents: Cloak of Anarchy by Larry Niven, When We Went to See the End of the World by Robert Silverberg, Underbelly by Gordon Eklund, The Greatest Asset by Isaac Asimov, The Meeting Frederik Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth, Eurema's Dam by R.A. Lafferty, Teratohippus by Robert L. Davis, The Long Silence by Donald Noakes, Long Shot by Vernor Vinge, Miscount by C.N. Gloeckner, Thus Love Betray Us by Phyllis Maclennan, Woman's Rib by Thomas N. Scortia, The Man Who Walked Home by James Tiptree, Jr., Watchdog by Jack C. Haldeman and Patron of the Arts by William Rotsler

Review:


Badge of Infamy

"The computer seemed to work as it should. The speed was within acceptable limits. He gave up trying to see the ground and was forced to trust the machinery designed for amateur pilots. The flare bloomed, and he yanked down the little lever. It could have been worse. They hit the ground, bounced twice, and turned over. The ship was a mess when Feldman freed himself from the elastic straps of the seat. Chris had shrieked as they hit, but she was unbuckling herself now. He threw her her spacesuit and one of the emergency bottles of oxygen from the rack. "Hurry up with that. We've sprung a leak and the pressure's dropping.""

Original Publication: Magabook, 1963
This Edition: Ace, January 1973
Cover Art: Unknown
Format: Paperback

Notes:

Ace Double #76960 with The Sky is Falling, also by Lester del Rey

Review:


The Sky is Falling

"Dave stared around the office. He went to the window and stared upwards at the crazy patchwork of the sky. For all he knew, in such a sky there might be cracks. In fact, as he looked, he could make out a rift, and beyond that a.hole.a small patch where there was no color, and yet the sky there was not black. There were no stars there, though points of light were clustered around the edges, apparently retreating."

Original Publication: Magabook, 1963
This Edition: Ace, January 1973
Cover Art: Unknown
Format: Paperback

Notes:

Ace Double #76960 with Badge of Infamy, also by Lester del Rey

Review:


The Best of Frederik Pohl

"As Lester Del Rey says in this books introduction, "Nothing is easy to categorize about the life and works of Frederik Pohl. His stories vary more in length, attitude, type and treatment than those of any other writer. He has been one of the leaders in almost every activity that relates to the broad field of science fiction." From his early days as a fledgling pulp author to his present spot as one of the genre's top writer/editors, Frederik Pohl has always striven for excellence. The 19 tales in this collectors' edition prove that point beyond a shadow of a doubt. Some of the stories included are: The Tunnel Under the World - It all started when Guy Burkhardt went down to his basement to replace a faulty fuse. He pushed aside an old steamer trunk and discovered a shiny metal floor underneath it - where cement should have been! He found a hammer and cracked the floor in a dozen other spots...everywhere was metal. Even the brick walls were false fronts for copper panels. "That's crazy," he said to the emptiness, "what in the name of heaven would anybody do that for?" The startling answer came sooner than Burkhardt ever would have dreamed...The Snowmen - In the old days, back when the Earth was green and open to the sky, you might have expected aliens to come skyrocketing down the stars. Not now...not when most of the heat had left the world and mankind was only a few short decades away from extinction. But one particularly cold and gray morning, a being from beyond did in fact put down his saucer on her barren planet. Just his luck, he fell right into the arms of two of Earth's most desperate criminals...Speed Trap - Dr. Charles Grew had laughed dryly at Larry Resnick's remark - "the minute a man does anything, anything at all, the whole world enters into a conspiracy to keep him from every doing it again." The next morning up and coming researcher Larry Resnick was found dead of accidental causes - a great loss to science and humanity. The tragic event set Grew thinking...suppose Larry's death wasn't an accident, suppose somebody didn't want the human race to get ahead as fast as it could, Somebody from another world. The idea was quite preposterous...The Martin in the Attic - Hector Dunlop was positive that millionaire Quincy Lafitte was holding a Martian captive in his mansion. It had to be - because Lafitte could never have come up with all those marvelous moneymaking inventions himself. He must have had the help of a superior alien intelligence. But why should the Martian continue to aid his captor? A trip up to Lafitte's darkened attic to get the answer proved quite surprising for Mr. Dunlop...These and other classic stories such as "the Children of Night," "The Census Takers," and "Father of the Stars" make The Best of Frederik Pohl outstanding reading - the kind of absorbing science fiction that will be talked about whenever great writers and their stories come up."

Original Publication: Nelson Doubleday, March 1975
This Edition: Nelson Doubleday, March 1975
Cover Art: John Berkey
Format: Hardback

Notes:

Contents: A Variety of Excellence by Lester del Rey, by Frederik Pohl: The Tunnel Under the World, Punch, Three Portraits and a Prayer, Day Million, Happy Birthday, Dear Jesus, We Never Mention Aunt Nora, Father of the Stars, The Day the Martians Came, The Midas Plague, The Snowmen, How to Count Your Fingers, Grandy Devil, Speed Trap, The Richest man in Leviitown, The Day the Icicle Works Closed, The Hated, The Martian in the Attic, The Census Takers, The Children of the Night and What the Author Has to Say About All This

Review:


Police Your Planet

"Bruce Gordon was an ex-fighter, ex-gambler, ex-cop, ex-reporter and now he was an ex-patriot of Earth. Security shipped him to Mars with a knife. 100-credits, and a yellow card that meant no return. He was also, he told himself, an ex-do-gooder. From then on he would take care of Number One! But in Marsport, nothing was that simple. Here the vices of Earth seemed tame and insipid. When he bought a commission in the Marsport poilce force, he found that graft was not only fine art, but the official Martian way of life. So he joined the system. And then he met Sheila, who was out for blood - his!"

Original Publication: Avalon Books, 1956
This Edition: Ballantine, May 1975
Cover Art: James Steranko
Format: Paperback

Notes:

As by Erik Van Lhin and Lester del Rey.

Review:


The Early Del Rey - Volume 1

"The Fascinating autobiography of a farm boy from Minnesota who followed his imagination to the typewriter, to the pulps and eventually to the top ranks of sf greats. Illustrated by 12 superb stories from 1937-1942."

Original Publication: Ballantine, August 1976
This Edition: Ballantine, August 1976
Cover Art: Tim and Greg Hildebrandt
Format: Paperback

Notes:

Contents: The Faithful by Lester del Rey, Cross of Fire by Lester del Rey, Anything by Lester del Rey (as by Philip St. John), Habit by Lester del Rey, The Smallest God by Lester del Rey, The Stars Look Down by Lester del Rey, Doubled in Brass by Lester del Rey, Reincarnate by Lester del Rey, Carillon of Skulls by Lester del Rey and James H. Beard (as by Philip James), Done Without Eagles by Lester del Rey (as by Philip St. John), My Name is Legion by Lester del Rey and Though Poppies Grow by Lester del Rey

Review:


Best Science Fiction Stories of the Year - 5th Annual Edition

"Chicago News columnist, Dan Miller, called Lester Del Rey "today's most knowledgeable s-f critic," and it's the consistently high quality of the stories del Rey selects that has earned this annual collection its place as "one of the best of its kind." It is now firmly established with s-f fans. As science fiction writer F. M. Busby commented about last year's collection: "It's a good, well-rounded anthology," adding that he "had not caught a number of the stories the first time around." Themes and styles of writing change from year to year, reflecting the world around us. In this fifth volume of Best Science Fiction Stories of the Year, for instance, some of the everyday problems in the stories concern delays in mail delivery, limitations of technology, the process of aging in humans, the role of the senior citizen, and out current financial situation. Among the writers represented are such familiar names as Poul Anderson and Clifford D. Simak, as well as some not so familiar. A special feature of the book is The Science Fiction Yearbook, in which Lester del Rey gives a brief summary of events during the year that have significance for anyone concerned with the field of science fiction."

Original Publication: E.P. Dutton, July 1976
This Edition: E.P. Dutton, July 1976
Cover Art: Mark Rubin
Format: Hardback

Notes:

Contents: The Bitter Bread by Poul Anderson, Mail Supremacy by Hayford Peirce, Child of All Ages by P.J. Plauger, Tree of Life by Phyllis Eisenstein, Helbent Four by Stephen Robinett, Pop Goes the Weasel by Robert Hoskins, The Book Learners by Liz Hufford, High Yield Bondage by Hayford Peirce, Senior Citizen by Clifford D. Simak, The Peddler's Apprentice by Joan D. and Vernor Vinge and The Science Fiction Yearbook by Lester del Rey

Review:


The Best of John W. Campbell

"As Isaac Asimov puts it - "John W. Campbell began reading science fiction not long after he began reading." So it came as no surprise when the future editor of Astounding/Analog sold his first SF story in January 1930 - six months before his twentieth birthday. The tale was titled "When the Atoms Failed" and started Campbell on his long and distinguished career in the field. In the following years, he singlehandedly revolutionized the genre by adding both depth and emotion to his science fiction - human qualities which had been sorely missing in the early tales of wonder. Through his professionalism, imagination and devotion, John W. Campbell raised science fiction from purple prose to a respected form of literature. His stories, besides being SF landmarks, are utterly fascinating and unforgettable. Some of the ones included in this collectors' volume are: The Last Evolution. It was the year 2538...man and machine lived in harmony. Cyborgs and robots had been developed to think, work and interact with humans on a one-to-one level. Then, from out of nowhere, came the Outsiders: diabolical invaders with deadly unknown weaponry -sophisticated armaments for mortals, but not for machines. But even if computers alone could successfully defeat the aliens, what would become of the Earth after victory? Blindness. Old Dr. Mackay was blind, of course; blinded by the three-year-long exposure to the intolerable light of the sun. Through his discovery of thermlectrium, Mackay had been able to travel to the center of the solar system to harness the ultimate power source. But the incandescent rays of that giant burning ball of gas eventually destroyed his optic nerve. And the irony of it all was that Mackay was totally blind even before his world went dark forever...Elimination. Bob Darnell was something like Thomas Edison, only on a much higher level. No one has ever heard of him though, because he invented only one thing - a device so bizarre that it was destroyed after its first yse. He called it the Time Wave Tube, a TV set that Darnell though would allow man to see into the fourth dimension. Only the mechanism worked too well...driving the inventor mad! Also included are Twilight, The Machine, Rebellion, The Invaders, FOrgetfulness, Out of Night, Cloak of Aesir, Space for Industry and Who Goes There? - the basis for the classic motion picture The Thing From Another World."

Original Publication: Nelson Doubleday, May 1976
This Edition: Nelson Doubleday, May 1976
Cover Art: Chet Jezierski
Format: Hardback

Notes:

Contents: The Three Careers of John W. Campbell by Lester del Rey, by John W. Campbell: The Last Evolution, Twilight, The Machine, The Invaders, Rebellion, Blindness, Elimination, Forgetfulness, Out of Night, Cloak of Aesir, Who Goes There?, Space for Industry and by Mrs. John W. Campbell: Postscriptum

Review:

I was excited to read The Best of John W. Campbell. I had started writing a piece covering Campbell's career as an editor and had high hopes regarding the potential of his writing. It is the general consensus, however, that John's writing is not great. I have to say, now that I have read a good sampling of his work that I agree with the consensus. I think it is typical of its era: stunted prose, shallow characterization and plots that do not lend themselves to reader immersion because they are overshadowed by the lofty futuristic concepts presented. His ideas though - he had great ideas! Modern science fiction reads like butter. Its easy to cut through, simple to spread out and pleasantly digestible. No one will accuse Greg Bear or Michael Crichton of having hard to follow plot lines, no matter how good their work is (and it is). Campbell however is not smooth, easy reading. One has to pay extreme attention to what is being said because it is so awkwardly written.

The Machine was an excellent short story. It was originally published in Astounding Stories in February 1935. In it Campbell gives the reader a picture of humanity wallowing in its own existence. The humans in this reality have lost their drive, their ambition, their ability for complex thought and most importantly, their curiosity concerning themselves and the universe they reside in. This has occurred because over time the need for these things has been replaced by a complete reliance upon The Machine. The Machine is a complex computer of alien origin, capable of learning and adapting. Its mission is to help the races it encounters. It does this in any number of ways, but in so doing, almost inevitably removes the race's impetus to improve itself and instead creates an ignorant dependent society - such as occurred on Earth. The Machine sees this and realizes that it isn't helping. It determines it must abandon Earthlings and seek another race. It shuts down its parts, makes an announcement and leaves. Utter chaos results. Humans turn on each other in confusion and panic. Cannibalism runs rampant because the art of growing and hunting food has been lost. People die by the score because they cannot even conceptualize how to clothe and warm themselves. Not all is lost however. Humans who have retained a basic need to create and explore move north to colder climates that they know will remain unpopulated by the ignorant animals that were once their neighbors and friends. They began to rebuild.

Campbell is famous for saying (in a number of different ways) that he doesn't care what people think about, just so that they think. This story makes one think, not only about the crucial role that work and curiosity play in the development of humanity, but also of evolution. On one hand, The Machine has allowed humans to become soft and dependent. They no longer function as a higher order of animal, but an animal not really even worthy of existence, one that would not survive without constant care and attending to. On the other hand, perhaps The Machine has set humans up for a leap in evolution. Perhaps those that survive this crisis are the humans who carry the strongest genes for invention and industry. Perhaps in the wake of The Machine's destruction, humanity will be stronger.

Out of Night and Cloak of Aesir are really one story split into two parts. I really enjoyed them. Aliens called Sarn have ruled the Earth for thousands of years. They are a matriarchal society ruled by an immortal, referred to as The Sarn Mother. The Sarn have limited humans in their ability to advance as a race and while they are not exactly treated as traditional slaves, it is clear that they are considered inferior. Theoretically, Sarn and humans are ruled by the same laws, but in reality that is just not so. Humans are denied any access to metals and technology of any kind. In these novellas though, humans have not lost their ingenuity. They discover ways to steal from the Sarn, to obfuscate their rebellious meetings and to develop technology without notice of their overbearing rulers. Most importantly humans have developed a way to utilize telepathy. In the two stories the humans plan and execute a rebellion to drive the Sarn out of their city. They develop a way to manipulate atoms into radiating negative energy. They harness this ability and use it against the Sarn by presenting the Sarn Mother with a powerful being calling itself Aesir. The humans pit Aesir and the Sarn Mother against each other in a battle of wit and intimidation and eventually use the negative energy to additionally alter the surrounding environment to one which is intolerable to the Sarn, thus driving them out. The Sarn leave the city defeated and the reader is left with the feeling that no matter the circumstances, the adaptability and innate rebellious nature of humans will prevail.

Other stories selected for this collection include: The Last Evolution, Twilight, and Who Goes There?. They all vary in quality. Nonetheless, they all give a critical reader insight into Campbell's famous imagination. One must approach this collection realizing that many of these ideas were genuinely "firsts." They were all written previous to 1940 and were highly inventive for their era. The ideas that hide behind the stilting prose are ones that urge the reader to think, to explore, to really get into an idea and to utilize their imagination to create a vision of a better humanity. The Best of John W. Campbell demonstrates in one fell swoop why he was regarded as an idea man and reinforces what a great decision it was for him to become an editor and give up writing.

Pstalemate

"A master of science fiction creates his most ingenious and exciting adventure. A young man finds he has extrasensory talents. Then he discovers other have them , too - though few as powerful as his. And then comes an appalling discovery: he finds that if he cannot master these psi powers he will certainly go mad. And no one ever has mastered them. His desperate battle to find the secret of the power leads him to a source utterly alien - and awesome in its implications for Earth's fate..."

Original Publication: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1971
This Edition: Berkley Medallion, August 1975
Cover Art: Richard Powers
Format: Paperback

Notes:

Review:


Best Science Fiction Stories of the Year: Fourth Annual Collection

"Where else but in one of Lester del Rey's bestselling anthologies would you find exceptional and memorable stories by so many of today's outstanding writers in the science fiction field? You will discover a lafferty by Lafferty, and two very different kinds of stories about alien invasions by Harry Harrison and Gordon R. DIckson. You will never forget the tales of Pericles, the horse who was a genius...and mute inglorious Tam, who had only the beer. Here is a collection of imaginative and exciting stories that can truly be called the "best" of the year."

Original Publication: E.P. Dutton, July 1975
This Edition: Ace, May 1977
Cover Art: Paul Alexander
Format: Paperback


Notes:

Contents: If This is Winnetka, You Must Be Judy by F.M. Busby, Sleeping Dogs by Harlan Ellison, The Mountains of Sunset, The Mountains of Dawn by Vonda N. McIntyre, Earth Mother by Carolyn Gloeckner, Dream Gone Green by Alan Dean Foster, The Night is Cold, the Stars Are Far Away by Mildred Downey Broxon, Ad Astra by Harry Harrison, And Name My Name by R.A. Lafferty, What Friends are For by John Brunner, Mute Inglorious Tam by Frederik Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth, The Man Who Came Back by Robert Silverberg, Dress Rehersal by Harvey Jacobs, Enter a Pilgram by Gordon R. Dickson, The Postponed Cure by Stan Nodvik and The Birch Clump Cylinder by Clifford D. Simak

Review:


Moon of Mutiny

"Pure luck had gotten Fred Halpern assigned to fly an emergency mission to the Moon. But, once there, he lived under a cloud of distrust and was treated with suspicion by the other members of the exploration team. On the harsh and deadly lunar surface, iron discipline was all that kept humans alive - and Fred had been washed out of the Space Academy for disobeying a direct order. It wasn't his fault that vital equipment failed and bad luck plagued the expedition - but he was tagged as a jinx and warned to do what he was told and to stay out of trouble. So when a spaceship crashed nearby, Fred found himself in a desperate situation. He was sure he knew the ship's location and so could rescue the survivors. But he was ordered not to try. This was his final test: Should be obey orders and let two men die or should he back his own hunch with the one crime unforgivable on the Moon...mutiny!"

Original Publication: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1961
This Edition: Del Rey/Ballantine, November 1977
Cover Art: Dean Ellis
Format: Paperback


Notes:

Review:


The Mysterious Planet

"Discovered out beyond Pluto, the mysterious planet was at first an astronomical curiosity. Then calculations indicated that its strange orbit would bring it closer to the sun at twice the speed any planet could move. Wing Nine of the Solar Federation Navy, on its way to investigate the intruding world, encountered a pirate craft armed with unfamiliar weapons, capable of incredible speed, and fleeing toward Planet X. Then more of those strange ships appeared, and the Navy geared up for the first space war. But Cadet Bob Griffith stubbornly clung to his belief that Earthman and alien could meet peacefully. So, defying orders, he drafted an unstable and spoiled playboy and his space yacht for a last-chance try at stopping Armageddon. For if the might of the Federation met the advanced weaponry of the aliens from Planet X, the inevitable clash would surely destroy all life in the solar system."

Original Publication: Winston Science Fiction, March 1973
This Edition: Del Rey, April 1978
Cover Art: Dean Ellis
Format: Paperback

Notes:

Published under the pseudonym Kenneth Wright

Review:


Outpost of Jupiter

"A plague on Ganymede.When his father's sudden illness stranded the Wilsons in the tiny human colony on Jupiter's moon, Bob gave up his plans for college and joined the colonists in their struggle against the brutal environment of Ganymede. The challenges, the comradeship he found, and the awe-inspiring spectacle of Jupiter filling the sky - all exhilarated Bob far beyond his expectations. So did his investigation of the major mystery behind the strange globe that was hidden out in the hills and that seemed to be trying to communicate with the colony. Before he could find the answer, a plague struck and crippled the colony. Then enraged and fearful colonists accused Bob of being the carrier!"

Original Publication: Holt, Rinehard and Winston, March 1963
This Edition: Del Rey, January 1978
Cover Art: Dean Ellis
Format: Paperback

Notes:

Review:

Original content 2013-2017 Paula's Reading Room. All rights reserved.