The Forgotten Planet

Written August 2009 for posting at SF Signal’s web page MIND MELD: Books That Hold Special Places in Our Hearts and On Our Shelves


The Forgotten PlanetWhen I was 13 in 1958, I was enrolled in the Teen-Age Bookclub (TAB) in my 8th grade speech class. TAB sold mass market paperbacks in regular publishers’ editions through a monthly catalogue distributed in schools. One selection each month was SF; and it was through TAB that I found The Forgotten Planet by Murray Leinster.

Though the book I bought was published by Ace, it was nonetheless a school edition: one half of an Ace Double. It had ads more Ace SF in the back, however, and gave an address from which to order an Ace catalogue–which I promptly did.

Before long I had resold my original copy to a classmate and bought the double version with The Contraband Rocket by “Lee Correy” on the flip side.

Decades later I met G Harry Stine (AKA Lee Correy) and told him truthfully how much I’d enjoyed The Contraband Rocket, but it was The Forgotten Planet that, well… changed my life. It was great, and it was great in fashions that I could appreciate

The book is a fixup of three novellas, two of them published before there were SF magazines, while Murray Leinster (whose real name was Will F Jenkins) was still in his early Twenties. (They appeared in Argosy in 1920 and ’21.) The third was written more than 30 years later… but with light editing they fitted together in seamless fashion. The Stanley Melzoff cover shows a youth using the horn of a giant stag beetle as a spear while he faces a bumblebee [actually a wasp] as big as a cow.

In the novel version a boy struggles to survive on a world in which insects–arthropods; spiders are a particular threat–and plants have grown to giant size. He successfully battles varied monsters, welds together a tribe, and starts humanity back on the road to civilization (just in time to meet envoys from the society which seeded the planet with live millennia in the past).

This was a great adventure story, and it was hard SF–though not of the usual sort. Leinster’s monsters come from the French naturalist Henri Fabre’s Life of Insects but Really Big. It brought SF into my own back yard–literally.

I owe so much to that Ace Single of The Forgotten Planet. Its double replacement is still on my shelves; but more important, it has never left my heart.

–Dave Drake, August 2009

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