or, Third Thoughts on Things that came Before Terry

Part Three of a short introduction to some of the funniest SF and fantasy stories that were published "Before Terry" - stories in which anyone who's enjoyed his writing should find fun. Not comprehensive, nor is it looking for influences upon him - though it may find some. The sheer fun in Terry's books makes it pretty clear that the true source of his greatest joys, and his fears, and concerns, is the Real World; and the Discworld is an idealisation of this - a very idiosyncratic idealisation, to be true!

Eric Frank Russell was one of the three great British SF writers from 1940 to 1950. He had a lighter touch than Wyndham or Clarke; a Liverpudlian, he had a wry appreciation of military and civilian institutional idiocies. Many of his funniest works are short stories, but also look for two novels; Wasp, in which one resourceful saboteur reduces the security services of a planet to chaos, and Next of Kin, in which a prisoner of war destabilises his captors' entire civilisation. Also hunt down The Great Explosion, about a mission to re-contact, and return to empire, colonies set up by misfits of all kinds; the key novella, in which the lost colony was set up by anarchists, is also well anthologised: "And Then There Were None...". As for his Hugo Award-winner, "Allamagoosa", all I can say is "Offog!" - well, that, and "look out for my Methuen p/b edn. of Like Nothing on Earth"... [EFR's books UK h/crs 1943 - 1965, & last in 1975: first by World's Work, Museum, & Eyre + Spottiswoode; then by Dobson; p/bs by Cherry Tree, Corgi, Mayflower, Panther, Four Square-N.E.L., and Sphere in the 1950s & 60s; again in "my" Methuen list through 1988. US p/bs were by Galaxy, Ace, Bantam, Paperback Library, Pyramid, Lancer, Avon and Ballantine/Del Rey.]

L. Sprague de Camp & Fletcher Pratt detail the magical misadventures of student Harold Shea together with his professor, Doc Chalmers, as, seeking to visit historical times in which they are interested, they stumble from one fictional world to another. A scene that I'll never forget is of our two heroes with Heimdall and Thor, imprisoned by one of the thickest trolls in fantasy, trying their hardest to charm their way out - that, and the phrase "Yngvi is a louse!". [The 5 novels are in 3, 2, or 1 paperbacks, under a variety of sometimes misleading titles: The Incomplete Enchanter (1+2); The Castle of Iron (3); Wall of Serpents, a.k.a. The Enchanter Completed (4+5); The Compleat Enchanter (1,2+3 only); and finally The Intrepid Enchanter, a.k.a. The Complete Compleat Enchanter, (all 5). These last two omnibus volumes are the easiest way to find the series: Sphere UK, now out of print, & Baen US; both p/b.]

Robert Sheckley's is a name that the, ah, creator of a certain "Guide" should bless five times a day: had he not read "The Story of the Creation of Earth" from Dimension of Miracles, Arthur Dent would never have met Ford Prefect. Sheckley's short stories are his most consistently funny work, but highly commended also are his novels, Options and Mindswap; of some thirty books to his credit, barely siix are below par - mostly, his "thrillers". [US p/bs from Bantam, Ballantine, Signet, Dell, Daw & Pyramid; many reissued 1977-79 by Ace; UK h/cvrs mostly 1963-73 by Gollancz; UK p/bs 1959-71 by Corgi, Four Square-N.E.L. & Mayflower, 1972-79 Pan & Penguin, and 1978-86 from Panther, Sphere & Methuen.]

Lastly, I must mention Ghastly Beyond Belief; over 300 pages from the worst (and mostly completely unintentional) excesses of bad fantasy and SF writing. If many of the quotes are from books that appeared under pseudonyms of R. Lionel Fanthorpe, in Badger Books, I assure you this is not unfair. Compiled by Neil Gaiman & Kim Newman [Arrow UK p/b 1985]. Look also for Debbie Cross' Down the Badger Hole [Wrigley-Cross US p/b 1995]. It includes much of interest from, and about, these "gems": bibliography, introduction by David Langford, the complete text of "Curse of the Khan" - noteworthy, apart from aught else, in that the seven chief characters are R. Lionel Fanthorpe himself and six of his pseudonyms...

Some of these will take time tracking down; all of them will, in their very different ways, repay the effort - and the hunt, itself, is fun.

- Enjoy !

copyright p.pinto 31/5/97

Previous page

Contents page

Next page

Issues index.

Web pages designed by Derek Moody
May 1998