Friday, September 28, 2007

Planet Plane and the Stowaway to Mars (1936)

Planet Plane, by John Beynon, a pseudonym of John Beynon Harris (1936, UK). Later: Stowaway to Mars, by John Wyndham, a pseudonym of John Beynon Harris (1953, UK)

At left: 1972 United States paperback edition (Greenwich, Conn.: Fawcett Publications, 1972), Fawcett Gold Medal, #T2646, 192 p., 75¢.

Here's the blurb from the back cover:

The Earth was holding a fantastic contest ... An international prize of over a million dollars was being offered to the first man to complete an interplanetary journey. Target -– Mars. It was a race against time. The U.S., Russia, and England were again competitors, fighting for fame and fortune. Dale Curtance of England didn’t need the fortune. He was a millionaire. He was an eccentric. But most of all he was an adventurer and he was determined to win. But winning was not going to be that easy. There were going to be many surprises. And they all began with the stowaway aboard Curtance’s ship. A stowaway to Mars. A Woman.”

The work has an interesting bibliographic history: Originally, it appeared in 1936 in serial format as Stowaway to Mars, under the pseudonym John Beynon, in the British periodical The Passing Show. That same year the first edition of the novel was published in the United Kingdom as Planet Plane. The next year, 1937, an abridged version of the original serial, also entitled Stowaway to Mars, appeared in Britain’s Modern Wonder. Later, when the novel was reprinted in the United Kingdom in 1953, it was released as Stowaway to Mars, but under a new pseudonym, John Wyndham. Nearly twenty years later, in 1972, the first United States edition was published -– a paperback, Stowaway to Mars, by John Wyndham.

Surprisingly, the full text of Stowaway to Mars appears on the website Arthur's Classic Novels.

Several copies of Planet Plane (1936) are currently for sale in the $300-$700 range on Also, the May 30, 1936, issue of The Passing Show, which contains “Kidnapped by a Machine,” a piece of the Stowaway to Mars serial, is selling on for $120.

Also of interest is The John Wyndham Archive at the University of Liverpool. The archive “contains a large number of holograph manuscripts and corrected typescripts of his novels and short stories (including several unpublished and incomplete works), non-fiction articles and scripts for radio, screen and stage plays,” as well as letters, fan mail, and some taped conversations. An online Finding Aid is available.

Finally, here’s a recent article from “NASA study will help stop tiny stowaways to Mars." No mention of Joan Shirning.

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