Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Editor Anne Hardin Reflects on The Magic Ball from Mars (1953)

Containing fourteen works of short fiction written between 1923 and 1968, Martianthology (2003), compiled by Forrest J Ackerman, is one of the more interesting anthologies about Mars. In this passage from the introduction, editor Anne Hardin reflects on how The Magic Ball from Mars (1953), a children’s book by Carl L. Biemiller, rolled into her life and the anthology:
I never remember learning to read -- it just seemed to be something I could always do. I have fond memories of being surrounded by books, and it was true that by the end of my elementary school days, the librarian, Mrs. Baker, recommended that the principal honor me for having read every book in the library (he treated me to a Coke). But when I was seven, this same Mrs. Baker held a sale of books she’d boxed up that would be discarded otherwise. For a nickel I bought The Magic Ball from Mars -- it was my first voyage into science fiction, and it was wonderful. From that day forward, I still read everything I could get my hands on, but science fiction was at the top of the list.

Years passed, and I forgot about the magic ball. Until last year. The stories for this project were settling into publication concrete, and in the middle of some completely unrelated thought, my Muse called out to me, “REMEMBER THE MAGIC BALL FROM MARS.” Suddenly not just the title, but Johnny Jenks, the hidden “cave” created where a tree had fallen over, the tall visitor from space, (whom I now visualize as Michael Rennie’s Klaatu in
The Day the Earth Stood Still), the gift of a baseball card, and ... marsquartz popped into my head. I was seven years old again, and I had to find that story and see what could be done to print it here. I don’t know how today’s seven-year-old handles remembering both the title and the author of anything, but strings of words can be searched on the internet, so I went first to abebooks.com, my source for rare books. The title search scored three hits. I was amused to see that my nickel investment was worth over a hundred dollars (!) ... And here it is back in print, just in time for its fiftieth anniversary.
You can read the first chapter of The Magic Ball from Mars and learn how the book has affected other readers' lives at Biemiller.com, a website devoted to author Carl L. Biemiller.

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