Monday, March 22, 2010

“Earth Sees Mars,” a 1935 novelette written by Eugene George Key

About eighteen months ago, I came across several references to Mars Mountain (1935), an obscure collection of three science fiction/fantasy novelettes written by an American fellow named Eugene George Key. I quickly learned that this book, published by Fantasy Publications of Everett, Pennsylvania, is important because it is considered “the first science fiction specialty press book” and “the first small press science fiction hardcover.” Nevertheless, it took me more than a year to find summaries of the three novelettes. Here is how an Australian reader described one of them, “Earth Sees Mars,” in 2007:
“Earth Sees Mars” is the longest story in the book. It tells of Professor Williams, who builds a spaceship that travels on light waves, and travels to Mars accompanied by two of his students, Larry and Benny. They land beside a tower from which steps a man dressed like Julius Caesar. He is Marlin Blon, the chief scientist of Mars, while the tower houses the planet’s only scientific laboratory. While he’s telling the travelers about life on Mars, his grandson enters. His face “did slant back on each side from the center, such as does the blade of an axe,” and his nose is slit, “giving the impression of being two noses, side by side on his face, with one nostril in each nose... attached in much the same manner as a pair of Siamese twins,” yet he is “not unpleasant to the Earthly eye.”

A beam of light appears in the sky that makes the Professor’s spaceship disappear, then the tower starts to vanish, too. The Earthmen and Martians escape to an underground chamber. Marlin’s granddaughter Malwa arrives. She too is attractive “in spite of the slightly double nose.” The Earthmen learn that the ray was fired by the Helgae, the only tribe on Mars still at war with the others. Larry and Benny decide to break into their tower and steal the plans for their weapon. A pitched battle ensues, with lots of flesh-burning liquid hosed about and even a swordfight. All ends happily, and Larry tells Malwa he intends to take her to earth and marry her, to which she exclaims, “Isn’t life wonderful!”
Pictured: Cover of Mars Mountain.

2 comments:

Doc Mars said...

Irving E.G. Bjorkman is the illustrator of the cover titled "Dorothy Marie Nelson" (sic).
$20,000.00 the original here
http://www.raresf.com/bgallery.html

Paul said...

Thanks, Doc. Barry Levin has great stuff!