Ralph Milne Farley was a pen name for Roger Sherman Hoar, a state senator and assistant Attorney General for the state of Massachusetts. Why a state senator wouldn’t proudly lay claim to a novel featuring a man and woman in underwear on the cover is beyond me, but some people just humbly shy away from fame, I guess.
Or maybe it’s the antennae growing out of her head. It’s hard to be sure.
Whatever the case, An Earthman on Venus was originally published (as The Radio Man) in that grand old lady of the pulps, Argosy, in 1924. It was immediately popular, and reprinted many times, starting in Famous Fantastic Mysteries (1939) and then in hardcover from Fantasy Publishing in 1948.
The version of interest to us is the 1950 Avon paperback, pictured at left. Primarily because it’s a prime early example of underwear chic, but also because it was the first true mass market edition.
Legendary editor Donald A. Wollheim — who would later found DAW Books — was at the helm at Avon at the time, and he had an eye for pulp fiction that would play well in paperback. While he was at Avon, he made A. Merritt, H. P. Lovecraft, and C. S. Lewis’s Silent Planet space trilogy available in mass market for the first time, bringing those authors — and many others — a wide audience.
The Radio Man isn’t particularly well-remembered today, but it’s an important part of the history of our genre nonetheless. Not just because of it has giant ants and antenna girls on the cover… well, mostly that. But it was also one of the first sword-and-planet adventures, and it was successful enough to spawn no less than seven sequels over the next three decades, starting with The Radio Beasts (1925) and including The Radio Planet (1926), The Radio Flyers (1929), The Radio Menace (1930), The Radio Gun-Runners (1930), The Radio War (1932) and The Radio Minds of Mars (1955).
Now I don’t know about you, but I thought the sequel was invented with The Godfather, Part II. Evidence that fantasy writers were doing that kind of thing half a century before Francis Ford Coppola thought of it fills me with pride. And a powerful compulsion to buy blue lingerie for Alice, but let’s not get in to that.
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