With my Vintage Treasures posts, I like to showcase the best overlooked fantasy of the past half century or so. American fantasy is an enormously rich genre, but it also has a notoriously short memory, and there are countless buried treasures to rescue from undeserved obscurity.
Of course, sometimes I like to forget all that and just showcase the weird.
Joseph Millard was an American pulp science fiction writer who published nearly a dozen short stories between 1941 and 1943, and then apparently gave up writing for good. Most of his stories appeared in magazines like Thrilling Wonder Stories, Amazing Stories, Fantastic Adventures, and other pulps. He died in 1989.
In November 1941, he published his only novel, The Gods Hate Kansas, in Startling Stories magazine. It was reprinted a decade later in the November 1952 issue of Fantastic Story Magazine, and then appeared in paperback in February 1964 from Monarch Books, with a brilliantly gonzo cover by Jack Thurston, featuring a raygun-wielding hero riding bareback on a little red number and giving the business to an earnest-looking bug-eye monster. I love this cover with a fierce passion, and I thank Joseph Millard for making it all possible. (Click the image at left for a mondo-sized version.)
The cover isn’t the only brilliant thing about this novel. There’s also the title. Why do the gods hate Kansas? What the hell did Kansas do, anyway? It’s one of those questions that brings you back to the paperback rack next to the checkout lane for a second look. Just 40 cents and the answer could be yours.