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Vintage Treasures: The Gods Hate Kansas by Joseph Millard

Saturday, October 11th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Gods Hate Kansas-smallWith 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.

The Gods Hate Kansas is a novel of alien invasion, with a plot mostly stolen from The War of the Worlds and The Puppet Masters. Strange meteorites land in Kansas, and the first people to investigate are…. changed. Soon the world is nearly overrun by an alien invasion and it’s down to our hero, an astrophysicist named Curt Temple, to set things right.

Here’s the original pulp versions, from 1941 and 1952 (click for bigger images):

Startling Stories November 1941-small Fantastic Story Magazine November 1952-small

The Startling Stories cover is by Rudolph Belarski and the Fantastic Story by Earle K. Bergey.

Here’s the delightful blurb from the back of the 1964 paperback:

The Gods Hate Kansas back cover-small

The Gods Hate Kansas was made into the 1967 British science fiction movie, They Came from Beyond Space, directed by Freddie Francis and written by Milton Subotsky, which may be just as obscure as the book. I’ve never heard of it, but I love the posters, with their stylish goggle headwear.

They Came From Beyond Space poster-small They Came From Beyond Space poster 2-small

The Gods Hate Kansas was never reprinted, which perhaps was for the best. It remains a strange relic of American fantasy, which paperback treasure hunters stumble upon from time to time in used book stores.

The Gods Hate Kansas was published in February 1964 by Monarch Books (Monarch Books #414). It is 126 pages, originally priced at $0.40. The cover is by Jack Thurston. I bought my copy last month as part of a collection for about 60 cents.

See all of our recent Vintage Treasures here.

6 Comments »

  1. Millard may have given up SF in the ’40s, but he or someone with the same name was writing for decades afterward. He wrote and edited several Gold Medal books in the ’50s, including House of Evil, a paperback novel told in comic-book panels. He also wrote comic books.

    Comment by Bill Crider - October 11, 2014 8:04 pm

  2. It should be hanging in the Museum of Modern Art – either the painting or the artist, I’m not sure which…

    Comment by Thomas Parker - October 11, 2014 8:17 pm

  3. I’ve always wondered what is “beyond space.”

    Now I know.

    Comment by markrigney - October 12, 2014 11:57 am

  4. > He wrote and edited several Gold Medal books in the ’50s, including House of Evil, a paperback novel told in comic-book panels.

    Bill,

    Good catch! Is there a list of them anywhere? ISFDB only lists his SF work.

    Comment by John ONeill - October 12, 2014 12:10 pm

  5. > It should be hanging in the Museum of Modern Art

    I agree!

    Comment by John ONeill - October 12, 2014 12:16 pm

  6. > I’ve always wondered what is “beyond space.”

    Aliens with stylish goggles, apparently!

    Comment by John ONeill - October 12, 2014 12:17 pm


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