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Invasion Fleets and Rogue Stars: Rich Horton on Who Speaks of Conquest by Lan Wright & The Earth in Peril, edited by Donald A. Wollheim

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Who Speaks of Conquest-small The Earth in Peril-small

Over at his website Strange at Ecbatan, Rich Horton continues his survey of the Ace Double line of 50s science fiction novels with Who Speaks of Conquest by Lan Wright, paired with the anthology The Earth in Peril, edited by Donald A. Wollheim. It was originally published in 1957. Here’s Rich on the Wright novel.

The first Terran starship lands at Sirius (why they didn’t go to Alpha Centauri first is never explained — it turns out to be inhabited, so it can’t be for lack of planets). There they find a welcoming committee, from an intelligent race that has colonized these planets. They learn that the entire Galaxy is under the rule of the Rihnans, apparently a mostly benign rule, but an unquestioned one. Humans are expected to meekly accept their position. Of course, they don’t, and soon an invasion fleet is dispatched from Alpha Centauri. But to the invaders’ surprise, the plucky humans decide to fight back, and moreover they have been able to develop some surprisingly good tech, and the humans win.

The Rihnans don’t take that lying down, and begin plans for a much bigger fleet to suppress Terra. But the humans have their own ideas, and they decide to take the fight to the rest of the Galaxy…

The flip side is a little more interesting from my perspective — an anthology of tales focused on the invasion of Earth, edited by the founding editor of Ace, Donald A. Wollheim himself. The Earth in Peril contains short stories by Murray Leinster, A. E. van Vogt, C. M. Kornbluth, Edmond Hamilton, Bryce Walton, and H. G. Wells.

[Click the images for bigger versions.]

Wollheim didn’t often pair anthologies with novels as Ace Doubles — but when he did, they were usually worth noticing. There are four examples I can think of.

City on the Moon Murray Leinster-small Men on the Moon Donald Wollheim-small

They are:

Sentinels from Space by Eric Frank Russell / The Ultimate Invader and Other Science-Fiction edited by Donald A. Wollheim (1954)
Adventures in the Far Future / Tales of Outer Space edited by Donald A. Wollheim (1954)
Who Speaks of Conquest? by Lan Wright / The Earth in Peril edited by Donald A. Wollheim (1957)
City on the Moon by Murray Leinster / Men on the Moon edited by Donald A. Wollheim (1958)

Rich has an interesting theory on Wollheim’s strategy for pairing anthologies with novels..

The other side of this book is an anthology edited by Don Wollheim, The Earth in Peril. As the title makes clear, it’s a selection of stories (6 in all) featuring the Earth in danger of destruction, from alien invasion or natural forces or just by accident. I suppose in a way Who Speaks of Conquest? also fits this theme — perhaps Wollheim chose his anthology theme to pair with the novel.

That theory certainly fits with City on the Moon/Men on the Moon, anyway.

Here’s the complete Table of Contents for The Earth in Peril, most of which are pulp reprints.

“Things Pass By” by Murray Leinster (Thrilling Wonder Stories, Summer 1945)
“Letter from the Stars” by A. E. van Vogt (The Arkham Sampler, Winter 1949)
“The Silly Season” by C. M. Kornbluth (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Fall 1950)
“The Plant Revolt” by Edmond Hamilton (Weird Tales, April 1930)
“Mary Anonymous” by Bryce Walton (Planet Stories, Summer 1954)
“The Star” by H. G. Wells (The Graphic, Christmas 1897)

And here’s a look at a few of the pulp magazines these stories originally appeared in (click for bigger versions.)

Thrilling Wonder Stories Summer 1945-small Weird Tales April 1930-small Planet Stories Summer 1954-small

Here’s Rich on the contents.

“Letter from the Stars,” by A. E. Van Vogt (2600 words) (Arkham Sampler, Winter 1949)
Also called “Dear Pen Pal”. An alien criminal manages to contact a human by letter, supposedly just for correspondence but actually with nefarious aims.

“The Silly Season,” by C. M. Kornbluth (5,500 words)… Kornbluth at his most sardonic. A newspaperman investigates mysterious UFO-type manifestations. They seem real, but nothing comes of them. Over a few separate outbreaks, people become convinced they are all fake. Then the aliens REALLY come …

“The Star,” by H. G. Wells (4200 words)… Famous story telling in journalistic fashion of a rogue star wandering into the Solar System and nearly destroying Earth. Aspects (such as the speed of the star) don’t hold together well, but the cold inevitability of the telling is very effective.

Read Rich’s complete review here.

Who Speaks of Conquest/The Earth in Peril was published by Ace Books in February 1957. It is 158+160 pages, priced at 35 cents in paperback. The covers are by Ed Emshwiller and Stanley Meltzoff.

See our extensive previous coverage of Donald A. Wollheim here. And see all of Rich’s previous reviews here.

5 Comments »

  1. The cover of that Planet Stories issue sure looks like the work of Kelly Freas.

    Comment by R.K. Robinson - October 3, 2017 11:42 am

  2. I’d take that Earth in Peril cover and paint on the ceiling of my living room…but I’d get in big trouble.

    Comment by Thomas Parker - October 3, 2017 12:39 pm

  3. That Planet Stories cover is by Kelly Freas. I have that issue — it’s a good one. The cover is for one of Anderson’s earliest Flandry stories.

    Comment by Rich Horton - October 3, 2017 1:55 pm

  4. > I’d take that Earth in Peril cover and paint on the ceiling of my living room…but I’d get in big trouble.

    Thomas,

    Ditto… and definitely ditto!

    Comment by John ONeill - October 3, 2017 8:59 pm

  5. I LOVE that Planet Stories cover! The Mickey Mouse ears on the helmets are a bit odd but I can live with it.

    John I agree about Mr Wollheim. Think I also saw the fit when I covered The Moon as my first post a some time back. https://www.blackgate.com/2015/01/20/murray-leinster-and-the-moon/#more-93935

    But also having read the Sentinels in Space etc double there is definitely a theme. Looking forward to laying hands on The Earth in Peril, looks nifty.

    Comment by Tony Den - October 4, 2017 2:12 am


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