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Vintage Treasures: Farewell Fantastic Venus! edited by Brian W. Aldiss with Harry Harrison

Friday, December 15th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Farewell Fantastic Venus!-small Farewell Fantastic Venus!-back-small

One of the things I love about pulp SF is its romanticized view of our solar system. The ancient canals and lost cities of Mars, the steaming dinosaur-ridden swamps of Venus. I can still remember the bitter disappointment I felt when I first learned that science had proven Venus completely inhospitable to life. It felt like the solar system had been robbed of its greatest potential for extra-planetary adventure.

Many SF writers felt very much the same way. Two recent anthologies from Gardner Dozois and George R.R. Martin, Old Mars and Old Venus, have done a splendid job re-capturing some of that old pulp magic with a generous sampling of modern tales set in retro-versions of both planets.

But they weren’t the first books to celebrate a cherished (and now obsolete) vision of our solar system. That honor probably goes to Farewell Fantastic Venus!, a 1968 anthology released shortly after the first probes reached Venus, and the hard truth was revealed. The book contains classic Venusian fiction by Arthur C. Clarke and John & Dorothy de Courcy, and two novellas by Poul Anderson, including a Psychotechnic League tale. There’s also a rich sampling of novel excerpts by Olaf Stapledon, Edgar Rice Burroughs, C. S. Lewis, and others. All that plus science articles by Frank R. Paul, Carl Sagan, Sir Bernard Lovell, Willy Ley, and others.

[Click the images for bigger versions.]

Here’s the relevant passage from the book’s Wikipedia entry.

Farewell Fantastic Venus!… was first published in 1968 as a direct response to the information returned from the first space probes sent to Venus, especially the first atmospheric probe to return data, Venera 4. The first data was not returned from the surface until Venera 7 successfully landed in 1970.

The book contains stories and novel excerpts from the time before Venus’ true nature became apparent, when the clouded planet could still be imagined as another Earth, albeit a hotter one. From that point on, few stories would be written which did not recognize Venus as a dry lifeless world with acid clouds and a temperature high enough to melt lead. Writers such as Larry Niven (author of “Becalmed in Hell”) did write about the “new” Venus, but there were to be few more transplanted jungle adventures, imagined world of oceans with monsters, or Venusians. Venus had been the best hope for extraterrestrial life, and now that hope was lost.

And here’s the complete table of contents.

Short Fiction

“A City on Venus” by Henry Gade (Amazing Stories, January 1941)
“Alchemy” by John and Dorothy de Courcy (Out of this World Adventures, December 1950)
“The Big Rain” by Poul Anderson (Astounding Science Fiction, October 1954)
“Sister Planet” by Poul Anderson (Satellite Science Fiction, May 1959)
“Before Eden” by Arthur C. Clarke (Amazing Stories, June 1961)

Novel Excerpts

A Trip to Venus by John Munro (1897)
A Honeymoon in Space by George Griffith (1900)
Last and First Men by Olaf Stapledon (1930
Pirates of Venus by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1932)
Perelandra by C. S. Lewis (1943)
Escape to Venus by S. Makepeace Lott (1956)

Non-fiction

The Story of the Heavens by Sir Robert Ball (1882)
The Destinies of the Stars by Svante Arrhenius (1917)
The Man from Venus by Frank R. Paul (1939
Unveiling the Mystery Planet by Willy Ley (1955)
Exploring the Planets by V. A. Firsoff (1964)
Intelligent Life in the Universe by Carl Sagan (1966)
Some Mysteries of Venus Resolved by Sir Bernard Lovell (1967)
Dream of Distance (1967)
Venus Mystery for Scientists (1967) by John Davy
Scientist Says Icecaps on Venus Would Make Life Possible by Evert Clark (1968)
Foreword / Clouded Judgements / Never-Fading Flowers / Swamp and Sand / “Venus is Hell!” / Big Sister / The Open Question – essays by Brian W. Aldiss (all 1968)

Farewell Fantastic Venus! was published in hardcover by Macdonald in the UK in October 1968, and reprinted in paperback by Panther in 1977. It is 268 pages, priced at £0.75. The cover is by Chris Foss. It has been out of print since 1977; there is no digital edition.

The book was released in the US by Dell in a significantly abridged version (nearly 50 pages shorter), under the title All About Venus, with a very green cover by Jeff Jones.

All About Venus-small All About Venus-back-small

Here’s the complete TOC for the US version.

Short Fiction

“The Big Rain” by Poul Anderson (Astounding Science Fiction, October 1954)
“Sister Planet” by Poul Anderson (Satellite Science Fiction, May 1959)
“Before Eden” by Arthur C. Clarke (Amazing Stories, June 1961)

Novel Excerpts

Last and First Men by Olaf Stapledon (1930)
Pirates of Venus by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1932)
Perelandra by C. S. Lewis (1943)
Escape to Venus by S. Makepeace Lott (1956)

Non-fiction

The Destinies of the Stars by Svante Arrhenius (1917)
Unveiling the Mystery Planet by Willy Ley (1955)
Exploring the Planets by V. A. Firsoff (1964)
Intelligent Life in the Universe by Carl Sagan (1966)
Some Mysteries of Venus Resolved by Sir Bernard Lovell (1967)
Dream of Distance (1967)
Venus Mystery for Scientists (1967) by John Davy
Foreword / Clouded Judgements /  “Venus is Hell!” / Big Sister / The Open Question – essays by Brian W. Aldiss (all 1968)

All About Venus was published by Dell in October 1968. It is 221 pages, priced at $0.60. The cover is by Jeff Jones. It has been out of print since 1968; there is no digital edition.

See all of our recent Vintage Treasures here.

3 Comments »

  1. We got ripped off here in the US, eh?

    By the way, within the next month or so I should be writing about the issue of AMAZING in which Clarke’s “Before Eden” appeared. I remember being wowed by that story back when I was reading Clarke’s complete works (to that date) in about 1972 … be interesting ti see how it holds up.

    Comment by Rich Horton - December 15, 2017 11:18 am

  2. Another neat similar nostalgia trip would be “The Magic of Atlantis” edited by Lin Carter.

    Pub in like late 60s, early 70s the modern scientific consensus was that Atlantis had factual basis in Santorini, an island destroyed by a volcanic explosion. So the anthology was full of stories from scifi/fantasy about Atlantis.

    Neat article, doubtless be checking Amazon, Ebay…

    Comment by GreenGestalt - December 15, 2017 4:10 pm

  3. Kismet! I had my Dell paperback of this title in my hands not two days ago, trying to decide on a SF anthology to read. I’ve had this one since middle school, but finally decided that the time was still not quite ripe…

    Comment by Thomas Parker - December 15, 2017 5:39 pm


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