Sam Merwin Jr. was one of the most influential SF editors of the pulp era. He took over the reins at Thrilling Wonder Stories and Startling Stories in Winter 1945 from Oscar J. Friend, and immediately adopted a more mature attitude, attracting more adult readers and better writers. At first he assumed Friend’s editorial pseudonym, Sergeant Saturn, but eventually he simply went by the title Editor. By 1950 he was also editing Fantastic Story Quarterly and Wonder Stories Annual, making him one of the most important names in the field. His letter columns were avidly followed by fans of all ages, and he’s widely credited with steering his SF magazines out of the kid’s section and towards an adult readership.
Merwin quit editing in 1951 to become a freelance writer, and found some success with mysteries, and writing stories for DC’s Strange Adventures and Mystery in Space in 1952-1953. He briefly edited Fantastic Universe in 1953, and was an associate editor at Galaxy around the same time.
But Merwin is remembered today chiefly for two linked time travel novels, The House of Many Worlds and Three Faces of Time. They were published in a paperback omnibus edition by Ace in 1983, with a cover by comic artist Frank Brunner (above).
[Click the images for Many Worlds-sized versions.]
House of Many Worlds (note the abbreviated title) originally appeared in the September 1951 issue of Startling Stories, with a cover by Earle Bergey.
It was expanded for publication in a handsome hardcover edition from Doubleday in 1951, with a cover by Richard Powers (below left). It appeared next as Galaxy Science Fiction Novel #12 in 1952, with a cover by Ed Emshwiller (middle), and had its last standalone appearance sixteen long years later, as a Curtis Books paperback (right), with a great cover by Victor Prezio.
Astounding‘s reviewer P. Schuyler Miller praised the novel as “roundly entertaining… packed with all sorts of neat little bits of color and detail,” and F&SF said “the writing is the best that Merwin has yet published.”
The sequel, “Journey to Misenum,” appeared in Startling Stories in August 1953 with a cover by Walter Popp.
Like the previous novel it was expanded for book publication, this time as an Ace Double in 1955, paired with Andre Norton’s The Stars Are Ours! The book version was titled 3 Faces of Time, with a cover by Ed Valigursky.
3 Faces of Time remained out of print for 23 long years, until the Ace omnibus edition. Still, looking on the bright side, it’s not a bad list of cover artists for the two books — Emsh, Valigursky, Powers, Popp, Bergey, and Prezio!
The House of Many Worlds is a minor classic, still talked about today, though now out of print for nearly 35 years. The Ace edition is not hard to find, and certainly not expensive. I bought mine last month at Half Price Books for $1.49.
The House of Many Worlds was published by Ace Books in January 1983. It is 297 pages, priced at $2.50. The cover was by Frank Brunner.
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