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Vintage Treasures: The Space Magicians, edited by Alden H. Norton and Sam Moskowitz

Tuesday, January 7th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

The Space Magicians-small The Space Magicians-back-small

Cover artist unknown (which is kinda tragic)

And so my quest to write up all the interesting science fiction anthologies of the 20th Century brings us to The Space Magicians.

This is kind of an oddball anthology. Yes, it has a theme. (That theme is not space magicians.) The idea appears to be a collection of rare and hard-to-find science fiction tales by “science fiction’s major talents… each one a masterpiece in its own right,” and each of which has never been reprinted in paperback before.

The result is an eclectic mix of pulp tales by, yes, seven major SF writers: John Wyndham, Henry Kuttner, Isaac Asimov, Clifford D. Simak, Eric Frank Russell, Robert Bloch, and Robert W. Chambers. The stories within originally appeared between 1899 and 1953, in Wonder Stories, Super Science Stories, Astonishing Stories, Science-Fiction Plus, Universe Science Fiction, and other fine venues. They include the first reprint of Asimov’s “Half-Breed,” written when he was 19 years old, and Robert W. Chambers science fiction story “In Search of the Unknown.”

The stories are packaged in a 206-page paperback with a gonzo wraparound cover featuring cartoon characters on a gloriously colorful alien landscape. The artist, tragically, is unknown. The editors offer a chatty two-page introduction in which they wonder aloud why none of these stories have been reprinted, and tell us a bit about each one to whet our appetite. Here’s the complete intro.

[Click the images for Space-sized versions.]

The Space Magicians Introduction Page 1-small The Space Magicians Introduction Page 2-small

And here’s the Table of Contents.

Introduction by Sam Moskowitz and Alden H. Norton
“The Venus Adventure” by John Wyndham (Wonder Stories, May 1932)
“The Black Sun Rises” by Henry Kuttner (Super Science Stories, June 1944)
“Half-Breed” by Isaac Asimov (Astonishing Stories, February 1940)
“The Call from Beyond” by Clifford D. Simak (Super Science Stories, May 1950)
“Bitter End” by Eric Frank Russell (Science-Fiction Plus, December 1953)
“Constant Reader” by Robert Bloch (Universe Science Fiction, Jun 1953)
“In Search of the Unknown” by Robert W. Chambers (Ainslee’s Magazine, August 1899)

The great Bill Crider, who passed away in 2017, didn’t think much of The Space Magicians in his online review, saying:

The Space Magicians is more of a curiosity than a great anthology. I like the wraparound cover, which also has no more to do with the contents than the title does.

He’s not wrong about the cover.

Alden H. Norton, a noted anthologist in his own right, co-edited a total of four books with Moskowitz, including Ghostly By Gaslight (1971) and Horrors in Hiding (1973), which we covered here.

Our previous coverage of books by Sam Moskowitz includes:

Sam Moskowitz’s Classics of Science Fiction
A Sense of Wonder, edited by Sam Moskowitz
Invading Aliens and Self-Aware Submarines: The Human Zero, Edited by Sam Moskowitz & Roger Elwood, reviewed by by William I. Lengeman III
Under the Moons of Mars, edited by Sam Moskowitz
Horrors in Hiding edited by Sam Moskowitz with Alden H. Norton
Horrors Unseen, edited by Sam Moskowitz
Horrors Unknown, edited by Sam Moskowitz

The Space Magicians was published by Pyramid Books in January 1971. It is 206 pages, priced at 75 cents. It has never been reprinted, and there is no digital edition. The cover artist is unknown.

See all our recent Vintage Treasures here.

14 Comments »

  1. >That theme is not space magicians.

    Space Magicians would be a interesting themed original anthology.

    Too bad Gardner Dozois has passed because if Gardner and GRRM could do Old Venus and Old Mars they could do Space Magicians.

    Comment by Charles_Martel - January 8, 2020 8:59 am

  2. I believe “Space Magicians” refers, not to the content, but to the authors. Great authors would masters or “magicians.” Science fiction authors would presumably write about “space.” Hence, “Space Magicians.”

    Comment by Brian Kunde - January 8, 2020 10:31 am

  3. > if Gardner and GRRM could do Old Venus and Old Mars they could do Space Magicians.

    Indeed they could! I would’ve read the hell out of that book.

    But what stories would it contain? Maybe a Dying Earth story by Vance. Edmond Hamilton’s “The Great Brain of Kaldar.” Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun. Robert E. Howard’s “Almuric.” Moorcock’s Kane of Old Mars. Andre Norton’s Witchworld. Half of Leigh Brackett’s fiction, I would think. Plus C.L. Moore.

    Do the Bene Gesserit of Dune count as Space Magicians? I would think so. We could really pack this book, I think!

    Comment by John ONeill - January 8, 2020 11:11 am

  4. > I believe “Space Magicians” refers, not to the content, but to the authors.

    Brian,

    Yeah, I’m sure you’re right.

    Still, I’m kinda caught up in the idea of a true Space Magician anthology now. Maybe we can pester Rich Horton or Neil Clarke to make it happen. :)

    Comment by John ONeill - January 8, 2020 11:15 am

  5. I have a copy of this somewhere. I should probably dig it out and read it. I bought it years ago for the Kuttner story.

    And I think nagging Rich or Neil is a great idea.

    Comment by westkeith - January 8, 2020 1:29 pm

  6. John, I was thinking more of an original anthology with the theme of Space Magicians.

    But a reprint anthology would be cool. I know there is a Dying Earth story where I a group of magician ‘flew’ a castle through the ether to another world.

    Comment by Charles_Martel - January 8, 2020 2:48 pm

  7. The art is by legendary cartoonist R. Crumb. His signature is just barely visible on the bottom left corner of the back cover.

    Comment by Le Samourai - January 8, 2020 6:23 pm

  8. I shall respectfully disagree with Le Samourai about the identity of the cover artist. I think it is Peter Bramley, who also provided the cover to the Pyramid Books edition of Murray Leinster’s Doctor to the Stars:
    http://www.isfdb.org/wiki/images/3/3b/DCTRTTHSTR1971.jpg

    Comment by Eugene R. - January 8, 2020 11:24 pm

  9. > I should probably dig it out and read it. I bought it years ago for the Kuttner story.

    Keith — if you do, let us know what you think!

    Comment by John ONeill - January 9, 2020 2:21 am

  10. > John, I was thinking more of an original anthology with the theme of Space Magicians.

    Charles,

    Oooo, you’re right. An original anthology wth that premise, like Old Mars and Old Venus, would be even better. Good thinking!

    Comment by John ONeill - January 9, 2020 2:22 am

  11. > I think it is Peter Bramley, who also provided the cover to the Pyramid Books edition of Murray Leinster’s Doctor to the Stars

    Eugene,

    After looking at the art styles (and the signature) for both books side-by-side, I think you’re right. It definitely looks like Bramley to me too. Good call!

    Doctor to the Stars

    Comment by John ONeill - January 9, 2020 2:26 am

  12. Eugene R.,

    I do believe you are correct and I am wrong. Thank you for pointing that out.

    Interestingly, I poked around and more than a few sites credit R. Crumb with the cover. Wishful thinking, perhaps?

    Comment by Le Samourai - January 10, 2020 7:05 pm

  13. Le Samourai,

    When you suggested R. Crumb was the artist I was startled, and then wondered “Why didn’t I see that myself?” I think it’s easy to see Crumb in the art style if you’re looking for him. :)

    Comment by John ONeill - January 11, 2020 12:57 pm

  14. I, too, liked the R. Crumb suggestion, as the cover has a real “Keep On (Space) Truckin'” feel. It was staring at the signature that had me wondering if the name was “Abram(something)” and ISFDB delightfully offered me Peter Bramley when I looked up Pyramid Books 1971 editions.

    Curiously, ISFDB can only see ‘Ch’ or ‘Cl’ in the signature and they themselves do not identify the Space Magicians artist.

    Comment by Eugene R. - January 11, 2020 4:15 pm


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