Vintage Treasures: Invaders of Earth edited by Groff Conklin

Vintage Treasures: Invaders of Earth edited by Groff Conklin

Invaders of Earth (Tempo, September 1962). Cover artist unknown

Before his untimely death in 2016, Bud Webster was Black Gate‘s poetry editor and one of our finest columnists. He wrote a number of Who? columns on forgotten SF writers for our print issues, and thoughtful pieces on selling books at conventions for our website. In his paean to the science fiction anthologies of his youth, Anthopology 101: Reflections, Inspections and Dissections of SF Anthologies, Bud wrote fondly about the great SF anthologies of the 40s, 50s and 60s. Here’s an excerpt from Above the Rest, the chapter dedicated to editor Groff Conklin.

I kept noticing that the stories I liked best, the ones I’d remember from one week to the next, the ones I thrust on my friends with the words “You GOTTA read THIS one!”, all seemed to come from the Conklin anthologies. So, I began pulling his books off the library shelves before I picked Bleiler’s, or Pohl’s, or the others, and when I found (joy of joys!) a dingy little shop near my school that sold ratty old paperbacks for a dime, Conklin’s were the ones I looked for first.

In a note to me about Conklin, Jack Williamson said, “His anthologies…. were landmarks, and I think they had a good deal to do with a wider acceptance of SF…”

In compiling this beast, I’ve read reviews, looked at web pages, and talked to long-time SF readers, fans and pros over and over. When anthologies are discussed, certain names are always mentioned: Pohl, Merril, Bleiler and Dikty, Healy and McComas…. and their relative merits discussed at length. But when Conklin’s name comes up, they invariably nod and say, “Oh, yeah, anything by Groff Conklin.”

Like Bud, my early exposure to adult science fiction was in SF anthologies I found in school libraries, in my case edited by Terry Carr, Robert Silverberg, and Isaac Asimov. But I discovered Conklin soon enough, and one of my favorites was his 1952 anthology of alien invasion tales, Invaders of Earth.

[Click the images for more invasive versions.]

Invaders of Earth (Vanguard Press, March 1952). Cover uncredited.

Invaders of Earth was originally published as a hardcover by Vanguard Press in 1952. It was Conklin’s seventh SF anthology, and contained 21 reprints by Murray Leinster, Eric Frank Russell, Donald A. Wollheim, Margaret St. Clair, Theodore Sturgeon, Mack Reynolds, Milton Lesser, A. E. van Vogt, Mildred Clingerman, Fredric Brown, Edgar Pangborn, Katherine MacLean, and many others. Each story had a brief introduction by Conklin.

It also included an original short story by Anthony Boucher, “The Greatest Tertian.”

But its greatest draw was almost certainly the 22-page radio script “Invasion from Mars,” credited to Howard Koch and based on H.G. Wells’ 1895 novel The War of the Worlds, which was performed by Orson Welles’ Mercury Theatre company on Halloween night in 1938, and famously caused a panic among some of its (admittedly small) group of listeners.

Inside cover of the Tempo paperback

In Anthopology, Bud calls Invaders of Earth “one of the first theme books.” Writing in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, Malcolm Edwards and John Clute go significantly further, calling it one of “the first fully fledged theme anthologies to appear in the field.”

In his later career, [Groff Conklin] increasingly produced anthologies on increasingly specific subject matter – they were in fact the first fully fledged theme anthologies to appear in the field – including Invasion in Invaders of Earth (1952); Time Travel and Parallel Worlds in Science Fiction Adventures in Dimension (1953); Robots, Androids and Computers in Science Fiction Thinking Machines (1954) and Mutants in Science Fiction Adventures in Mutation (1955). Conklin eventually became consultant sf editor to Collier Books, for whom he produced the notable anthologies Great Science Fiction by Scientists (1962) and Fifty Short Science Fiction Tales (1963), the latter with Isaac Asimov.

Conklin was extremely well read in the field. If you’ve been following along with Matthew Wuertz’s Galaxy magazine retro reviews here at Black Gate, you know that Conklin had a long-running book-review column in Galaxy, starting in issue #1 in 1950 and lasting for almost exactly five years. He was also an SF editor for Grosset and Dunlap.

Invaders of Earth abridged paperback edition, containing 15 of the 22 stories
(Pocket Books, July 1955). Cover by Morton Roberts

After its appearance in hardcover, as was customary at the time, Invaders of Earth was reprinted in a series of abridged paperback editions, starting with a slender 272-page 1955 reprint from Pocket Books (above), which contained 15 of the original 22 stories.

In 1962 Tempo books produced a much more complete reprint edition (see the cover at the top of this article). Its 382 pages contained 17 tales, including many of the longer ones cut from the Pocket edition. Here’s the complete Table of Contents for the Tempo paperback.

Introduction by Groff Conklin
Prologue: The Distant Past
“This Star Shall Be Free” by Murray Leinster (Super Science Stories, November 1949)
Part One: The Immediate Past: It Could Have Happened Already
“Castaway ” by Robert Moore Williams (Astounding Science-Fiction, February 1941)
“Impulse” by Eric Frank Russell (Astounding Science-Fiction, September 1938)
“Top Secret” by Donald A. Wollheim (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Fall 1950)
“A Date to Remember” by William F. Temple (Thrilling Wonder Stories, August 1949)
“Child of Void” by Margaret St. Clair (Super Science Stories, November 1949)
“Tiny and the Monster” by Theodore Sturgeon (Astounding Science Fiction, May 1947)
“The Discord Makers” by Mack Reynolds (Out of this World Adventures, July 1950)
“Not Only Dead Men” by A. E. van Vogt (Astounding Science-Fiction, November 1942)
Part Two: The Immediate Future: It May Happen Yet
“Invasion from Mars” by Howard Koch (adapted from the Mercury Theatre radio play, 1938)
“Minister Without Portfolio” by Mildred Clingerman (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, February 1952)
“The Waveries” by Fredric Brown (Astounding Science Fiction, January 1945)
“Crisis” by Edward Grendon (Astounding Science Fiction, June 1951)
“Angel’s Egg” by Edgar Pangborn (Galaxy Science Fiction, June 1951)
“Will You Walk a Little Faster?” by William Tenn (Marvel Science Fiction, November 1951)
“Pictures Don’t Lie” by Katherine MacLean (Galaxy Science Fiction, August 1951)
Epilogue: The Distant Future
“The Greatest Tertian” by Anthony Boucher (original to this volume, 1952)

The hardcover edition had the following additional five stories:

“An Eel by the Tail” by Allen Kim Lang (Imagination, April 1951)
“Storm Warning” by Donald A. Wollheim (Future Fantasy and Science Fiction, October 1942)
“Pen Pal” by Milton Lesser (Galaxy Science Fiction, July 1951)
“Enemies in Space” by Carl Grunert (published in German as Feinde im Weltall?, 1907)
“The Man in the Moon” by Henry A. Norton (Astounding Science-Fiction, February 1943)

Here’s the complete publishing details for the various editions.

Invaders of Earth (Vanguard Press, 347 pages, $2.95 in hardcover, March 1952) — cover uncredited
Invaders of Earth (Pocket Books, 272 pages, $0.25 in paperback, July 1955) — cover by Morton Roberts
Invaders of Earth (Tempo Books, 382 pages, $0.50 in paperback, September 1962) — cover uncredited

Invaders of Earth was last reprinted by Tempo books in 1964. It has been out of print for 57 years, and there is no digital edition.

Our previous coverage of Groff Conklin’s anthologies includes:

Crossroads in Time (1953)
Minds Unleashed (1970)

See all our recent Vintage Treasures here.

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Jim Dudley

Conklin’s thick hardcover anthologies were bound to have at least a few stories appealing to youngsters who were not really looking for sf as a device for satire directed at the author’s time and place, though these were often liked by anthologists hoping, I suppose, to promote sf among “sophisticated” adults.

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