Saturday, March 26, 2016

Lancer's Science Fiction line in 1972

In our last episode we read the edition of David Mason's Kavin's World published by Lancer in 1972, which they billed as a "science fantasy" in the "immortal tradition of Conan."  I guess Conan was a big money maker for Lancer; at the end of the book are three pages of advertising, and the first of them is for Lancer's line of Conan paperbacks.  We are told our local retailer may very well have a special Conan display!

I think people nowadays look down on these editions of Conan because they include pastiches and posthumous collaborations with Howard by people like Lin Carter and L. Sprague de Camp.  I think my brother and I had some of these as teenagers, but as an adult I bought and read those oversized paperbacks put out by Ballantine-Del Rey that have more authentic texts.

Perhaps more interesting than the Conan page are the last two pages of my copy of Kavin's World, which advertise Lancer's general SF line.  "Have you missed any of these recent LANCER SCIENCE FICTION best sellers?" we are asked.  Looking over the list I see I have actually read, and even written about, some of these!

Michael Moorcock: The Jewel in the Skull.  This is the first of the Runestaff/Hawkmoon books.  I was a Michael Moorcock fanatic in my teens and early twenties, and read all of the Hawkmoon books, though not in Lancer editions.  (I think I read the 1990 Ace edition of The Jewel in the Skull.)  Of the various Eternal Champion series, I thought these were below average, with less interesting characters and more tedious wars than in the Elric and Corum books, though I loved the idea that all the bad guys wore elaborate masks.  A theme that recurs in Moorcock's work is a portrayal of Great Britain as the villain, and with the exception of the Oswald Bastable books I think that theme is most blatant in the Hawkmoon series.  According to wikipedia the Runestaff books are full of weird in-jokes about the Beatles, British politicians and SF writers, jokes which I did not pick up on when I read them.

Michael Moorcock: The City of the Beast, The Lord of the Spiders and The Masters of the Pit.  These are the three Warriors of Mars books, which I liked least of Moorcock's adventure stories.  They felt totally uninspired, and I have heard they were written in a feverish rush due to a need for money to finance other projects.  I think my brother back in New Jersey still has my copies of these, the early '90s Ace editions, which have Dorian Vallejo covers.

Hal Clement: Needle: I own the 1967 Avon edition of this and read it in 2013 and thought it wasn't bad.  The way the alien communicates with the human protagonist was pretty ingenious.

Ted White: The Sorceress of Qar.  I own the Lancer 1966 edition of this, but have not read it yet.  I liked White's Spawn of the Death Machine, so will probably check it out after I get a hold of and read Phoenix Prime, which precedes it in the Qanar series.

Edmond Hamilton: Return to the Stars.  I own the Magnum edition of this, which looks almost exactly the same as the Lancer printing.  Was Magnum a division of Lancer, or a company which bought Lancer properties or what?  Mysterious!  The cover is by Steranko.  I read my copy quite a long time ago, I guess during my New York days.  I don't remember much specific about Return to the Stars--a guy's consciousness is flung into the far future into the body of an important personage involved in a space war--but I am pretty sure I enjoyed it.  Return to the Stars is a sequel to The Star Kings, a copy of which I own (1967, Paperback Library) but have not read.  Hamilton and his famous wife Leigh Brackett wrote another story involving the Star Kings, Stark and the Star Kings, which was supposed to appear in Harlan Ellison's abortive third Dangerous Visions anthology.  Fortunately in the 21st century Haffner Press and Baen made the story (which I have yet to read) available to Hamilton and Brackett's fans.

Poul Anderson: Satan's World.  I own the Berkley 1977 edition of this, and read it in April of last year.  I wrote a positive review of it at this here blog; it is a good space adventure story, full of hard science and libertarian politics, just the thing to cheer up you laissez faire types in this decidedly unlibertarian political season.

John Lymington: Ten Million Years to Friday.  I read this baby in September of 2011 and reviewed it on Amazon.  This is one of those stories in which Christians, businesspeople, and humanity in general are shown up by a superior alien.  As in way too many movies, the evil humans try to exploit the alien and the main character protects it.  I sold my copy of the Lancer edition in 2013.

Frank Belknap Long: Survival World.  The mysterious Magnum Books strikes again! I own the Magnum edition of this title, which looks almost exactly like the Lancer edition.  This is one of the worst books I have ever read; I suffered through it in late 2011.  As of today there are three Amazon customer reviews of Survival World, and all three award the book a single star; one of these reviews is mine, and you can read it here.

Robert Hoskins (ed): Infinity Two.  I own this anthology, and in 2015 read a few stories from it, including tales by William F. Nolan, Edward Bryant, and Barry Malzberg.  I should probably read more from this thing; there is a collaboration between Poul Anderson and his wife Karen, and stories by writers like J. F. Bone, Anthon Warden, and Russell L. Bates, about whom I currently know very little.


Readers who have read any of the books from Lancer's late '60s/early '70s line, who think I'm all wrong about Michael Moorcock's Hawkmoon and Mars books, or who actually saw the special Lancer Conan display way back when, are invited to comment!


  1. There are a lot better written Burrough's pastiches then Moorcock's Mars series, no doubt. On the other hand, these were among the first novels he wrote. Todays Moorcock is a very different writer.

    Hawkmoon has aged better then Elric in my opinion. Both have lost a lot of their appeal over the time, especially if one reads a lot of Fantasy. The stories often seem simple. And if you read the first Elric stories in their original form today, one wonders why it became so famous.

    But Hawkmoon's world is better realized, especially in the later books, which ended the Eternal Champion at the time.

    It is a matter of taste, of course, personally I think Hawkmoon has more interesting characters. Aside from the sidekick you also get the renegade knight, the love interest, the old warrior, the mysterious Jerry Cornelius incarnation. It is a more colourful crew. And Hawkmoon is not so whiny as Elric, always a plus.

    1. I brought my six silver Berkley Elric paperbacks home from New Jersey this winter, and hope to reread them soon. Maybe I should also reread the Hawkmoon books; I might come around to your point of view.