Science fiction in the Golden Age

I wrote this ¬†on Goodreads as a part-review of ‘The Andre Norton Mega-Pack’ – a ebook compendium of 15 of Andre Norton’s novels – which are mostly science fiction written in the 1950s and early 1960s….

I’m going to write a review of this book, even though I’m only part-way through this – i.e. I’ve read 5 novels out of the 15 it contains!

This book is pure nostalgia for me. When I was between the ages of 12 and 15 (1963 – 1966), I would wonder up Brunswick Street in Liverpool and look in the 3 or 4 second-hand book shops there. Most of the street is now demolished in favour of easier access to the motorway and, anyway, the notion of 3 or 4 bookshops being viable in the same road?

The shops used to have large numbers of American comics and pulp SF/Crime mags, and these were my staple diet until I became sophisticated enough to enjoy the contemporary SF coming from Britain. Andre Norton was one of the best of the pulp SF writers and re-reading these has confirmed how good he was. Of course the depictions of the future are really portraits of the 1950s but even realising this gives the stories a depth my 13-year old self never possessed, and makes them even more enjoyable.

They also bring back the smell of the old shops – musty and dusty with an overlay of fruit and veg from the greengrocer’s and petrol fumes from the traffic. No catalytic converters in those days – or even un-leaded fuel. I don’t regret the passing of the old days of second-hand pulp novels and comics, but I do regret the passing of my 13-year-old wonder at the flying saucers, purple aliens and space-suits that seemed utilitarian on the male astronauts but surprisingly skin-tight on the female ones.

So, if you read these as a kid – they repay another look. If you didn’t they might still be a valuable education in what the future used to look like.

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