Friday, May 01, 2015

FFB: War of the Giant Apes -- Alexander Blade

Yes, I know this is a magazine and not a book.  It's Fantastic Adventures (April 1949), and "War of the Giant Apes" is a novelette.  And this is all totally James Reasoner's fault.  

I've been eyeing this cover on eBay for a couple of years, ever since I was on the last "Apes" panel at ArmadilloCon, but I've resisted buying it.  Then James put the cover on his blog and reminded me in the comments that the only pulps you regret are the ones you don't buy.  

Then, to make matters worse, he e-mailed me and said he'd bought a copy of the pulp.  Well, that did it.  I had to have one, too, and soon enough, I did.  One commenter on James' blog says that this cover is about the worst of the year on Fantastic Adventures, and maybe it is.  I love it, though.  As for the story, . . .

. . . . it's terrible.  Alexander Blade is a house name, and as far as I know, nobody knows who used it for this story.  Whoever it was would probably prefer to remain anonymous, and I don't blame him.

Mars, see, is inhabited by giant apes.  They're 50 feet tall.  An Earth scientist has created a thought-control machine.  That's it on the back of the truck there in the cover illustration.  So naturally there's nothing for it but to go to Mars, grab an ape by controlling its thoughts, and bring it back to Earth for the grand tour.  The air on Mars is too thin for a man to breathe for very long, but for giant apes?  No problem.  Back on earth, does the giant ape have any trouble breathing the rich air or coping with the gravity?  Not in the least.  Of if so, it's never mentioned.  The mind-controlled tour begins, but Things Are Not As They Seem.  

[MANY SPOILERS AHEAD]  It's all a plot by the Martians, see?  They have no mechanical abilities to speak of, but they have superior mental powers.  The giant ape is actually in full control of the minds of everyone on Earth.  Well, except for the mind of Our Hero, Dan Moran, who, for some reason (the plot), the ape has allowed to be an independent operator.  During the year of the tour, the Powers That Be on Earth have been constructing a fleet of giant spaceships (they're much faster at building stuff than we are in the present, obviously) with which to attack and conquer Mars.  Of course this is all part of the Mogar's plan (Mogar is the ape, by the way).  When the ships reach Mars, the apes will take them and fly them back to Earth and take over.  Just how apes that are 50 feet tall are going to fly ships designed by men isn't covered in detail.  Mogar tells Moran all this before finally taking over his mind.  Earth is doomed!

But wait!  Maybe not!  "For [Dan] knew something. Something that even the  mighty brain of Mogar had failed to grasp.  And it was the only chance . . . ."

I can say no more.  But I'm sure you can guess that the Earth is saved.  I'd tell you how, but I don't want to ruin things for you.  Just keep Slim Whitman in mind.

And did I mention that there's a sappy romance?  Well, there is.

So, yes, it's terrible.  Still . . . a giant ape!  I'd have loved it when I was 8 years old, and it's hard to resist even now.  Times were indeed simpler then, and so was a lot of SF.  Not for long, though.  The Magazine of Fantasy came along in the fall of that year, and Galaxy showed up  in 1950.  Those two digests both published stories that were miles away from this one and had a huge impact on the SF field.  

Still . . . a giant ape!  You can't go wrong with a giant ape, no matter how bad the story is.  I'm sure my friends Mark Finn and Rick Klaw would agree.


Dan said...

I have to admire you for getting through it. Too many people buy old pulps and encase them unread in glass and plastic.

Unknown said...

Well, so far I've gotten through only the lead novelette.

Jerry House said...

Copies are available at Internet Archive and at UNZ.ORG, Bill.

George said...

You can't go wrong with a pulp with a Giant Ape on the cover! Congratulations on a great acquisition!

Anonymous said...

Slim Whitman?

John D

Tom Johnson said...

I always stick with the masters, but some of those old pulp stories were fun. I think most of the pulp SF grew up after they went to digest size, and was catering to an older readership.

James Reasoner said...

I still haven't read my copy, but it's sitting right next to my computer for inspiration. You can't go wrong with giant apes. I'll have to figure out a way to put one in a Western. Let's see, a giant ape rescues Gabby Hayes from a pool of quicksand . . .

Jeff Meyerson said...

A giant ape AND Slim Whitman? No way you can go wrong! Maybe you can bring back your own giant ape story and do a sequel.


Ed Gorman said...

You're trying to tell me there's such a thing as a BAD Alexander Blade story? I've read all 3,278 of his stories and each one is a masterpiece. I'm sure if you were to re-read it carefully you'd understand that this, like most of Mr. Blade's work, is really a symbolic discourse on the existential meaning of something or other. I know this because Mr. Blade and I are e mail buddies. Exactly where is the Arkham Asylum anyway?

Yrs. Sincerely,

Robert Moore Williams, Jr.

Unknown said...

Alexander Blade is one of my heroes. I liked some Ace books by Robert Moore Williams, too.

Unknown said...

James, that's a sure winner, but it would be better if you could add some singing pirates.

Todd Mason said...

Hell, I was once proud to use the Alexander Blade name in an SF context. Or maybe Proud isn't the word....

Idle speculation, but if it wasn't my Ziff-Davis football Paul W. Fairman (who did his best, as you know well, Bill, to keep the traditions of the Ray Palmer FA and AMAZING alive in the mid '50s), I'd bet a street penny that it might've been David V. Reed, who was at least one of the ape specialists at ZD (Whispering Gorilla stories and such) and who was a regular Batman scrpter for DC Comics in the '70s.

And as Howard Browne took over editing at ZD, even FA and AMAZING picked up a few rather better stories to mix in with the house-name filler.

Todd Mason said...

That is a pretty dire issue...the Rog Phillips is the most likely to be readable. And in 1950, Browne would be running the likes of YOU'RE ALL ALONE by Fritz Leiber.

Contents (view Concise Listing)

6 • The Editors Notebook (Fantastic Adventures, April 1949) • [The Editor's Notebook (Fantastic Adventures)] • essay by William L. Hamling
6 •  Cartoon: "Keep your eye on the birdie!" • interior artwork by Burteen
7 • Hot Noise! • essay by Carter T. Wainwright
8 • War of the Giant Apes • novelette by unknown [as by Alexander Blade ]
8 •  War of the Giant Apes • interior artwork by Murphy Anderson
36 • Cybernetics - New Science • essay by H. R. Stanton
37 • Telephone Robot • essay by Sandy Miller
38 • The Murder Ray • novella by unknown [as by E. K. Jarvis ]
38 •  The Murder Ray • interior artwork by W. E. Terry [as by Bill Terry ]
76 • God of Love • essay by June Lurie
77 • The Integraph • essay by William Karney
78 • Blue Bottle Fly • shortstory by Robert W. Krepps [as by Geoff St. Reynard ]
78 •  Blue Bottle Fly • interior artwork by W. E. Terry [as by Bill Terry ]
86 • Geographic Survey • essay by Milton Matthew
87 • Fantastic Adventures Crossword Puzzle • essay by Bruce D. Kelly
88 • She • novelette by Rog Phillips
88 •  She • interior artwork by Julian S. Krupa
113 • Whirling Whips • essay by Marty Mesner
114 • Peril in Dragonia • novelette by Mollie Claire
114 •  Peril in Dragonia • interior artwork by J. Allen St. John
139 • Buried Treasure • essay by Walter Lathrop
140 • Scientific Oddities (Fantastic Adventures, April 1949) • [Scientific Oddities] • essay by Lynn Standish
143 • Fantastic Facts (Fantastic Adventures, April 1949) • essay by Lee Owen [as by Lee Owens ]
146 • Reader's Page (Fantastic Adventures, April 1949) • essay by The Editor
149 • Earth-Shaker! • essay by J. R. Marks
150 • The Tube that Sees • essay by L. A. Burt
152 • Love's Elixir • essay by A. Morris
153 • Grecian Sphinx • essay by Cal Webb
154 • Mag and Grav • essay by Leslie Phelps

Ed Gorman said...

Oh yeah you guys I loved Alexander Blade stories back in the day. Somewhere Robert Silverberg mentioned that he got a kick out of writing under the Blade name. I once bought a huge box of Fantastic Adventures for five bucks. Wish I still had them. And Todd's right. Fairman sure did carry on the RAP tradition. Great post, Bill and great letters.

Unknown said...

I wish Todd hadn't mentioned the Whispering Gorilla. There's a pulp on eBay with a great Whispering Gorilla cover right now, not to mention the British pb with the same cover. They've been on there for a while, not having sold and having been re-listed. The prices are a bit steep, especially the paperback ($149), but I'm sorely tempted.

Rick Robinson said...

Burroughs told us about white apes on Mars, and this one looks kinda white, so John Carter must be in the story somewhere, hiding behind a pseudonym, perhaps - probably - the hero himself!

Bill, I bet you'd love to have a "hat" like the one the ape is wearing.

Unknown said...

I can do without the mind-control hat, I think, but I see I can get a double volume reprint of two great Whispering Gorilla stories with reproductions of the great covers. Armchair fiction has it in a double volume. Can I resist?

Unknown said...

Answer to above question: No, I can't.

Todd Mason said...

Perhaps the Whispering Gorilla has a muttering crocodilian buddy, thus making the purchase absolutely inevitable, and thus no sin.

FANTASTIC ADVENTURES was all but founded to run new Burroughs stories, so perhaps Rick is onto something more than even he suspects...

James Reasoner said...

Oh, sure, there'll be singing pirates in my story, too. And a sword fight. That goes without saying.

David V. Reed seems like a reasonable guess to me as to the author of "War of the Giant Apes". It occurs to me that if I bought the reprint of those Whispering Gorilla stories, I could read them and compare the style to this story. So it would all be for scholarly purposes, of course.

Unknown said...

And we're all about the scholarship around here, of course.

James Reasoner said...

Got an email from Amazon this morning saying that the Armchair Fiction edition of THE WHISPERING GORILLA/RETURN OF THE WHISPERING GORILLA is on its way. Armchair Fiction has published a lot of interesting looking books, 'way more than I have time to read. But I'll probably have to get some more anyway.

Unknown said...

Ah, the things we do for scholarship.