Sunday, November 23, 2014

Vintage Treasures: Gateway to Elsewhere by Murray Leinster / The Weapon Shops of Isher by A. E. van Vogt [feedly]

Vintage Treasures: Gateway to Elsewhere by Murray Leinster / The Weapon Shops of Isher by A. E. van Vogt
// Black Gate

Gateway to Elsewhere-small The Weapon Shops of Isher-small

And now we come to one of my favorite Ace Doubles: Murray Leinster's Arabian Nights fantasy Gateway to Elsewhere, paired with the classic science fiction novel The Weapon Shops of Isher, by A. E. van Vogt.

Of the two, Gateway to Elsewhere is significantly lesser known. It was Leinster's first fantasy novel, although he'd previously published two SF novels, The Murder of the U.S.A. (as Will F. Jenkins, in 1946) and The Black Galaxy (in Startling, March 1949). Gateway to Elsewhere originally appeared in a two-part serial in the seventh issue of the small circulation digest Fantasy Book in 1950/51, under the title Journey to Barkut. The entire novel was reprinted in the January 1952 issue of Startling Stories, still under the title Journey to Barkut, with a handsome cover by Earle Bergey (see below).

Two years later it appeared as half of Ace Double D-53, with the new title Gateway to Elsewhere, and a splendid cover by Harry Barton.

Fantasy Book 7-small Startling Stories January 1952-small A Logic Named Joe-small

[Click on any of the images in this article for bigger versions.]

Here's the blurb on the inside front cover:

"There are other worlds… and it is possible to travel from one to another. In fact, we constantly visit the frontier cities without ever knowing it!"

Tony Gregg was just an ordinary everyday American until the day he came into possession of an old Barkut coin. He knew it was more than just a collector's curio because there was no such place on any map of Earth, past or present. He learned then that it could be used as a key — a key to a GATEWAY TO ELSEWHERE.

That was the beginning of one of the most fabulous and fantastic adventures that ever befell a young man looking for excitement. For Gregg plunged forthwith into a fourth-dimensional world of the Arabian Nights, where the djinns of Aladdin's Lamp were rampaging realities, and a lovely princess was waiting to be rescued!

Murray Leinster, dean of science-fiction writers, is at his best in this ACE Original.

I was a little surprised to discover that, by 1954, Leinster was already being called "the dean of science fiction writers." It was a title he was to retain until his death in 1975.

I was also surprised to see Gateway to Elsewhere called an "ACE Original." That's a bit of publisher hyperbole, as the novel had already been published twice by the time it appeared in paperback.

Gateway to Elsewhere was never one of Leinster's more popular novels.  After the 1954 Ace Double edition it remained out of print for over five decades, until it was reprinted in A Logic Named Joe in 2006 (above right, cover by Kurt Miller), one of two major omnibus collections published by Baen (the other being Planets of Adventure, from 2003).

Astounding Science Fiction January 1945-small Thrilling Wonder Stories February 1949 The Weapon Shops of Isher 1952-small

A.E. van Vogt's The Weapon Shops of Isher fared significantly better. It is still considered an SF classic, and it has rarely been out of print since its first hardcover appearance in 1951.

The Weapon Shops of Isher is a fixup novel collecting three stories:

"The Seesaw" (Astounding Science Fiction, July 1941)
"The Weapon Shop" (Astounding Science Fiction, December 1942, above left, cover by William Timmins)
"The Weapon Shops of Isher" (Thrilling Wonder Stories, February 1949, above middle, cover by Earle Bergey)

The Weapon Shops of Isher was originally published in hardcover by Greenberg in 1951, and reprinted in hardcover by Weidenfeld & Nicolson as part of their Science Fiction Shelf series (above right, cover artist unknown.)

The Ace Double was the first paperback edition; it appeared in April 1954 (cover uncredited). Here's the inside cover blurb:

By the year 4784, The Empire of Isher ruled the universe and an impetuous willful girl ruled the empire. Into this epoch, the most scientifically powerful period humanity ever knew, a time-staggering bombshell was tossed. It came in the form of a man from today, a victim of a conflict which was as old as that empire and which now threatened to be the end of both Isher and its worlds.

In this powerful and brilliant novel, A. E. van Vogt introduces such amazing characters as Cayle Clark who could never lose at cards, Robert Hedrock who knew everyone's secrets, Peter Cadron who sold illegal super-weapons in public, and Innelda Isher who never had to take no for an answer.

Packed with super-science, an astonishing future concept, and a tight suspense plot, THE WEAPON SHOPS OF ISHER is truly a science-fiction classic.

A Treasury of Great Science Fiction Volume One-small The Weapon Shops of Isher 1969-small The Weapon Shops of Isher 1969 John Schoenherr-small

The Weapon Shops of Isher remained in print for most of the 20th Century. It was included in Anthony Boucher's groundbreaking two-volume anthology A Treasury of Great Science Fiction (above left), published in 1959 and in print for nearly 20 years.

It appeared in a standalone paperback edition from Ace in 1961, with the same cover as the Ace Double edition, and then again in 1969 from New English Library in the UK, with a cover by the great Bruce Pennington (above middle), and a new US edition from Ace the same year (above right, cover by John Schoenherr).

The Weapon Shops of Isher 1973-small The Weapon Shops of Isher Pocket-small The Weapon Shops of Isher Pocket 1980-small

Ace published one last edition in 1974, with a very 70s cover by Bart Forbes (above left). After that the US rights were snatched up by Pocket Books, who released their first version in 1977, with a cover by Adams (above middle). They reprinted it in 1980, with a new cover by Gerry Daly (above right).

Van Vogt wrote one more book in the same setting: The Weapon Makers, originally serialized in Astounding Science Fiction in 1943 and published as a standalone paperback by Ace in 1966. It was in print through most of the 70s and 80s from Ace, including a 1970 printing from Grosset & Dunlap with a Paul Lehr cover (below left), and a 1979 Pocket edition (below middle, cover by Jerome Podwil).

Both books were published in a handsome omnibus by Orb in July 2000, under the title The Empire of Isher (below right, cover by Vincent Di Fate).

The Weapon Makers-small The Weapon Makers Pocket-small The Empire of Isher-small

Our most recent coverage of Murray Leinster includes:

The Best of Murray Leinster, edited by Brian Davis
Planets of Adventure by Murray Leinster
The Pirates of Zan by Murray Leinster
When Aliens are Delicious: Murray Leinster's "Proxima Centauri" and the Creepy Side of Pulp SF
The Best of Murray Leinster, edited by J.J. Pierce
Murray Leinster's "Runaway Skyscraper"
Fiction Excerpt: "The Fifth-Dimension Catapult"

And our most recent posts about van Vogt were:

The Worlds of A.E. Van Vogt
The Voyage of the Space Beagle
An Ode to Episodes, or: Can Fix-Ups Be Fixed?

Gateway to Elsewhere / The Weapon Shops of Isher was published by Ace Books in April 1954. It is 141+178 pages, originally priced at 35 cents. Gateway to Elsewhere is available in the digital edition of A Logic Named Joe ($6.99); a standalone digital edition of The Weapon Shops of Isher sells for $3.99.

If you're interested in the Ace Double version copies in very good condition start at about $6. Amazon lists used copies starting at about $5, and eBay has multiple copies currently up for bid starting at $5.

The last Ace Doubles we examined were:

Gateway to Elsewhere / The Weapon Shops of Isher by Murray Leinster and A. E. van Vogt
The Cosmic Puppets / Sargasso of Space by Philip K. Dick and Andre Norton
The Beast Master / Star Hunter by Andre Norton
Big Planet by Jack Vance
City Under the Sea by Kenneth Bulmer
The Forgotten Planet (Planets of Adventure) by Murray Leinster
Six Worlds Yonder / The Space Willies by Eric Frank Russell
Sentinels of Space / The Ultimate Invader by Eric Frank Russell and Donald Wollheim
Ring Around the Sun/ Cosmic Manhunt by Clifford D. Simak and L. Sprague de Camp
The Trouble With Tycho/ Bring Back Yesterday by Clifford D. Simak and A. Bertram Chandler
The Last Planet (Star Rangers) by Andre Norton
A Touch of Infinity/ The Man With Nine Lives by Harlan Ellison
Kirkus Looks at Donald A. Wollheim and the Ace Double
Tales of Outer Space/ Adventures in the Far Future edited by Donald A. Wollheim
The Pirates of Zan by Murray Leinster

See all of our recent Vintage Treasures here.


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