Book Review of:
‘MOONRISE: THE GOLDEN
AGE OF LUNAR ADVENTURE’
edited by MIKE ASHLEY
(British Library Science Fiction Classics,
April 2018, ISBN 978-0-7123-5275-8, 352pp)
The Moon is not a balloon, neither is it composed of cheese, as in Wallace & Gromit’s ‘A Grand Day Out’ (1989). And there are no Clangers there. Mercury and Venus have no moons, although Leigh Brackett wrote a beautiful story about Venus, “The Moon That Vanished” (in ‘Thrilling Wonder Stories’, October 1948). Mars has two small moons, probably captured asteroids, which hasn’t hindered their fictional use across the decades, witness the Mike Ashley-edited companion volume ‘Lost Mars: The Golden Age Of The Red Planet’ (April 2018). But Earth’s Moon is so obviously and inescapably THERE that’s it’s probably been the subject of fantasies for as long as there have been fantasists.
William F Temple’s “Lunar Lilliput” from Walter Gilling’s ‘Tales Of Wonder’ (no.2, Spring 1938), despite its occasional silliness, features Larn – the last Lunarian of the Gend race, his demise brought about by the arrival of Temple’s gender-mixed Interplanetarian crew into this Moon ‘Alice In Wonderland gone crazy’. While even Arthur C Clarke persists in the idea – no longer acknowledged anywhere, that the Moon once had oceans. Begging the question, when was it last possible to write about, even primitive life-forms on the Moon? Captain WE Johns’ crew of the vertical take-off ‘Spacemaster’ find lunar life in ‘Kings Of Space’ as late as 1954.
All anthologies are grab-bags restricted by availability and pagination, it’s impossible to include everything the editor might wish to collect. This is a wonderful head-spinning compilation. But there’s a wealth more of lunar fiction in the archives of forgotten old pulp magazines. Among my suggestions would be the beautiful strangeness of Jack Williamson’s “The Moon Era” from ‘Wonder Stories’ (February 1932), which uses the ‘Conway Effect’ gravity-reversal space-time machine to reach the ancient living moon where the alien Mother flees from a machine-race called the Eternal Ones. And EC Tubb’s “Window On The Moon”, a power-espionage thriller serialised in three parts in ‘New Worlds’ (April, May and June 1963). Here, there are American, Russian and Chinese bases, all armed Cold War strongholds spying on each other employing assassination and sabotage, while a British base is unique in having huge panoramic windows facing the globe of Earth, but is also developing ABIC, an insane organic computer. There’s a character called Seldon – a conscious echo back to Isaac Asimov, a spaceship name ‘Enterprise’, and the visible image of Earth ‘to remind us of our humanity… in case we should ever be tempted to forget.’
All of which proves that there’s still life, of sorts, on the Moon, long after Neil Armstrong’s small step for all mankind.