Saturday 29 October 2011

JUVENILE SF: 'Kemlo & The Zones Of Space'


He is a boy born in, and perfectly adapted to space.
He lives in Satellite Belt-K, a huge wheel-shaped
‘Spaceworld’ Space Station. He and his pals have a
series of adventures across fifteen novels.
But were they any good…?
Andrew Darlington re-reads them all…


I admit it – even as a kid, I found the stories of space-brat Kemlo slightly indigestible. A review of ‘Kemlo And The End Of Time’ in ‘Authentic no.84’ (September 1957) explains that because he was space-born our hero and his companion Krillie don’t ‘need any sort of helmet or protective device, and all of space is his playground’. Adding ‘if you like logical science in your stories you won’t like Kemlo!’ And yes, even then, when I was part of what was presumably the target demographic for the books, I found the premise they were based around one step too implausible to seriously accept. I was happy to read about Space Kingley bathing in the water-oceans of Neptune. Space Ace using an anti-gravity belt to cross a volcanic lake of molten vibrillium on Jupiter. Jet-Ace Logan caught up in a war between the rival species inhabiting the climatic extremes of Mercury’s opposing hemispheres. Dan Dare conspiring against the Empire of the Nine Moons on Mimas ‘under the blazing heat of Saturn’s rings’. All that, yes, but not Kemlo, the boy who can breathe in space.

The ‘Kemlo’ books were written by Reginald Alec Martin, under the alias ‘E.C. Elliot’. Some few years earlier I had enjoyed the same writer’s Pocomoto western yarns – written simultaneously under the further pseudonym ‘Reg Dixon’. Born in 1900, Reginald Martin was nothing if not prolific. He produced no less than twenty-three Pocomoto adventures between 1953 and 1963, during the years he was also churning out the Kemlo stories. Kemlo debuted in 1954 with ‘Kemlo And The Crazy Planet’ (1954), going on to add ‘Kemlo And The Zones Of Silence’ (1954) and on. Although each novel is stand-alone, and self-contained, the intention is obviously for the reader to compile a full set. And ‘Kemlo And The Space Lanes’ (1955) follows on from his earlier encounter with the ‘Martian Ghosts’ of the previous novel. Kemlo and Earth-born Calvin Lester are charting space lanes for the construction of a new Satellite Belt when their survey is disrupted by the appearance of a fiery zigzag spectrum of light. Although hazardous, no-one believes in the existence of the spectral patterns, and he’s forced to conceal his fears about the danger they represent. There are detailed descriptions of the construction of the new belt, built in the wheel-shape that orbital space-stations were frequently conjectured at the time. Until a patrol ship is crushed ‘like a plastic drinking cup’. Captain Heralgo is now persuaded of the ‘somewhat fantastic danger’ of this ‘new weapon for a new age’. Eventually, the manoeuvres of a space armada, acting on Kemlo’s plan, succeed in first disabling the hostile spectrums in a ‘Battle of the Rays’, then tracking them to their source, an ‘electronic ray impulse generator’ in space, but controlled by the Eastern International powerblock on Earth. So, no extraterrestrial intervention. No nasty aliens with evil intent. Not even a proper confrontation with the villains responsible. Just a gentle reminder of political tensions and espionage on the home planet that Kemlo has never visited.

The books were published by Thomas Nelson, first with lavish colour plates and spot art by RJ Jobson, then with illustrations by sometime ‘Dan Dare’ and ‘Jet Morgan’ artist Bruce A Cornwell, up until ‘Kemlo And The Zombie Men’ in 1958. Later titles – including ‘Kemlo And The Space Invaders’ (1961), featured art by George Craig, although by then the lavish frontispiece had been budgeted away in favour of black-and-white line drawings.


Kemlo’s parents, and his grandparents who had participated in the construction of the orbital habitats, were ordinary Earth-born ‘air-breathers’ who colonised the huge ‘world in the sky’ high above the planet. But the first-generation space-born neatly reverse the situation. Space is their realm, their natural element. Their metabolism is perfectly adapted to survive within it. They need life-support, not in space, but within atmospheres. Even within their ‘Spaceworld’ home they must live in ‘open’ sections segregated from the Earth-born, and from their parents, because too much oxygen will kill them. Arthur C Clarke was called to account for the ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ movie-sequence in which astronaut Bowman leaps from the pod to the airlock, briefly exposed to raw space – a stunt replicated in the later film ‘Sunshine’ (2007). Clarke offered scientific justification for such a brief exposure. Two minutes maximum, if properly prepared. Much earlier Stanley Weinbaum includes a similar sequence in his story “The Red Peri” (1935), and Lester Del Rey phrased it as “Let ‘Em Breathe Space” in his ‘Space Science Fiction’ story of 1953. But for Kemlo ‘there’s a special ‘something’ in space that lets us live’ he explains. Depressurisation? they’re protected by a sheen of ‘holding rays’. And breathing? in space he’s capable of living by breathing ‘plasmorgia’. It’s possible to conjecture plasmorgia as some kind of highly tenuous plasma micro-particles. After all, even space is not a total vacuum. But that’s a kind of special pleading. The ability to speed comfortably through the vacuum of space unprotected is the attribute of comic-book Super-heroes, not serious SF. Even as a kid I was aware of the difference, Superheroes are not expected to conform to science. SF should at least stay within touching distance of it. Kemlo’s abilities are certainly a fictional device, nothing more. Elliott cheerfully admits as much when he has Kemlo explain how technical detail ‘takes such an awful lot of explaining and people get bored with it, but you must explain some of these things if you can’. Does it matter? this is, after all, literature intended to entertain children. But if it’s a literary device, a gimmick for the edification of juvenile readers, why should they be subjected to lower standards than adults? Why should it be OK to disregard the laws of physics for children, but not their parents? And even suspending disbelief for that one anomaly, there’s more, arguably worse to come.

With its three-mile circumference and a 15,000-mph orbital speed, Satellite Belt-K is one of a number of alphabetised Space Stations – there’s also S, M, T & O, with the new one under construction in prefabricated sections on Earth. But growing up in space also means that Kemlo can never visit his parent’s home-world. That is, until the later intervention of ‘compressed plasmorgia’ and the assistance of ‘gravity rays’. The orbital space habitat has long been a fixture in SF, clear through to movies such as ‘Silent Running’ (1972). While EC Tubb deals with the readjustment problems of colonists born on Mars having to adapt to the greater gravity of Earth upon their return. Critics similarly demolished Kemlo And The Gravity Rays with ‘this one deals with the fact that Earth-born men had been able to travel to space, but till now space-born men had not been able to travel to Earth. As usual, the science is not all it could be, but this lack is more than made up by the action and fast pace’ (‘Authentic no.69’ May 1956). The main characters, Kemlo’s companions on his adventures, are also alphasort coded after the call-sign of their Belt. There is tall gangling pubertal ‘Krow’ Kerowski – much humour derived from the fact that his voice is breaking. There’s Kartin, and curly-haired Krillie, the youngest of them. While Kemlo has a bossy sister called Krinsetta. Quite possibly, when they study the classical music of Earth the Kinks will feature prominently on the syllabus! There are no surnames. For this fiction is a kid’s continuum, a ‘Boy’s World’ with elements common to other literature aimed at juveniles. Similar to the all-male boarding school setting with all its behavioural peer pressure, rivalry and bonding. When he's excited Kemlo exclaims ‘jumping meteorites’ or even ‘great sizzling meteors’, and when angered he threatens to ‘poke you in the snoot’. Then they pause at regular intervals to scoff grub and gulp fruit-juice. Kemlo occasionally wonders how his group compare to their Earth-born counterparts, ‘we don’t know what it’s like to have streets and buildings surrounding us like you have on Earth’ he points out. The space-born are ‘handsome healthy youngsters with the same love of fun’ but with noticeably wider shoulders, deeper chests, and a grace of movement owing to lack of gravity. He wonders if the space-born are more serious than Earth children. They play, but their hazardous environment means they must study hard too.

For Kemlo, there are compensations, ‘life on the Satellite Belt was never dull’. Across the spread of novels, as Captain of the Space Scouts Kemlo and his pals are ‘pretty wizzo’ at travelling on colourful space-scooters powered by self-generating pellets of ‘urania’. His space-scooter goes ‘KREE-OWW!’ and then ‘SHROO-UUSH!’ as it hurtles through the blue void. They cross the vast distances in space that are plotted in Leenas, protected by their canopy of holding rays through a ‘skyful of fantastic phenomena’. They visit the moon – ‘so grim and dead’, they get caught up in magnetic storms on Martian moonlet Diemos, and, when Krillie and Kemlo lose their way, they find themselves on the ‘Crazy Planet’ too. Once there they help the friendly Laughing People fight off an attack by ferocious Wood Beasts, and encounter less-friendly marooned Earthmen. It’s not exactly clear where the Crazy Planet is located within the solar system. In ‘Kemlo And The Sky Horse’ Dane and Lesa – Krilllie’s cousins arrive, and the stories they’re reading determine Kemlo to construct ‘a new-world Pegasus, a horse that can gallop in space’, despite the hazards of the chapter-heading ‘Meteor Menace’. There’s more of a sense of sinister mystery in ‘Kemlo And The Zones Of Silence’ in which Krinsetta is kidnapped by three boys from Belt-S and taken to ‘Dead World’. Again, it’s not exactly clear where the Dead World lies, but it is ringed by the zones of silence, a ‘small dark green necklace’ that ‘hung ominously in the blue void’. The prank goes wrong when the rescuers meet Bat-Men there, and an untypical macabre edge when, while exploring ‘The Mangling Caves’ ‘they knew they had discovered something which was almost beyond their power to understand’, a grotto containing old space-suits, ‘and each space-suit contained a human skeleton and in every case the top of the skull was neatly severed’. They encounter a survivor ‘Sid’, through whom they learn more about these worlds controlled by ‘Thought Transference’.

Then, in another mangling of factoids, ‘Kemlo And The Star Men’ begins as a routine test exercise in which the Space Scouts are sent to investigate a phenomenon described as a ‘wandering minor galaxy’! This is ‘a general term used to describe anything from a gas-cloud to semi-solid spheres or a disc-shaped constellation’. And this wandering galaxy is only ‘several hundred-thousand miles from Satellite Belt-K’ – hence well within the solar system, less distant than Mars! Once near they become snared by its gravitation and dragged into the Star World, a place of ‘weird voices, solid land inside a cloud of stardust, and the usual, extravagant adventures of the boys who live on the Satellite Belt-K’ (‘Authentic no.66’ in February 1956). Krillie provides a diary-commentary as they set down on an organic surface within the pearly glow, beneath a bridge of coloured light. He muses that they might have landed on a star – ‘some stars are really minor planets, and that means they are a substance’. Their radiotronic waves begin picking up alien voices and a spinning flame-spouting circular craft appears, crewed by hostile egg-shaped robotic Humpties. Eventually, trapped inside the alien ship, Kemlo and Kerowski succeed in destroying it. The Space Scouts are finally rescued by the Belt’s special Star Men squad, who reveal that the Humpties craft originated on Mars, and was also investigating the new phenomenon. ‘Our job is to investigate all the minor galaxies which appear and report whether they are likely to become, or have a chance of becoming, a planet’ he tells the boys, ‘it is reasonable to assume that every major planet in the universe began as a minor galaxy millions of years ago.’ Reasonable? Actually, it’s gobbledygook! Such sloppy writing really is inexcusable.

Yet the fifteen ‘Kemlo’ books were so successful that Elliot launched a parallel series featuring ‘Tas’, beginning with ‘Tas And The Postal Rocket’ which lifts off from the Woomera Complex in 1955. Tas was also visualised by Bruce Cornwell. By the time Reginald Alec Martin died of cancer in Sussex, in 1971, his work was enjoying renewed popularity through a reissue series of Merlin paperbacks, even though the cover misspelled his pseudonym ‘Eliot’. Re-reading them now it’s reassuring to find my childhood impressions confirmed. Yes, the Kemlo books are rather poor examples of juvenile fiction. Yet the first SF book Iain Banks confesses to reading is ‘Kemlo And The Zones Of Silence’. Ken Macleod, author of the ‘Engines of Light’ Space Opera series, also admits to reading Kemlo books at the age of eight or nine, something he now considers ‘perhaps best forgotten’. Paul Barnes (John Grant) even claims that discovering Kemlo transformed his life, and that later ‘I discovered that half the writers active in UK SF had gone through the same experience. EC Eliott moulded a generation’. Horror writer Simon Clark read Kemlo. Fellow Horror Writer Peter Crowther ups the ante by claiming he read Kemlo – as well as Patrick Moore’s ‘Mars’ books and Angus MacVicar’s ‘Lost Planet’ series at age six or seven.


I recall much preferring ‘The Future Took Us’, a time-slip novel written by David Severn. Although first published in hardback by Bodley Head in 1957 illustrated by Jillian Richards, I bought the three-shilling 1962 Puffin paperback edition at a school book-fair. Lured by William Stubbs’ atmospheric cover-art showing two boys cascading through the rippling vortex of time. Writer David Storr Unwin – who lurked behind the ‘David Severn’ alias, died as recently as 11 February 2010, at the credible age of ninety-two. Snatched into a dystopian post-apocalypse 3000AD his schoolboy heroes only recognise they’re on future-Earth by the continuity of a recognisable pylon. If the denouement was less impressive, in which, through some kind of H Rider Haggard reincarnation twist the religious dictator resembles their old headmaster, and uses a maths primer as his holy book, the book still left a positive impression. As did Hugh Walters’ ‘The Domes Of Pico’ (1958) in which hostile Moon-based aliens with evil intent project neutron streams that disrupt Earth’s atomic installations. ‘Of course, Arthur C. Clarke has done it all before, and so much better’ snipes critic Leslie Flood, while conceding that the novel is ‘far superior to the usual run of juvenile SF’. A verdict echoed by Kenneth F. Slater writing in ‘Nebula no.33’ (August 1958), who adds ‘primarily a juvenile, it should not be overlooked by adult readers’. In fact, ‘Pico’ was the sequel to ‘Blast Off At Woomera’ (1957), in which seventeen-year-old Chris Godfrey, due to his short stature, was first launched into orbit to document the ‘strange unnatural shapes squatting balefully in the midst of the wild lunar scene’. Writer Walter Llewelyn Hughes, who simply reversed his name into the pseudonym ‘Hugh Walters’, ran his own furniture store in the west-Midlands, but was also a member of the British Astronomical Association and the grandly named British Interplanetary Society. The future he portrays is a curious mix of steam trains – presumably coal-fired, and an increasing reliance on nuclear power due to the depletion of coal-reserves! The Calder Hall reactor, subsequently renamed Sellafield – high-profile then due to its recent opening as the world’s first commercial nuclear station on 17th October 1956, is the first installation to be affected by the lunar domes, and to go critical. To be followed by other reactors around the world. Cold War rivals unite in the face of extraterrestrial threat, and Hughes again uses the Australian spacedrome to reignite the escapades of his hero, who must plant a guide-beacon on the moon for the USSR and USA to target. Hughes’ prose is consistently more serious in its approach than that of Reginald Alec ‘E.C. Elliot’ Martin. In a bleaker more realistic take on technical adventure, both the science and the political balance are well-integrated, without becoming intrusive. Over the course of further sequels Chris finds himself stranded on the moon in a stand-off with Serge, a cosmonaut from Murmansk. In a microcosm of global necessities they are forced to reach an understanding that will enable them both to return home. They become long-term friends, joined by the American Morrison ‘Morrey’ Kane and young Brummie Terry in the newly-formed UNEXA (United Nations Exploration Agency), in journeys to each planet of the solar system. The four travel to Venus in an attempt to discover an antidote to an extraterrestrial grey fungus-mould spreading devastation through the African rainforest, then use an ion-drive ship to reach Mars. At the rate of one book per planet – all the way to Pluto, with bonus adventures in subterranean Earth civilisations, the stories continue into the 1970’s, by which time Chris Godfrey has become UNEXA Deputy Director. The books received generally positive press reactions. ‘Excellent plotting and straightforward style tend to overcome the somewhat naïve simplicity for older readers’ opines no less an authority than Leslie Flood – in ‘New Worlds no.97’. While Theodore Sturgeon, in his ‘New York Times’ review opines that ‘reading a Hugh Walters novel fills this old hand with a poignant nostalgia… no kid who reads this can possibly come out of it without knowing more than what he went in with’ (24th July 1974). Unlike the ‘funniosities’ of reading a Kemlo novel.

There were other novel series, the mere fact of their hardback appearance tending to invest often highly tacky literary product with an illusory parentally-approved respectability – licensing plot-lines and scientific liberties that their more trashy picture-strip counterparts wouldn’t be allowed to get away with. Sometimes Dan Dare’s exploits seem almost level-headed by comparison. So – just how scientifically plausible are those novels? The prolific Patrick Moore – already wild-eyed and in ill-fitting suit, wrote a book of critical essays called ‘Science And Fiction’, proclaimed by ‘Nebula no.20’ (March 1957) as ‘the most important book of recent months’. In it he takes space fiction and slips it like a microscope-slide under a scrupulously analytical eye, concluding that the only worthwhile examples of the category are ‘those which are accurate as they can be made in the light of our present knowledge’, allowing only, and grudgingly that ‘a good deal of license must necessarily be allowed’. Moore contributed a regular ‘Sky At Night’ column to ‘The Children’s Newspaper’ which I read week-by-week, and produced his own text-book ‘Guide To Mars’ (Muller at 10s 6d) which I borrowed from the local library. He professed to consider his own fiction to be both educational and agitational-propaganda for astronomy and space exploration. Promoted as an astronomer and hence a ‘credible’ voice, he churned out a dozen SF novels aimed at young readers throughout the fifties. His first novel, ‘Master Of The Moon’, arrived in 1952. While ‘Mission To Mars’ – blurbed ‘THE BOOK FOR BOYS WITH AN EARNEST INTEREST IN SPACE TRAVEL’ (1956), became the first of his ‘Mars’ quintet. When I met Patrick during his 2000 visit to Bradford I passed a carefully-preserved first-edition of the novel, with its childish cover-art, across the table for him to sign. ‘Oh goodness me’ he exclaimed, examining it critically as though a strange alien artefact from before the dawn of time. But there, within those hardback covers, his young heroes were launched from Woomera rocket range, to discover life on the red planet, a creature ‘in the nature of a huge bat, with a body as long as a man’s, and flapping membranous wings that beat against the tenuous air as the creature hovered’. In the sequel, ‘The Domes Of Mars’ (1956), Patrick’s protagonist survives helmetless in the hostile Martian terrain by plunging his head into oxygenating plants. Then, in ‘Peril On Mars’ (1957), his human colonists discover Martian dragonflies, and groves of gas-plants which exhale breathable oxygen. Elsewhere within his fictional solar system, in his 1956 novel ‘World Of Mists’ Gregory Quest provides the heroics while ‘Venus provides the locale of action, with its choking atmosphere and thick fogs’. So, his fantasies, although less extravagant than some, have proved to be just as factually inaccurate. And bearing in mind Patrick’s assertion about SF being useful largely as agitational-propoganda for Astronomy and Astronautics, I asked him, did he believe that such prose presented an accurate portrayal of Mars as it was understood at the time? ‘Good heavens no’ he burbled in absurd amusement, ‘it was just fun.’


Even the mighty Isaac Asimov made a foray into the juvenile fiction zone, beginning with ‘David Starr, Space Ranger’ in 1952, although he felt it necessary to assume the alias ‘Paul French’ to do so. Venus was conventionally portrayed in fifties fiction as a young planet, with primitive swamp and rain-forest jungles beneath its obscuring clouds, which were mistakenly assumed to be composed of water vapour. ‘Paul French’, contributes ‘Lucky Starr And The Oceans Of Venus’ in 1954, equally light-years wrong in his vision of the planet, as even its title indicates. His series, running to six ‘David Starr’ titles, was later republished under Asimov’s own name, on which occasion he seized the opportunity of inserting an escape clause introduction explaining that, although the science in the novels is now known to be ‘ludicrously obsolete’, ‘Paul French’ was writing within the confines of what was known, and what could be extrapolated in the 1950’s. And at that time the solar system was a very different place. It’s tempting to suggest Captain WE ‘Bill’ Johns’ SF novel series for comparable levels of oddness. The creator of ‘Biggles’ died in 1968, so when his ‘Kings Of Space’ books returned to print through Piccolo paperbacks in 1980, he was denied such retroactive self-defence. His stories suffered critically as a result. Yet he’d have no truck with space-breathing youngsters. In ‘The Man Who Vanished Into Space’ (1963) Rex Clinton is travelling in the Tavona spacecraft when they encounter a body in space. ‘Should he himself step out of the ship unprotected, he reflected with a shiver, he would join the corpse already there, dead within a minute, his lungs deep-frozen and the blood in his veins solid ice. Empty space. On Earth, men spoke of it glibly without realising what a fearful thing it really was’. Even as a young reader myself, I could respect the stark truth of such passages where I could not accept Kemlo. ‘It is easier’ W.E. Johns claims in a kind of pre-emptive self-justification, ‘to write a book on a subject about which nothing is known, for then nothing can be denied’, and with the ‘dark spaces of the universe… we know just enough to put a check on over-indulgence in fanciful imagination. But still, a little may be permitted’. After all, ‘theories of today are scrapped tomorrow as fresh information comes to hand… let them scoff!’

Following this logic, his Professor Brane even encounters strange life-forms on the Moon. But Johns, ‘an author who is recognised as one of the foremost writers in the field’ – according to ‘Authentic no.72’ (August 1956), is far from alone in discovering lunar life. M.E. Patchett – whose initials modestly disguise the identity of Australian grandmother Mary Osborne Elwyn, born in 1897! had ‘Adam Troy’ – an Astroman who travels to the Moon as London is threatened by a giant meteor-strike and Kraken-style radiation-monsters begin rising from the ocean depths. She targets the Moon again in ‘Send For Johnny Danger’ as the crew of the first Luna-bound spaceship find themselves stranded there ‘with little air and less hope…’. Naturally, they survive such inconveniences by finding and investigating strange buildings, meeting stranger creatures, and finally arriving home triumphantly.

Mars had already built an incredibly rich mythology by the time Captain W.E. Johns’ spacefarers got there, and his depiction of dead cities beside ancient canals is far from being the most outlandish. Perhaps – in fictional terms at least, as Professor Brane phrases it, planets are better ‘dangerously alive than drearily dead’, and Johns’ conjures an effective ‘sense of wonder’ – ‘unless I am mistaken we are on the verge of such wonders that no living man ever saw’. One which does not neglect the vast melancholy of dead civilisations, evocative ruins from lost antiquity, the ‘eternal desert’ of planetary extinctions, or the ever-present threat of nuclear conflagration with its potential to end life on Earth. ‘Politicians wonder what has gone wrong with civilisation when the answer is staring them in the face’ Brane exclaims in the second novel, ‘the world is sick with fear. It lost its peace of mind when it became possible for one man to destroy it by pressing a button. This they understand’ – sobering and pretty profound stuff to aim at socially-aware 1950’s adolescents, yet this troubling text offers a gravitas and a feel of relevance that those school-age readers were only beginning to grapple with and properly comprehend. The first tremors of a generational unease that would uniquely overshadow their lives in ways that it had seldom touched their parents. This – if only subliminally, John’s readers understood. This ever-present possibility of military misuse is precisely the reason Brane refuses to reveal his secret cosmo-technology to the world. The only real way to judge the worth of such work is within the context of the bizarre myths and morés of the time, and by comparison with its contemporaries. So where space-brat Kemlo fails this literary litmus – Johns emerges reasonably creditably. So be prepared… I’ll return to the ‘Kings Of Space’ at a later date.

OF THE 1950’s AND 1960’s

BY ‘E.C. ELLIOT’ (pseudonym of Reginald Alec Martin, who died in 1971):
For the Merlin paperback reprints the author name is mis-spelled ‘E.C. Eliot’

(1) ‘KEMLO AND THE CRAZY PLANET’ (Thomas Nelson 1954)
(2) ‘KEMLO AND THE ZONES OF SILENCE’ (Thomas Nelson, 1954/ Merlin paperback – art: RJ Jobson)
(3) ‘KEMLO AND THE SKY HORSE’ (Thomas Nelson, 1954 – art: Bruce A Cornwell)
(4) ‘KEMLO AND THE MARTIAN GHOSTS’ (Thomas Nelson, 1955/ Merlin paperback)
(5) ‘KEMLO AND THE SPACE LANES’ (Thomas Nelson, 1955/ Merlin Books paperback)
(6) ‘KEMLO AND THE CRATERS OF THE MOON’ (Thomas Nelson, 1955)
(7) ‘KEMLO AND THE STAR MEN’ (Thomas Nelson 1955 – 5s/ Merlin Books paperback, April 1968)
(8) ‘KEMLO AND THE GRAVITY RAYS’ (Thomas Nelson, 1956 – 6s)
(9) ‘KEMLO AND THE END OF TIME’ (Thomas Nelson, 1957 – 196pp – 6s)
(10) ‘KEMLO AND THE PURPLE DAWN’ (Thomas Nelson, 1957)
(11) ‘KEMLO AND THE ZOMBIE MEN’ (Thomas Nelson, 1958)
(12) ‘KEMLO AND THE SPACE MEN’ (Thomas Nelson, 1959 – illustrations: George Craig)
(13) ‘KEMLO AND THE SATELLITE BUILDERS’ (Thomas Nelson, 1960 – illustrations: George Craig)
(14) ‘KEMLO AND THE SPACE INVADERS’ (Thomas Nelson, 1961 – b/w illustrations: George Craig)
(15) ‘KEMLO AND THE MASTERS OF SPACE’ (Thomas Nelson, 1963 – b/w illustrations: George Craig)
‘TAS AND THE POSTAL ROCKET’ (Thomas Nelson, 1955, art: Bruce Cornwell/ Panther paperback, 1962)
‘TAS AND THE SPACE MACHINE’ (Thomas Nelson, 1955, art: Bruce Cornwall/ Panther paperback)


‘SPACE CADET’ (1948)
‘RED PLANET’ (1949)
‘STARMAN JONES’ (1953) – to British astronaut Mike Foale, ‘on a motivational level it was science fiction that really fired me up’ and he quotes this book as an influence ‘when I was eleven’

(Willy Ley listed as ‘Technical Adviser):
Pseudonymous novels published as spin-offs from the TV, radio, and comic-book franchise, loosely based on Robert Heinlein’s book ‘SPACE CADET’ (1948)

comic-book editions include:
‘TOM CORBETT, SPACE CADET’ (Dell Publishing) January 1952-September 1954. Adapted from the 1950-1952 TV series with art by Al McWilliams (nos. 378, 400, 421), John Lehti and Frank Thorne
‘TOM CORBETT, SPACE CADET’ (Prize Publications) May 1955-September 1955 numbered Vol.2 no.1-3. Art by Mort Meskin who’s cover for no.2 shows Tom fighting off hordes of dwarf orange aliens emerging from a yellow sphere spaceship
‘TOM CORBETT, SPACE CADET’ (Eternity Comics) January 1990-April 1990. Black-&-white strips


‘SPACE CAPTIVES OF THE GOLDEN MEN’ (Bobbs Merrill Company, 1953) reprinted as ‘KIDNAPPERS OF SPACE’ (Lutterworth Press, 1953)
‘ADAM TROY, ASTROMAN’ (Lutterworth Press, 1954)
‘SEND FOR JOHNNY DANGER’ (Lutterworth Press, 1956 – 6s 6d)
‘THE VENUS PROJECT’ (Brockhampton Press, 1963)

BY ISAAC ASIMOV (originally as by ‘PAUL FRENCH’):


(‘…they are jovial, though stereotyped…’ Peter Nicholls ‘Encyclopedia Of Science Fiction’)

‘EARTH SATELLITE’ (Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1955 – factual history of orbital vehicles)
‘WORLD OF MIST’ (1956)
‘DOMES OF MARS’ (1956)
‘PERIL ON MARS’ (1957)
‘SCIENCE AND FICTION’ (Harrap, 1957 – critical essays, 192pp – 10s 6d)

BY HUGH WALTERS (WALTER LLEWELLYN HUGHES 15th June 1910-13th January 1993):
All have cover-art by Leslie Wood.
‘BLAST-OFF AT WOOMERA’ (Faber & Faber, 1957 – 15s)
‘THE DOMES OF PICO’ (Faber & Faber, 1958, 196pp – 13s 6d)
‘OPERATION COLUMBUS’ aka ‘FIRST ON THE MOON’ (Faber & Faber, 1960 – 16s)
‘MOON BASE ONE’ (Faber & Faber, 1961 – 15s)
‘EXPEDITION VENUS’ (Faber & Faber, 1962 – 15s)
‘DESTINATION MARS’ (Faber & Faber, 1963 – 15s)
‘TERROR BY SATELLITE’ (Faber & Faber, 1964 – 13 6d)
‘MISSION TO MERCURY’ (Faber & Faber, September 1965 – 16s)
‘JOURNEY TO JUPITER’ (Faber & Faber, 1966 – 15s)
‘SPACESHIP TO SATURN’ (Faber & Faber, February 1967)
‘THE MOHOLE MENACE’ (Faber & Faber, 1968)
‘NEARLY NEPTUNE’ aka ‘NEPTUNE ONE IS MISSING” (Faber & Faber, October 1969)
‘FIRST CONTACT?’ (Faber & Faber, November 1971)
‘PASSAGE TO PLUTO’ (Faber & Faber, February 1973)

… plus many more novels

This feature originally published (in edited form) in the very wonderful:
‘JEFF HAWKE’S COSMOS Vol.6 No.2’ (UK – October 2010)


Unknown said...

I've always had a soft spot for Kemlo.

I first encountered him in "Crazy Planet" when I was about eight or nine, and stuck with the series right to the end, at about fifteen. Even at the start, I was never quite convinced by his ability to breathe space (I'd love to be in a maternity ward on Satellite Belt K)but I forgave that for the sake of the space scooter. That dinky little vehicle, small enough to go in the garage whn not being used, was precisely my idea of how space travel ought to be.

In retrospect, I also like the way Kemlo was allowed to grow up over the course of the series.In Crazy Planet, he comes over as perhaps 13 or 14, with Krillie as a smaller playmate. By the finish, he seems more like an eighteen year old, and his re relationship with Krillie more like thta of a head prefect to a junior schoolboy. In those days, a lot of young heroes just seemed to stay the same age.

All the same it must have been a really eventful four years.

enterprise said...

For me, Kemlo was the door to a long-term enjoyment of science fiction: Robert Heinlen, Isaac Asimov, EE 'Doc' Smith, Arthur C Clarke and any number of the SF short story compilation paperbacks that were once so popular. I looked forward to the regular walk to our local library, which led to a lifelong love of books in general. This was in the late 50s/early 60s, so there were about a dozen Kemlo books to read and I think I got through them all and started again. The shortcomings in plausibility didn't bother me, as a child growing up in the Sputnik, Gagarin and John Glenn era. I was delighted to see this blog, as I have never met anyone else who had even heard of the Kemlo books, and had begun to think it was all false-memory syndrome!

Unknown said...

I was a kid in the fifties enthralled by Kemlo books and as the writer above began for me s lifelong love of sci fi . Now inmy sixties still love the stuff

Manerg said...

Kemlo (and the Purple Dawn) was probably the first science fiction I ever read. An it was responsible then and there for igniting my sense of wonder. OK the science is a little flakey, but then so is Star Trek. The timescales seem short, but in those days everyone thought we would be on Mars in a decade! The language is dated - if Eliott had written that the space kids had been genetically engineered to breath space, and holding rays were provided by miniature wormholes, it would seem just fine in the 21st century. And actually, the political edge seems to have lasted very welll. In some ways these are precursors to Schismatrix and the Quiet War.
So all in all, its great to see these becoming available again. I'm going to track down all the ones they didn't seem to have in our local library.

Anonymous said...

The Kemlo stuff is the kind of stories I would have loved when I was a kid. I would probably not buy the idea of breathing in space, but would have been willing to ignore it for the sake of the story.

Also, there are the books by Paul Capon (1912 – 1969)

Michael Stone said...

Keep in mind that when Kemlo first appeared, we were only just beginning to worry much about scientific accuracy. When I first encountered him c1956, I was also going to a kids cinema matinee where Buck Rogers was having all sorts of adventures on a Saturn with a solid surface and a breathable atmosphere. He didn't seem to notice the cold either. And Doctor Grood and his cosmojets were hardly better. Standards were different then.