Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving, and Friday's Forgotten Books

First let me wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving, and forgive me for not getting around for all my regular blog visits today. I didn’t get to check blogs Wednesday and when I called up my Google Reader list this morning the number of posts was just beyond any chance of catching up. So I used the “Mark all as Read” choice and spent the rest of the day eating turkey and napping.

My post for today/tomorrow is for Forgotten Book Fridays, which is the brainchild of Patti Abbott. My choice for today is The Secret of the Martian Moons by Donald A. Wollheim. It was publishd by Holt, Rinehart, and Winston in 1955, and was part of a “juvenile” line, what today would be considered young adult. It’s an example of an SF subgenre that I’d call “Space Opera,” where the emphasis is on adventure.

“Martian Moons” was published before I was born, and I’m not quite sure at what age I read it. Probably I was no more than 12 or 13, and I found the book in the small Charleston, Arkansas library. At that time I wanted to be an astronaut myself and was especially enamored of Mars. This story didn’t let me down with its mixture of adventure and mystery.

The story begins with Nelson Parr, returning to Mars at age 16 after four years on earth. Nelson had been born on Mars, where his parents were scientists investigating the civilization left behind by an original Martian race. Unfortunately, the scientists had not had much luck in cracking the mystery of the aliens and Earth politicians were about to shut down the project because of costs.

But when everyone else leaves Mars to return to earth, Nelson, his father, and a few others stay behind on a “secret mission.” I won’t tell you what this mission is; it’s part of the fun of the book. But I will say that it involves a secret trip to Phobos, and later Deimos, which mean “fear” and “panic” by the way. And along the way there is one exciting revelation after another about the mystery of Mars’ original civilization.

This was all pretty heady stuff to the boy I was then, and in preparation for this post I reread the book and found it just as much fun, although not quite as surprising, as I had in those long gone days of youth. I even realized that elements from this book have worked their way unconsciously into concepts that I’ve developed for my own writing, including for the universe in which the Talera stories are set.

The Secret of the Martian Moons was a book that I remembered for years and years until, in my forties, I sought it out and bought my own copy. I remember the smile on my face when the package arrived and I took the book out and ran my fingers over the cover. And sitting here now writing this, I’m still smiling.



JR's Thumbprints said...

There are more ways than one to get that feeling back, that sense of nostalgia, and your struck a chord when your mission had been completed - the arrival of Nelson Parr and his timeless adventure. Hope your Thanksgiving was a good one.

LoveRundle said...

I think I'll go look and see if I can find a copy. Just reading your post, I'm suddenly wondering what the secret is.

Steve Malley said...

How cool!

Y'know one I miss? Octagon House, by Andre Norton. Must find it...

David Cranmer said...

I'm glad you had a great Thanksgiving. I'm still recovering myself and probably will be for days. As for the FFB, I enjoy these old adventure series. I've never read The Secret of the Martian Moons but it seems similar to the Dig Allen and Tom Swift books I still enjoy. That smile you mention is contagious. I will remember this Donald A. Wollheim book.

Lana Gramlich said...

Very cool, baby. Thank you for lunch, again. Looking forward to turkey Saturday. :)

eric1313 said...

My first introduction to poetry happened to be in poetic sections written into the Dragonlance Saga, by a fictitious author/historian/bard named "Quevalin Soth".

It wasn't rhyme (most of the time!), and it really lacked a solid rhythm, but it still added so much color to the stories themselves.

On another note--my first "i wanna be this when I grow up" love was to be an astronaut, too. But I was always told I could not be one because I wear glasses, and the military would weed me out because of poor vision.

Always thwarted by reason! Let a kid have his dream.

I still have amateur astronomy, at least. And I'll always have writing as well. My version of space would probably be a lot more comfortable, anyway.

Charles Gramlich said...

JR, we're having our major thanksgiving on Saturday actually, when my son and his girlfriend come out, but we had a restful day today.

Christina, I still enjoyed even though I'm all grown up now. Mostly!

Steve Malley, I don't have that Andre Norton either. I'll have to try and find it too. I was a big Norton fan for years.

David Cranmer, I loved those old adventures. I would have loved more Tom Swift but our library didn't have a lot of them in those days.

Lana, and me too.

Eric1313, yeah, there's time enough later to crush a person's dreams. Children should be encouraged to dream.

the walking man said...

So many books in the past that have been forgotten, it is good to reconnect occasionally.

Greg said...

sounds like a great book! those childhood books always seem to be the best ones.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Great choice, Charles and the link works perfectly. Thanks again and do more,please.

Unknown said...

Man, I loved those Winston SF books.

Randy Johnson said...

I remember this one well. Your post takes me back to that long ago youth and makes me want to read it again. i think I also read it from the library, so that makes it probably forty years since I last perused this one.
It's definitely on my search of the used book sites.

BernardL said...

I remember an eerie aspect of an Edgar Rice Burroughs’ book I still have called The Chessmen of Mars, where a supposedly advanced intellect race called the Kaldanes (all head, creepy legs, and tentacles) breed headless bodies called Rykors, allowing the Kaldanes to hop from body to body as they wear it out. I doubt Burroughs ever believed we’d have people in our society working to attain disposable bodies. It still gives me a thrill to look over books I read four decades ago, and how they have colored my thoughts and writings since. Good post, Charles. :)

Sidney said...

THat makes me think of some of the .pdf ebooks I hav e on my hard drive that I need to get around to. They were free on for a while and can still be rad there for free. Druid's World, Lords of Atlantist, others. They look like fun.

Charles Gramlich said...

Mark, yes, I have so many books that I remember well and that bring me a smile.

Greg Schwartz, I'm so glad I'm a reader.

Pattinase, thanks. I appreciate that. I do plan to do more.

Bill Crider, I wish our library would have had that whole line but they only had selected ones. I enjoyed them, though. Thanks for dropping by.

Randy, I saw one copy for something like 350 bucks, but I think most are much cheaper. I can't remember how much I paid for mine back five or six years ago.

Bernardl, chessmen of Mars is a favorite of mine too. I was always a sucker for chess like games in fantasy. the Mars version was Jetan, I believe, and I even made a Jetan board from the directions at the end of the book.

Sidney, Lords of ATlantis is a pretty good one. I've read it and have a copy.

Barrie said... early YA. Thank you! And we knew you were napping....because of what you revealed in you meme post :)

Miladysa said...

What a lovely post! Books are truly powerful.

Hope you two had a wonderful Thanksgiving yesterday :D

ivan said...

That old gold still shines, doesn't it.
The Secret of the Martian Moons sounds fascinting.

There were so many science fiction nuggets out of the past I wish I could still retrieve.
One was a rewrite of Dante's Inferno with the guide out of Hell no other than Benito Mussolini.
Could he he ever get that train out to work on time to get him and the hell-tourist out?
But I've fogotten the title and the author. Dante in SF? The mind boggled then, as it boggles now.

Then, of course there was the incomparable Star Child by Oscar Wilde, which I only now have found again.
Yeah. Old gold.
Not always going up in smoke.

Have a happy Turkey Weekend.

laughingwolf said...

wow... not read wollheim in years, always enjoyed his tales

ivan said...


I don't know how good science fiction writer I am. One is damned lazy.
I could be Ivan Sloth.

Cloudia said...

Ah, yes, those remembered books that made us who we are. Kon Tiki! "My Father's Dragon" Yertle the turtle. I wanted to write like H.G. Wells as a kid - and DID! Yikes! I was so much older then - I'm younger than that now. So am off to watch "My Friend Totoro" an anime (I'm not really a fan of the genre after astro boy & kimba the lion) that is kin to great childhood literature. I want to go out into the mysterious night and watch for the cat-bus! aloha Charles. Thanks for stirring up the dreamy child inside the somewhat shop-warn adult. aloha-

Charles Gramlich said...

Barrie, I don't see how a young lad, and maybe most young girls too, wouldn't thrill to this one.

Miladysa, we're actually having our big celebration tomorrow when my son comes up, but we had plenty to eat yesterday too.

Ivan, Jack London wrote some great SF stories too. Some really good stuff.

Laughingwolf, he was a mainstay of my early days.

Cloudia, Kon Tiki was a thriller. I read it in my teens and wanted to live it. And later there was La Balsa.

ivan said...


Yes. Jack London.

Going up the staicase,cane in hand, with two young hookers and telling reporters to eff off.

Hey, that's my idea of fantasy.

Heh. Cane 'em.

Donnetta said...

I can't believe this is one I missed as a kid. I lived for scifi back in those days. Now, will have to look for it. Right up my alley. Thanks for bringing it to our attention, Charles. D

J. L. Krueger said...

Happy Thanksgiving Charles!

Hey I did the stuff myself and nap thing too. Since the afternoon football games didn't come on until after 10PM here, I didn't miss anything.

Tom Evans said...

Those old stories are very interesting. I think they can be very easily overlooked in the modern era as representative of a dead language of fiction - tacky SF. But some of those authors, had they only chosen to base their stories in reality, may well have had some enduring success...

moonrat said...

happy thanksgiving!!!

Charles Gramlich said...

Ivan, Jack London was a two fisted writer and life liver.

Donnetta Lee, there are lots I missed as well, and sometimes I still try and grab up one to catch up.

J.L., I catch up on a lot of games with Sports center these days.

Tom Evans, I don't know if I could agree. In my experience, realism is much easier to write than genre fiction, although the constraints on literary fiction are very stiff and make it difficult to sell. Certainly some genre fiction is pretty lame on character development but the demands on the imagination are far greater. I suppose each has it's strengths. My usual response to the genre versus literary/realism debate is that "I live life. Why do I need to be told a story about it? I want to read things that I haven't experienced or lived through."

Moonrat, and back at you!

Rachel V. Olivier said...

That sounds like a good story.

Rick said...

Charles, I've actually read that book and loved it. Then again, I love both Edgar Rice Burroughs (John Carter of Mars et al) and Kenneth Robeson (Doc Savage) too.

Scott said...


I hope you and Lana had a great Thanksgiving!

Charles Gramlich said...

Rachel, it sure was.

Rick, we have all those characters in common.

Scott, we did. I hope the same for you and Kim.

writtenwyrdd said...

I've gathered to me books I read as a child, and most of the time I find my tastes have changed or I have become a more discerning reader. Personally, I think I've just become more cynical and critical. But when I found I couldn't reread the beloved LTR series, I knew I'd lost something important.

Lately, I'm trying to reread Zelazny's Amber chronicles, and I'm bored with those as well. And I purchased the Northwest Smith stories, and I keep thinking as I read, 'these are awfully dated'.

Yep. Lost that childlike wonder. I thus decided to go on a reading hiatus and check that tendency. Besides, as I'm going to be spending most of the winter doing new house projects, I'll be too busy anyhow.

Miles McClagan said...

In my favourite book from my childhood, I can still remember reading the twist at the end and being awestruck in Penguin library in the middle of the afternoon...funny how you can remember that!

Chris Eldin said...

This is an awesome testament to a story! I might get this for my kids, who also enjoy space and adventure.

Middle Ditch said...

My first book was Kazan the wolfhound and I cried my way through it. I think I was nine.

This post makes me want to re-read it if I can find it because I have completely forgotten who it was written by.

Chris Benjamin said...

i have similar memories of 'the martian way' by asimov. i don't think i got all the political allegory when i was a kid but it was a book that kind of haunted me for a while, that i always remembered - not every plot detail but the feel of it. i should read it again now.

j said...

I still love books for young people. I have enough 'issues' in real life and those books seem to offer simpler themes.

Charles Gramlich said...

Writtenwyrd, it depends for me. I haven't been able to get into most of the Andre Norton as an adult that I adored so much as a kid, but some books, like the Northwest Smith stuff, still resonates with me. I'm not sure why some lasts and some doesn't.

Miles, such memories ring for me too. Books really have strongly affected my life.

ChrisEldin, I wonder if it will seem too unsophisticated to them, but it's worth a try. I know it was so much fun for me.

Middle ditch, I loved animal stories as a kid too, like the Black Stallion books. I haven't read that one though, although I bet I would have enjoyed it.

Benjibopper, I found when I reread "Martian Moons" I didn't remember every element either, but I could still remember that "feel," that sense of wonder.

Jennifer, especially when I'm stressed out I like to read some of those old books

Vesper said...

What a cool book! I'll try to find it. I LOVE books like this...
I have some preferences of my own, like "The Land that Time Forgot" by Edgar Rice Burroughs or "The Adventures of Arthur Gordon Pym" by Edgar Allan Poe. I reread them every now and then, and the feeling is not lost...

Merisi said...

How lucky you were able to purchase a copy so long after reading it!

I loved reading Jules Verne's books as a child, especially "20.000 Miles Under the Sea", and then James Fenimore Cooper, his "Leatherstocking Tales". Both authors wrote about worlds so far removed for a little girl growing up in deep country, they could have been SF both, I wouldn't have cared, they were alive in my imagination. I reread the "Last Mohican" not too long ago, and was surprised how well I still remembered the tale.

Charles Gramlich said...

Vesper, those are both excellent ones. I espcially love ERB's Time forgot series.

Merisi, I didn't read the leatherstocking tales until later but I certainly enjoyed HG. Wells. And Jules Verne.

Travis Cody said...

I can't think of many books from my childhood or youth that left that kind of indelible mark on me. I recall how exciting I found The Hobbit. I sought out Lord of the Rings because of that enjoyment.

Odd, that I recall loving to read but not much of what I read.