In the early 1960s, I was obsessed with Science Fiction. A cousin gave me a pile of US Pulp magazines about then. These followed my obsession rather than causing it. Sadly, they have long vanished, probably a victim of my mother’s habit of throwing out anything she didn’t see the point of. She knew I liked my books, but probably saw these tatty magazines and their lurid covers as just rubbish.
One of the ways I got my fix was through membership of the Science Fiction Book Club. These cost 5 or 6 shillings each at the time – that is 25-30p in today’s money – for a hardback reprint of a fairly recent novel. This was quite a lot for a 15-year-old boy then. To be honest, I can’t remember if I paid for them or my parents. Probably them, they were pretty good, despite money being tight, at providing things they saw as being educational. We used to get The Sunday Times and the Observer every week, whereas my dad actually read the Daily Mirror. I suspect that my mum’s sister had quite an influence too. My aunt and uncle had no children of their own and were strongly supportive of me in getting an education.
I have quite a few of these, still on my bookshelves, most still in the original dust-jacket. The design was pretty minimal, a circular graphic based on a Wilson Cloud Chamber photograph. I’m still taken back to that time when I see the covers.
A Fall of Moondust, by Arthur C Clarke is one I still have. It was originally published in 1961, the Science Fiction Book Club version in 1963. It is a disaster thriller really, only one set on the Moon, with a specific set of problems created by the setting. One of the things that struck me at the time and still does on repeat readings is the way the disaster doesn’t come from some major endeavour, but a routine tourist outing. It is that which gives the book its strength, I think.