Coming Attractions

By 1957 Gnome Press was essentially alone among the many small f&sf publishing houses founded in the aftermath of WWII. Only Arkham House also survived, although its fantasy orientation made it hardly a competitor, and the obscure Grandon Company would publish a fantasy in 1958 before quietly slipping away. Gnome was first among equals because of Greenberg’s ability to keep slightly ahead of his market and give readers exactly the blend of hot new stuff and otherwise unavailable old favorites that hit every button.

How else to explain Greenberg’s seventh and last anthology, a collection of nonfiction essays rigorously extrapolating the social dynamics of space and time travel a full six months before the launch of Sputnik?

True, Greenberg had already put out a collection of essays about space travel, The Complete Book of Outer Space, in 1953 but that was a reprint he had nothing to do with. He turned his gaze at his favorite source, the pile of ancient Astounding magazines sitting always near to hand, and combed through them for articles on the theme. He found a half dozen dating back to 1938 and padded them out with some less serious modern articles, including a coup, one of the last pieces from C. M. Kornbluth before his unexpected death a few months later. Voila. Instant anthology that must have looked very tasty on shelves in October 1957.

Contents and original publication:

  • “Preface,” Martin Greenberg, original to this volume
  • “Introduction,” by Dwight Wayne Batteau, original to this volume
  • “A Letter to the Martians,” by Willy Ley (Thrilling Wonder Stories, November 1940, as “Calling All Martians”)
  • “How to Learn Martian,” by Charles F. Hockett (Astounding Science Fiction, May 1955)
  • “Language for Time Travelers,” by L. Sprague de Camp (Astounding Science Fiction,  July 1938)
  • “Geography for Time Travelers,” by Willy Ley (Astounding Science Fiction, July 1939)
  • “Time Travel and the Law,” by C. M. Kornbluth, original to this volume
  • “Space Fix,” by R. S. Richardson (Astounding Science Fiction, March 1943 & April 1943)
  • “Space War,” by Willy Ley (Astounding Science Fiction, August 1939)
  • “Space War Tactics,” by Malcolm Jameson (Astounding Science Fiction, November 1939)
  • “Fuel for the Future,” by Jack Hatcher (Astounding Science Fiction, March 1940)
  • “How to Count on Your Fingers,” by Frederik Pohl (Science Fiction Stories, September 1956
  • “Interplanetary Copyright,” by Donald F. Reines (Information Bulletin of the Library of Congress, August 1952, as “The Shape of Copyright to Come”) [NOTE: August 1952 is the date given when the essay was reprinted in the April 1953 F&SF. However, the Information Bulletin was a weekly. I have not found the exact original publication date.]

Theodore Sturgeon reviewed the anthology for the July 1957 Venture Science Fiction:

[All] convention committees [should] polish up an award, possibly a brand new kind of award — say, “For the Book Best Filing the Longest-Felt Need in Science Fiction.”

Coming Attractions, edited by Martin Greenberg, 1957, title #64, 254 pages, $3.50, 5000 copies printed. Hardback, gray cloth with red cloth spine and silver lettering. No embossed image on cover. Jacket design by W.I. Van der Poel. “FIRST EDITION” stated on copyright page. Printing and binding by H. Wolff, New York. Introduction by Dwight Wayne Batteau. Back cover: 34 titles listed, through Earthman’s Burden. Gnome Press address given as 80 East 11th St., New York 3.