Minions of the Moon

Battling H. Chandler Elliott for the title of most obscure of all Gnome Press authors, even the obsessive hunters of minutiae that is the F&SF community haven’t dug up Beyer’s birth or death dates. His career in the field, other than two minor short stories, consists of four related serials in the weekly general fiction pulp Argosy. “Minions of the Moon” came first, on April 22, April 29, and May 6, 1939. “Minions of Mars,” “Minions of Mercury,” and “Minions of the Shadow” followed in 1940 and 1941. The Internet Speculative Fiction Database lists only two of the five parts of “Shadow,” in the Sept. 20 and Sept. 27, 1941 issues, but I’ve found references to part 3 in the Oct. 4, 1941, part 4 in the Nov. 1, 1941, and part 5 in the Nov. 15, 1941 issues. Such gaps are odd, but so are omissions in the ISFDB.

Minions of the Moon was the only one of the four to see print in novel form. The back covers of both Pattern for Conquest and Sixth Column promised a forthcoming Minions of Mars. It never appeared and no one knows why, although a possible clue exists. Gnome soon stopped promising forthcoming books to feature the growing inventory of the ones still available. That list would grow to dozens, but Beyer was omitted more than 90% of the time, even over the next few years. Two possibilities: either the title sold out almost completely, with Greenberg mentioning it whenever rare returns filtered back to him, or else it was the worst stiff of all the Gnome books and not worth a line of type. The latter is more likely.

All the stories are science fiction adventures about a man who is put to sleep for 6000 years by a new anesthetic but nobody could tell that from the Edd Cartier cover of a bearded warrior with a winged helmet emerging from an egg and wielding an ax at a ghost-like emanation sprouting from a brain in a glass sphere. The author’s name is next to unreadable in red (showing up far better on the scan than in real life). It’s easily the most hideous (and most amateurish) of all the Gnome covers (beating out by a badly-drawn nose Harry Harrison’s for Tomorrow and Tomorrow/The Fairy Chessmen) and why anyone thought it would sell a book is baffling.

August Derleth reviewed this book in the September 27, 1950 Madison Capital Times:

… is typical of what passes for swashbuckling space opera. Set 6000 years in the future, it has its moments but it is nothing more than adventure dressed up as science fiction.

Groff Conklin reviewed it for the November 1951 Galaxy:

All very well to pass a mindless hour, but don’t expect more.

Minions of the Moon, by William Gray Beyer, 1950, title #8,190 pages, $2.50. 5000 copies printed.

Hardback, blue-green boards with wine-red spine lettering and the tile and a crescent moon cut out against a wine-red rectangle on the front boards. The cover gives a subhead of “A STORY 6,000 YEARS IN THE FUTURE” but the title page reads “A novel of the future.” Physically smaller than most other Gnome Press titles at 5.1×7.6 in. Jacket design by Edd Cartier. “FIRST EDITION” on copyright page. No printer given. Back cover promotes Men Against the Stars and The Castle of Iron. Gnome Press address given as New York 57.

Minions of the Moon coverMinions of the Moon flaps

Minions of the Moon cover



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