37. Space Lawyer


Nathaniel Schachner (1895-1955), who wrote pulp fiction as Nat and serious books of history as Nathan, was the exception to John W. Campbell’s merry band of neophytes filling the pages of Astounding in the early 1940s. Schachner started his career with Hugo Gernsback, in the pages of Wonder Stories Quarterly in 1930, sold a yarn to Astounding Stories of Super-Science in 1931, and kept pumping out pulp titles for another decade, long enough to be a veteran when Campbell took over.

Schachner had the type of background that appealed to Campbell. He started out as a research chemist who became a food and drug expert for the New York Board of Health. Working in Chemical Warfare during World War I convinced him to try a safer profession, so he entered the law. In 1930, he wrote his first story on a bet, claiming later that he had never as much as read a pulp before. He had help from fellow tyro and fellow lawyer Arthur Leo Zagat. Their collaboration produced eleven sales in their first year. Both did so well at pulp speed that they went they separate ways after that, and both soon left the law to write full time, mixing f&sf with mystery and horror.

Zagat outwrote Schachner in the pulps by about five to one, but Schachner made up the wordage by turning serious to great acclaim, such as this encomium in a 1948 review of his The Price of Liberty.

Nathan Schachner, that profound scholar, brilliant biographer and historical novelist, author of “The Mediaeval Universities,” penetrating biographies of Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton, and such extraordinary novels as “The King’s Passenger,” “By the Dim Lamps,” and “The Wanderer” (a fictionalized life of Dante), now devotes his unquestioned abilities to the origins and aims of the American Jewish Committee.

And that was before Schachner completed his magnus opus, a thousand-page, two-volume boxed-set biography of Thomas Jefferson, lauded as “Without question this is the most balanced, complete portrayal of Thomas Jefferson in print.” The cherry in this magnificent sundae is that he was the first secretary of the American Interplanetary Society.

cover art by Hubert Rogers

Gnome Notes

As with Frank Owen, Greenberg’s luring Schachner back to write original work for Gnome after a long absence from the magazines must have seemed like a major accomplishment at the time even though their names mean little today. This time it worked. Released at the end of 1953, Lawyer dropped off back panels at the beginning of 1956.

Kirkus Reviews gave the expected publication date as November 15, 1953.


Unsigned, Kirkus Reviews, November 1, 1953
Asteroids for adenoids.

P. Schyuler Miller, Astounding Science Fiction, October 1954
The stories themselves are and always have been pure entertainment.

Contents and Original Publication

Chapters 1-3 (“Old Fireball,” Astounding Science-Fiction, June 1941; Vesta changed to Ceres).
• Chapters 4-7 (“Jurisdiction,” Astounding Science-Fiction, August 1941).
• Chapters 8-16 (original to this volume).

Bibliographic information

Space Lawyer, by Nat Schachner, 1953, copyright registration date 1Nov53, Library of Congress catalog card no. 53-12603, title #37, back panel #24, 222 pages, $2.75. 4000 copies printed. Hardback, yellow boards, spine lettered in green. Jacket Design by Ric Binkley. “FIRST EDITION” on copyright page. Printed by H. Wolff. Manufactured in the U.S.A. Back cover: 25 titles. Gnome Press address given as 80 East 11th Street, New York 3.


None known.


Space Lawyer, yellow boards, green lettering