50. Sargasso of Space


Mary Alice Norton (1912-2005) started writing in high school and never stopped. Told that a masculine sounding name would sell adventure titles she picked Andre and eventually made that her legal first name. This was 1934 and science fiction had nothing to do with it. Oddly, she almost broke into the genre in the 1930s when she sold “The People of the Crater” to William Crawford at Marvel Tales, but the magazine went out of business before it could be published. Crawford remembered it and finally got it into print in the first issue of his fanzine Fantasy Book in 1947. That story and “The Gifts of Asti” in the third issue were run under the name Andrew North. So was “All Cats Are Gray,” in the August-September 1953 Startling Stories, her only professional short story sale under that name. Why? Well, Gnome isn’t the only publisher to hide mysteries.

Norton worked as an assistant to Marty Greenberg at Gnome in the 1950s, mostly as a first reader, long-distance from her home in Cleveland. (See The Assistants.) Her flood of production under her own name had started in 1951 with Huon of the Horn for the mainstream publisher Harcourt, Brace & Company. For the next several years she also edited f&sf anthologies while writing juveniles for World Publishing. Perhaps having her books appear from three separate publishers as Andre Norton was at least one too many. She became Andrew North again for Sargasso of Space. The second and third Dane Thorson adventures also appeared as by Andrew North. A fourth was a surprise in 1969 but by that time Andre Norton was a brand name. All the books have been reprinted as by Norton.

Gnome Notes

The flaps describe the story with no reference to an author, a neat device for getting around the problem of a pseudonym. Librarians and publishers of the time thought it axiomatic that the author of a YA book for boys had to have a masculine name. Andrew North worked well for the purpose while giving the f&sf in-crowd a knowing wink.

CHALKER says that the tan boards variant is “c1959.” That would have been an excellent time for another binding since Sargasso falls off the back panel in 1959. The argument against that date is that the title never appears again, either on a back panel or the 1961 or 1963 catalogs. Why do a new binding if you’re not going to tell anyone? And yet, an ad in the June 1959 Astounding does indeed mention Sargasso. Is that a leftover or a sign of additional copies being bound?

Kirkus Reviews gave the expected publication date as June 15, 1955.

Cover art by Milo


Floyd C. Gale, Galaxy Science Fiction, September 1956
[T]hough unpretentious space opera, it makes good adventure reading for a couple of carefree hours.

Contents and original publication

• Chapters 1-18 (original to this volume).

Bibliographic information

Sargasso of Space, by Andrew North (pseud. of Andre Norton), 1955, copyright registration 25May55, Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 56-5464, title #50, back panel #29, 185 pages, $2.50. 4000 copies printed 1955, unknown number bound?. Hardback. Jacket design by Ed Emsh. “First Edition” on copyright page. Manufactured in the U.S.A. by H. Wolff, New York. Title page and jacket adds “A Dane Thorson – Solar Queen Adventure.” Back panel: 39 titles. Gnome Press address given as 80 East 11th St., New York 3.

          Variants, in order of priority

1) (CURREY A) Gray cloth, spine lettered in black.

2) (CURREY B) Tan boards, spine lettered in black.


Sargasso of Space, jacket front, all variants
Sargasso of Space, jacket flaps, all variants
Sargasso of Space, gray cloth, black lettering, variant 1
Sargasso of Space, tan boards, black lettering, variant 2