54. Plague Ship


The second Dane Thorson Solar Queen adventure for teens. A third volume, Voodoo Planet, appeared as half of Ace Double D-345 in 1959 backed with Plague Ship.

Though Andre Norton was closely connected to the larger f&sf community, her novels had appeared exclusively from mainstream presses before Gnome published the Dane Thorson books, with her first two non-genre books published in the 1930s by Appleton-Century, Talbot Mundy’s publisher (see Tros of Samothrace). Almost certainly she was doing a favor for Marty Greenberg in return for his employing her as she made the transition from librarian to full-time writer. Her first true f&sf novel, 1952’s Star Man’s Son, 2250 A.D., was an instant success, garnering more newspaper mentions than a year’s worth of Gnome releases and staying in hardcover print for decades. Donald A. Wollheim reprinted it as part of an Ace Double paperback as Daybreak 2250 A.D. Fifteen years later he reported that it had sold “well over a million copies.” Both Plague and the earlier Sargasso of Space had Ace Double editions, but weren’t credited to Andre Norton until the 1970s, so they probably did not sell as well. No matter, they were gifts that kept on giving.

In 1984, Norton became the first woman named as a SFWA Grand Master. It would be twenty years until there was a second.

Cover art by Ed Emshwiller

Gnome Notes

CHALKER provides the only statement about dates of the variant bindings: “first is tan boards lettered in black (2500), tan cloth c1958, (1500), rest bound in red boards c.1959.” CHALKER’s dating are always suspect but they are all we have. At least they are logical: North was a steady seller and this title appears on back panels to the end. A stream of variants with small bindings would be the norm in the second half of Gnome’s existence. The only flaw is that CURREY identifies a gray boards variant and places it in between the tan cloth and the red boards in priority. Does that make it from 1958 or 1959? Or is his priority wrong? Or CHALKER’s dating? The gray boards were not listed in Currey’s first edition hardback. That means his (C) binding differs between the two editions.

When I received the variant copy with the tan cloth the boards were in poor shape but the cover was a surprise. Under the Just-A-Fold protected dust jacket was … another dust jacket. I can’t think of any reason why the seller would have added a second jacket so I have to assume that somehow this copy came from Gnome double-jacketed. If so, that’s the rarest and weirdest mistake of all my Gnome oddities and for the first time a wonderful blunder. The jacket is a vivid blue, sharp and clean, testimony to the worth of keeping colors away from the air for decades.


P. Schuyler Miller, Astounding Science Fiction, October 1958
Recommended for teen-agers and for anyone else who doesn’t demand social significance in his SF, and likes to be taken back to those easy days when worlds were still strange to us all.

John S. Harris, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 29, 1956
Somewhat better written than most of the juvenile science fiction.

Contents and Original Publications

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

Bibliographic Information

Plague Ship, by Andrew North (pseud. of Andre Norton), 1956, copyright registration 2Feb56, Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 56-7843, title #54, back panel #31, 192 pages, $2.75. 5000 copies printed 1956; three bindings: 2500 tan boards, 1956; 1500 tan cloth, 1958?; 1000? red boards and gray boards, 1959?. Hardback. Jacket design by Ed Emsh. “First Edition” on copyright page. Manufactured in the U.S.A. by H. Wolff. Title page and jacket add “A Dane Thorson Solar Queen Adventure.” Back panel: 36 titles. Gnome Press address given as 80 East 11th St., New York 3.

          Variants, in order of priority

1) (CURREY A) Tan boards, spine lettered in black.

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

3) (CURREY C) Gray boards, spine lettered in red. [not seen]

3) (CURREY D) Red boards, spine lettered in black.


Plague Ship, jacket front, all variants
Plague Ship, jacket flaps, all variants
Plague Ship, tan boards, black lettering, variant 1
Plague Ship, tan cloth, black lettering, variant 2
Plague Ship, red boards, black lettering, variant 4