Thomas William “Tom” Godwin (1915-1980) had one of the saddest lives in the genre. His younger sister and mother died when he very young, he dropped out of school after the third grade, and suffered from a curvature of the spine that gave him endless pain. He became an alcoholic after his wife died and published almost nothing in the next decade before his death. Perhaps this life is the genesis for his one famous story, “The Cold Equations,” in which engineering and physical realities trump human feelings. The story was of course published in Astounding, his fourth to go to Campbell in 1953 and 1954, but every subsequent piece until 1961 went to other f&sf magazines. “Too Soon to Die,” one of his longest stories, which served as the seed of The Survivors, was a Campbell story through and through, with humans once again the toughest darn race in the universe. Even so, it actually appeared not in Astounding but in the second issue of the F&SF clone Venture Science Fiction, March 1957. (A sequel, The Space Barbarians, appeared in paperback in 1964.)
That anyone dared start a new science fiction magazine in 1957 gives ironic depth to the reality that no one, not even the f&sf community, has an inkling of the future. Readers in 1957 had a surfeit of magazines with “science fiction” in the title: Venture SF and its sister The Magazine of F&SF, Astounding SF, Galaxy SF and its companion If Worlds of SF, Super-Science Fiction, The Original SF Stories, Authentic SF Monthly, Future SF, Space SF, Fantastic Universe SF, Imagination SF, Satellite SF, Saturn SF, SF Adventures, SF Quarterly, SF Stories, and Star SF, which is cover dated January 1958 but was on newsstands in 1957. That long list leaves out the pair of Amazing and Fantastic, Other Worlds Science Stories, Imaginative Tales, and Dream World. By 1960 six would remain in existence. (Astounding, Galaxy and If, F&SF, Amazing and Fantastic.) The immediate problem was the collapse of magazine distributors, but a ruinous end should have been foreseen. The plethora of magazines couldn’t be filled with top-notch stories: the field was far too small. Instead they ran a million words a year of pseudonymous hackdom by young, hungry writers like Robert Silverberg and Randall Garrett (see The Shrouded Planet.) Sputnik failed to give the field a boost for a variety of reasons. Good authors were tired of an idea they had already explored extensively; mainstream publishers had little interest in putting out original space novels; and new potential readers picking up a random issue of a random magazine saw third-rate work.
Marty Greenberg certainly couldn’t afford to purchase new novels by good authors either. Even the small sums the mainstream presses offered dwarfed his. Nor could he compete for reprints of more modern f&sf. Survivors marks almost the last time he reached into recent issues of magazines for a book and that was a first novel, always to be had cheap. Greenberg would go on to publish first novels by Wallace West, James A. Schmitz, and Everett B. Cole, not a lineup that matches Asimov, Heinlein, and Clarke. He kept trying with some fascinating innovations and ingenuous rides on others’ capital outlays but his once glittering list faded in lockstep with the diminished genre.
Nobody previously reported a second binding, but two are known to exist. One is gray boards lettered in red, a binding used for a multitude of books around 1959. To my knowledge all the gray boards are later bindings, so I am making the assumption that it’s the second binding here, probably for the Pick-A-Book catalog.
Floyd C. Gale, Galaxy Science Fiction, November 1958
I read this yarn with the same glow of pride in the indestructibility of the human race that I once received from van Vogt’s early The Alien.
Damon Knight, Worlds of If Science Fiction, December 1958
The conception is grandiose, the execution glum and banal.
Contents and Original Publications
• Parts One to Four (expanded from “Too Soon to Die,” Venture Science Fiction, March 1957).
The Survivors, by Tom Godwin, 1958, copyright registration 25Feb58, Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 57-14672, title #68, back panel #36, 190 pages, $3.00. 5000 copies printed 1958, unknown number bound?, 1084 remaindered. Hardback. Jacket design not listed (Wallace Wood per CHALKER). No first edition designation. Printed in the United States of America. Back panel: 39 titles. Gnome Press address given as P. O. Box 161, Hicksville, N.Y.
Variants, in probable order of priority
1) Light blue boards, spine lettered in black.
2) Gray cloth, spine lettered in red.