70. Undersea City


Jack Williamson and Frederik Pohl, 1996, 60 years later

The third and last YA adventure starring Cadet Jim Eden of the Sub-Sea Academy. The book got an inadvertent boost from the news when the Los Angeles Times on February 25, 1958 headlined a story “Undersea Cities Predicted if Atom War Pollutes Air.” At a meeting of the Alumni Postgraduate Convention of the College of Medical Evangelists, Comdr. George F. Bond, head of the Naval Research Medical Laboratory, told 1000 physicians that if necessary humanity could live “submerged cities covered with inverted plastic bubbles and to sustain himself by harvesting the sea’s crops.” Science spent much of the 50s spouting ideas that seemed to come from science fiction.

Pohl and Williamson would continue to team up through the 1980s with more than half a dozen other collaborations.

Gnome Notes

CHALKER says that only 3000 copies of the 5000 printed were bound, 2000 in “dark blue-gray” boards and then another 1000 in the ubiquitous gray cloth of 1959, with the rest presumably remaindered. My copy has boards that are unquestionably black, and black is the descriptor used online by dealers.

Of interest to collectors: my copy is signed by both Pohl and Williamson. It has a wonderful provenance, being inscribed to editor David Hartwell when he was just starting out professionally.

That’s hard to top, but it’s on the second state. My first state copy is also autographed, and the Steve in the inscription is me, provided when we were both at a Popular Culture Association conference.

I know of four other Gnome titles that have copies signed by both authors: The Carnelian Cube, The Dawning Light, Earthman’s Burden, and Star Bridge. Obviously, the two other Undersea titles are strong candidates for this distinction. A double-signed copy of Undersea Fleet is in fact up for sale as I type. Six other collaborations are possibilities: The Castle of Iron, Mutant, The Return of Conan, The Shrouded Planet, They’d Rather Be Right, and Tomorrow and Tomorrow and The Fairy Chessman. Difficulty: signatures by Pratt, Kuttner, Riley, and Nyberg are practically unknown. I have some three dozen signed variants, but since there’s no hope in ever getting a full set, I deem signatures nice but not essential to the overall collection.

Cover art by Karl Stephan


Unsigned, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Mar. 23, 1959
Here is a well-plotted adventure story written for the early teens which will delight your young son or daughter, though the emphasis is decidedly on the appeal to males.

Floyd C. Gale, Galaxy Science Fiction, August 1959
Frankly and honestly a gee-whiz yarn, it reaches its target – youngsters – with plenty of mystery, action, and suspense.

Contents and Original Publications

• Chapters 1-20 (original to this volume).

Bibliographic Information

Undersea City, Frederik Pohl and Jack Williamson, 1958, copyright registration 1Jul58, Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 57-14673, title #70, back panel #34, 188 pages, $2.75. 5000 copies printed 1958: 2000 bound 1958; 1000 bound 1959?; rest remaindered. Hardback. Jacket design by Wallace Wood. “First Edition” stated on copyright page. Manufactured in the United States of America by H. Wolff, New York. Back panel: 35 titles. Gnome Press address given as 80 East 11th St., New York 3.

          Variants, in order of priority

1) (CURREY A) Black boards, spine lettered in red.

2) (CURREY B) Gray cloth, spine lettered in red.


Undersea City, jacket front, all variants
Undersea City, jacket flaps, all variants
Undersea City, black boards, red lettering, variant 1
Undersea City, gray cloth, red lettering, variant 2