78. The Bird of Time


Wallace George West (1900-1980) won an honorable mention in a short story content from McCall’s magazine when he was thirteen. Another thirteen years passed before he sold professionally, a yarn called “Static,” in Sea Stories, September 1926. He sold to Weird Tales the next year and kept appearing occasionally in pulps and f&sf magazines for the next two decades. West had a day job – several – but he suddenly started writing fairly prolifically for the second-tier magazines through the 1950s, and combined both in a planetary tale of “Ill use of soil, hunger, and greed” as Kirkus reviewed Bird. (The title comes from Omar Khayyam’s Rubiyat and has been frequently used.)

The only good biography of him appears in R. Reginald’s Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature: A Checklist.

Has been a farmer, barber, press telegrapher, journalist for the United Press, publicity officer for Paramount Pictures, editor of ROTO, Voice of Experience, Song Hits, and Movie Mirror; with the publicity department of CBS; news writer and commentator for ABC, NBC, and Mutual; air and pollution control expert, American Petroleum Institute, 1947-68; consultant in air pollution for the Air Pollution Control Administration, U. S. Public Health Service, Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, Washington, D.C.

No photographs of West are known, but this one from the Oil City [TX] Derrick, June 1, 1956, is a good bet. Check out the man fourth from the right. The OIIC was the Oil Industry Information Committee of the American Petroleum Institute, a good position for a lifelong writer.

Gnome Notes

Why Greenberg should decide to publish West in hardcovers for the first time is a mystery, but he always was a sucker for story series that could be sewn into novel form. West obliged with heavy rewriting of the originals, rearranging them in internal chronological order. The revision must have clicked. Although he put out half a dozen books from Avalon in the 1960s, Bird is his only title to have a paperback reprinting. Or it could just be that paperback editors were suckers for novels with winged nude Martian princesses as main characters. Any little bit helped.

The title has the odd distinction of not being featured on its own back panel or the next. It doesn’t show up until The Philosophical Corps, Gnome’s last and almost unseen release. The 1961 Pick-a-Book catalog does list it, however.

Cover art by Walter Popp


Floyd C. Gale, Galaxy Science Fiction, August 1960
West’s highly palatable fairy tale reaches its highest degree of success with Part One [Flight One in book]. … The remainder of the book … is all downhill …

Contents and Original Publications

• “Foreword” (original to this volume).

• Flight 1, rewritten from “The Bird of Time” (Thrilling Wonder Stories, October 1952).

• Flight 2, rewritten from “En Route to Pluto” (Astounding Stories, August 1936).

• Flight 3, rewritten from “Captive Audience” (Thrilling Wonder Stories, June 1953).

• Flight 4, rewritten from “The Lure of Polaris” (Thrilling Wonder Stories, October 1949).

Bibliographic Information

The Bird of Time, Wallace West, 1959, copyright registration 25Oct59, Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 59-9315, title #78, back panel #40, 256 pages, $3.50. 5000 copies printed, 2102 remaindered. Hardback, red boards, spine lettered in black. Jacket design by W. I. Van der Poel, Jr. “First Edition” on copyright page. Printed in the United States of America by H. Wolff. Back panel: 32 titles. Gnome Press address given as P. O. Box 161, Hicksville, N.Y.


None known.


The Bird of Time, red boards, black lettering