Whether Robert Heinlein was still the most famous living science fiction writer in 1959 is the subject for a dissertation. The other two of the “Big Three” writers had their own claims to the title. Arthur C. Clarke, however, might have been more famous for his advocacy of the space program than of the lesser novels he wrote in the last half of the decade. And while Isaac Asimov’s Gnome books made him part of the elite, he essentially quit the field and turned to nonfiction writing in 1957, not yet the household name he would become. Ray Bradbury, always the outsider, published mostly in non-genre magazines, with his Fahrenheit 451 reprinted in an early Playboy making him a headliner in a class of his own.
Inside the field, Heinlein still reigned. Winner of the third Hugo Award for Best Novel (for Double Star), he published a novel every year to universal acclaim and also put out a few short stories that begged for collection in hardcovers.
He had every reason to believe that Shasta’s publication of his full Future History [see Methuselah’s Children], especially with the new works he planned to write to finish off the multi-century story, would be treated as his magnus opus, rivaling the Foundation Trilogy as the top long-run epic.
Shasta, however, was at the time even worse run than Gnome. Despite endless promises, they essentially stopped issuing books in 1953 (save for two titles in an aborted recovery in 1956). Heinlein grew increasingly frustrated, especially when Shasta asked for revisions to Methuselah’s in 1955. He directed his agent to cancel the contract and secure a return of the rights. Gnome published that title in 1958 and as a result Heinlein also gave Greenberg permission to reprint his earlier Shasta Future History volumes. In his biography of Heinlein, William H. Patterson, Jr. wrote “The series would conclude with The Endless Frontier – his “Universe” and “Common Sense” stories about a lost spaceship, and a new novelette, “Da Capo,” that would bring things back to Earth and the triumph of the human race over space and time.”
It never happened. The full written Future History was finally published in 1967 by Putnam under the title The Past Through Tomorrow, whose SFBC edition would be, like The Foundation Trilogy, a cash cow that every impecunious young f&sf fan considered a must acquire. That volume included the story “The Menace from Earth,” one of two additions to the series Heinlein wrote after 1950.
“Da Capo” finally got written in 1971 and constituted the final section of Time Enough for Love, an ending to the story of Lazarus Long from Methuselah’s.
There’s no question that Greenberg planned to release the Heinlein Future History. The identical back panels of Drunkard’s Walk; Invaders from the Infinite; and the third variant of Foundation and Empire, released in late 1960 and early 1961, list The Green Hills of Earth, The Man Who Sold the Moon, and Revolt in 2100, the titles of the three Shasta Future History volumes. Bizarrely, they are listed with the two Talbot Mundy novels under the heading Our New Fantasy Classic Library, which must have irked Heinlein no end. His Future was meant to be rigorously extrapolated science. Not mentioned is The Menace from Earth or the follow-up The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag, titles that had already been out for a year. Could it have sold out that quickly? Not likely: they appeared on the last Gnome title, The Philosopher’s Corps and no second bindings or other indications of reissue have ever surfaced. In short, after achieving the publishing triumph of two Heinlein collections, Greenberg left off any mention of those on any book until it far too late, utterly negating the purpose of the back panels that had been publicizing the Gnome line for a decade. Just as bafflingly, he listed neither of these books on their own back panels, nor did the recently released and still in print Methuselah’s Children appear on them, although it returned in 1960 on the three back panels mentioned above.
We get a hint about his plans from the Pick-a-Book catalog he released in late 1960 between Drunkard’s and the forthcoming Invaders. The lead item is titled Fantasy Classic Library and lists the two Mundy novels published under that sub-imprint, a long list of titles from Bernard Hanison’s Fitzroy Edition of Jules Verne, and many Heinleins. The introduction begins:
Fantasy Classic Library has acquired the first three volumes in Heinlein’s Future History series. The last volume, The Endless Frontier, will be published this spring, followed by Green Hills of Earth, Man Who Sold the Moon, and Revolt in 2100. Methuselah’s Children was published by us and is available through Pick-a-Book while copies last. When the current supply is gone it will be withdrawn from the plan.
Heinlein never got around to working on that final book in the 1950s. He did nothing more with Gnome until he battled to get back the rights from the company in the 1960s so he could place the material elsewhere.
Floyd C. Gale, Galaxy Science Fiction, December 1960
The trouble with Heinlein is that once he explores a situation, not much is left to be said. His prototypes are up-to-the-minute masterworks.
Unsigned, Greenwood [SC] Index-Journal, June 21, 1960
The title story takes an alien world full of startling features and makes it so convincing the reader will feel he has paid it a personal visit. The same attribute is powerfully present in the seven other stories.
Contents and original publication
• “The Year of the Jackpot” (Galaxy Science Fiction, March 1952).
• “By His Bootstraps” (Astounding Science-Fiction, October 1941).
• “Columbus Was a Dope” (Startling Stories, May 1947 as by Lyle Monroe).
• “The Menace from Earth” (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, October 1957).
• “Sky Lift” (Imagination, November 1953.
• “Goldfish Bowl” (Astounding Science-Fiction, March 1942 as by Anson MacDonald).
• “Project Nightmare” (Amazing Stories, April-May 1953).
• “Water is for Washing” (Argosy, November 1947).
The Menace from Earth, by Robert A. Heinlein, 1959, copyright registration date 25Nov59, Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 59-15187, title #79, back panel #40, 255 pages, $3.50. 5000 copies printed. Hardback, black cloth, spine lettered in silver and gold. Jacket design uncredited (likely W. I. Van der Poel, Jr.). “First edition” on copyright page. Manufactured 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.