80. The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag


The question of who was the most famous science fiction writer may have been settled with a note from Mrs. Leona Leacock, Librarian at the Jefferson, IA, Public Library, when she announced the arrive of Unpleasant and called Heinlein “the dean of science-fiction writers.” At a mere 52, he certainly wasn’t the oldest.

Gnome Notes

Somebody at Gnome took care to make the boards of the two Heinlein collections more attractive than usual. Both sport multicolored embossed lettering on nice cloth. The paper, unfortunately, is the same cheap, quickly darkening almost pulpish stock. Moreover, my copy has such a large top border on the text pages that the printing appears misaligned. Perhaps the larger size, equal to that of Gnome’s anthologies, flummoxed them. Whatever, Greenberg slapped a $3.50 price on the books, 50¢ more than usual. Why he priced the previous book, The Bird of Time, the first novel by the obscure Wallace West, also that high and gave it far nicer paper as well is mysterious.

Gnome released this title and The Menace from Earth almost simultaneously, with copyright registrations just a month apart in 1959. They can be considered volume 1 and volume 2 of what might have been a single collection were it not too large to market as an individual title. Both matched some early uncollected stories with a handful of the few short stories Heinlein wrote during the 1950s. Menace was mainly science fiction, while Unpleasant was devoted to fantasy. Greenberg must have remembered them as being simultaneous releases because ESHBACH has this book first, even though its registration was a month later. I’ve corrected the order here.

With the usual oddness of publishing, Unpleasant beat Menace to paperback publication. Pyramid published the former under the title 6 x H in August 1961, while Signet waited until April 1962 to release Menace. Both F&SF and Amazing based their reviews on the paperback. No newspaper reviews come up in a database search. Apparently by then Gnome Books weren’t reaching their intended audience. If Greenberg couldn’t get attention for Heinlein, he couldn’t for anyone. The end was obviously in sight.

interior art by Boris Dolgov for “Our Fair City”


Alfred Bester, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, December 1961
The stories date from 1941 through 1959, and we suggest that you read them in chronological order. It’s a lesson in writing technique to see how Mr. Heinlein’s style became crisper and more mature.

P. Schuyler Miller, Astounding/Analog Science Fact and Fiction, July 1960
[T]here is no other science fiction writer who worlds better than Robert A. Heinlein.

Contents and original publication

• “The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag” (Unknown Worlds, October 1942 as by John Riverside).

• “The Man Who Traveled in Elephants” (Saturn Science Fiction and Fantasy, October 1957 as “The Elephant Circuit”).

• “All You Zombies—” (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, March 1959).

• “…And He Built a Crooked House” (Astounding Science-Fiction, February 1941).

• “They” (Unknown Fantasy Fiction, April 1941).

• “Our Fair City” (Weird Tales, January 1949).

Bibliographic information

The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag, by Robert A. Heinlein, 1959, copyright registration date 25Dec59, Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 59-15188, title #80, back panel #40, 256 pages, $3.50. 5000 copies printed. Hardback, tan cloth, spine lettered in yellow, red, and wine red. Jacket design by W. I. van der Poel. “First edition” stated on copyright page. Manufactured in the United States of America by H. Wolff. Back panel: 32 titles.


None known.


The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag, tan cloth, red and yellow lettering