James Henry Schmitz (1911-1981) was born in Germany to American parents and didn’t live regularly in America until shortly before WWII. He started writing about the same time, but as with so many others, the war intervened and that aspect of his career had to wait until the late 1940s when he started selling the Vegan Confederation stories to Astounding that make up this book. His use of female protagonists was startling for the era, showing up in 1949’s “The Witches of Karres,” later expanded to novel length, and in these stories featuring the Zone Agents Pagadan of Lannai, Zamm of Daya-Bals, and Grandma Erisa Wannatel of Noorhut. At the time, however, he was a minor and not very prolific author who was best known for literate space opera.
Therefore, he falls into the same category as Wallace West: why Greenberg should decide in 1960 to put this comparatively small name into hardcovers for the first time when almost anything else might have sold better is a sign of desperation.
How minor a name Schmitz was can be gauged by the single most embarrassing typo in Gnome’s type-strewn history. Schmitz normally signed his work as James H. Schmitz, and it reads that way on the title and copyright pages and on the jacket flaps. That’s not what a casual peruser would see first, of course. Picking up the book, one’s eyes is drawn to the jacket cover and spine and both of those read “James A. Schmitz.” This cannot be forgiven.
CHALKER reports, “4000 copies printed but fewer than 3000 bound, about 1750 in light blue boards, the other 1000 or so in gray cloth c1961-2; rest apparently destroyed by H. Wolff in liquidation.”
Floyd C. Gale, Galaxy Science Fiction, June 1961
What places Schmitz’s work above run of the mill [space opera] is the quality as well as breadth of his imagination, but most of all his touch for characterization …
Contents and Original Publications
• “Agent of Vega” (Astounding Science Fiction, 1949).
• “The Illusionists” (Astounding Science Fiction, March 1951 as “Space Fear”).
• “The Truth About Cushgar” (Astounding Science Fiction, November 1950).
• “The Second Night of Summer.” (Galaxy Science Fiction, December 1950).
Agent of Vega, by James H. Schmitz, 1960, copyright registration 25Mar60, Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 60-10555, title #81, back panel #40, 191 pages, $3.00. 4000 copies printed, 1750 bound 1960, 1000 bound c1961-2, rest remaindered. Hardback. Jacket design by W. I. Van der Poel. “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.
1). (CURREY A) Light blue boards, spine lettered in gold.
2). (CURREY B) Gray cloth, spine lettered in red.