Entry updated 17 October 2022. Tagged: Theme.
When dime novels (see Dime-Novel SF) declined and disappeared in the 1900s – partly because of public outcry against their supposed evil effect on boys, and partly because of increasing competition from the Pulp magazines, which had become comparable in price – the torch of juvenile sf was taken up by a new format, illustrated hardcover juvenile book series, and the ideas in these began to range more widely. The Great Marvel series (9 books 1906-1935) by Roy Rockwood – the first hardcover sf series on record – began featuring interplanetary explorations and discoveries with Through Space to Mars, or The Longest Journey on Record (1910), and was surpassed in quality as juvenile-series sf only by Carl H Claudy's later Adventures in the Unknown series (1933-1934), the four volumes of which told of Time Travel, journeys into the fourth Dimension and discoveries of Alien intelligences on Mars and in the Earth's crust. Although their plots were at least as strong as those of the contemporary Gernsback magazine stories, they proved less popular than the tales of the Earthbound Tom Swift (1910-1941). In the years 1910-1940 there were dozens of other book series aimed at teenage boys and many had themes of scientific invention – natural enough at a time when Edison and Ford were two of the greatest US heroes (see also Edisonade) – but those named above are the most fondly remembered.
In the 1930s juvenile series began to appear in a new format, the Big Little Books, squat, card-bound volumes which alternated full-page illustrations with text pages. Derived from the Comics, they included novelizations of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Flash Gordon and Superman. Their demise came in the late 1940s, at which time Robert A Heinlein's juveniles were becoming successful, heralding a new wave of hardcover Children's SF series, some of which were novelized adventures derived from popular Television series.
Tom Swift (or, more accurately, his son) reappeared in the 1950s together with Tom Corbett: Space Cadet, Rip Foster and others, all united by their interplanetary settings, a feature shared by Isaac Asimov's Lucky Starr series (1952-1958; originally as by Paul French) and by E C Eliott's Kemlo series (1954-1963). [JE/PN]
- Arthur Prager. Rascals at Large, Or, The Clue in the Old Nostalgia (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1971) [nonfiction: covers Tarzan, Tom Swift, Fu Manchu and other series: hb/]
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