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Perry Rhodan

Entry updated 12 August 2018. Tagged: Character, Publication.

German sf series, weekly, published by Verlagsunion Pabel Moewig (formerly Moewig-Verlag). Created by Walter Ernsting (who writes for the series as Clark Darlton) and Karl-Herbert Scheer, Perry Rhodan began in 1961 and is still current: at the end of 2011 about 2600 short volumes describing Perry Rhodan's (and many others') adventures and mankind's destiny had been published, a record quite without precedent in sf. The weekly booklet series is accompanied by a monthly paperback series, which fills some of the narrative gaps. Often thought of as aimed at the teenage market, Perry Rhodan is actually read, surveys show, by readers of all ages, both men and women.

Though the stories have been dismissed as potboilers, the fans of this German future History (of whom thousands attend Perry Rhodan Conventions) argue that the density and complexity of the multiple universes in which the various story arcs of the meta-sequence are deployed – the most familiar being Meekorah, which basically conforms to the physical laws of our own universe, but which include more than one extensively argued Alternate Cosmos – have built up over so many volumes a sophistication, and in fact a multicursal Cosmology, unheard of in English-language Space Opera before the revival of that form from the 1980s on. The extensiveness of the meta-sequence is also temporal: there are excursions (taking many volumes each) into the Far Future and past (see Time Abyss). Conversely, the series' many critics, especially in Germany, have attacked it not only on literary grounds but also for being what Franz Rottensteiner calls "notoriously fascist". This judgement of Perry Rhodan's reactionary nature has been supported and argued at length by Michael Pehlke and Norbert Lingfeld in Roboter und Gartenlaube: Ideologie und Unterhaltung in der Science-Fiction-Literatur ["The Robot and the Summerhouse: Ideology and Entertainment in SF"] (1970) and by Manfred Nagl in "Unser Mann im All" ["Our Man in Space"] (1969 Zeitnahe Schularbeit #4/5). During the first years of its existence Perry Rhodan was indeed dominated by military conflicts, but the concept changed so that now Perry concentrates on solving mysteries of galactic or even cosmic scale – with lots of action.

The success of the series has been enormous, and not just in Germany. Translations have appeared (and sometimes still do) in many European countries, including the UK (since 1974), France (1966), Belgium (1966), Netherlands (1967), Finland (1975) and Italy (1976); also in Japan (since 1971), Brazil (since 1975) and notably in the USA, where it was published by Ace Books. Edited by Forrest J Ackerman, the US series – monthly for much of the time – appeared for 118 numbers (1969-1977) in paperback-book format, containing a letter column, articles, new stories and reprints of sf classics in addition to the leading Perry Rhodan novella or (in later volumes) two novellas. A few further Perry Rhodan titles were published by Ace in their Atlans series. The US translation series was briefly revived from October 1997 to July 1998 by Vector Enterprises of California with John Foyt as editor, publishing issues 1800 to 1804 of the original German novella sequence (the last only as a webzine). When all the translations are included, Perry Rhodan has had a readership higher than anything else in sf.

Perry himself is an Earthman propelled into the Politics of the Galaxy (see Galactic Empires). He builds his small group, the New Power, into a Solar Empire; after renouncing all claims to leadership, the Solar Empire becomes one of the equal members of the Galacticum. It has been said that there is no sf idea which will not, sooner or later, be used in the series. The authors include, in addition to Ernsting (Scheer died in 1991): Kurt Brand, Arndt Ellmer, H G Ewers, Robert Feldhoff, H G Francis, Peter Griese, Horst Hoffmann, Hans Kneifel (1936-2012), Kurt Mahr, Marianne Sydow, Ernst Vlcek, William Voltz (died 1984) and Thomas Ziegler. Voltz was the long-time coordinator and chief author, having early superseded Scheer in this function. Each episode is written by one of the team from a treatment done by the "factory", currently Vlcek and Mahr, according to the further development of the series as discussed in an annual authors' meeting. Perry Rhodan has appeared in Comic books, and there was also a Perry Rhodan magazine 1977-1981.

Surprisingly, considering the long-time success of the franchise, there has been only one film adaptation: the very poor ... 4 ... 3 ... 2 ... 1 ... Morte (1967; vt Perry Rhodan – SOS aus dem Weltall; vt Alarm im Weltall; vt Órbita Mortal; vt Mission Stardust). [HU/PN]

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