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Tubb, E C

Entry updated 31 July 2023. Tagged: Author, Editor.

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(1919-2010) UK editor and author who began publishing sf with "No Short Cuts" in New Worlds for Summer 1951, and for the next half decade or so produced a great amount of fiction, in UK magazines and in book form, under his own name and under many pseudonyms. His total output is in excess of 130 novels and 230 short stories. Of his many pseudonyms, those used for book titles of sf interest include Charles Grey, Gregory Kern, Carl Maddox and the House Names Volsted Gridban, Gill Hunt, King Lang, Arthur Maclean, Brian Shaw and Roy Sheldon. Some three dozen further names were used for magazine stories only. His first sf novels were pseudonymous: Saturn Patrol (1951) as by King Lang, Planetfall (1951) as by Gill Hunt, "Argentis" (1952) as by Brian Shaw and Alien Universe (1952 chap) as by Volsted Gridban. He soon began publishing under his own name, with Alien Impact (1952) and Atom War on Mars (1952), though his best work in these years was probably that as by Charles Grey, beginning with The Wall (1953). Of his enormous output of magazine fiction, the Dusty Dribble stories in Authentic Science Fiction 1955-1956 stand out; Tubb also edited Authentic from February 1956 to its demise in October 1957. After the mid-1950s, his production moderated somewhat, but he remained a prolific author of consistently readable Space Operas until the early 1980s.

Also active for many years in Fandom, Tubb was involved with the pre-World War Two Science Fiction Association, and in 1958 was both a founder member of the British Science Fiction Association and the first editor of its critical journal Vector.

With Enterprise 2115 (1954 as by Grey; vt The Mechanical Monarch 1958 dos as by Tubb) he began to produce more sustained adventure novels. Alien Dust (stories 1952-1953 New Worlds; 1954 Nebula Science Fiction; fixup 1955; expurgated 1957) effectively depicts the rigours of interplanetary exploration. The Space-Born (April-June 1955 New Worlds as "Star Ship"; cut 1956 dos) is a crisp Generation-Starship tale. These novels all display a convincing expertise in the use of the language and themes of Pulp-magazine sf, though they tend to avoid examining their material very thoroughly. Enterprise 2115, for instance, deals swiftly and with Tubb's typical largesse with Reincarnation, the Superman theme and Cybernetics, along with a matriarchal Dystopia; but the sustaining narrative – the pilot of the first spaceship returns from frozen sleep to reinvigorate a world gone wrong through its misuse of a predicting machine – hardly allows much justice to be done to any one concept. And the comparatively sober Moon Base (April-June 1963 New Worlds as "Window on the Moon"; 1964) comes as close to Hard SF as Tubb was inclined to go.

The next decade saw few Tubb titles until the start of the long series for which he remains best known, the Dumarest books beginning with The Winds of Gath (1967 dos US; rev vt Gath 1968) and terminating abruptly for some years with The Temple of Truth (1985), before the climax of the series had been reached. Tubb had himself planned to bring Dumarest to a relatively early conclusion, but Donald A Wollheim of DAW Books persuaded him to eke it out; unfortunately – and in fact very strangely – the series was cut short by DAW as soon as Wollheim retired, leaving the firm holding a thirty-one volume orphan. Tubb had in fact written a further volume in 1985, which was first published in French under the title Le Retour (1992); the English-language edition is The Return (1997). Earl Dumarest, who features in each volume, maintains with soldier-of-fortune fortitude a long search for Earth – the planet on which he was born, and from which he was wrested at an early age – but must battle against the universal belief that Earth is a myth (see Ruins and Futurity). Inhabited planets are virtually innumerable, with Dumarest's pinball visits to many of them giving the series as a whole a clear resemblance to the Tale of Circulation; the period is some time after the collapse of a Galactic Empire, and everyone speaks the same language; and, as Dumarest moves gradually outwards from Galactic Centre along a spiral arm of stars – a progress through the vast Archipelago of planets strongly evocative of the Fantastic Voyages of earlier centuries – it is clear that he is gradually nearing his goal. The opposition he faces from the Cyclan – a vast organization of passionless humans linked Cybernetically to a central organic Computer (see Brain in a Box) whose location is unknown – long led readers to assume that the Cyclan HQ was located on Earth, but The Return is inconclusive about this. A further novel Child of Earth (2009), was intended as a beginning of the concluding cycle of Dumarest novels, but turned out to be Tubb's last, due to increasing illness before his death in 2010, still leaving unresolved the location of the home base of the Cyclan. Though some of the later-middle titles seemed aimless, Tubb showed consistent skill at prolonging Dumarest's intense suspense about the outcome of his long quest.

Concurrently, writing as Gregory Kern, Tubb produced a more routine space-opera sequence featuring galactic secret agent Cap Kennedy. The Kern titles – beginning with Galaxy of the Lost (1973) and ending with The Galactiad (first published as Das Kosmiche Duelle ["The Cosmic Duel"], 1976; first English version 1983) – lacked the sustaining drive of the Dumarest series, and several titles reworked without much improving sf adventures of the 1950s written by Tubb under this name or that. Still, though these and some of the Dumarest books descend too readily to Cliché, Tubb established and successfully maintained a reputation for providing reliably competent adventure sf, full of action, sex and occasional melancholy. Late singletons like The Luck Machine (1980) and Kontinuum des Todes (1982; trans from original manuscript; first English version Stardeath 1983) continued the parade of efficient titles.

Of the authors who began to work under the extraordinary conditions (low pay, fixed lengths, huge productivity demands) of early 1950s sf in the UK, Tubb and Kenneth Bulmer were unique in retaining some of the harum-scarum writing habits of those days while managing to gain considerable success in the rather tougher American market for sf adventures, as published by firms like Ace Books and DAW Books to fill the vacuum left by the demise of the Pulp magazines. When that market effectively shut down in the early 1980s, both authors gracefully withdrew from the sf world as full-time professionals. Tubb stopped writing altogether in 1986 for about ten years until coaxed out of retirement, returning at first with unpublished and new material in relatively minor markets. Eventually commissioned to conclude the Dumarest series, he sadly became fatally ill (as noted above). His final months were spent revising his two remaining novels To Dream Again (2011) and Fires of Satan (2012 ebook; 2013), both of which were published posthumously.

Though Tubb made no serious attempt to become a writer of the new (and much more demanding) versions of Space Opera that emerged from the late 1980s and still continue to develop, some of his 1950s space operas were as good as some of John Brunner's. [JC/DRL]

see also: Boys' Papers; Cryonics; Cyborgs; End of the World; Games and Sports; Mars; New Worlds; Paranoia; Sexton Blake Library; Tit-Bits Science-Fiction Library.

Edwin Charles Tubb

born London: 15 October 1919

died London: 10 September 2010




Space: 1999

Ties to the Television series Space: 1999.

Chronicles of Malkar

series under pseudonyms

Cap Kennedy

Imperial Rome

individual titles

We first list individual works written as E C Tubb (as we do with other writers whose careers involve multiple pseudonyms applied almost at random; see also R L Fanthorpe or John Russell Fearn). Pseudonymous works are arranged under each pseudonym separately; pseudonyms are arrayed according to the first book publication under that particular name.

as Tubb

collections and stories

individual titles under various pseudonyms

as by King Lang

as by Gill Hunt

as by Brian Shaw

  • Argentis (London: Curtis Warren, 1952) as by Brian Shaw [pb/Ray Theobald]
    • Argentis (Wallsend, Tyne and Wear: Cosmos Literary Agency, 1979) as Tubb [pb/Rik]

as by Volsted Gridban

as by Charles Grey

as by Carl Maddox

  • The Living World (London: C A Pearson, 1954) as by Carl Maddox [chap: in the publisher's Tit-Bits Science-Fiction Library series: pb/Ron Turner]
  • Menace from the Past (London: C A Pearson, 1954) as by Carl Maddox [chap: in the publisher's Tit-Bits Science-Fiction Library series: pb/Ron Turner]

as by Roy Sheldon

The solitary title below was previously identified as a rev vt of The Living World (1954 chap) above; they are in fact different novels with very similar plots.

as by Arthur MacLean

  • Touch of Evil (London: Fleetway Publications/Sexton Blake Library, 1959) as by Arthur MacLean [chap: tie #438 to the Shared World franchise: Sexton Blake Library: pb/Putzu]
    • The Possessed (Anstey, Leicester: F A Thorpe / Ulverscroft Large Print, 2005) [rev vt of the above as by Tubb: pb/]

about the author


previous versions of this entry

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