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by Jim Harmon



This is a period peace, written during the last years of the pulp era.

I was 26 in 1959, and some science fiction magazines were still in the old familiar pulp magazine style of about 7 x 9 inches, such as Science Fiction Quarterly. There were still a few new radio dramas on the air like One Man’s Family and Gunsmoke. Gunsmoke was also on television as were The Untouchables and Ed Sullivan.

In the real world, the Cold War was on, and the United States was trying to catch up with Russia by getting into space. There had only been some sub-orbital flights on the American side. The landing on the Moon was a decade away.

There had not been any successful “test tube” babies. Studies into stem cell research and cloning and DNA were a long ways off.

Due to a health problem, I had little formal education. But I read a lot, and thought a lot, and imagined a lot. I became a science fiction writer.

The Contested Earth was my first science fiction novel. I had written a number of novelettes and short stories, and sold a good number to the aforementioned SF Quarterly and more to one of the leading SF magazines, Galaxy. The editor there, H.L. Gold, was incredibly supportive of a teen-age writer. In one editorial, he referred to me as a “Vesuvius of flaming, literary lava”. What more can be said after that!

Yet he did not accept this novel. One reason (but only one) was that in those days novels were accepted almost exclusively by the leaders in the field like Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov and Theodore Sturgeon, by both magazines and paperback and hardcover publishers.

After a number of submissions back then, I stopped submitting this novel.

As the years passed and the number of manuscript I kept got down to a single Stor-All box, I would go through these yellowing bundles of pages and throw some away—ones I had published and ones I thought I would never publish. Somehow, I decided to keep this novel “a little while longer”.

Finally I encountered Fender Tucker and his wonderful endeavor, Ramble House, and got a go-ahead to put out The Contested Earth.

I made changes in it, but mostly in writing style. I hope my technique has improved in nearly fifty years. I did not try to correct the science from a time when space travel was merely a theory and the secrets of human reproduction were still largely unknown. I edited it, and cut out the parts that really sucked.

But in the main, this is still a novel from the last century, from a kid trying the reach the heights of his idols like Asimov, Bradbury, and Arthur C. Clarke.

It offers you, the reader, a chance for time travel—to go back to 1959.

Jim Harmon

Burbank, CA., 2007




The Contested Earth, never before published

The Smuggler, from Spaceway, April 1954

Voting Machine, from SF Quarterly, November 1954

The Well-Dressed Spaceman, from Authentic Science Fiction, 1955

Break a Leg, from Galaxy Science Fiction, November 1957

The Three Gray Wolves, from Weird Trails, 2004

Sherlock Holmes: The Adventure of the Duplicate Deceiver,

     from It’s That Time Again, 2004

Who Calls a Ghost Town Home?, never before published


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