Prehistoric Adventures

Sunday , 29, August 2021 5 Comments

DMR Books has had an ambitious publishing schedule. This summer has seen the release of Planetary Adventures, Prehistoric Adventures, and Viking Adventures. I picked up Prehistoric Adventures last weekend at the DMR Books table at Pulpfest.

I have a fondness for prehistoric/caveman fiction. Who among you read Jim Kjelgaard’s The Fire Hunter as a lad? That was one of the great Scholastic Book Service novels. Does SBS still exist? Lester del Rey’s The Cave of Spears is another great young adult caveman novel. More recently, I have really enjoyed reading the translations of J. H. Rosny’s caveman novels from Black Coat Press. Don’t let the movie Quest for Fire scare you away, the book is great.

Prehistoric Adventures format is trade paperback, 206 pages, contents include a short novel and four stories.

            I first read about Arthur Petticolas’ “The Dinosaur Destroyer” in Donald Glut’s The Dinosaur Scrapbook. This book examines dinosaurs in popular culture. There is a sublime chapter “The Pulp Dinosaurs.” One of those great chapters like Richard Lupoff’s chapter on Tarzan imitators in Edgar Rice Burroughs: Master of Adventure.

            Glut did not tell how gonzo of a story “The Dinosaur Destroyer” is. I tracked down a copy of the January 1949 issue of Amazing Stories at Pulp-Con in 2000. I was sharing a room with the late Steve Tompkins who found a copy of the magazine first and read it and said to me: “This is an over the top James Allison pastiche.” For those who don’t catch the reference, James Allison was the narrator of a sequence of stories by Robert E. Howard wherein he recounts past lives as a barbarian in an prehistoric folk wandering period. “Arthur Petticolas” only had this one story. Amazing Stories said he died just before this story went to press. My suspicion is “Arthur Petticolas” was Raymond A. Palmer. Palmer as “J. W. Pelkie” had a series about a caveman, Toka, in Fantastic Adventures in the mid and late 1940s. Steve Tompkins came up with the term of “telescoping history” in Robert E. Howard’s fiction. “Petticolas” did not just one-up him but went to extremes. In the course of “The Dinosaur Destroyer,” Daarmajd sees the end of the dinosaur era, the sinking of Atlantis, and destroyed the Meso-American civlization of Aztlan. Take that Conan! It is good to see “The Dinosaur Destroyer” finally reprinted in a book.

Prehistoric Adventures reprints Robert E. Howard’s first published story, “Spear and Fang.” This is a story of Cro-Magnon vs. Neanderthal that has been rarely reprinted. From this not so humble beginning, great things would come.

Clifford M. Eddy was a member of H. P. Lovecraft’s circle. He had two caveman stories in Weird Tales. Farnsworth Wright had written in “The Eyrie” that he wanted scientifically accurate caveman stories. No cavemen cheek by jowl with non-avian dinosaurs in Weird Tales.

“With Weapons of Stone” (WT, Dec. 1924) is another Cro-Magnon vs. Neanderthal story. The coward of the tribe kidnaps a virgin beauty to be rescued by her sweetheart in “Arhl-a of the Caves” (WT, Jan. 1925). I detect the influence of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ villain Hooja the Sly One from At the Earth’s Core.

H. G. Wells’ “Stories of the Stone Age” has to be one of the Ur-caveman stories as it dates back to 1897. This is a novelette, if not a novella in length. Somehow I missed this one as a youth and I really liked H. G. Wells’ short fiction. To me, stories such as “Aepyornis Island” and “The Sea-Raiders” were what science fiction should be. Check out Wells’ almost fiction piece on the Neanderthal, “The Grisly Folk.”

            These themed anthologies from DMR Books are great. The title logo is well done, layout and font size are easy on the eyes. Reacquaint yourself with some classics and read some rediscovered nuggets.

5 Comments
  • Cromagnon-Man says:

    It would be nice to think that this marks the start of caveman fiction coming back into fashion. Around the turn of the 20th Century it was a mainstay of mainstream popular fiction along with similar subsequently degraded themes like reincarnation and timeslips. But whereas these have enjoyed something of a revival in recent years – even if largely as chick-lit – the caveman story yet languishes forlornly. This may well be on account of the lingering credibility problem posed by Raquel Welch’s chamois-leather bikini. Whether or not this is an insurmountable obstacle it remains one worth perishing in the attempt to find out.

    Without disputing the seminal nature of Wells’s stories, I would assign equal distinction to Stanley Waterloo’s THE STORY OF AB which was also published in 1897 and later became the subject of a plagiarism charge directed at Jack London.

    • John E. Boyle says:

      I must agree that Miss Welch was worth perishing for but I can’t believe you used the word insurmountable in those two sentences.

      • Cromagnon-Man says:

        Lol. I was going to say that the bikini presents a couple of massive problems that need to be wrestled with. But the lure of linguistic irony was just too great.

  • Brian Kunde says:

    Morgan, Scholastic still exists. I attended a few of their book fairs at my kids’ schools some years back, when they were of the age. And of course they were also the U.S. Publisher for J.K. Rowling, earlier this century. I first encountered Fire Hunter via Scholastic, too!

  • Thanks for the lead on Black Coat press. Skimming through their catalog now…

    And I agree that stories of prehistoric man have languished for decades. It just seems hard to get into the proper mindset for us 21st Century folks. (I always wanted to write one but I felt I had to put aliens in it and make it sci-fi to sell to modern audience (appeared in Cirsova #2 of the new volume.)

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