The Best of Edmond Hamilton

Monday , 4, January 2016 5 Comments
Paperback Edition

Paperback Edition

Leigh Brackett had been contracted for and delivered a second in the Best of Planet Stories series. Unfortunately, sales were poor and the series died after the first book. She did edit and deliver one more book, The Best of Edmond Hamilton.

Edmond Hamilton was Leigh Brackett’s husband for the past 30 years. He edited The Best of Leigh Brackett.

Ballantine’s “Best of” series lasted from 1974 to 1979. I love this series. There were I believe 17 volumes. They were big meaty paperbacks, generally around 350 pages. I think I have all of them. Some of the books came out first as Nelson Doubleday/Science Fiction Book hardbacks, followed by the Ballantine (and later Del Rey) paperbacks about six months later. Those books were an excellent starting point if you wanted to check out a new writer.

The Best of Edmond Hamilton had first the SFBC hardback in April 1977. The Del Rey paperback followed in August 1977. The book sold for $1.95 and had 381 pages. Here are the contents:

Introduction:                                      “Fifty Years of Wonder” Leigh Brackett
Monster-God of Mamurth               Weird Tales, August 1926
The Man Who Evolved                     Wonder Stories, April 1931
A Conquest of Two Worlds             Wonder Stories, February 1932
The Island of Unreason                   Wonder Stories, May 1933
Thundering Worlds                         Weird Tales, March 1934
The Man Who Returned                 Weird Tales, February 1935
The Accursed Galaxy                       Astounding Stories, July 1935
In the World’s Dusk                        Weird Tales, March 1936
Child of the Winds                          Weird Tales, May 1936
The Seeds From Outside                Weird Tales, March 1937
Fessenden’s Worlds                       Weird Tales, April 1937
Easy Money                                     Thrilling Wonders Stories, April 1938
He That Hath Wings                      Weird Tales, July 1938
Exile                                                  Super Science Stories, May 1943
Day of Judgment                            Weird Tales, September 1946
Alien Earth                                      Thrilling Wonder Stories, April 1949
What’s It Like Out There?            Thrilling Wonder Stories, December 1952
Requiem                                          Amazing Stories, April 1962
After a Judgment Day                   Fantastic Science Fiction, December 1963
The Pro                                            Magazine of Fasntasy &Science Fiction, October 1964
Castaway                                         The Man Who Called Himself Poe, 1968
Afterword                                        Edmond Hamilton

I remember really enjoying this book. There are two stories that I am not crazy about (“The Man Who Returned” and “Easy Money”), but I can see Brackett’s reasoning for including them. She did want to show that Hamilton had some breadth.

Edmond Hamilton’s first story, “The Monster-God of Mamurth” was his homage to A. Merritt’s “People of the Pit.” Most of his early fiction was more

Hardback Edition

Hardback Edition

influenced by Homer Eon Flint. As Steve Haffner (Haffner Press) said to me one time, early Hamilton has the great ideas but often not so great writing.

Leigh Brackett describes Hamilton’s style as

“The action-adventure story, strong on suspense and atmosphere, spiced with a delight in the alien and the strange.”

Brackett accurately describes early Hamilton who made 40 sales without a revision as a “gifted amateur.”

“Style and characterization are less important here than the central idea. High adventure, heroism, and great story-telling.”

Hamilton was the main science fiction writer for Weird Tales. Many of his stories are formula with a menace from amoeba men, fish men, reptile men etc. Around 1935, some of his stories had better mood and characterization. He was still cranking out pot-boilers but there were good stories scattered therein.

Brackett did a good job of sifting through all those stories and including many of the most memorable. She also balanced the contents of the book fairly well in selecting stories from each decade.

There are world wreaker/world saver stories. There are also some quieter but memorable stories such as “He That Hath Wings,” “Child of the Winds,” and “In the World’s Dusk.”

Writer David C. Smith (Oron, Red Sonja) used to visit Edmond Hamilton and Leigh Brackett when they summered in Kinsman, Ohio. He has said to me that Edmond Hamilton was possibly the most brilliant man he ever knew. Hamilton did have a genius level I.Q. In rereading these stories, I caught little details that belied a man who read wide and deep.

It took me some time to find The Best of Edmond Hamilton. I first learned of it in summer 1983 when I was discovering the various writers for Weird Tales outside of the Dark Trinity of HPL, REH, and CAS. I finally got a used copy from a retired librarian in Pittsburgh who had a nice science fiction and fantasy paperback collection he was swelling off. That is where I got an almost complete run of the Avon Fantasy Reader.

There was only one printing of the paperback. You don’t see it often at used bookstores. I have seen the SFBC hardback with the Don Maitz cover (with Captain Future) far more often.

Six Sleepers

  • I have copies of both The Best of Edmond Hamilton and The Best of Planet Stories on one of my book shelves. Both wonderful books. I sure do wish there had been a second Planet Stories collection edited by Brackett.

  • Don Sutton says:

    Ed and Leigh lived in Kinsman. They wintered in CA.

  • Don says:

    They lived in Kinsman, Ohio and wintered in CA.

  • Thomas Monaghan says:

    Yes they were in CA. Full story. Leigh had a Friday and Saturday signing in a bookstore in Lancaster CA. It was for a last paperback published The Reavers of Skaith Aug 1976 Leigh Brackett. I was in the USAF stationed at Edwards AFB and went to the store Friday and bought the book and she autographed it for me. Well I presumed to ask her if I could bring in my collection Sat. for autograph she said yes but without personalization. So I brought all of my Brackets in the next day. I think I surprised her since I had 10 or so of them. She then invited me to her home for coffee and cookies with her husband Edmond Hamilton but to bring only 1 book for him to sign since he hadn’t been well. I really enjoyed the “tea” and the SF talk.

  • JOHN DESBIN says:

    Another great collection from one of the early sf writers. I bought all of the BEST OF collections I could find. Makes me want to dig through my collection and read them all again!

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