Thursday, February 16, 2012

Vampire Frog-People from Outer Space

I've written about Edmond Hamilton before. He started in the pulp industry and became a successful writer of science fiction. When the pulps died out, he moved to comic books, where he's primarily remembered today for his entertaining run on The Legion of Super Heroes.

Hamilton's stories certainly weren't high on scientific realism, but that's really one of their strengths. He was internally consistent in terms of plot and character--within this framework, he churned out stories that were dripping with pure fun.

"The Second Satellite" is yet another example of this. Published in the August 1930 issue of Astounding Stories of Super-Science, it involves the unexpected discovery of a SECOND MOON orbiting Earth.

The first thing a reader might wonder is where this moon's been hiding all this time. Well, it's been spinning around our upper atmosphere in such a fast orbit, that it's effectively invisible.

This is, of course, nonsense from a hard science point-of-view. But this isn't hard science fiction. This is space opera in the finest (and not-at-all-derogatory) sense of the word. Hamilton presents this situation, then just runs with it.

Pilots in experimental planes have been vanishing and another pilot deduces the existence of the second moon from this. He and a co-pilot take a flight themselves and end up crashing on the moon. Within minutes, they are captured by Vampire Frog-People who are armed with disintegration guns.

So the heroic Earthmen must use their great strength (amplified by the low gravity) to escape the Frog-People's partially-underwater city. After that, it's time to teach the human population (until now oppressed by the frog-people and used as a food source) how to make underwater breathing apparatus. This all leads up to an all-out assault by the humans on their oppressors.

It's all great fun, told with fast-moving and well-constructed prose. There are captures, escapes, battles and still more escapes. Everything a good adventure story should have.

And, of course, it has Vampire Frog-People. With disintegration guns.  Vampire Frog-People rank right up there with Skeletons with Death Rays as an inherently cool idea. So the story really can't help but be awesome.

I'm pretty sure I've talked about this before: I love hard science fiction--Poul Anderson and Larry Niven always come to mind as two writers especially good at this. I love stories in this genre that depend upon getting the science right to help create a successful and believable story.

But I also love Space Opera. My favorite term for this sort of story is "Science Fantasy"--a tale in which it the story claims that its fantastic elements are a part of science and not magic, but where the laws of science are casually bent or broken to create a new and really cool world. This is the sort of thing that Edmond Hamilton was so very good at.

Vampire Frog-People with disintegration guns. Man, compared to that, real life actually seems kind of dull, doesn't it?


  1. Are you familiar with Stephen Haffner's Edmund Hamilton reprint series? He's printing every Hamilton story in gorgeously designed hardbounds:

    D-roool, d-roool...

  2. I have seen those. I'm actually waiting awhile in case they put out an electronic version, but I'll be getting them eventually in one format or another. I agree, they are beautiful books and a proper tribute to Hamilton's work as a skilled storyteller.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...