The Winston Science Fiction Series

In a previous blog I talked about books and television series that had an influence on me growing up. I remember my mom dragging my sister and me to the Phoenix Public Library. I really didn’t mind that so much. It’s just that I hated Phoenix when I was little because it was hot and downtown Phoenix had a “mood” about it that whispered of “oldness’, of another time: not my time, but World War II and the Great Depression. This aura of downtown was not so much my parents’ time, but of my grandparents’ time. Old men in fedoras, middle-aged men wearing baggy pants (when my friends and I grew up in the mid-fifties wearing Levis and white T-shirts). Old cars, run-down apartments. My mom always seemed to be hustling my sister and I from our ’52 Studebaker to the doors of the Library where we’d be safe (and, thankfully, cool). Soon, though, I stumbled on the science fiction section of the Phoenix Public Library and found the Winston Science Fiction series. All of them–or the ones not checked out–with their colorful spines and equally colorful covers.

Now, I have to mention something deeply personal here. I loved the covers, but at first couldn’t check them out (or wouldn’t allow my mother to check them out). I certainly didn’t want to take them home. This because my mother was a chain smoker and smoked Winston cigarettes and I didn’t want to have anything to do with the Winston Cigarette Company. My house had ashtrays in every room and bathroom–even outside. And our garbage always smelled of cigarette butts and ash.

Stupid, huh? Well, that’s the visceral reaction I had when I was about nine when I refused to check the books out.

I got over that when in my school’s library I found a copy of Son of the Stars by Raymond F. Jones. The Granada Elementary School Library covered the Winston logo on the spine with a large Dewey Decimal System sticker . . . which made it easier for me to take the book home and read it. After that, I was hooked. I managed to get over my aversion to the Winston logo (which was just that of a vertical Fifties rocket ship) and read about a dozen others over the next few years. Today, I own about ten of them. all in very good condition. First printings of these book can command figures up to $400 a copy on ebay and at Rare Book shows. I found a pristine copy of The World at Bay by Paul Capon for $300 and bought it. (It came out the year I was born, 1950 and the solution to stemming the alien invasion: cigarettes!)

Here’s part of the Wikipedia entry on the Winston Science Fiction Series: “The set was published by The John C. Winston Company between 1952 and 1960, then by Holt, Rinehart & Winston until 1961. The dust jackets feature classic science fiction illustrations by artists like Hugo Award winners Ed Emshwiller and Virgil Finlay along with Hugo nominees like Mel Hunter and Alex Schomberg.”

Here are the titles:

The Year After Tomorrow by Lester Del Rey

Earthbound by Milton Lesser

Find the Feathered Serpent by Evan Hunter

Five Against Venus by Philip Latham

Islands in the Sky by Arthur C. Clarke

Marooned on Mars by Lester Del Rey

Mists of Dawn by Chad Oliver

Rocket Jockey by Lester Del Rey

Son of the Stars by Raymond F. Jones

Sons of the Ocean Deeps by Bryce Walton

Vault of the Ages by Poul Anderson

Attack from Atlantis by Lester Del Rey

Battle on Mercury by Erik Van Lhin

Danger: Dinosaurs! by Richard Marsten

Missing Men of Saturn by Philip Latham

The Mysterious Planet by Lester Del Rey

Mystery of the Third Mine by Robert W. Lowndes

Planet of Light by Raymond F. Jones

Rocket to Luna by Richard Marsten

The Star Seekers by Milton Lesser

Vandals of the Void by Jack Vance

Rockets to Nowhere by Lester Del Rey

The Secret of Saturn’s Rings by Donald A. Wollheim

Step to the Stars by Lester Del Rey

Trouble on Titan by Alan E. Nourse

The World At Bay by Paul Capon

The Ant Men by Eric North

The Secret of the Martian Moons by Donald A. Wollheim

The Lost Planet by Paul V. Dallas

Mission to the Moon by Lester Del Rey

Rockets through Space by Lester Del Rey

The Year When Stardust Fell by Raymond F. Jones

The Secret of the Ninth Planet by Donald A. Wollheim

The Star Conquerors by Ben Bova

Stadium Beyond the Stars by Stephen Marlowe

Moon of Mutiny by Lester Del Rey

Spacemen, Go Home by Milton Lesser

Looking back, I felt privileged to have started out in science fiction reading such wonderful novels. I didn’t really notice that the books were about young people (particularly) boys. I read a lot in that time about all kinds of characters. However, today, when a writer writes about a young protagonist, it gets shoved over into the YA category–but there are exceptions in mainstream science fiction publishing such as China Mieville’s Railsea which has an older protagonist (mid-twenties) but has been marketed in the YA field. There are others, of course.

The Winston books were one of the best reading experiences in my young life and many of them still hold up as young adult science fiction adventures. I hope it will be remembered and cherished for years to come.

–Paul Cook

(Ed. Note: There are several online resources for the Winston series – Winston Science Fiction Cover Art provides scans of all of the book covers and the Winston Scifi blog, the chronicles of one man attempting to collect the best examples of the entire series.)

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