Alien Earth (1949) by Edmond Hamilton – sf short story review

First appearance: in Thrilling Wonder Stories (April 1949) – ed. Sam Merwin, Jr.

The version I read: in The Great Science Fiction Stories Volume 11, 1949 (1984) – ed. Isaac Asimov & Martin H. Greenberg


I hazard to even guess what is going on in this pic. At the very least the contrast in clothing options is remarkable.

Poor Edmond Hamilton! Should I even say such a thing?

“The slow, pulsing beat of day and night alone was enough to unseat one’s reason.” (152)

Variously known as the world saver and world destroyer, Hamilton was one of the few kings of the 1930s pulps who continued to have a relatively successful career after the Campbell “revolution”. To the extent that this was also helped by his marriage to the excellent Leigh Bracket, author of the cool Eric John Stark stories (and script writer of one of the best westerns bar none, Rio Bravo) is a question worth pursuing – but sadly beyond the scope of this brief review.

“But modern man has forgotten this other Earth. Except me, Farris – except me!” (156)

Alien Earth is a story published some years after Hamilton’s pulp heyday. Even though it is perhaps more ruminative of the insignificant fate of the human against the background of “nature” than much pulp, it’s pure pulpy goodness nonetheless. The fetid, jungle setting initially reminded me of Ballard’s The Crystal World (The Drowned World?). Even the central conceit of Ballard’s novel appears to be influenced by Hamilton, albeit filtered through Ballard’s self conscious concern with literary modernism. In the story Hamilton channels H.G. Wells and William Hope Hodgson, in the process turning Wells’ The New Accelerator on its head to reveal a hidden world which surrounds and under-girds humanity’s misplaced self-importance. All with a dash of colonialist hierarchies (the drug addled intellectual fled to the authenticity of the jungle frontier) and you have the perfect pulp confection.

Just my kind of story!


At the gates of a mysterious and needless to say futuristic city our hardy protagonist ponders her fate astride a Kanger-Tauntaun…

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6 Responses to Alien Earth (1949) by Edmond Hamilton – sf short story review

  1. Joachim Boaz says:

    I miss your SF reviews! This one is great — I have yet to read any of Hamilton’s work — perhaps my frustration with “pulp” taints my view of 40s SF…

    • antyphayes says:

      Yeah, I fell of that horse! I need to establish a regular routine for my reviews. I read a literal stack of shorts over summer (winter) and would like to get my thoughts down about some of them. Two in particularly stand out right now: Margaret St. Clair’s ‘Short in the Chest’ and Walter M. Miller’s ‘The Darfsteller’.

      • Joachim Boaz says:

        I’ve been unimpressed with St. Clair — I’ve reviewed her novel Sign of the Labrys and one her short story collections (very recently, you probably took a peek). But, I’m glad one really stands out! I should track it down!

        As for Miller, that is one of the few stories of his I have not read (I reviewed his wonderful collection The View from the Stars and obviously read A Canticle as a kid). I have “The Darftseller” it on the shelf in his three novella collection Conditionally Human. One of my prized paperbacks as the Powers cover is downright gorgeous…

        • antyphayes says:

          That is an exceptional cover.
          I’ve read ‘Canticle…’, some years back and liked it a lot at the time. Maybe I’ll get around to reading the “sequel” that Terry Bisson finished off one day. I’ve only read two or three of his shorts and am keen for more.
          If you like Canticle I think you will probably like Pangborn’s ‘Davy’.
          I read your review of ‘Sign of the Labrys’ and as a result I am not in a hurry to read it. However I am willing to give her short stories more of a whirl. Apart from ‘Short in the Chest’ I’ve read ‘Horrer Howce’ which was not bad .

          • Joachim Boaz says:

            Across the board critics/average readers/etc ALL warn NOT to read the continuation…. it’s supposedly atrocious in every regard. But yeah, sort of curious about how bad it could be. As for Davy… I might, eventually, it is one of the few “classics” of that period I’ve not read.

  2. Pingback: Babylon in the Sky—Edmond Hamilton | the sinister science

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