Into Plutonian Depths by Stanton A. Coblentz (1950)
It's been one of those rare weeks -- one where I haven't finished a blessed book. Life happens, books don't. I really wanted to start the New Year off right with a Forgotten Book post full of wit and insight, a post that would have you rushing off to find some arcane tome, muttering, "Gotta have it! Gotta have it!" strictly because of the brilliance of my review.
Not going to happen this week, dammit.
So let me cheat a pick out a book from Mount TBR, one that I will most likely get to sooner than later.
Unfortunately for you, the book was Into Plutonian Depths.
About Stanton A. Coblentz. Born in 1896, He studied law at the University of California but his artsy-fartsy side seemed to have gotten the better of him and he switched majors and graduated with an M.A. in English. (His Master's thesis was privately published as The Poetic Revival in America. By the early Twenties he was churning out book reviews and poems. The Thinker and Other Poems appeared in 1923. He founded the poetry magazine Wings, which ran for 27 years, nd many of his books were published by his own Wings Press. As a poet he was...well, stodgy. Modern Twentieth Century poetry did nothing for him and he loudly championed traditionalism. He began writing science fiction in the late Twenties and became very popular in those early days of SF. Eager fans did not care about his clunky writing, concentrating instead on his inventiveness and his ability to produce a sense of wonder. His science fiction was considered "satirical," but (alas!) not funny ha-ha satirical. It did not age well, a symptom greatly aggravated by heavy editing and revision (by whose hand is not known) when many of his early magazine novels appeared in book form in the Sixties.
About Pluto. Discovered by Clyde Tombaugh in 1930 (remember that date!), Pluto was at one time the ninth planet in our solar system. Named by an eleven-year-old British schoolgirl, this distant planet and its five moons went merrily along its nontraditional orbit until 2006 when the party poopers at the International Astonomical Union declared Pluto to be a dwarf planet. Thanks to the New Horizons spacecraft, we now know that Pluto has an atmosphere. It is suspected that it also has a subsurface ocean layer that is 100-180 kilometers thick.
About Into Plutonian Depths. The novel first appeared in the spring 1931 issue of Wonder Stories Quarterly, which indicates that Coblentz was quick to get on the Pluto hobby horse after Tombaugh's discoery. The magazine blurb read: "Beneath the surface of Pluto, outpost of the solar system [,] dwelt a strange race...and into their midst came two men..." The novel laid entombed in those crumbling pulp pages until 1950 when Avon Books, under the editorship of Donald A. Wollheim, released it as a paperback original with a noteworthy cover. Here we had a zaftag blonde bave in a gold lame bikini, her perfectly rounded breasts cupp in a golden half bra with starburst pasties, her fingernails, toenails, and lips painted a deep red, her eyes heavy with mascara, a glowing green orb protuding from her upper forehead, with strands of pearls adorning her right wrist, her hair, and dangling from her bikini bottom. Her gold sandal literally snake up her calves. Oh, and she has a blue patterned towel hanging from her backside. She pulling a stalwart hero throught a Neptunian cave while being chased by a horde of blue-skinned natives in gold lame briefs carrying spears (the Neptunians, not the briefs). A cheesy science fiction cover supreme, matched perhaps only by the cover of Jack Williamson's The Green Girl from the same time and publisher.
The front cover blurb:
AN EXCITING SCIENCE-FICTION NOVEL OF A WORLD WITH THREE SEXES ON A FARAWAY PLANET!
Here's the back cover copy:
LOVE WAS A CRIME ON THAT STRANGE WORLD
On the unknown world of Pluto, a maiden's most cherisheddesire was -- to become a Neuter! Marriage, to a Plutonian miss, was a disaster, and love a catastrophe to be avoided at all costs!
That was why the girl who caught the eyes of the Earthly explorers, Andy and Dan, did her best to talk them out of any proposals! Naturally the two men, who had dared the terrors of a two-billion mile journey across interplantary space, were not likely to take a turn-dow like that easily. They set out to find the answer. and what they learned was enough to make their heads dizzy with complications of a world that had Three Sexes!
For the poeple who inhabited Pluto did not stop at the conventional two sexes, they had a third -- and that curious Third Sex had the last word on all matters of life, death, and romance. When the men from Earth and their Plutonian girl friend came into conflict with the laws of the Head Neuter, they had a fight for their lives on their hands that was bound to upset an entire world's crazily balanced standards!
INTO PLUTONIAN DEPTHS will keep you on your toes with its exciting pace, its unconventional satire, and its outstanding fantasy.
And from the inside front cover:
Come to Mysterious Pluto...
OUR MOST DISTANT NEIGHBOR -- AND MEET THE THREE SEXES. THERE YOU WILL FIND:
Miss Zandaye Zandippar, the beautiful Plutonian girl, who never knew she was good to look at; who was the embodiment of feminine charms, but who thought the highest ideal of womanhood was to join the Third Sex!
Andrew Lyman Stark, the courageous inventor and explorer from Earth, who dared to challenge the mixed-up morality of a weird planet in an effort to win for himself the maiden who captured his heart.
The Head Neuter, brainy ruler of a world that didn't make sense, who determined to "punish" Zandaye for her"'waywardness" by forcing her to remain a woman -- but without Andy Stark!
The Lamp-Heads, the strange race of people who inhabited the inside of Pluto, who had light bulbs growing in their skulls, and who thought that any race without three sexes must be abnormal!
Packed with adventure, romance, and satire, Stanton A. Coblentz's INTO PLUTONIAN DEPTHS is a science-fiction novel that will keep you to the last page as you read of the topsy-turvy world two billion miles away where love is the lost chord in the unearthly symphony of life.
And finally, here's a sample of Cobletz's deathless prose, chosen at random. From page 66:
"Little did we realize at first how these advantages were regarded by he kin! For, when we congratulated her upon her form and the color of her eyes, she seemed almost ready for tears; her voice trembled, her head-lamp turned red, and she appeared to believe herself the butt of our jokes. It was only after long insistance that we learned the reason for her queer behavior: which was that she was regarded as a sort of freak; that her reddish lips were held to be unnatural; that her blue eyes were condiered a mark of atavism, of degeneracy, since most of the lower animals onPluto also had blue eyes; while her perfectly proportioned form was condemned as ludicrously obese."
As I said above, I will probably read this book sooner than later. On that day, mes freres, think well of me, for I read so you won't have to.
Once again, our kindly, yet fearless, leader Patti Abbott has taken the day off -- this time to celebrate her birthday* -- and Todd Mason while be collecting whatever New Year's Day links there are at his Sweet Freedom blog.
* Happy Birthday, Patti!