In January of 1949, the final issue of Conrad Pederson’s fanzine IF! was dedicated to Cosmos. The mimeographed publication is hard on the eyes, but contains some excellent history and perspective on the novel. The full text of the three Cosmos-related articles is presented here.
Like many fanzines, IF! was short-lived, the entire run spanning just five issues beginning in January, 1948. The last issue is the only copy I’ve been able to locate… fortunately, it’s the one that featured Cosmos.
The three articles can be read in their entirety here:
I think all three pieces are worthy of a read. Keller’s article gives some additional insight on how the editors of SFD engaged with the authors in crafting Cosmos. Ackerman gives his usual snarky treatment to the authors, and seems to bubble over with his praise for Ray Palmer. However, Forry’s letter grades for the individual chapters of Cosmos indicate he had a less than favorable view of the quality of the saga: “Concensus – C+.” (The notes shown below surfaced from the Ackerman estate. Thanks to Jim Van Hise for the archaeology.)
Don Wilson’s review of Cosmos demands some comment. He’s extremely critical of the novel’s literary content. Most of this is well-deserved. I especially agree with his conclusion that Hamilton’s last chapter is a real catastrophe, and that the rest of the work was ill-served by the way the key protagonists were summarily killed off. It was a huge missed opportunity to weave together all of the races, personalities and technologies from the preceding installments into a much more compelling climax. Perhaps the best quote from the review is Wilson’s pronouncement that “Edmond Hamilton turns out to be a merciless dog.”
I also agree with Wilson that even the most talented contributing authors didn’t produce their best work for Cosmos. There were unpaid, probably rushed, and in some cases hadn’t yet developed their writing skills to the level seen later. I recently re-read Twilight, a story written by John W. Campbell (under the name Don A. Stuart) in 1934, just one year after his Cosmos submission. Twilight has long been hailed as a classic tale, and remains compelling 80 years after its writing. It’s disappointing that Campbell’s capability for depth and nuance didn’t manifest more in his installment.
I find Wilson’s review to be overly dismissive of the (admittedly few) highlights of the novel, especially Merritt’s work, and Campbell’s. Wilson seems to have a deep disdain for action-oriented science fiction, and writes as though in 1949 the genre had somehow evolved beyond space opera. This wasn’t true then and it’s not entirely true now, as the ongoing popularity of Doc Smith and the more recent revival of works such as Starship Troopers evidence.