Posbi Invasion Introduction
The Road To Rhodania
By Forrest J Ackerman
Note: Below is the introduction
originally commissioned for Posbi Invasion.
Since the book is now unlikely to be printed, Vector presents the introduction for fans.
Copyright 1998 Vector Enterprises.
Best, John Foyt
IT ALL BEGAN (as all good Forry Stories begin) after the fantasy film festival in Trieste in 1966 where my wife Wendayne & I had met a dynamic German author named Walter Ernsting. A few days (or nights) later we were in his home in Salzburg, Austria, having a meal with him, and during dinner he told us how he and Karl Herbert Scheer had created a character called Perry Rhodan (pronounced RO-d'n, with the accent on the first syllable like Edgar Rice Burroughs' TAR-z'n) and that it was a great success, appearing weekly with the future interstellar adventures of a kind of Teutonic Buck Rogers or Flash Gordon, "The Peacelord of the Universe."
"Germans like American authors so I created the American-sounding pseudonym of Clark Darlton. The series is already appearing in translations in several countries," he told us with pride, "but I regret it's never sold to America. The reason for that," I explained to him, "is that nobody in publishers' offices reads German, they have no idea what Perry is all about."
"I could translate one," Wendayne said, having spoken German since birth.
"You would?!" said Walter. "How much would it cost?"
"Oh, nothing," said Wendy; "I'd be glad to do it as an experiment."
At this point, I being an agent since the late 40s with approximately 200 clients, spoke up and said, "And I'd be glad to agent it on spec; my standard agent's fee, if I'm successful in selling it."
We shook hands - Walter probably drank a toast (I'm a teetotaler) - and shortly after Wendy & I were back in the Ackermansion she began moonlighting after her university teaching hours and as fast as she'd type a page and turn it over to me I'd go to work editing it. She knew English very well but, shall we say, not Americanese like native born me. My first change was to turn mousebeaver Gucky (pronounced GOO-key in German) into the more acceptable to American eyes & ears, Pucky. I decided Bell would read better than Bull and while I was at it made an editorial decision to subtly strike a blow for anti-nicotinism: only the bad guys would smoke cancer sticks - cigarettes. (I wish Robert Bloch, Yul Brynner, Maria Ouspenskaya and others had been influenced by me)
One of the authors had a passion for a character to nod. "Er nikte ... er nikte ... er nikte" about 20 times to a page so I banished most of the nods off to the land of Nod.
But I'm getting ahead of the story. The original German episodes do not have chapters
or chapterheads; I created every one of the chapterheads. Also, the stories in the originals are developed more leisurely, and take 2 or 3 pages to get going. So I started each book off with a bang and then, if necessary, backtracked to the missing material. Also, I wrote the endings to most of the novellas. And I skipped ahead and whetted appetites with thumbnail sketches of episodes to come. I introduced Guest Editorials by Ray Bradbury and others, dedicated issues to Andre Norton, Stanton A. Coblentz, Ray Cummings, Eric Frank Russell, Jack London ... I haven't time to check out over a hundred issues but I suspect there were also Dedications to Hugo Gernsback, HGWells, Edgar Rice Burroughs, "Skylark" Smith, Ray Bradbury and other genre greats. I serialized Golden Age "scientifiction" works like Cummings' "Man on the Meteor", the super-collaboration COSMOS by Campbell, Kline, Flagg, Merritt, E.E. Smith and a dozen or more great names from the past. I serialized a nonfiction book on Atlantis, introduced reader-written short stories, created future language & slanguage (Glord! after a quarter century the only one I can remember offhand is "forvala"), a readers' dept. called The Perryscope (I've never forgotten the letter from a Fraulein in Deutschland who said she was learning English by reading the American editions!), scientifilm reviews, I even foisted a few of my own pieces of fiction off on the defenseless readers and probably sneaked in a little subtle propaganda for the artificial universalanguage Esperanto. PERRY RHODAN was indeed an eclectic (Acklectic?) mixture of sci-fi gone wild and became so popular that at one point Wendayne & I and Stu Byrne & Sig Wahrman and current translator Dwight Decker were churning out 3 "magabooks"/'bookazines" a month - the publisher actually wanted four! But no matter how many "perks" there were in PERRY RHODAN the main attraction was always The Man himself. In Germany, the end of this year, the 2000th episode will appear and be celebrated by a great convention with myself and American publisher John Foyt as coguests of honor.
But 25 years ago there was an uproar among sf authors, claiming they couldn't sell their "serious works" because the market was being flooded by these space operas. This must seem strange to you today, a modern reader, with the market flooded with Star Wars and Star Trek and X Files and other media pocketbooks and no longer an outcry from "serious" sci-fi authors.
But I did get way ahead of the story. PERRY RHODAN was not instantly accepted by a publisher. I've lost track of how many turndowns there were; at one point a major publisher (name now forgotten by me) expressed an interest, only to fling Perry back in my face crying, "We didn't know this was a juvenile!" Finally the late Donald A. Wollheim, originally an Ace editor before he formed his own DAW books, took a chance ... and the rest, as they say, is history. Don rose from the ranks of pioneering fans to become a major force in sf pocketbook publishing; he had a care for the pioneers like Ray Cummings, Arthur J. Burks, Ralph Milne Farley et al and was even favorable to foreign authors like Pierre Barbet and Pierre Versins, Snglo authors William F. Temple and Eric Frank Russell, so he did not look averse at a work originating in Germany.
Perry Rhodan clubs sprang up all over the country, Rhodanzines edited by Rhofans, there was a wonderful Rhocon in Washington/DC with A.E. "Slan" Vogt & myself as coguests of honor.
I cannot conclude this time travel trip thru the volumes of PR without mentioning his signficant other, Thora of Arkon. Thora the magnificent, the plantinum blond Jean Harlow of the spaceways. But I felt the Germans missed a golden opportunity when Perry married Thora not to really play it up big so I prevailed upon Clark Darlton, Stuart J. Byrne and Wendayne Ackerman to create an entire new segment featuring the romance of Perry & Thora, "Test Flight to Eden", published in nos. 68 & 69 wherein Thora discovers, her, Perrydise.
Then the Germans did an incredible thing: in American edition #70 - they killed Thora in a totally off hand manner! A flash of a raygun from an alien - and Thora was dead! This presumably was acceptable to the German readers but I felt it would never do for the Americans. So ... I have no great reputation as a writer of fiction but I poured my heart into imagining a death scene for Thora. And it worked beyond by wildest expectations. For weeks after the issue chronicling Thora's untimely, unexpected death, tears were streaming out of my telephone. "Tell us it isn't true! Bring back Thora!" Well, I was powerless to revive Thora; I didn't write the stories, they came from Germany and my wife translated them and Thora simply no longer existed. I did the best I could, I gave her a fond farewell. Here, reprinted from PERRY RHODAN #70 is my Death of Thora tribute:
Deringhouse and Ishy saw a heart-stopping sight: Thora ... deathly pale ... hand clutched to her side in pain and bewilderment ... swaying ... sinking to the floor ...
"God! God!" Deringhouse shouted. "A doctor - quick!" He was utterly unnerved.
There was no alarm button in the prison cell.
Ishy raced from the room to summon help.
Deringhouse knelt beside this woman for whom he felt such a deep platonic love. He cradled her head in his lap, smoothed her long silky hair.
How young her face looked! Yet so pale ... so frighteningly
The lids rose tremulously, revealing Thora's luminous
red-gold eyes. They regarded Deringhouse but they saw another in his place.
A wan smile formed in the comers of Thora-s mouth. Deringhouse inclined his head, placed an ear near her pallid lips, heard her whisper: "Perry ... my beloved husband. Why do I hurt so? What has happened to me? Oh!” Deringhouse winced as the dying woman he adored grimaced in pain, grasped her side. "Perry! Take me in your arms! Hold me!"
Deringhouse was seized by a paroxysm of indecision. Should
he play the part? The moment was holy.
He looked down at her, his vision blurred by tears. But it
was not his tears alone that diminished the brilliance of her eyes; they were
visibly dimming of their own accord as the inner light of her being burned low
and near to extinction.
"Perry...," she murmured again, almost inaudibly.
"Where are the doctors!" Deringhouse cried out in
Then Thora uttered the final words of her life.
"'Perry - it's been ... wonderful ... to be with you ... you've done so
much ... for others ... and for me. Our son Thomas -" An involuntary gasp. "Perry ... Perry ..."
At that moment Dr. Brann finally rushed into the room, Dr.
Elslow hard on his heels.
All witnessed in choking disbelief the last feeble movement
of Thora's head as her face turned toward the wall.
The doctors examined her fatal injury in shocked silence.
Her proud spirit was gone, at one with the universe and
Heartbroken, Deringhouse regarded the glazed eyes from which
the gold had faded, the lifeless face whose lovely lips, pale as pink
porcelain, wore a yearning smile where a moment before had dwelt that
mysterious spark of that unfathomable enigma called life.
Deringhouse swallowed painfully in deepest despair.
How was the impossible information to be conveyed to his
The man whose name had been framed on Thora's dying lips?
Perry - !"
Pardon me while I immodestly reach for my hanky.
Peace & Perry be with you.