Posts tagged ‘Advertising’

The Space Merchants, 21st Century Edition


In 2011, Fred revised The Space Merchants, his classic collaboration with Cyril Kornbluth. The most notable changes in the 21st Century Edition were the replacement of defunct brand names with more contemporary ones, and a few tweaks to make the science more accurate.

Not everybody was pleased with the update, but since earlier editions had been out of print for some time, the availability of new copies is a boon. Alas, this classic has not been released in an electronic edition, and we hope those of you who’d like to have it in your e-reader libraries will importune the publishers to make it so.

We thought Fred’s fans might like to see a few of the reviews of the latest edition:

  • “The novel is full of fantastic plot twists and adopts an irreverent attitude to everything from the things we eat to the power of the president. Its wry take on the role of media in shaping popular culture makes it a dazzling proto-Pop novel.” —Doug Cube, Cubic Muse.

  • “At the end of the day, the book can’t help but retain its quality as a cautionary glimpse into the future from a little over a half-century ago. . . . Science-fiction fans who somehow missed reading THE SPACE MERCHANTS should definitely get this new edition. The rest of us can retire our dogged-ear paperback copies and enjoy reading it again in this sturdier, comfortable format.” —Alan Cranis, Bookgasm.

  • “In 1953, Pohl and Kornbluth (1923–1958) published this wry tale of a future run by corporations, a groundbreaking narrative in its time.” — Publishers Weekly.

  • “The best science fiction novel about Madison Ave you’ll ever read. . . . Now out in a ‘Revised 21st Century Edition,’ The Space Merchants is quite literally Mad Men in space. It’s also a reminder that this book should take its place among the great literary satires of the twentieth century.” —Annalee Newitz, io9.

Have you read both versions? What did you think?

The blog team

Related posts:

Horace L. Gold

Horace L. Gold

Over the next few years I gave most of my thinking time to other matters. I finally could not make myself stay on at a 9-to-5 job in advertising, so in spite of pleas to stay and the offers of still more money, I left my good friends in advertising and took over the management of my dying friend Dirk Wylie’s literary agency. I did occasionally have a spasm of writing the novel, putting together a few pages of one false start or another, and then ash-canning them when I read them over.

But then I had an idea — slow in coming but full of promise. What I had become reasonably good at, and seemed to be getting slowly better, was science fiction. So why not write a science-fiction novel about advertising?

I experimentally wrote a few pages, on something to which I gave the title Fall Campaign. Then, as time permitted I wrote a few more, and then a few more than that, and after quite a few such episodes I had about a 20,000-word chunk of what was a recognizable science-fiction novel about advertising.

Although I had {through the Wylie agency agency), been selling a reasonable number of short stories, all under pseudonyms, novels were terra incognita to me. I felt the need of an outside opinion. So I took my 20,000 words over to show to Horace Gold, the brilliant, if sometimes maddening, editor of the new magazine Galaxy. My agency did a lot of business with his magazine and we had become friends. He read it over and said, “Fine. I’m running an Alfie Bester serial now. As soon as that finishes I’ll start this one.”

That caught me unawares. I said, “Horace, did you happen to notice that it isn’t finished?”

He said, “Sure. So what do you do about that? You go home and finish it.”

The trouble with that very appealing idea was that running the literary agency did not leave me enough time to do what Horace wanted, at least single-handed. But I quickly saw that I had a possible solution to the problem right up in the third floor guest room of my recently acquired house in Red Bank, New Jersey. The name of the solution was Cyril Kornbluth.

To be continued. . . .

Related posts:

  • The Story of The Space Merchants, Part 1
Candy turkeys by Leah A. Zeldes. Photo ©2012 by Leah A. Zeldes.

Sweet turkeys by Leah A. Zeldes.

By Elizabeth Anne Hull

Elizabeth Anne Hull. Photo by Barb Knoff.

Elizabeth Anne Hull

Celebrating our first holidays at Gateway without Fred has been bittersweet. (“Gatewayis the name Fred and I gave our house.) Our Christmas decorations are a little more elaborate this year, with some extra lights to make up for the bright spot who isn’t here.

At Thanksgiving last month, we all helped make the major meal, and everyone was stuffed at the end of it. Tasty and satisfying. Only eight of us this year; we’ve often had up to twenty.

Before diving in to feast, we all shared what we were most thankful for. I said I was grateful for knowing Fred for over thirty-five years, and being married to him for more than twenty-nine years, and since Fred wasn’t there to say it, I also said I was grateful that we had begun to negotiate with Iran, and though success isn’t certain, there’s a little more chance for peace in the Middle East and for everyone in the world.

* * *

Thanksgiving is the most ecumenical and inclusive holiday we share in America. Yet all year round, Americans share something with each other: Our American lifestyle is built on trust and honesty. We rely on others to be honorable.

When we pay for a product or service, whether it’s food, clothing, a haircut, cable access, medicine, an automobile, a new smart phone, a house, insurance — we most often pay on a credit or debit card or by writing a check. We are not quite a cashless society, but the folks who sell goods and provide services expect that when people pay with plastic or electronically they will take care of the bill when it comes. Even when we pay with coins and bills, we expect that these symbols of exchange are valid tenders, not counterfeits.

We’re aware that some people cheat or are deadbeats or outright frauds, yet if the majority of us weren’t honest, our whole society would collapse. We are far too many people and our interactions are too complex to use trade and barter. We can’t all be survivalists, growing all of our own food and creating safe shelter for our families. We’re all in it together.

* * *

Upon reflection, the thing I probably was most grateful for was that we didn’t get a single annoying phone call all day trying to sell us a home-security system or a device in case “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.”

I don’t worry so much about our survival as a species and as a country, when I’m not deluged by fear mongers.


The Space Merchants


In 1944, I was an Army Air Corps weatherman attached to the 456th Bomb Group (Heavy) at its base near the tiny town of Stornara, Italy. For years the group had survived with a total weather complement of two, one major and one sergeant, but then at last the weather training school at Chanute Field, Illinois, had been able to put a force of several hundred trained weathermen onto a troop transport headed for Italy. The 456th got eight of that shipment, and one of them was me.

With all those weathermen, none of us had to work very hard. When a mission was on there was a flurry of pre-dawn activity until the B-24s began to rumble and waddle down the runways to get airborne, then not a lot to do until they, or the survivors among them, came (often limping) back. And of course if the weather was bad not even that much happened. Then everybody had most of the day off.

For those reasons I had a lot of free time on my hands. Much of it I spent exploring the nearby Italian towns and the just as nearby Adriatic Sea beaches. But I was also a little homesick for my beloved city of New York, and what I decided to do about that was to write something about it. That something became a novel, not science fiction, set in the city and concerning what seemed to me one of New York’s most interesting manifestations, the advertising business.

So for a while. on days when I was not otherwise occupied. I would carry the lavender Remington No. 5 portable typewriter that my mother had given me on my twelfth birthday (and that I lugged with me throughout World War II) to the Enlisted Men’s Club, where I added a few more pages to a novel entitled For Some We Loved. (The title comes from The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, to which I had been addicted as a teenager.) And I did, in fact, after some couple of hundred pages, type “The End” on the last page and pack it into the bottom of my duffel bag to await better times.

Then time passed. The war ended. Better times did come, and I was a civilian again with a neat little apartment and attached roof garden at 28 Grove Street in the heart of Greenwich Village. And one of the first things I did after moving in was to pull that manuscript out and read it over.

It was not a joyous experience. I quickly realized that the story had an incapacitating flaw. It was about the advertising business, which was a subject I knew nothing about. It showed.

After some thought, however, I could see a possible way of remedying that. I picked up a copy of the Sunday Times, turned to the Help Wanted pages and found three ads for advertising copywriters. I answered all three. One of them was the tiny Mad Ave. advertising agency of Thwing and Altman. They specialized in book accounts, including the Merriam-Webster dictionaries and Doubleday’s Dollar Book Clubs, and when I showed them the house ads I had written as an editor at Popular Publications, they took me on.

And that was the beginning of a few prosperous years spent in the advertising biz. (Not very much of that period was spent at T & A, however. They didn’t pay much. On months with only four Fridays my take-home pay was not quite enough to cover the month’s rent on that nice Village apartment, and I felt that I’d really like to have a few more dollars coming in to spend on food, clothes, cigarettes and science-fiction magazines. So when I decided to stay on for a while with this advertising racket, I went looking for, and found, a better job, which was on the payroll of the advertising and editorial departments of the Popular Science Publishing Company.

At some time a couple of years into my new career, I had rented a summer place high up over the great Ashokan Reservoir, maybe a hundred miles out of New York. One of the things I liked best about the large house that came with it was the big flagstone fireplace on its second floor.

And there, one Saturday evening, I once more pulled out that manuscript from my 456th Bomb Group days and read it over. As I read it, I perceived that it had another flaw I had not previously noted. Considered on its merits as a novel it was — what’s the word I should use? — well, lousy.

So as I read the manuscript, I fed it page by page into the fire. And when I was through, there I was, now with some notions about advertising that just begged to be put into a novel, and no novel to put them into.

I did have some sketchy notions, however, and so I wrote a few pages of an opening, but didn’t like it very much.

To be continued. . . .



France doesn’t have a Madison Avenue, but it sure has some enterprising Mad Ave type advertising people. At last year’s Cannes Lions advertising festival, some of them were unwilling to wait until consumers could read and write — or even walk on two feet — to start inducting them into their duties to Consume. So they got to work.

They prepared billboards aimed at selling products to pre-humans, in this case capuchin monkeys. One billboard had a giant shot of a female capuchin’s genitalia, the other of a somewhat less enthusiastic male. (Unfortunately we cannot display either ad in a family blog like this one.)

What they do not report is what commodity they were trying to get the monkeys to desire, but if this impels other advertisers to go after that untapped pre-human audience, we’ll be sure to let you know.

If you don’t know who Fowler Schocken is, take a look inside the covers of that grand old classic The Space Merchants, by two of my favorite writers (one of whom is C.M. Kornbluth), now available in a handsome 21st-century edition. Available at all good purveyors of the written word.)

Time Jan. 23. 1995

Jan. 23, 1995

It could happen to a nicer guy—

Listeners report that there are empty spots in Rush Limbaugh’s daily outpouring of venom where there used to be commercials, but now there’s just dead air because advertisers have been drawn away

—but it wouldn’t.