by Jacqueline Lichtenberg
E. C. Tubb's Dumarest of Terra novels
This continues the Reviews series of novels for Romance writers to study.
Here is a Hot Science Fiction/Paranormal Romance without sex scenes and with some antiquated tech in the background.
You'd think the "Mixed Genre" trend we follow on this blog was a new thing.
It is not.
And it didn't exactly start with my Sime~Gen novels -- though they pushed the limits way farther than anything before.
In the mid-1950's Marion Zimmer Bradley gained considerable note for her first sale, a short story published in a magazine. It had characters and a relationship driven plot.
But at the same time some of the male writers were exploring just how "real" they could make their characters and the relationships in their stories. Hal Clement caught on with Mission of Gravity where the "Relationship" between a male (sort of) Alien on a high gravity planet and the human male on the high gravity surface in a capsule could relate to each other to solve a technical problem.
During that same era, E. C. Tubb made me a lifelong fan. I read his Dumarest of Terra novels with that "Yes, but ..." response most women had. But I was just sent an audiobook version of The Winds of Gath (Dumarest of Terra #1) and was blown away by it.
The Winds of Gath is an example of the very best MODERN Science Fiction Romance -- because it has the really Hot Hero (Dumarest). It also has a character that reminds me of the Grandmother in C. J. Cherryh's Foreigner novels. It does have the "damsel in distress" character but that character is the "Grandmother" character's protege and great-granddaughter so you can guess just how much damsel there is in that distress.
Here it is on audible:
And here it is on Amazon -- you can get the collector's old original first edition, or the Wildside e-book or paper reprint:
Wikipedia says WINDS OF GATH was first published in 1968, but I think it's older than that, and someone picked up a reprint that didn't credit the older edition (common practice).
Here's the wikipedia entry with a list of the 33 novels:
I have long been a fan of E. C. Tubb -- especially Dumarest of Terra. But I read them in used ACE Double paperbacks years ago, tucked the author and title names into my GREAT-WONDERFUL-ALWAYS-RECOMMEND list, and went on with my own writing career.
Little did I know that having forgotten the details in these novels, I would incorporate some of them into my own Sime~Gen Series which only began selling to the major publishers in the 1970's.
Bits and pieces of elements you will find in THE WINDS OF GATH turn up oddly in some of my other novel series. So if you've found my novels intriguing, you should check out the DUMAREST OF TERRA series then look for how it inspired other writers.
That effect -- firing up a new generation with an urge to write stories -- is proof positive that Tubb has created a true Classic. Dumarest lives on via the writers Tubb inspired. And there are a lot of us.
Recently, I was given the audiobook of THE WINDS OF GATH -- and copies of the next two in the series in audiobook -- or I probably would not have taken the time to rediscover Dumarest (a sexy hunk to die-for!).
But the Dumarest novels are not "classic" in the sense of being a chore to read, of being a duty to your education -- they are delightfully entertaining and just plain fun.
If you write SF Romance, you will see the frustrating holes, the MISSING SCENES, and the reason that books like this inspired a whole new type of Science Fiction.
So when I was given a review copy of the audiobook, GATH went straight to the top of my to-do list.
I am blown away! Dumarest is sexier than I remember! Everything I love about Modern Science Fiction Romance is present in this novel even if only by implication.
Not only is the audiobook's reader, Rish Outfield, top-notch terrific, but the whole composition comes to life in audio because the writing is so good!
OK, Tubb uses "tape" recording on a scientific instrument, omits cell phones or any Trek-type handheld, no warp drive (they travel in cold sleep or under some drug). This series was started in the 1960's after all.
Consider, though, that Tubb was lured into writing more and more of the Dumarest of Terra series for decades after that-- because it just sold and sold. It was popular for a reason.
It has stayed popular for a reason -- it is Mixed Genre at its very best, a 2014 novel published in the mid-1960's.
You have a whole saga of the galaxy spread before you once you get into Book 1. Books, 1,2, and 3 are in audiobook already.
Read these with a focus on the social issues, and issues of Character (what it takes to be a Good Person - what makes people turn really Dark -- what sorts of social orders foster what kinds of changes in people.) The characters in the Dumarest novels are deep, multi-faceted, realistic.
These novels are masterful explorations of the Major Social Issues of 2014 on Earth Today. These novels give you something to think about. Like Star Trek at its best, these novels leave you with Questions, with the essential Conundrum of Life, and a hint of what it would take to resolve that puzzle.
So you can take what Tubb has sketched out, and add in the decorative parts expected in today's market, update the tech, and create a new universe for younger readers to explore.
The Dumarest of Terra Series is an example of the material scorned worse than video-games are today -- a vacuous waste of time to read, something to keep your kids away from. Kids who read this stuff were considered social outcasts.
Guess what! I disagreed with my elders as a kid when I was reading these books, and on rereading (well, listening), I have confirmed that I was right and they were wrong.
Tubb's writing is both masterful craftsmanship and as profound as any of the great Classics in Latin and Greek.