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There is a wonderful old term used to describe a feature of Golden Age science fiction novels: BEM, an acronym for “bug-eyed monsters.” Back in the 1930s and ‘40s, you see, the covers of many sci-fi pulp magazines featured illustrations of bulbous-orbed, invariably menacing aliens and other creatures; just do a Google Image search for the Thrilling Wonder Storiesperiodical and you’ll see what I mean! But anyone wanting to actually READ a book with more BEMs than any 10 other sci-fi books of the era combined would be well advised to pick up Murray Leinster’s The Forgotten Planet. This Golden Age classic not only features bug-eyed monsters, but also monsters — and scads of them — that just happen to be giant bugs! Leinster (1896 – 1975), who was born William Fitzgerald Jenkins in Norfolk, Virginia, would go on to write some 40 sci-fi novels and 10 books of short stories, copping a Hugo Award for his novelette “Exploration Team” in 1956. Along with Sidewise in Time (1950) and Colonial Survey (1956), however, he is perhaps best known for this tale of hypertrophied insects run amok. The contents of the book originally appeared as three separate stories: “The Mad Planet” (in the 6/20 issue of Argosy All-Story, the publication that also ran many Tarzan and John Carter outings by Edgar Rice Burroughs, as well as works by Abraham Merritt), “The Red Dust” (in the 4/21 Argosy) and “Nightmare Planet” (in the 6/53 issue ofScience Fiction Plus); Leinster cobbled the three into a “fix-up novel” that initially appeared as a Gnome Press hardcover in 1954.
Leinster’s novel asks the reader to swallow two very implausible propositions as it proceeds. First, the matter of a lost punch card that results in the planet being forgotten for centuries. Putting aside the matter of Leinster’s seeming belief that we will be using punch cards rather than computers to store information hundreds of years in the future, I could accept this plot point; after all, there ARE billions of worlds in this galaxy alone, so perhaps forgetting about one of them is not too implausible after all (and I suppose it IS possible that those punch cards are meant to be used with computers).