The Wall Around the World

by Theodore R. Cogswell, Pyramid Books, 1962 mass market paperback

This is the 35th in my series of Friday Forgotten Books

Science Fiction and Fantasy short story collection, two introductions and 10 short stories (described in the cover blurb as two novelettes and 8 short stories)


  • Fantasy and/or Science Fiction · Anthony Boucher · introduction # 1
  • Fantasy in Science Fiction—No · Frederik Pohl · introduction # 2
  • “The Masters”  (first published in Thrilling Wonder Stories, 1954)
  • “The Specter General”  (first published in Astounding Science Fiction, June 1952)
  • “Wolfie”  (first published in Beyond Fantasy Fiction, January 1954)
  • “Emergency Rations”  (first published in Imagination, September 1953)
  • “The Burning”  (first published in Fantasy & Science Fiction, July 1960
  • “Thimgs”  (first published in Fantasy & Science Fiction, May 1958)
  • “Test Area”,  (first published in Fantastic Universe, February 1955)
  • “Prisoner of Love”  (first publication unk)
  • “Invasion Report”  (first published in Galaxy, August 1954)
  • “The Wall Around the World”  (first published in Beyond Fantasy Fiction, September 1953)

Not long ago, I read a blog post about the June 1952 issue of Astounding Science Fiction magazine, and the cover story “The Spector General” by Kurt Dixon, a pseudonym of Theodore Cogswell. I remembered that issue, the cover art was familiar, but I couldn’t recall one darn thing about the story. The blog post – and if you are reading this and were the one who posted that, please speak up because I simply cannot remember who it was – praised the story and Cogswell and it motivated me to seek and buy this collection.

I’m sure glad I did, because there are pretty darn good stories, and three of them, “Spector General”, “The Wall Around the World” and “Invasion Report” are better than good, they’re terrific. While “Wolfie” is the weakest of the lot, the truth is I liked all of them pretty much and would recommend this collection to anyone.

Notice there are two introductions? You don’t see that every day, and there’s a reason for them being here: labels. At the time this was published, labels were a big deal in SF and in Fantasy and there was a lot of feeling that the two of them should not cross, touch, be combined or in any way contaminate each other. Elves and swords stayed on one side of “the line” and rockets and aliens stayed on the other side. So Boucher and Pohl both make, in their own way, a case for the reader to forget the labels, don’t worry about genre, and just read and enjoy the stories, which is very good advice from knowledgeable persons.

I’d buy this for “The Spector General” alone, and did, I guess, so the rest was all a bonus, and what a nice one it is.

About Rick Robinson

Enjoying life in Portland, OR
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14 Responses to The Wall Around the World

  1. randy Johnson says:

    It’s been a long while since I read anything by Cogswell. This looks like a good place to jump back into the fray. So to speak.

  2. Jerry House says:

    Agreed. Cogswell wrote some great stuff. He only had two story collections published, this and The Third Eye. It’s time some publisher revisited Cogswell and put out a new collection of his stories.

    Kurt Dixon? The Spectre General was published as by Theodore R. Cogswell in Astounding and was listed as such on the cover.

  3. Bill Crider says:

    Rick Prosch wrote that post, I think. I was reading the same issue at the same time and left a comment about it.

  4. Jeff Meyerson says:

    Another one I haven’t read that sounds like something to look for.

    Good choice.

  5. Time to dig out Theodore Cogswell and read him. I think I’ve had this book for about 50 years!

  6. Richard says:

    Thanks, Jerry, you’re right, that Kurt Dixon attribution was a “paste into” from another document, and I got them mixed, then missed it in proofing.

    I also have The Third Eye here and will get to it soon.

  7. Richard says:

    George, I think you’ll enjoy most – if not all – the stories here if you don’t expect Vance or Stapleton.

    Jeff, I had no problem finding a used copy on ABE.

  8. Todd Mason says:

    I’ve enjoyed the Cogswell I’ve happened across over the years…I might even have a buried copy of this one in storage. Too easy to confuse him, just for his Era and name and appearances in ASF, with Ted Thomas.

    Labels continue to be a big deal, but the lazy are, as usual, winning through attrition…

  9. Evan Lewis says:

    And I thought Cogswell was only the owner of Cogswell’s Cogs.

  10. Richard says:

    Todd – Sadly, you are right about the lazy winning through attrition, though these days it also seems the loudest have a way of drowning out everything else, often including reason.

    Evan – there’s one I didn’t see coming.

  11. Pingback: Reading Forgotten Books: The Wall Around The World – Theodore R. Cogswell « Not The Baseball Pitcher

  12. Mike Kowolski says:

    Hi Richard,

    I picked this book up 2nd hand for 50 pence back in 83 when I was a student. Read it cover to cover and loved every story. Intelligently written and a positive if sometimes bittersweet ending to all of them. I’ll be passing my copy on to my kids when they’re old enough to appreciate them.

    Many thanks for posting this, I thought I was the only fan.

    BTW, if you ever come across a shop with a sign “Thimgs” or “Shottle Bop” run…

  13. Richard says:

    Ha! Thanks for the comment, Mike. We are in agreement on how good the stories are and also that last sentence of yours.

  14. I seem to remember one of the ‘introductions’ lamented the premature death of Cyril Kornbluth, who often typed lines for story ideas on the paper he wound round his typewriter platten to improve the surface. One such note read ‘ghosts in a Martian department store’. It was the introduction writer’s favourite unwritten SF story.

    “…which brings us to Theodore R. Cogswell.”, the inspiration for the title of this photographic piece of art which is in my deviantART gallery. Cogswell writes about a ‘magic school’, like Hogwarts, but in a world without ‘muggles’, surrounded by an unscalable wall said to be guarded by a demonic figure. So what is outside? The protagonist is determined to find out, but will his magic skills be enough, or could there be another way? An unusual Science Fiction/Fantasy crossover work from a little known and under appreciated author.

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