forgotten book: The Philosophical Corps

by E. B. Cole, 1961, Gnome Press 1961 hardcover – science fiction (edited into novel form from short stories)

This novel is another mosaic novel (like Hospital Station and Star Surgeon, the first two Sector General SF novels by James White, reviewed here). This one is comprised of three short stories with added connecting material.

When I came across mention of those stories a few months ago I remembered liking them, so I searched out a copy of this book. No, this isn’t award-winning, earth shaking, jaw-dropping SF. But it is good old fashioned second tier space opera, second tier because of weaknesses in the connecting material and a lack of follow-through with a better wrap-up. The last story ends, and that’s it. I do wish there had been at least one more story in the series (* see note at end), or at least a little more closure, but the idea to combine these into a novel came well after Cole had the stories published. My guess is Gnome press didn’t have much money (it never did) for much additional material.

The stories were originally published in Astounding Science Fiction in 1951, 1954 and 1955 and that’s where I first read them. Though the first was not a cover story, the second two were (images below).

Speaking of Gnome Press, the company was founded in 1948 by Martin Greenberg (Not the same person as anthologist Martin H. Greenberg) and published until 1962 when it went bankrupt. This is the last book published by the company. From Wikipedia:

“Gnome Press did not have much capital or access to distribution facilities. The company was notorious for not paying their writers royalties due. Asimov claimed he was never paid for the publication of the Foundation books, and called Greenberg “an outright crook”. Asimov and other authors were able eventually to repossess the rights to their publications, and the company failed during 1962.”

The list of books published is impressive.

I enjoyed this one, but there is a caveat: the reader has to be willing to suspend disbelief regarding the philosophy of a right, just, peaceful and fair-to-all-citizens Galactic Civilization, and that teaching and thought manipulation can reform unlike-minded persons to happy contributing useful citizens. You have to be able to think “yeah, yeah, okay, let’s get on with it” and then you can enjoy this slight, light but darned fun book by a relative science fiction unknown.

Jerry House has additional information, it’s in his comment below but I included it here as well. Thanks, Jerry!

There were a total of eight stories in the series:
– Philosophical Corps (Cole’s first sf story)
– These Shall Not Be Lost
– Exile
– Fighting Philosopher
– The Players
– Millenium
– Final Weapon
– Missionaries

The first, fourth and fifth were included in The Philosophical Corps. The fifth, sixth and seventh are available on-line at Manybooks.

Manybooks also offers the short novel The Best Made Plans, which originally appeared as a two-part serial in Astounding, as well as three other other Cole stories: Alarm Clock, Indirection and The Weakling. Other Cole stories may be lurking elsewhere on the web.

About Richard Robinson

Enjoying life in Portland, OR
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21 Responses to forgotten book: The Philosophical Corps

  1. william says:

    I enjoyed the stories in Astounding when I was much, much younger. It was simply a different age for SF writing and authors.

  2. Bill Crider says:

    I read those two issues of Astounding many moons ago, but I don’t remember the stories.

  3. Chris says:

    As much as I love sci-fi movies, I haven’t really read many sci-fi books. I need to rectify that. Damn, so many books, so little time.

  4. Not familiar with this author. Not surprising, I’m a bit young for the magazine version and am learning, because of the small town i lived in, I missed a lot of good stuff. One drugstore with a spinner rack for paperbacks and oe for comics, the selection wasn’t all that good.

  5. Scott Cupp says:

    Fun stuff there, Rick. I remember that I read this many moons ago but remember nothing of the contents, just that I enjoyed it. Great choice.

  6. Richard says:

    Thanks. This one is an easy, friendly book to read, it won’t weigh you down with excessive invented science or even that much philosophy other than what’s mentioned in the review. I just wish that 1) there had been more connecting and wrap-up material and 2) that Cole had written more of these stories.

  7. Todd Mason says:

    Well, while not as aggressive about it as Algis Budrys, I symphathize with his non-appreciation of Cole. However, there was at least one other space operatist too often published in ASTOUNDING whose work, and continuing legacy, I like a lot less…whom Budrys was a bit soft on.

  8. Jerry House says:

    There were a total of eight stories in the series:
    – Philosophical Corps (Cole’s first sf story)
    – These Shall Not Be Lost
    – Exile
    – Fighting Philosopher
    – The Players
    – Millenium
    – Final Weapon
    – Missionaries

    The first, fourth and fifth were included in The Philosophical Corps. The fifth, sixth and seventh are available on-line at Manybooks.

    Manybooks also offers the short novel The Best Made Plans, which originally appeared as a two-part serial in Astounding, as well as three other other Cole stories: Alarm Clock, Indirection and The Weakling. Other Cole stories may be lurking elsewhere on the web.

  9. Richard says:

    Todd – I knew you weren’t a fan of Cole, so I’m not surprised at your response.

    Jerry – I thought I’d done my homework, but you apparently dug deeper than I did. Thanks for the information!

  10. Evan Lewis says:

    I understand the marketing need to turn novelettes into a novel, but it’s too bad. They’re usually stronger in their original form.

  11. Richard says:

    I think if they are toed together well and have an expanded over-all plot which carries the combined stories and characters, it can be satisfying. In this case it was just a little raw, but I enjoyed the book anyway.

  12. I remember those covers of ASTOUNDING fondly. I probably read these stories, but I have no recollection now. Gnome Press published an impressive array of books on a shoe-string budget.

  13. Joachim Boaz says:

    Oh how I love these 60s pulp novels…. What’s the basic premise? I’m glad someone is bringing these little gems (regardless of their manifest failings) to light.

  14. Richard says:

    Joachim – thanks for stopping by, hope you’ll become a regular visitor. The premise is some individuals going against restrictions on bringing or using high tech to/on planets with more primitive technology (think of Star Trek’s Prime Directive) to serve their own ends – usually profit – are sought out and removed by members of the Corps, without the natives knowing they are there. As I said in the review, these are light, fun stories cobbled together into an episodic novel.

  15. Joachim Boaz says:

    speaking of forgotten sci-fi authors, have you ever read a book by Doris Piserchia? I just wrote a review of Doomtime (1981), DAW books — I think it’s the very first mention of her on wordpress 😉

    yes, I subscribed to your blog.

  16. Richard says:

    I read your review. I’s not a book with which I’m familiar, and from your blurb of it, not one I’d be interesting in reading, though it certainly does sound original in concept. I’ve got you bookmarked.

  17. Joachim Boaz says:

    Yeah, it was surprisingly weird and somewhat unnerving.

  18. Steven Sarafian says:

    I am a fan of Cole, most especially of his story “Exile”, which is among my favorites. He wrote 14 SF pieces of various lengths. All but three (“Final Weapon” 1955, “The Best Laid Plans” 1959, and “The Weakling” 1961) are set in what may be termed the Galactic Federation/Stellar Guard universe. Most of the stories in this universe concern the Philosophical Corps of the Stellar Guard. (But the Guard also has an Exploratory Corps and others.) The non-Philosophical stories are: “Exile” 1954 (however, this story’s protagonist, Klion Meinora, is an important character in two Philosophical corps stories), “Deviant” 1954 (thematically related to “Exile”), “Indirection” 1956, and “Alarm Clock” 1960. The Philosophical Corps stories are: “Philosophical Corps” 1951, “These Shall Not Be Lost” 1953, “Fighting Philosopher” 1954, “The Players” 1955, “Millennium” 1955 (with Klion Meinora), “The Missionaries” 1956 (with Klion Meinora), and “Here, There Be Witches” 1970.

  19. Richard says:

    Steven, you found my old blog, BROKEN BULLHORN, with this post. I’ve only read this set of Cole stories, but if there were another collection I certainly would read it, as I like these stories a lot. By the way, my current blog is at Tipthewink.net.

  20. Steven Sarafian says:

    Richard: I know of no other collections specifically of Everett B. Cole’s writings, although individual stories are included in several anthologies. The Internet Speculative Fiction Database does a good job of listing all editions of everything (but an incomplete job of identifying the connections between stories). [http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/ea.cgi?2092] I have contacted Manybooks.net and offered to provide digital versions of the seven Cole stories that are not on their site, if they can verify that the stories are not under copyright. I am particularly anxious to promote my favorite story “Exile” (Astounding, January 1954 and The Best Science Fiction Stories and Novels: 1955 (Dikty) as well as the paperback: 5 Tales from Tomorrow: Selected From The Best Science-fiction Stories and Novels: 1955). (The original Astounding appearance also has a nice title-page illustration.)

  21. Steven, I remember reading “Exile” in Astounding back when. At one time I had all ASF/Analog from Jan 1950 through December 1989, but they were stolen. I’d like to see you successful with your project, please keep me informed.

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