Thursday, September 15, 2016

Tom Corbett, Space Cadet by Carey Rockwell

Tom Corbett, Space Cadet was created by Joseph Lawrence Greene who also created Dig Allen, Space Explorer for Grosset & Dunlap publishers. Of the two, Tom Corbett was the more popular character. Corbett was played on television in the 1950s by actor Frankie Thomas. Green wrote eight Corbett books under the name Carey Rockwell, and six Dig Allen books. I think I encountered the Dig Allen books first. My interest in juvenile science fiction from the 1950s routed me to the Tom Corbett, Space Cadet series. The television show ran from 1955 to 1959 and Tom Corbett’s adventures immediately became a point of nostalgia. Green was originally inspired by Robert A. Heinlein’s 1948 novel Space Cadet. The Tom Corbett books hold up better than the television series which seems dated today. Nostalgia can add a warm glow to just about anything. Grosset & Dunlap publishers were in their glory days when they produced these books (Greene was employed as an editor for G&D) and the colorful hardback covers and imaginative endpapers added to the allure. Looking at any of these books now, including other characters such as Tom Swift and Rick Brant, and I realized how important space exploration was to the reading public. How many future astronauts were inspired by these books? The prose is masculine, but toned down for young readers. There’s a lot of sneering, grimacing, and exerting of muscles going on, and a playful use of their inquisitive young minds. I think my favorite was # 3, On the Trail of the Space Pirates. The back cover says it all: “Calling all boys and girls to Mercury, Venus, Jupiter and all points in outer space – You, too, can be a part of the group of daring adventurers from the Space Academy who travel to mysterious lands in outer space on dangerous and exciting missions…” Today the focus is on fantasy, sword and sorcery and steampunk, which is a fusion of fantasy and science fiction. The hardcore science fiction out there now is aimed at adults, and there is nothing for young readers, however, these books are available on Kindle.

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