John Spencer


C.D. Ellis’ World of the Ancients

Worlds of Fantasy #4 cover
Worlds of Fantasy #4 cover by Gerald Facey

Far and away World of Fantasy #4’s (1951) best story is “World of the Ancients” by C.D. Ellis. The story opens in the third era of a planet referred to once or twice as earth (not Earth). The emerging world order are the survivors of a war that nearly destroyed the planet and swept away all records of past achievement. Now a primitive society, the only remains of their world’s long bygone glory are legends of the ancient Greeks, which form the basis of their religion and beliefs. Even the names of their people are Greek names like Hercules and Diocles.

After a hunt for game, Agamemnon journeys back to his village empty-handed and spots a dense, black smoke rising above the tree line. “As his eyes sought the source of the fire and found it, he became rooted to the spot. The cold hand of fear clasp at his throat, rendering him temporarily speechless. This was no fire in the scrub surrounding the village precincts; the whole village itself was blazing fiercely.”

When at last he reaches his home, there are no survivors, including his wife. Heartbroken and traumatized, Agamemnon drags himself to the next village to find refuge and to give warning of the tragedy. The village’s chief, Aramis, invites him to join their village, and a posse forms to investigate the cause of such a great fire that could destroy an entire village so swiftly and completely.

A long and difficult search ensues until finally their fears are borne out. “Nestling in the dense scrub below him was a long, sleek, black oval of polished metal, about one hundred feet long. It lay about seventy to eighty yards down the slope. At one end was a pointed nose, while at the other were several tubular projections.”

Tension mounts as the threat of the space invaders increases until the final showdown, which for me was both unexpected and unfortunate.
Galactic Central lists “World of the Ancients” as C.D. Ellis’ only short story published in a magazine. Unfortunate—I thought it was well conceived and well written; its only weakness, the ending.

D.J. Mencer’s The Dead Planet

Stories from Worlds of Fantasy #4 (John Spencer and Company 1951)

“The Dead Planet” by D.J. Mencer opens with deadpan incitement: “Jem Carson stood on the bridge of the Space Patrol ship, XK573, and his square jawline was grimly set, for Jem well knew that this wasn’t any routine check flight. This was the real thing. Trouble. With a capital T.”

The trouble is a distress call from Lira K, where Vasso Stornaway was reassigned to lead a Development Project after he was asked to resign from the prestigious Space Commission for “something [that] cropped up.”

Lira K is a rocky orb, devoid of plant life, located beyond the Barrier, and its native inhabitants, the Lizardmen, “aren’t too friendly.” During the flight, communications with the Project is cut off, triggering unvoiced conjecture from Jem and second officer Drex Gar, a Martian.

After a dangerous landing on a narrow strip surrounded by jagged rocks, Jem orders Drex to stay aboard while he and a crew investigate the development base, which is strangely quiet. When they reach the nearest building, a storehouse, they find it has been ransacked. They move on to what looks like barracks and find: “Torn, mangled bodies . . . ripped and clawed, as if animals had been at work.”

They move on only to find similar horrors in the communications centre and administrative building, with no one left alive. But as their survey nears its end they find a lone surviver hidden away in a small metecrete structure, Vasso Stornaway’s assistant, Franz Heschel.

He may sound innocent in their first exchange, and the massacre may seem like the work of
the hideous Lizardmen, but this yarn was penned in 1951 England, and Franz Heschel is German. Jem soon pieces together a plot between Heschel, the very much alive and bitter Stornaway, and the “flabby, bloated Venusians,” who have hidden a massive deposit of Duronium from the Space Commission, and are stealing it for themselves.

Suffice to say, Jem, Drex and crew soon obliterate the savage Venusians and the traitorous Earthmen and make a full report to Lunar Control: Trouble expunged!

Worlds of Fantasy #4 cover
Worlds of Fantasy #4 1951