Science Fiction and Fantasy from Barry R. Levin
Item 103 is a classic of science fiction horror made real by events that were to follow. The book is Metropolis by Thea Von Harbou, this being the first edition published in 1926. This story would be turned into the famed silent film of the same name by Von Harbou's then husband, Fritz Lang. Metropolis is a city of the future, specifically, the year 2026, at the time a century away. On the surface, it is a city of great advancement and luxury, with people living wonderful lives. Underneath, however, in a dark underground world, workers slavishly run the machines that operate the beautiful city above. This being a German film, it is hard to miss the parallels with the concentration camps and slave labor that would come to be only a little more than a decade hence. After the Nazis came to power, Lang, an opponent, was still offered a high filmmaking role by the government, but wisely chose to escape to America. Von Harbou chose a different path, joining the Nazi party and becoming a filmmaker for them. Not surprisingly, they would divorce. This book signifies better times, when horrors were still fantasy. $19,500.
Some books seem to climb in value at rates beyond all comprehension. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is one such book. First editions could be had in the 1960s for a few hundred dollars, still close to a thousand in 1980. Today copies of this 1818 edition go for well over one hundred thousand dollars. Item 88 is the third edition of this classic, from 1831, but this edition has the distinction of being the first illustrated one. The third also includes Mrs. Shelley's new introduction explaining the origin of the tale. This copy is bound together with The Ghost-Seer by Schiller and Edgar Huntley by Charles Brockden Brown. $12,500.
In 1977, Harlan Ellison signed on to develop a filmscript based on Isaac Asimov's collection of stories, I Robot. He created a script that many people consider perhaps the best film never made. Ellison submitted the script to Warner Brothers, but despite his urgings, and support from Asimov, the film studio was not satisfied. The film was never made, although Warner Brothers would later consent to it being published as a book. Eventually, a film of the same name starring Will Smith was released, but this used a totally different script. Item 36 is one of only ten copies of Ellison's filmscript produced in 1978, and carries his signature. $1,500.
But...is this an item of science fiction and fantasy? It is the Apollo 11 Mission Commentary. Apollo 11 was the mission in which man first landed on the moon, or at least that's what they told us. This is the document issued by Mission Control to the press about ten minutes after Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. It includes a verbatim transcript of the conversation between Armstrong and Houston, including his famous line, "That's one small step for man, one giant step for mankind." Only a small number of these were printed for reporters on the scene and several were likely discarded. Now I know that some people believe that Armstrong's walk on the moon was science fiction, a ruse perpetrated on the public by NASA. Sort of a modern day "War of the Worlds." However, I'm one of those naive souls who actually believe this happened, that this is the one piece of nonfiction in a catalogue of tall and spectacular tales from the imaginary worlds of some of the most creative minds we have known.
Barry R. Levin Science Fiction & Fantasy Literature may be found online at www.raresf.com and reached by phone at 310-458-6111.