Thursday, September 16, 2010

RIP: Edwin Charles Tubb (1919-2010)

I just learned that British science fiction author Edwin Charles (E.C.) Tubb died last Friday (September 10, 2010) at his home in London at the age of 90. Tubb probably isn't very well known among science fiction fans today, but, from the 1950s through 1980s, he produced a large number of excellent space operas, chief among them being the "Dumarest Saga," a 32-volume series that was first published in 1967. The series chronicles the adventures of Earl Dumarest, as he travels about a fragmented, anarchic galaxy in hopes of finding his lost homeworld of Earth.

The series had a huge influence on Marc Miller in his creation of Traveller and many of Miller's concepts, like "low" and "high" passages come straight out of these tales. More significantly, Dumarest calls himself a "traveller," a word Miller not only adopted to describe the protagonists of his SF RPG but adopted in its British spelling. Before I read any of Tubb's work, I wondered why Traveller was spelled as it was and, while I can't be sure this is the explanation, it seems to make sense.

Regardless, Tubb's death marks the passing of yet another giant of "old school" science fiction. I don't imagine there are too many other writers left who began their careers in the 40s and 50s, so another link with the past has been severed. He will be greatly missed.

9 comments:

  1. Thanks to you and Jeff Rients I finally started reading his books (I remember always seeing them above the Vance books in used bookstores). Excellent sci-fi - they could have been adapted into the greatest sci-fi tv series ever. Thanks for all the enjoyable reading Mr. Tubb!

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  2. I suspect that his work also had a strong influence on Battlestar Galactica - this is probably where the whole idea of searching for the mythical lost planet of Earth came from. In addition, I wonder whether the cybernetically-enhanced agents of the the Cyclan with their creed of pure logic were the original inspiration for the Cylons of BSG.

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  3. I just finished the Winds of Gath a few months ago. It's too bad that we have to lose another creative mind.

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  4. Oh my god, his Dumarest stuff was the first sci fi novels I read with relish. My Traveller games were based right out of that, and I even had an NPC as the son of Dumarest.

    "Earth? Might as well call a planet "dirt"" - was a great line that actually showed up in the horrible new Transformers film.

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  5. Some of the other concepts "borrowed" from him in Traveller were the Slow and Fast drugs that altered the metabolism and perception of time.

    Ian, I never made the connection with BSG and Dumarest. I can totally see that now that you mention it.

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  6. One could, of course, argue that the idea of searching for a mythical homeworld comes from the Bible and the 40-year journey by the Hebrews in search of the Promised Land, but that would be quibbling. Tubb handled it with great flair. I've managed to collect and read 27 of the 32 books over the years, and while I tend to resell paperbacks after reading them, the Dumarest stories are still on the "shelf of honor." I hadn't heard this news before, so thanks to James for passing it along.

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  7. One could, of course, argue that the idea of searching for a mythical homeworld comes from the Bible and the 40-year journey by the Hebrews in search of the Promised Land

    Indeed, I believe that's where Larson got it from in the original Galactica, as well as a fair bit of von Daniken here and there, too.

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  8. Very sad news. I have them all, except possibly for whatever the latest one was. Started reading them with, I believe, number eleven in the series. [Yes, "Zenya," cover by Freas. Just pulled it out of the cabinet to check.] Bought it in my pre-teens. Really, really fired up my imagination, and influenced my preferences to this day in fiction and gaming. Highly recommended to any grognards out there who haven't yet been introduced to the series.

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  9. You just made me realize why my spellchecker always pings me when I write that word. I've internalized the British spelling from seeing that game (without even ever playing it) so much.

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