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The Man from Mars: Ray Palmer's Amazing Pulp Journey Hardcover – June 13, 2013

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The Man from Mars: Ray Palmer's Amazing Pulp Journey + War over Lemuria: Richard Shaver, Ray Palmer and the Strangest Chapter of 1940s Science Fiction + Shaverology: A Shaver Mystery Home Companion
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

It’s been something of a mystery why, of the great pulp-era science-fiction magazine editors, Raymond Palmer seems to have slipped through the cracks of history. Hugo Gernsback and John W. Campbell are familiar names, but Palmer, who edited the influential Amazing Stories in the 1930s and ’40s, is little known today. As Amazing Stories’ editor, he helped to establish space opera as a major sf genre; as editor of the magazines Fate and Search, he brought stories of UFO sightings and abductions to the public (there might not have been the mid-twentieth-century UFO craze if it hadn’t been for Ray Palmer). Later, Palmer published a series of allegedly true stories by mental patient Richard Shaver about an ancient alien race, a hollow earth, and mind control. Palmer’s unwavering belief in the truth of the Shaver stories and his fondness for conspiracy theories may have hurt his reputation, but this fascinating volume establishes that he was an important and highly influential player in the history of science fiction. Great reading for fans of the genre’s origins. --David Pitt


“The sci-fi pulps made a lasting imprint, as Fred Nadis shows in his entertaining "The Man From Mars"…Mr. Nadis does not take sides in what was once a civil war among the fans but reminds them that there was more than one mighty editor back in the Golden Age.”

"One of science fiction's greatest gadflies gets his due in this lively and entertaining biography. Nadis quotes liberally from [Raymond A. Palmer's] editorials and readers letters to piant a vivid portrait of the postwar science fiction scene and fan culture."

“He produces a vivid cultural history, capturing subtle transformations in American attitudes through an examination of the voluble Palmer’s career and writings.”

“The author paints a story of a larger-than-life writer, editor, and publisher whose unorthodox methods propelled a nascent genre of tales, conspiracies, and other worlds into high visibility.”

“Lucidly written and unfailingly lively, The Man From Mars is a biography worthy of its subject. Nadis never stoops to lazy hyperbole…but maintains his balance and his sense of nuance.”

"Brisk, entertaining accounts of the beginnings of the science-fiction genre and the zealous fandom it inspired, as well as the complicated relationships between fans and related subcultures devoted to UFOs, the paranormal, and New Age spirituality"

THE MAN FROM MARS is a fascinating story, superbly told.”
—JT Lindroos, Bookgasm
“Fred Nadis’s insightful biography demonstrates that Palmer is significant as well as intriguing.”
—Michael Saler, The Washington Post

“Palmer could not have asked for a more sympathetic chronicler, or a better one, than Fred Nadis. His prose and his pronouncements are everything Palmer’s practically never were: restrained, nuanced, intelligently considered. Nadis has a great story, and he relates it exquisitely."
—Jerome Clark, FORTEAN TIMES

“From pulp fiction and occultism to UFO and conspiracy theories, Sci-fi magus Ray Palmer was ahead of the crowd, fashioning 21st century sensibilities far in advance of the online generation. Fred Nadis’s The Man From Mars is a full bodied, in-depth and addictive investigation into the life of this truly underground man. As fast paced and gripping as any pulp adventure, Nadis brings to life the truly amazing story of this 'impresario of the paranormal'. Grab a copy at the newsstand while they last!”
Gary Lachman, author of A Secret History of Consciousness and Madame Blavatsky
“A superb biography of one of the leaders in twentieth-century fringe phenomena. I found it more enthralling than any science fiction I have ever read.”
Richard Smoley, author of Supernatural: Writings on an Unknown History
The Man from Mars is a deeply researched and wonderfully well-written biography of Ray Palmer, a science-fiction editor who opened the field up to some of the craziest pseudoscientific ideas, from ancient underground robots to UFOs. Nadis recreates the wild-and-wooly world of the pulp magazines with gusto and flair, evoking Palmer as part earnest, hard-working editor, part sensationalizing huckster—and ultimately, as a quintessential American. The book is a joy to read."
Rob Latham, professor of English, University of California at Riverside; editor, Science Fiction Studies
“An extremely moving account of one of the genuine fathers of contemporary pop culture, told with just the right balance of humor and seriousness. Nadis brilliantly shows that the impulse to ask “What if?” is one of the most thoroughly American habits there is.” 
Ptolemy Tompkins, author of Paradise Fever and The Modern Book of the Dead

“When I first encountered, up close, the imagination of Ray Palmer, I thought: 'Someone has to write a biography of this man.’ And now someone has. The trick with Palmer has always been this: how to write about biographical facts that merge with pulp fictions that, in turn, merge with biographical facts. Fred Nadis has exactly pulled off this piece of real-world magic. Beautifully."
Jeffrey J. Kripal, author of Mutants and Mystics: Science Fiction, Superhero Comics, and the Paranormal


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Tarcher; 1st edition (June 13, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 039916054X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399160547
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,040,364 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Fred Nadis is the author of two books that explore the strange side of American popular culture. "Wonder Shows: Performing Science, Magic, and Religion in America" discloses the history of "mystic vaudeville" acts such as mind-reading and hypnotism as well as "gee whiz" science displays at world's fairs by evangelists and big business. His latest book, "The Man from Mars: Ray Palmer's Amazing Journey," a 2014 Locus Award Finalist in nonfiction, is a biography of the controversial science fiction editor, Ray Palmer, an early promoter of the flying saucer craze, since immortalized as the alter ego of the comic book superhero "The Atom." Nadis grew up in suburban Chicago and now lives in California. He has a Ph.D. in American studies from the University of Texas at Austin. Please also visit his webpage:

Author portrait by Kate Connell.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By The Wingchair Critic on June 22, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Does a secret race of sadistic beings dwell in an elaborate cave system beneath the earth? Do they use advanced technology left behind by their alien ancestors to torment mankind with mind-numbing rays? Do these 'detrimental robots,' or 'dero,' kidnap and torture men and women and try to pass as human on the streets of America's larger cities? Are the dero opposed by the benevolent 'tero,' who struggle to assist mankind?

Pulp writer Richard Shaver thought so, and became infamous in the science fiction subculture of the 1940s after Ray Palmer, editor of 'Amazing Stories,' began publishing Shaver's rambling narratives, which Shaver and Palmer characterized to not as outright fiction, but as the result of 'racial memories' reflecting actual historical facts.

To what degree each man actually believed in 'the Shaver Mystery' has been a point of contention in circles of popular culture ever since. Shaver clearly believed in his mythos, if rather broadly. Palmer claimed to have experienced various forms of the 'paranormal' all his life, including telepathy and precognition, but also a sighting of a flying "orange globe, emitting blue flashes" and seeing a "little man" who ran "with a humping motion" before his car one night.

Of course, it is entirely possible that an individual who genuinely believes, for example, that 'unidentified flying objects' are spacecraft from other planets, may nonetheless fake photographs of 'UFOs in flight' and promote them as legitimate documentation of an actual sighting. Which is to say that the hoaxer and the 'genuine article' can sometimes be found in the same individual.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By David Crumm on July 16, 2013
Format: Hardcover
"Ray Palmer gave voice to people nobody else would take seriously." That's how biographer Fred Nadis recently summed up the life of Ray Palmer in an interview about this new book. Palmer truly was "AMAZING" writer and publisher who whipped Americans into a post-World War II flying-saucer craze, who first published a story by teen-ager Isaac Asimov and who ultimately shaped the realms of sci-fi and fantasy that are so popular around the world today. Along the way, Ray Palmer's talent as a pulp publisher included early promotion of Asian religious traditions, a fascination with angelic apparitions and all manner of mystical experiences in small towns and big cities coast to coast.

Ray Palmer certainly wasn't a scholar of world religions. His Mystic magazine sometimes described India's main religious tradition as "Hindoo." In one of his most notorious publicity campaigns, Palmer actually claimed that the spiritual secrets of planet Earth involved a civilization hidden in caverns deep underground. Ray Palmer was as much P.T. Barnum flim-flam as he was a promoter of spiritual inclusion.

Nevertheless, throughout his pulp career, Palmer regularly inspired readers in grassroots communities like South Bend, Indiana, and Pikeville, Kentucky. Farmers, school teachers, teenagers and even elderly women who regularly attended Bible study classes were moved by Ray Palmer's mystical vision of the cosmos. We know that because many of these men, women and teens eagerly sent their mystical testimonies to Palmer, hoping that a few paragraphs of their "True Mystic Experiences" would appear in the next issue of a Ray Palmer magazine.

Despite his titanic impact on American culture, Ray Palmer never became a celebrity. Few photographs of him exist.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Theo on November 4, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
For anyone with an interest in the paranormal, visionary experiences, or just pop culture, I'd definitely rate this one as a must read. It tells - in some detail - the story of a life I was hitherto unaware of. Before learning of this book, to me the "dero" were just monsters in an old edition of Dungeons & Dragons. And "Ray Palmer" was just the secret identity of the silver-age Atom: a DC superhero whom I now know was named in homage to this real life Ray Palmer.

Palmer's professional life began in the science fiction pulps of the 1930's and 40's, and ended with him editing no-less pulpy publications dealing with UFO's and general paranormal phenomena. To be completely honest, in some ways I find this journey a little sad. It seems to me that he started out in a rather fun place, and ended up devoting much of his life to the purely and simply crackpot. While I do believe that paranormal phenomena can be the subject of legitimate and serious inquiry, it is very hard to buy into the idea that Ray Palmer was ever engaged in such.

To what extent Palmer himself believed in what he was publishing is forever an open question.

Nevertheless, this is a genuinely interesting book. I would especially recommend it to anyone with an interest in the current crop of fringe conspiracy theories - David Icke's reptilians in particular. Reading this book and comparing Shaver's dero with Icke's reptilians will, I think, afford the reader a deeper appreciation of the nature of the current phenomena. One can't help but wonder who will succeed Icke in another twenty years or so, and what shape the next generation of monsters will take.
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