IT may not seem like it, but the book I hold in my hand – Space Emergency – is a piece of science fiction memorabilia to rival anything I could pick up at a million conventions.
That’s because as a young boy, this book was what first sparked my interest in space, the universe and everything, so I thought I’d share it with you on here.
Published in 1974 by Beanstalk Books, it was illustrated by Philip Corke and written by Alan Blackwood, in conjunction with Dr Elizabeth Goodacre, a reading education specialist. Amazingly, it may be that Alan Blackwood is actually noted horror writer Graham Masterton, who has written under that pseudonym.
At a risk of spoilers, Space Emergency tells the story of Captain Mark Fox and his friend, Commander Peter Hanson, who work on Space Station 9, hundreds of miles above the earth, although their only work seems to be to take pictures out of the space station windows.
The emergency of the title comes when their radio antenna fails and Commander Hanson goes outside to fix it. However, his jet pack breaks and Captain Fox has to attempt a rescue.
The pictures look great don’t they, but does the rescue succeed? It wouldn’t be much of a kids’ book if it didn’t, despite having one line of dialogue that freaked me out as a four year old and still does now. Can you tell which one?
A dead spaceman floating on through eternity – ah, happy days! The innocence of youth pondering over an endless graveyard in the void.
The story ends with mission control – now back in touch with Space Station 9 – calling to find out what had happened.
“You men sure had an emergency,” said the man at Earth Control. “Now you’d better find out what’s wrong with that space gun. Take it to bits. Let us know the trouble.”
Hanson and Fox grinned at each other. Back to work!
So a catastrophic equipment failure nearly results in the death of the two-man crew, and all earth control say is tell us what went wrong. What about counselling? What about take it easy lads, you’ve had a hard day?
The heartless bastards!
Those concerns eluded me as a nipper, when I exulted in the duo’s primary coloured heroism at a time when the moon landings were still very much a going concern.
That adoration meant I also knew the story forwards and backwards and would pull my mum and dad up if they missed a word! (although it didn’t stop me from writing SAVE POO on the inside front and back covers – kids, eh).
My fond memories of Space Emergency – and I suppose nights with my mum and dad reading it to me – mean the battered looking book still has pride of place in our house and was one of the books that helped Izaak and Luke learn to read.
I hope to pass it on again to their children and in a post modern way, that our continued reading of the story means that Mark Fox and Peter Hanson are still up there somewhere, taking vital pictures of things for no reason.
God bless you brave spacemen – and god speed.