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Fool's Paradise
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When Milly Morton, confidential secretary to industrialist Mortimer Bland, deliberately smashes several astronomical plates created by Anton Drew, she does more than express her pique against Bland's Chief Scientist. She also destroys irreplaceable data that might have enabled Drew to convince a skeptical world that it needs to prepare for the coming cosmic disaster. Without proof, no government official takes Drew's theories seriously. And so the world continues on its way, living in a Fool's Paradise. The signs of approaching doom soon become evident--with unprecedented thunderstorms, the huge growth of unbridled vegetation, and the appearance of giant insects. By the time Drew, aided by friends Ken and Thayleen West, is finally able to convince the Prime Minister of the danger, it looks as if it might be too late. Can ANYTHING save the Earth and its precious human cargo?
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ISBN: 9781434442772
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Fool's Paradise, by John Russell Fearn

BORGO PRESS BOOKS BY JOHN RUSSELL FEARN

1,000-Year Voyage

Account Settled

Anjani the Mighty: A Lost Race Novel (Anjani #2)

Black Maria, M.A.: A Classic Crime Novel (Black Maria #1)

Bury the Hatchet

A Case for Brutus Lloyd

The Crimson Rambler: A Crime Novel

Death in Silhouette (Black Maria #5)

Don’t Touch Me: A Crime Novel

Dynasty of the Small: Classic Science Fiction Stories

The Empty Coffins: A Mystery of Horror

The Fourth Door: A Mystery Novel

From Afar: A Science Fiction Mystery

Fugitive of Time: A Classic Science Fiction Novel

The G-Bomb: A Science Fiction Novel

The Genial Dinosaur (Herbert the Dinosaur #2)

The Gold of Akada: A Jungle Adventure Novel (Anjani #1)

Here and Now: A Science Fiction Novel

Into the Unknown: A Science Fiction Tale

Last Conflict: Classic Science Fiction Stories

Legacy from Sirius: A Classic Science Fiction Novel

The Man from Hell: Classic Science Fiction Stories

The Man Who Was Not: A Crime Novel

Manton’s World: A Classic Science Fiction Novel

Moon Magic: A Novel of Romance (as Elizabeth Rutland)

The Murdered Schoolgirl: A Classic Crime Novel (Black Maria #2)

One Remained Seated: A Classic Crime Novel (Black Maria #3)

One Way Out: A Crime Novel (with Philip Harbottle)

Pattern of Murder: A Classic Crime Novel

Reflected Glory: A Dr. Castle Classic Crime Novel

Robbery Without Violence: Two Science Fiction Crime Stories

Rule of the Brains: Classic Science Fiction Stories

Shattering Glass: A Crime Novel

The Silvered Cage: A Scientific Murder Mystery

Slaves of Ijax: A Science Fiction Novel

Something from Mercury: Classic Science Fiction Stories

The Space Warp: A Science Fiction Novel

A Thing of the Past (Herbert the Dinosaur #1)

Thy Arm Alone: A Classic Crime Novel (Black Maria #4)

The Time Trap: A Science Fiction Novel

Valley of Pretenders

Vision Sinister: A Scientific Detective Thriller

Voice of the Conqueror: A Classic Science Fiction Novel

What Happened to Hammond? A Scientific Mystery

Within That Room!: A Classic Crime Novel

World Without Chance

THE GOLDEN AMAZON SAGA

1. World Beneath Ice

2. Lord of Atlantis

3. Triangle of Power

4. The Amethyst City

5. Daughter of the Amazon

6. Quorne Returns

7. The Central Intelligence

8. The Cosmic Crusaders

9. Parasite Planet

10. World Out of Step

11. The Shadow People

12. Kingpin Planet

13. World in Reverse

14. Dwellers in Darkness

15. World in Duplicate

16. Lords of Creation

17. Duel with Colossus

18. Standstill Planet

19. Ghost World

20. Earth Divided

21. Chameleon Planet (with Philip Harbottle)

COPYRIGHT INFORMATION

Copyright © 1950 by John Russell Fearn

Copyright © 2008 by Philip Harbottle

Originally published in abridged form as Annihilation under the pen name, Vargo Statten.

Published by Wildside Press LLC

www.wildsidebooks.com

DEDICATION

For Arthur Philip King

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

From the theory briefly expressed in Chapter One, acknowledgments are due to Lyle Gunn’s article, If the Earth’s Magnetic Field Failed (1939).

INTRODUCTION, by Philip Harbottle

During World War II, there had been a boom in science fiction pulp magazines in America, but it wasn’t until after the war that hardcover book publishers began to take a serious interest in the medium. Specialist fan publishers like Fantasy Press had led the way, with first book editions of magazine serials and novels by the likes of E. E. Smith and Jack Williamson, Then Simon and Schuster published A. E. van Vogt’s The World of Null-A, and Doubleday and other major publishers also entered the field. The success (and quality) of Adventures in Time and Space, the 1946 landmark anthology edited by Raymond J. Healy and J. Francis McComas sparked other such collections of magazine science fiction. Amongst the earliest similarly sourced anthologies were A Treasury of Science Fiction (1948) edited by Groff Conklin, and My Best Science Fiction Story (1949) edited by Leo Margulies and Oscar J. Friend, which reprinted John Russell Fearn’s magazine stories Wings Across the Cosmos and Wanderer of Time, respectively.

Prior to these developments Fearn had ceased writing for the American sf markets in order to concentrate on British and Canadian publishers, but now he became a client of the leading American sf agency, Oscar Kline, helmed by Oscar J. Friend.

At Friend’s invitation Fearn wrote a new sf novel, Fool’s Paradise, aimed at American hardcover publication. Fearn put everything into it. As he wrote to his friend Walter Gillings, I think the yarn is about one of the best I ever did. A world’s end story developed to its final inevitable conclusion and no last-minute handsome heroes saving things.…

Eight months then went by, in which time Fearn had heard nothing from Friend concerning the novel, into which he’d put so much time and effort. In exasperation, he wrote to Friend, who replied that he had submitted it to several publishers, but without making a sale. He excused his long silence by merely saying that he didn’t write because he’d had nothing to report.

On 22nd October 1949 Fearn wrote to Gillings to say that he was withdrawing from Friend’s agency, and was transferring Fool’s Paradise and other material to the rival US Agency, Dirk Wylie (now being run by Frederik Pohl, for whom Gillings himself was the UK representative). I’m writing Friend by airmail withdrawing from his agency. I can’t wait eight months between letters: it isn’t worth the candle.

Pohl proved to be a much more active and enterprising agent than Friend, and quickly managed to place two Fearn novels in America, The Intelligence Gigantic and Liners in Time, and two unpublished novels to Ray Palmer’s planned new magazine, Other WorldsA Martian Returns and Venusian Queen, only for all these deals to founder and fall through, without Fearn receiving any payment; nor did he accomplish anything with Fool’s Paradise.

As 1950 progressed and no payments arrived from America, Fearn became more and more involved with his UK publisher Scion Ltd, where quick and regular sales were assured. Initially he was selling Scion romances and westerns, but sensing an opening with them for science fiction, he tried them with his short novel, Venusian Queen. It was accepted immediately, with a request for more. Fearn promptly decided to rewrite Fool’s Paradise to the shorter length required by British paperback publishers. In June 1950 he wrote to Gillings: "Regarding Fool’s Paradise. This is now off the list. I sold it in a shorter version to Scion, under the new name of Annihilation."

Following publication of Venusian Queen (retitled Operation Venus) under Fearn’s own name, Scion decided to issue Annihilation under their own chosen pen name of ‘Vargo Statten’, and when it quickly became a bestseller, their Managing Director travelled all the way from London to Fearn’s home in Blackpool to secure his services for Scion.

On 23rd October, 1950, Fearn wrote for the last time to Gillings:

I have signed an agreement for the exclusive use of my work with a publisher (Scion) for the next 5 years, which rules me out with all other publishers henceforth (those contracted for earlier are still in being of course) but since all the writing is science fiction I need everything I can get.… I want all other outstanding sf MSS too, please. The boys over there have had their chance!

Fearn’s contract with Scion would result in his writing nearly seventy sf novels with them, selling over five million copies, with worldwide translations. But, in the long run, Scion’s contractual insistence on his using pseudonyms would prove deleterious to his reputation, and if only Fool’s Paradise had been sold in America by either Friend or Pohl, under his own name, Fearn’s career would have been very different, and his reputation greatly enhanced.

Until now, the novel has never been published in America, and it is with some pleasure and satisfaction that I can now offer this Borgo Press first US edition of Annihilation under Fearn’s own name, and with his original title of Fool’s Paradise restored. It does, however, retain its original dynamic Ron Turner cover imagery, which was specially repainted for me by the artist.

Enjoy!

CHAPTER ONE

Thayleen West lowered her slender white hands from the piano keyboard and smiled to herself. She was satisfied with her music, herself, and her home. She had world fame as a concert pianist, and she had Kenyon, her husband—

She turned as he entered the room. It was late afternoon. The room was full of golden hues and soft, blurry shadows. Outside, through the french windows, the well-kept garden drooped in saturating August heat.

That was wonderful, Thay! Kenyon came hurrying forward and caught the girl’s hands in his own. He was a lanky, genial soul, an engineer and a materialist, yet it did not make him an intolerable husband. Materialism and artistry could—and did—go hand-in-hand.

A change for us to be together, Ken continued, putting an arm round the girl’s shoulders. If only all Sundays were like this!

They will be, after this year, Thayleen said.

Ken smiled to himself and strolled to the open windows. He gazed out on the sunlight. His keen grey eves followed the flight of a bird as it cavorted gaily in sombre blue heaven.

You said that last year, Thay, he reminded her. And the year before that. By all means go on playing to the world, but—sometimes—

Thayleen rose. She was only five feet tall, slender as a willow. With wraith-like silence she crossed to where her husband stood. Her dark head with its piled-up curls just reached his shoulder.

Sometimes—what? she questioned.

Nothing, dear. Just thinking.…

Ken smiled down on her good-humouredly. His boyish appearance, which his tousled blond hair and plain good-natured face did little to belie, had no relationship to his mind. Machines—buildings—bridges—liners—power-houses—jet planes. He was always thinking about them, or else Thayleen—or the future.

Nothing? Thayleen repeated, surprised.

Well, I’m wondering where we’re going to finish up.

What a thought! Thayleen laughed.

A serious one, though. We’ve been married two years and seen each other about five times. You’re in New York, London, Paris, all over the place. I make love to your televised image, I listen to you over the radio. It’s like having a synthetic wife!

Not altogether, Thayleen said quietly. A synthetic wife couldn’t—couldn’t add one more to the family, could she?

Ken did not immediately grasp the point. When he did, he swung round to meet Thayleen’s dark eyes with the sunlight glancing through them.

Thay—you mean—? He stopped and gripped her arms.

Yes. In the autumn. Four more concerts and then I’ll retire to attend to other things.

Lord! Ken looked confused. Have—you told anybody else?

Not yet.

Then I’m going to. Particularly Anton.

Thayleen gave a serious glance. And be rewarded with the observation that a biological function is about to take place? Ken, dear, why waste your time? Anton’s a brilliant chap, I know, but so utterly cold-blooded.

Only because he’s a scientist. I’ve got to tell him!

As you will, Thayleen shrugged.

Ken lost himself in speculations for a moment. Thayleen glanced up as the sun became veiled by a passing cloud. It was surprising how dark it seemed to make the countryside, which for many weeks had been drenched in pitiless heat. Strange, too, for the British Isles, which had usually managed to ruin its summer with rain. Now everybody was crying out for it. Prayers in the churches, cattle nosing into iron-hard waterholes; crops yellow before their time; farmers rubbing the backs of their leathery necks and gazing up into a brazen vault from which all moisture seemed to have evaporated. It seemed that throughout the Western hemisphere one vast anticyclone existed. The summer had, so far, been the hottest in history.

Not that Kenyon West minded. He was not thinking of the present, but of the future—of the son or daughter yet to come.

The cloud passed. The sunlight flooded down on the world again. At the far end of the garden the trees wilted, aching, as though they found it beyond them to stand up straight in the bone-dry soil.…

* * * * * * *

On the following day, the commencement of a new week, Thayleen departed for the Continent and a further round of concert tours. Ken for his part was thankful for a mountain of work to keep his mind occupied. As Chief Engineer of the immense Mid-England Steel and Iron Combine, he had plenty to do. Upon him, at the moment, rested the responsibility for the cutting of a subsidiary bore to the existing Channel Tunnel, making it possible for more traffic to be handled to and from the Continent.

Even so, he took the opportunity one evening to visit Anton Drew, his friend from college days and now the head of Bland’s Enterprises—which controlled the output of all the world’s rare drugs, medicines, chemicals, and atomic and plastic byproducts.

Ken first tried Drew’s Surbiton apartment, and then realised he should have had more sense. Drew was a bachelor who spent every waking hour at some scientific pursuit or other—and there was no better place for this than the replete scientific laboratories where he worked. Outside interests never attracted him in the least.

Sure enough, Ken found him in the remoter parts of the Bland laboratories, to which quarter he was directed by a night watchman, the normal staff having long since departed. Their interest in things scientific always evaporated at six o’clock.

Not so Anton Drew. He regarded scientific pursuits as a mother does the development of her child. More often than not he even forgot to collect his salary cheque; even more often did he forget he needed a clean overall.

When Ken came upon him, he was in the big