Joseph Green is “Running Wild” after his NASA career–and still writing SciFi

14702476_10210826879017954_4758305608141592723_nA 37-year veteran of the American space program, retired from NASA at age 66, Joseph “Joe” Green wrote five novels, with a sixth on the way. More than 70 of his short stories and nonfiction essays have been published in iconic and long-running magazines such as Analog: Science Fiction Fact and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (F&SF). Prices on those vintage magazines range from $3 online to more than $2,000 each. Few of us have access to Green’s stories in their original format, but fifteen stories from that era are now within easy reach thanks to “Running Wild,” 51gs-ggvetl-_uy250_available as a $3 ebook or a $15 paperback. Here’s the link:  Running Wild: Unfettered Stories of Imagination .

I’m amazed at the variety of stories (seventy and still counting) Joseph Green has written over the years – so much richness, world building and character development, it almost seems to be squandered on a mere short story when whole novels and series of books could spring from these wildly exotic, far-flung settings.

Most of the stories in “Running Wild” were first published in single issues of Analog or F&SF, but “I sometimes felt the urge to write something not really wanted at either,” Green writes in the Introduction. “These more daring or unconventional stories usually appeared in smaller (and often short-lived) magazines, whose editors were eager to make an impact on the field. Stories like An Alien Conception or The Seventh Floor could not have been published in the larger circulation (and much better paying) magazines.”

One perk of publishing in these magazines is that editors such as John W. Campbell (1910-1971) were so astute at scouting new talent and launching careers. By 1939, Campbell had discovered Isaac Asimov, Lester del Rey, andn Robert A Heinlein. Theodore Sturgeon and A E van Vogt had been publishing for some time in other genres, but Campbell got their name into the annals of science fiction. L Sprague de Camp, L Ron Hubbard, Murray Leinster, Clifford D Simak and Jack Williamson, already established writers,  became part of Campbell’s “stable”. Henry Kuttner and C L Moore were regular contributors. With Joseph Green, these authors starred in Campbell’s “Golden Age of Science Fiction” (roughly, the WWII era), a time when Astounding dominated the genre.  220px-johnwcampbell1965 Campbell had a “profound influence” on many careers, with countless classics that originated in ideas he had suggested. I love a detail that leaped out at me in Green’s Intro to “One Man Game” – that Campbell said if he provided the same idea to four different writers, “they’d all come up with such different treatments and finished stories, he could buy all of them.” (I’ve seen proof of this in calls for submissions for contests.)

**Bonus** Green has written a new introduction to all fifteen stories selected from across the years. We learn more about his occasional co-author, Patrice Green, an avid genealogist and a web site designer (see Greenhouse Scribes).

Also worth noting: since 2012, Joseph Green has written science articles and half a dozen short stories exclusively for Perihelion Science Fiction, an ezine you can read for free (donations are welcome, of course, to keep fresh, original cover art, comics, stories, reviews, and nonfiction articles coming). My review will go live in the 12-November-2016 issue of Perihelion. This review is merely a sneak preview, with bonus images and quotes from emails that have graced my inbox from the legend himself. {Shameless. Yes. I am.} Thanks to Sam Bellotto Jr, another living legend, I’ve had the honor, and pleasure, of corresponding with the best of the best in this business.

Born during the Great Depression (1931), Joe Green grew up in a tiny town in the Deep South (fewer than 500 people, mostly rural), with first grade through twelfth in the same building, no kindergarten, and no special classes for the talented and gifted. Only in America does a farm boy become a rocket scientist and a legendary author, right? His work has been translated into German, Italian, Spanish, French, Polish and Dutch. His novel Gold the Man, also known as The Mind Behind the Eye (1971), may be his most famous. Joe is a charter member of the Science Fiction Writers of America,  he’s rubbed elbows with superstars of the Golden Age, and is himself one of those legends–but the closest he’ll come to boasting is an understated  I ‘spose I am a member of the SF ‘establishment.’

“I’ve been around a long time,” Joe says.

Much has changed since his childhood in the segregated South, “before the racial integration that has tremendously improved our society,” he writes in his Introduction to “The Seventh Floor.” However, “we still have a long way to go… I took in prejudice with my mother’s milk, not learning better until about age 14, when I read a book on anthropology and discovered all humans are basically equal. For many older people of that time, such deep-seated beliefs can’t be expunged, which helps explain why major societal change seems to occur by generations.” Only a few manage to shed old fallacies along the way–“though not without trauma, trouble and strife.”

This is the hallmark of science fiction. More than the iconic little green Martians, rocket ships, and busty babes wielding laser guns, Green expresses the best of humanity and the worst. Sensitivity, insight, and progress are forever challenged by selfishness, greed, and resistance to change.

He joined The Boeing Company in 1959, then five years later accepted a job at the Kennedy Space Center, where he worked for 31 years. He served for six years as document specialist and member of the launch team on the Atlas-Centaur program. He supported the Apollo Program from beginning to end, including (with then-wife Juanita) providing pre-launch parties for the science fiction community on all moon landing missions. He also supported the Space Shuttle program from its beginning until he retired from NASA (as Deputy Chief, Education Office) at the end of 1996.

Green has rubbed elbows, so to say, with Fred Pohl, Heinlein, Poul and Karen Anderson, Gordon Dickson, John Campbell, and “it goes on. I’ve been around a long time,” Joe writes. “I was active in convention circles in the 70s and 80s, served in several positions in SFWA . . . in short, I ‘spose I am a member of the SF ‘establishment.’

“Running Wild” is worth the price of admission just for Joe’s personal introduction to all fifteen stories.Not being as humble as the accomplished Joe Green, I will gleefully tell you how fun and awesome it is to have some of these stories in my house, in the original analogs, which I bought a few years ago at ICON (Iowa’s annual Science Fiction Convention).  51zfgex8xxl-_sx373_bo1204203200_   $2,101.99  + $3.99 S&H

For $3, this ebook is a bargain. Look at the prices of those vintage issues of analog at amazon – most start at $4 plus S&H, but some command as much as $2,101.99 + $3.99 S&H for a single issue of one 5 x 7.5 softcover magazine with 178 pages. Namely, that would be analog, Vol. LXXXIX, No. 6. Green’s story, Three-Tour Man, is on page 112. There’s the world debut of “The Pritcher Mass” (part I of III) by Gordon R. Dickson. A novelette: Nanda, by Gary Alan Ruse. Short Stories: Budnip; Power to the People; and Long Shot, by Vernor Vinge. Oh, and there’s “Science fact: The Computer Was a Fish,” a nonfiction article by some young upstart named George R.R. Martin, “a recent graduate of Northwestern University” – today his bio includes “Game of Thrones.”

In “The Fourth Generation,” humans leave Earth in search of a new world to colonize, only to crash-land on a hostile planet where “Uglies” sometimes kidnap humans. Green delivers two heroes, the big handsome hunter and the brainiac, both of them good men, both worthy of the esteemed Redhead. When “the Redhead” is taken by the Uglies, these two men compete to be the hero who saves (and therefore wins) her.

I’d read a whole novel set in their world. Tell me this is not the only story featuring big, handsome, husky Grant Johns, an exulted hunter, versus Andy, the guy with “the dullest and most prosaic job in the community, that of Keeper of Records.” There’s a freshness to this story that reminds me of all that I love about science fiction and the timeless theme of brave pioneers. I’d also love to read more stories based on Green’s time as “a millhand, welder’s helper and construction worker” in his twenties, when he was “pretty muscular,” as Green writes in the intro to this story. His pet peeve is “too many stories that equate big muscles and physical bravery with arrogance and ego.” With”The Fourth Generation,” he cleverly flips that old trope.

Strange, fascinating aliens in exotic settings: there’s no end of them in this one man’s imagination. In “At the Court of the Chrysoprase King,” a mysterious creature known as the Chrysoprase King is the last of his race, and even his home is doomed, the lone planet Destry, which is falling toward its sun. Rather than allow all the attainments of his people to die out, he summons two very different races to visit his doomed planet and compete for “dibs” on his legacy. One race is human, aka “The Lone Ones,” individual males and females. The other race is as “disgusting” to the humans as the Lone Ones are to the Dash’Ilka: “Deceptively like us outwardly, at least the human half is, but with that damnable snake parasite wrapped around each person’s body, and that long tail reaching from the anus all the way up inside to the small intestine.” The parasite’s head, about the size and shape of an orange, perches beside the “human” head and whispers into its master’s ear. “Dependent, those people are, terrible dependent on their smart little Companions,” one of the humans sneers.

The throne of this mysterious, nearly dead king is ornately carved from a single block of chalcedony. The rest of the tale is vividly described, with characters who are impossible to forget. The ending is one of those clever surprises that are the hallmark of Golden Age gems.

At the Court of the Chrysoprase King 51yzc8btsql-_sx376_bo1204203200_ Rigel #7 Spring 1983

To See the Stars That Blind is the first story co-authored with his wife, “the first of many joint efforts,” Joe writes, “and in my not-so-humble opinion, still the best.” It is indeed splendidly written, taut and suspenseful, opening with a bride on her honeymoon suffering strange changes in her eyesight. (It takes more time to talk about these stories than it does to read them. I need to come back to this one and do it justice.)

  • “A Star is Born”, Fantasy and Science Fiction, February 1974.

51xf9ccsdzl-_sx321_bo1204203200_ Analog, March 1974

The Seventh Floor  sounds vaguely autobiographical. The hero, John, “had been blind for a week as a child–an acute case of a type of granular conjunctivitis, endemic in the Northwest Florida sand hills where he was born–and suffered from poor vision throughout adolescence.” Medication and glasses “had gotten him past the army physical.”  Now he was 28, “the first member of his large family ever to attend college.”


…And Be Lost Like Me

A Custom of the Children of Life

A Star Is Born

Last of the Chauvinists

Wrong Attitude

An Alien Conception

One-Man Game  515dwujfncl-_sx354_bo1204203200_1 February 1972. Cover art by John Schoenherr illustrating “Fido” by William J. Frogge. ALSO: Robert F. Young, Joseph Green, Henry Sauter and more. Editor: Ben Bova.

Gentle Into That Good Night  51meq5uvpzl-_sx337_bo1204203200_

Walk Barefoot on the Glass 41qitlpro-l-_sx248_bo1204203200_ March 1974 $20.00 + $3.99 shipping; New York; The Condé Nast Publications, Inc.; 1st Edition; Cover art by Frank Kelly Freas.

This was one of the last issues of Analog Science Fiction Science Fact edited by John W. Campbell, Jr. In this issue Campbell’s editorial is about the Big Bang. 14695387_10210955394470760_1935660701152719661_n    14721608_10210955394430759_8014716240185372598_n

51pxgu5clpl-_sx345_bo1204203200_“Manufacturing in Space”, Analog, December 1970 14671071_10210955492793218_1613765522279787574_n 14681728_10210955492833219_4884323567447668728_n

51ivzfxpgal-_sx340_bo1204203200_ “The Crier of Crystal”, Analog, October 1971. 14670719_10210955398830869_7093909439220593176_n

  • “Talus Slope”, Perihelion Science Fiction, February 2013 fullcover004
  • “Curfew Tolls the Parting Day”, (with Shelby Vick) 1305Perihelion Science Fiction, May 2013
  • “Mortality, Eternity”,1401 Perihelion Science Fiction, January 2014
  • “Their Trailing Skies For Vestment”, 13041 (with Shelby Vick) Perihelion Science Fiction, April 2014″Stolen Dreams”, (with R-M Lillian) 1505Perihelion Science Fiction, May 2015

Not so “Astounding,” that a retired NASA scientist and Golden Age contemporary of Asimov and Heinlein should be so prolific and accomplished. I look forward to more from this living legend. (How about more of Andy the brainiac, John the Handsome Hunter, the Redhead and the Uglies, hint hint?)


About carolkean

novelist, reviewer, editor, book critic for Liberty Island and Perihelion Science Fiction; native prairie/guerilla gardener; champion of liberty, indie authors & underdogs; one of the top two reviewers in Editors &Preditors Poll 2015; Amazon Vine, NetGalley Top Reviewer
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