Survival Apocalypse Genesis – A Salute to Andre Norton and Robert Heinlein

The Survival Apocalypse series has many mothers and fathers, the two most notable being Robert Anson Heinlein and Andre Norton.

Survival Apocalypse genesis. Tracking the series all the way back to childhood.

It’s a rare thing when an author can see back 40 or more years to identify the moment the seedling of a series first sprouted. If you’re the least bit curious as to how my Survival Apocalypse books came to be, I’d like to tell you.

My book career began with golden age science fiction. Then I discovered cowboy books, which led me to the hard stuff, pioneer fiction, and finally to such historical texts as there are about the old southwestern times. The first southwest included Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi.

But, in the beginning there was science fiction, and in my estimation the best of it, the Golden Age science fiction. I read ALL the books.

Escape450However, my very first golden age SF books were the ones that left the deepest impressions. Among the many were two that infected me with the notion for the Survival Apocalypse series. I confess the germ lay dormant for decades, but when it finally activated it did so with a vengeance.

My first books were comic books. These I did, bagging hundreds of $.13 cent editions from ages twelve to thirteen. Next, I read every SF book in my hometown library. The library lady went to her death bed screaming that I still had books out. I don’t think I did. I’m pretty sure I returned most of them. However, in a stroke of luck 25 or so years later I was able to obtain many of them in an old book sale by the same library. They are scattered throughout the house. Since my memory isn’t what it was, most often when I run across one and pick it up to reread these days it’s like it’s brand new. That’s fun!

Doing my research for this article, while looking for the one book, I chanced on another. I had forgotten the titles but I pretty much knew the authors.

The second book that had I found which is the great grandparent of The Choccolocco Valley in particular is none other than  Star Man’s Son by Andre Norton. The first is Citizen of the Galaxy by Robert Heinlein.

Star Man’s Son was published by Andre Norton. I was always pretty sure Andre Norton was a girl and it’s only thanks to Wiki today that my suspicions have been verified. She was born Alice Mary Norton in 1912 and survived until 2005. She was writing nearly up to the end.

But her best books, in my humble opinion were the ones published during the first golden age of science fiction. Star Man’s Son is a post apocalyptic book from 1952. I have my doubts that the term post apocalypse was even invented at the time.

Frankly, I didn’t even remember reading the book until I visited Amazon to read the description. That was when I had an “ah ha” moment.  Even better, the first reviewer, said this: “This was one of the first science fiction novels that I ever read, and the ideas and images in it have stayed with me all this time.”

Now isn’t that novel, I thought? If both the reviewer and myself have similar thoughts about the potency of this book, then it must be so. 

My aim is not to re-review the two books in this article. It’s easy enough for you to go look them and the authors up to do your own research. My goal is to show that books that I read in my earliest teen years helped to shape my life in ways I wasn’t even aware of until centuries of living later!

The book I was searching for when I found Starman’s Son was Citizen of the Galaxy by Heinlein. I had forgotten the title but guessed correctly that it was written by that particular author. A quick check of his bibliography confirmed this. When I saw the title a great deal of the story came back to me, which was confirmed as I perused the reviews on Amazon.

Whereas I read many of Norton’s books, I read all of Heinlein’s golden age books. Like Asimov and Clarke, Heinlein’s approach resonated with me. More so than I realized at the time.

Robert Heinlein served during World War II and he played his experience forward from those years. More than once has his futuristic descriptions of space ship control panels been seen in books, television, and movies. To the discerning eye, though, his futuristic designs favor greatly the fire control apparatus of WWII fighting ships.

Citizen of the Galaxy put a long long lasting mark on me. In the large, it’s the story of a slave boy on a far off planet that makes good and joins the space patrol. For me, however, it opened up a whole new way of characterization before I ever had a clue what that was all about. Again, it’s not my goal to review the book. You can do that for yourself. What I’m saying, to those still reading, is that when you really like something as a lad, it’s liable to stick…for good or ill. In my case, the books I read instilled a sense of chivalry that lingers to this day. Of course, it has gotten me into trouble on occasion, fighting for lost causes, but it’s who I am.

And it’s who my characters are in my books. And the notion was put into my noggin by the greats of the first golden age of science fiction, including Andre Norton and Robert Anson Heinlein.

A Marvelous Testament

What a marvelous testament. Putting positive notions in young people’s noggins, enough to last them for a lifetime. Beyond fame or money, this is what I’d like to leave. 

It’s hard to find much of the work of the masters any more. What’s left is being slowly chewed to dust by book worms in moldy private libraries. What’s for sale is unaffordable. A few books still exist on Amazon…but not all. 

What remains, however, for me and a few more like me is the lessons that those wonderful books taught. Boy, if I could but do a little of that for my readers!