Cynics at Large Perry Rhodan

Perry Rhodan is truly a unique phenomenon. Its core is German by language, so you may well have never heard of it, but in Germany and Austria it's big, and by sheer volume it may well deserve its boast to be the greatest science fiction series in the world.

Imagine a continuous serial of weekly issues, each 60-80 pages of cheap black and white paper print wrapped in a full-color cover. And I mean continuous - the story line has been unbroken since its start, weaving here and there, skipping a few hundred years on occasion, but always chronicling the future history of mankind (and alien-kind) in the universe.

What's so great about it? Well, the series started in 1961, and it's still going. For those with functional arithmetic skills, yes, that's 52 issues per year for forty years, so you're beyond issue number 2000 now. If you wish, you can read the entire series in sequence. By the time you're done, they've probably racked up a few hundred new ones for you to catch up with. In the original future history, a U.S. spaceship reaches the moon in 1965 to find there a crash-landed alien spaceship of a degenerate but highly advanced race. Of course we now know about Apollo 11, and attempts have been made to reconcile things a bit, but I still prefer the original story line.

Over the years, Perry Rhodan has spawned a dedicated, loyal following. Of course, the generations have shifted since the series began. The series is running multiple editions, time shifted, so youngsters can grow up with the old story.

Beyond the obvious attraction to a science fiction lover, over time the series has also become a fascinating witness to the changing moods and attitudes of its (largely German) readership. In the sixties and seventies, the Solar Empire reached out to establish its place in the galaxy. In the late seventies and eighties, empire went out of fashion and nonviolent solutions were the call of the day. With the aftermath of the cold war, cohesive power blocks disintegrated in the Perry Rhodan universe, as Earth itself was teleported into another galaxy and mankind fractured into different groups and blocks that came to question their destiny and intentions. And ever onwards, the precepts and preoccupations of the readership slowly shaped the background and course of the universe...

For many reasons, Perry Rhodan has never "made" it in the U.S. There have been several English language editions, but they never amounted to much. Perhaps it's a cultural difference of some kind. Perhaps Americans are too impatient for the unusual format. Perhaps American publishers just can't deal with it. You have to admit, publishing a stream of more than 2000 issues of widely varying quality and focus should daunt any publisher in any country...

Here is the Official Home Page for Perry Rhodan; naturally, it is in German. There is also an Official English Language Home Page, though by the current looks of it, it doesn't amount to much.

About This Site 29 Oct 2019 19:52