catch a wave and you’re sitting on top of the world

Es­ti­mated reading time is 2 min­utes.

I WAS MOTIVATED to dig up my old copy of Poul An­der­son’s novel Brain Wave when I dis­cov­ered Joachim Boaz’s site Sci­ence Fic­tion and Other Sus­pect Ru­mi­na­tions. I read Joachim’s take on the An­derson book (he con­sid­ered it “vaguely good”) and the com­ments sub­mitted by his readers and I dis­agreed with cer­tain ob­ser­va­tions of theirs. So, I want to ad­dress a few of those is­sues here on my site. 

But first, an anec­dote: my copy of Brain Wave is buried in a box some­where and I wasn’t sure that I would find it. Then, last Sat­urday, having coffee with Jon and Ami Pilon, I men­tioned the book and the re­view and my de­ter­mi­na­tion to reread it and see if my take jibed with theirs. Jon reads a lot of fan­tasy and some SF and I thought he might enjoy the book’s premise. He was, in fact, intrigued.


1953. The story that be­came the novel Brain Wave was first pub­lished as “The Es­cape” in the No­vember 1953 issue of Space Sci­ence Fic­tion mag­a­zine. The cover art has that cer­tain solid util­i­tarian look of so­cialist art of the 1930s. It was pub­lished as a pa­per­back novel by Bal­lan­tine the fol­lowing year (see image below).

I as­sured him that when I found my copy, I would lend it to him—and then ship it off to my sister in Penn­syl­vania for a read. After Berni and I left Jon and Ami, we went to Half Price Books and, as al­ways, I checked for my faves (Spinrad, El­lison, An­derson, and others) to no avail. Finding sci­ence fic­tion pa­per­backs from the ’50s and ’60s has been dif­fi­cult for a long time and books from the ’70s are be­coming equally hard to find.

Then I walked past one the dollar racks (an old-fashioned metal spinner that stands on the floor in­de­pen­dent of any shelving) and an old An­derson title caught my eye. Flip­ping through the books, I found six older An­derson ti­tles for a buck apiece, and lo and be­hold, one of them was a like-new copy of the 1973 Bal­lan­tine edi­tion of Brain Wave—the same edi­tion that I had bought forty years be­fore and that led to my fas­ci­na­tion with An­derson (and dis­cussed briefly below)!



I have taken this ar­ticle (“Catch A Wave And You’re Sit­ting On Top Of The World,” a play on words and a Beach Boys al­lu­sion) and rewritten  and ex­panded it and added a dozen photos to it and re­pub­lished it as “on poul an­der­son’s brain wave.” Click on over and give it a read, why doncha . . .

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