Badger Books – British Pulp Science Fiction from the 1950’s

Some time back, while scouring the shelves of a tiny book exchange, I came across a book tiled The Time Kings by JB Dexter. It was published in 1958 by Badger Books and contained 158 pages of small typeface on paper from the cheaper end of the publication spectrum. An old science fiction book from a budget publisher, I had to have it!

Information regarding Badger Books is pretty thin, limited to a Wikipedia page and what can be gleaned from the Internet Science Fiction Database (ISFDB). They were an imprint of John Spencer & Co, London, who started out in 1947 selling pulp style magazines before branching out into budget paperbacks in the 1950’s.

The Badger Books imprint started out in 1954 with a number of books entitled Supernatural Stories which, apart from a detective story: Assignment in New York by Mike Lantry (E.C. Tubb), was the predominant theme of their publishing schedule until 1958, when they started to branch out into science fiction. Their first book in their SF series was The Waiting World by R. Lionel Fanthorpe.

The Waiting World by R. Lionel Fanthorpe. Cover artist unknown.

During the course of the following decade Badger Books published science fiction and supernatural books on a near weekly basis at their peak, with a handful of authors using various pseudonyms churning out quantity reading matter. They also covered, at a lesser volume, other genres such as romance, westerns and war.

My modest collection

The cover artwork is quite enticing, with shiny spaceships featuring prominently to engage the readers sense of wonder. Earlier novels had covers by a range of artists, including some prominent names in the field. By 1961 Henry Fox had become the principal cover artist for Badger Books, with most covers thereafter attributed to him.

The mid to late 1960’s were not good times for the pulp industry in general. Many magazines and budget book publishers were affected, on both sides of the Atlantic. Badger Books was no exception and they ceased publication in 1967.

Clear signs of wear on these vintage books. Space Void cover by Ed Emshwiller, Doomed World by Carlo Jacono, other artists unknown.

South Africa has in the past tended to import most of our English language published matter from the UK, so it is not surprising that Badger Books do turn up occasionally. These books are becoming something of a rarity, having been published with no mind for longevity. As with many such pulp publications, many may have simply fallen apart or have been thrown away along with other old read magazines and comics.

My own small collection barely scratches the surface of the 118, or 227 if you include the supernatural line, published. Hunting for these books in exchanges, markets and second-hand shops can prove quite exhilarating especially when one finds a new sample to add to a collection. If you see one, give it a try. It may well be the work of a hack churning out words to meet a deadline, but could as easily be a hidden, long forgotten gem.

Crimson Planet cover by John Richards, the rest could be by Henry Fox
By this time Henry Fox was doing most covers, although none of these are attributed to him at ISFDB.