A couple years ago, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory released a line of retro-style travel posters known as “Visions of the Future.” These vintage style posters were gorgeous imaginings of traveling to distant planets and systems. (The posters are available for free download here.) Like many vintage sci-fi fans, I fell absolutely in love with these imaginative posters advertising opportunities to travel to places I’d dreamed of, like Mars, Jupiter, and Venus.
The holiday shopping season is upon us and all the ads and websites pushing toys and gadgets for this year make me feel like we’re living in a technological dystopia. From the kid’s Think and Learn Smart Cycle that just looks like training for Black Mirror’s “Fifteen Million Merits” to the FrontRow Wearable Lifestyle Camera that brings the surveillance state to your own body, I am missing simpler times. And of course, the simpler time I’m missing is from before I was born.
Tin toys first came into existence in the mid 19th century as a substitute for wooden toys. They were cheap to make from durable tinplate, manufactured in Germany originally and then in the US in the early 1900s. Once World War II started, the materials needed to produce the toys were diverted for the war effort and Japan became the main manufacturer of tin toys through the 1950s. After that, plastic toys became all the rage because they were cheaper to manufacture and easily met new government safety regulations. (Read all about their history on Wikipedia.)
Many parents and grandparents remember their tin toys fondly, especially the space and robot-themed toys that remain popular among vintage collectors today. Luckily, there are many retro-style tin toys still being manufactured today that are affordable for regular consumers looking for a little nostalgia. Good for kids, collectors, or a meaningful gift for Dad or Grandad, let’s take a walk down memory lane and enjoy these retro sci-fi themed tin toys.
Robby the Robot Inspired Tin Toy
One of the most famous robots from the 1950s and 60s, this tin toy is based on Robby the Robot from Forbidden Planet. While it’s also available in red, the black version looks the most like the classic robot. This is a wind-up toy, but it’s meant for collectors to display rather than for children to play with.
Continue reading “20 Retro Scifi Tin Toys to Take You Back to Simpler Days”
I was so excited when I found out this weekend that the classic science fiction book The Runaway Robot by Lester Del Ray is back in print. This is one of the first scifi novels I read as a kid, and may explain my general obsession with robots, especially the idea of a sentient robotic companion. This book has been out of print for years and I’m thrilled to see it’s available again for young scifi fans to enjoy.
Original cover from 1965 by Wayne Blickenstaff. Source.
The story is about a boy named Paul who has been raised with a robotic companion called Rex. Rex’s main role is to be a protector for Paul on the moon of Ganymede, but they become inseparable friends. When Paul and his family are called back to Earth they have to leave Rex behind. The robot’s bond with Paul is so strong that Rex decides to stowaway on the ship, and that’s when the adventure begins.
I actually have an original copy from 1968 that was a hand-me-down from my father (same cover as above). This story influenced me so much as a young reader that I took the book with me when I moved away to college, and it’s still displayed proudly on my bookshelf. I prefer the original cover art by Wayne Blickenstaff to the new edition. Many of the chapters also have some lovely vintage black and white art.
If you can find a copy of the original printing, I highly recommend it for the beautiful vintage art.
A fun factoid: the novel was actually written by Paul W. Fairman, based on an outline by del Rey.
One of the reasons I started this blog is to preserve visions of the future from yesteryear and also to support and highlight others with the same mission.
Singularity & Co. saves vintage books that are out of print and languishing into obscurity by tracking down the copyright holders, getting their blessing, and then digitally preserving fabulous vintage science fiction stories for future generations.
Right now Singularity & Co. have a successful Kickstarter campaign running with about two weeks lefts. This is their second campaign after their original campaign two years ago that allowed them to publish 36 ebooks and open a bookstore in Brooklyn.
Their current campaign aims to raise money to rescue even more vintage scifi books. The campaign has already exceeded the original $15,000 goal, and for every $10K beyond that goal, they will archive an additional 10 books.
This is a great project with fantastic rewards at the $10 and $25 levels to receive some of these rescued scifi classics. If you enjoy vintage science fiction and love reading, consider supporting this awesome project.
We already know I’m a huge retro-scifi fan, but one of the things that irks me the most about vintage magazine and book covers is how often the women on them are portrayed as “damsels in distress”. They’re often falling victim to evil robots, scary space monsters, or clothing that just won’t stay on their busty bodies.
Although those sexist images are the ones that most often come to mind when you think of pulp stories of yesteryear, there are some glorious vintage covers that feature ladies as more than a trope.
The Conquest of the Moon Pool
Buy an original copy of the magazine.
From “Fantastic Novels” September 1948, we get this interesting cover illustration by Lawrence Sterne Stevens for the story “The Conquest of the Moon Pool” by Abraham Merritt. Who the blonde woman in the Marylin Monroe-style dress on the cover is I don’t know, but it’s evident she’s in charge with her laser-gun and her army of toad-like creatures from the center of the earth. [Source]
Continue reading “14 Vintage Scifi & Fantasy Covers Where Women Aren’t “Damseled””