This month and ten years ago a man with the name Walter Ernsting died. But who was he?
Well, he is better known under his pseudonym Clark Dalton. He was a German, born 1920, so he suffered in World War II, even as a prisoner of war. He lived in Germany, Austria and Ireland and wrote over 300 (!) science-fiction novels.
There is a story how Walter Ernsting tricked his publisher – even if it was made up, it is still an interesting to tell: Publishers in the fifties usually rejected the work of German authors. US-author were en vogue and noone in literature business seriously thought about publishing the work of a local author. Ernsting worked as a translator at that time and offered his publishing house a translation of the US-author Clark Dalton. But this was his alter ego and the novel was original fiction, written by Ernsting himself. The publisher believed him and published the novel. – And well, this is how his success started.
Today he known best to be one of the inventors of the science-fiction series Perry Rhodan in 1961. (Together with K.H. Scheer.) A lot of people do not understand the phenomenon of this series today, that came out in pulp booklet format and lasts ever since. The publication goes on and on, there are fanclubs on this topic and some convention still deal with it as major subject!
To be frank, I never really felt this passion for Rhodan. I guess I have simply been born too late. But I understand the influence on someone born earlier. Like my father, who used to be a fan when he was still at school.
Basically Perry Rhodan is an adventurous story. You can most likely call it a space opera. But it had been a mirror of the time – as most books are. The protagonist, Perry Rhodan and his crew went to the moon – before anyone else. Together with his crew he discovers an alien starship. The aliens provided amazing technology that helped Perry to solve a problem, that caused nightmares to a lot of people at the time the series started: The Cold War.
A single man stopped the threat of an atomic war and unites mankind! This was a really awesome idea (would be great today as well, if conflicts could be solved by a hero and his friends without any violence), though of course a naive one. But it was something that moved a lot of people at this time, especially the ones who desired a peaceful end to the Cold War.
Today it is still ongoing! After the pulp booklets in several editions, there were books (hard- and softcover and today also e-book), comics and audio book made – and a movie, though this never became popular, even not among fans.
Perry Rhodan had been translated into many different languages so far. And still: No end in sight. Authors today are still writing new adventures of Perry Rhodan and his friends! – Today this seems to be the longest ongoing series of books in the world. Clark Darlton was a very popular fan, found on a lot of conventions and a regular attendant of club meetings – and also a co-founder of the SFCD. (Still today this Germany´s largest SF-club.) So of course, just ten years after his death he is of course far away from being forgotten!