If you didn’t read Monday’s post, you might want to do so before you proceed. This week is on the subject apprenticeship literature.
Lee Correy had a considerable effect on my life. L. C. was a pen name of G. Harry Stine, an author with a long bibliography, but I don’t think of it like that. I have read some of G. Harry’s work without enthusiasm, and I haven’t read Lee Correy’s two seminal novels since high school. I still think of Lee Correy as a real person, separate from G. Harry Stine. It’s an artifact of my nostalgia.
I am referring to Rocket Man and Starship Through Space, both of which were in my high school library. They would be in my personal library right now, but they are rare, and copies are now out of my price range.
Of the two, Starship Through Space is clearer in my memory, probably because of its lame ending. Two young men travel back from Mars where they are attending a space academy, to find that they have been chosen to participate in the building of the first interstellar ship. They participate fully in the building of the Vittoria, are on the crew which flies her to Pluto and back, are deeply involved in the upgrade and rebuilding that follows, and continue on the Alpha Centauri. That is where it all fell apart for me, as the natives of New Terra resemble Native Americans and turn out to be displaced humans, part of the scattering that followed the Tower of Babel.
The two young protagonists participate fully in the work of building and flying the starship, but they are not running the show. They don’t invent a stardrive or save the universe. They are junior members of the crew, in training, and under the command of competent adults whom they respect.
This is the key to apprenticeship literature. The young protagonists are intelligent, well trained, diligent, hard working, and extremely competent. They aren’t the boss, but they will be someday. They have ambition and confidence, but typically don’t have a lot of arrogance.
The novel Rocket Man meant more to me, but is harder to portray. I don’t remember much, just the overwhelming feeling of lust and envy at what the protagonist was getting to do. The novel has all but disappeared, even from the internet. Goodreads list it without reviews or ratings. The only thing I found to jog my memory was a 1955 Kirkus review.
Update, November 2019: As of today, there is a review on Amazon and the Kirkus review has disappeared.
Here is what I do remember. A young man wants to be a rocket man; to this end he enrolls in the international engineering school in New Mexico. The school is a co-op; students attend classes six months, then work on rockets for six months as apprentice engineers, earning money to cover tuition. I don’t remember too much of the story but I will never forget how badly I wanted to be on that campus.
Four years later I was at Michigan State, on a scholarship but short of cash. One option for my sophomore year was to move into Hedrick House, a student owned co-op. I lived that year in a closet sized room, attended meetings to decide house business, and cooked dinner for the fifty guys who shared the place with me. Every night I went to bed with a smile on my face knowing that I was on my way, and paying my own way. And every night I remembered Rocket Man. Thanks, Mr. Stine, known to me as Lee Correy.
The Kirkus link goes to a review of Elton John’s biography.
I also read Rocket Man, and especially filed away the image of the Latona and its particular rocket drive, which was a monopropellant that was activated by passage through a nuclear reactor. That has been on my mind for half a century.
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The internet is nuts. That link used to go to Kirkus – I always check – so I’ll look at what’s the matter later today.
That kind of nuclear drive was common in that era. If only had it become reality . . .. Thanks for the comment.
So I checked out Kirkus and found at the top this URL – https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/lee-correy/rocket-man/ . I would guess that when the EJ review with the same name came out, it trumped the old one, Lee-correy notwithstanding. I would also guess that the old review is either dumped or inaccessible to mortal men. It wasn’t great, just the only thing available, but I wish now I had made a copy.
“Starship Through Space” was the very first SciFi novel I ever read, probably at about age 12. It stayed with me through the years, despite the lame ending. I found a used copy via Amazon a few years back for about $50 and snapped it up. It was in good condition physically…but the writing was very…uh..well, let’s just say he’s no Hemingway. I’m in retirement now and write occasional SciFi novels and short stories myself. I’m no Hemingway, either, but I enjoy writing. I suspect Lee Correy AKA Mr. Stine did as well. I certainly enjoyed reading this novel.
I also saw a copy on Amazon a few years ago, priced out of my range, about the time I wrote this post. What are the odds you ended up with it? Actually, probably not all that bad, considering how few people are likely to remember it and seek it out.