Cora Buhlert cleverly derailed my forward progress on my dinographic investigations by tweeting me this picture:
The cover is from 1949 and from the text layout it isn’t immediately clear if the cover is meant to illustrate “The Portal in the Picture” or “Hothouse Planet”. It is, in fact, an illustration of Hothouse Planet which was first published in 1937 in ‘Thrilling Wonder Stories’.
So is that a dinosaur or is that an alien monster and what, exactly, is going on with that tongue? A search for other images of Hothouse Planet by Arthur K Barnes provides some variations on the theme of tonguey t-rex:
The story isn’t that hard to find online. It looks like various people have grabbed the works of Arthur K Barnes and put modern covers on top of his stories about interplanetary hunters.
The story is quite interesting. I hadn’t heard of Barnes before (I’m not well versed in the pulp era) but it is a fun story even if full of colonial 1930s attitudes. The story introduces an interesting character: Gerry Carlyle who is a hunter of alien creatures with a twist:
“Roy! Awake! Arise! Today’s the great day! The British are coming! Wake up for the event!”Hothouse Planet by Arthur K Barnes Thrilling Wonder Stories, October 1937
Roy Ransom, Strike’s assistant staggered into view, rubbing the sleep from his eyes.“British?” he mumbled. “What British?”
“Why, Gerry Carlyle! The great Carlyle is coming today. Inhis special ship, with his trained crew, straight from the Interplanetary Zoo in London. The famous ‘Catch-’em-alive Carlyle’ is on his way and we’re the lucky guys chosen to guide him on his expedition on Venus!”
Ransom scratched one thick hairy leg and stepped underthe shower with a sour expression. “Ain’t that somethin’?” he inquired.
“You don’t look with favor on Mister Carlyle?” Strike chuckled.“No, I don’t. I’ve heard all I want to hear about him. Capturing animals from different planets and bringing them back alive to the Zoo in London is all right. I’d like the job myself. But any guy that rates the sickening amount of publicity he does must have something phony about ‘im.” He kicked toward the short-wave radio in one corner of the living room.”
As you are astute readers you have probably guessed the big surprising twist about the identity of Gerry Carlyle:
This day was to be one of many surprises for Tommy Strike and perhaps the greatest shock of all came when he stood beside the sloping runway leading into the brightly lighted bow of the ship. For, awaiting him there, one hand out stretched and a cool little smile on her lips, stood the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.“Mr. Strike said Barrows, “this is Miss Gerry Carlyle.”The trader stared, thunderstruck. In those days of advanced plastic surgery, feminine beauty wasn’t rare but even Strike’s unpracticed eye knew that here was the real thing. No synthetic blonde baby-doll here but a natural beauty untouched by the surgeon’s knife-spun-gold hair, intelligence lighting dark eyes, a hint of passion and temper in the curve of mouth and arch of nostrils. In short, a woman.But Miss Carlyle’s voice was an ice-water jet to remind the trader of earthside manners.“You don’t seem enthusiastic over meeting your temporary employer, Mr. Strike. Something wrong about me?”Strike flushed, angry at himself and his own embarrassment. “Oh oh, no.” He fumbled for words. “That is,I’m surprised that you’re a woman. I — we expected to find a man in-well, in your position. It’s more like a man’s job.”Sub-pilot Barrows could have warned the trader that this was a touchy point with Gerry Carlyle but he had no chance.The young woman drew herself up and spoke coldly.“There isn’t a man in the business who has done nearly aswell as I. Name a half-dozen hunters. Rogers, Camden, Potter— they aren’t in the same class with me. Man’s job? I think you needn’t worry about me, Mr. Strike. You’ll find I’m man enough to face anything this planet has to offer.”Hothouse Planet by Arthur K Barnes Thrilling Wonder Stories, October 1937
The story revolves around an attempt to capture a specimen of the illusive Venusian Murri, a creature nobody has managed to bring back alive (for interesting reasons). In the course of the hunt, Carlyle and Strike meet other Venusian creatures and have a run in with the ‘natives’ (because of course they do). Carlyle, while very capable eventually learns why it is handy to have a man around and the whole story ends with a less than wholly consensual kiss.
She tried to stand erect but her knees betrayed her and shefell into the trader’s ready embrace. He tried to look stern.“Well, young lady, I trust you’ve learned two lessons this night. One, that even a Gerry Carlyle can’t always have her way— especially with the Murris. Two, that a mere man, even if only to make an occasional unwanted sacrifice, can some times come in pretty handy.”Hothouse Planet by Arthur K Barnes Thrilling Wonder Stories, October 1937
Gerry became acutely conscious of her position and she tried to free herself with no great earnestness. Strike laughed. She turned a furious crimson and he laughed at her again.
“Simply a vaso-motor disturbance,” she explained frigidly.
“Is that what you call it? I rather like it. I want to see more.”
Strike kissed her and Gerry’s vaso-motor system went completely haywire.
So, a predictably bad end to a story where a woman in a ‘male’ role has to be put in her place by a male character. Prior to this Carlyle gets some great lines and is largely shown as being compotent. There’s an idea of a major subversion of the big-game dinosaur hunter here. Carlyle is a woman, practical and focused on the job which isn’t hunting creatures for sport but to populate a zoo.
It’s that last point that made me want to pull this story into my broader narrative. I was going to point out in my next essay that there is a shift from the 1950s to the 1980s that goes from dinosaurs as big game to be hunted to dinosaurs being creatures to be conserved whether in zoos or parks. The idea crops up briefly at the end of Anne McCaffrey’s Dinosaur Planet Survivors when the alien Theks discover that it was they who had set up the planet Ireta as a place to conserve dinosaurs many millennia ago. It’s a concept we’ll meet again and again going forward. Finding a similar concept decades earlier is really interesting, particularly given the prevalence of big-game hunters after dinosaurs in the 1950/60s stories I’ve looked at.
Ah yes but Carlyle is collecting alien creatures not dinosaurs. True but let us return to the weird creature on the cover. It is called a Whip:
They swivelled about to gaze upon the most terrifying of all products of Venusian vertebrate evolution. Fully fifty feet the monster towered into the mist, standing upright on two massive legs reminiscent of the extinct terrestrial Tyrannosaurus rex. A set of short forelegs were equipped with hideously lethal claws. The head was long and narrow resembling a wolf’s snout, with large ears and slavering fangs.Everything about the nightmare creature was constructed for efficient annihilation, particularly of those animals who mistakenly sought safety in the tops of the tall trees.Hothouse Planet by Arthur K Barnes Thrilling Wonder Stories, October 1937
“A whip!” yelled Strike, turning to the cathode-gun carriers, sudden apprehension stabbing him deep. “It’s a whip! Let him have it, quick!”
The crew looked uncertainly to Gerry Carlyle, who promptly countermanded the order.“Not so fast. I want this one alive. They’ve nothing like him in London.”
She flipped up her rifle, fired at a likely spot. Strike groaned as the monstrous whip squealed shrilly again and again, staring down at the tiny Earthlings from fiery eyes.Then from that wolfish snout uncurled an amazing fifty-foot length of razor-edged tongue, like that of a Terran anteater. Straight at Gerry Carlyle it lashed out, cracking sharply.
I think that is sufficiently dinosaur like to count.
Gerry Carlyle apparently has many other adventures. Hopefully, there’s one where she thumps that guy.