Lucky Starr series
Cover from the 2001 Science Fiction Book Club omnibus edition.
On 23 March 1951 Asimov met with his agent, Frederik Pohl, and Walter I. Bradbury, then the science fiction editor at Doubleday & Co., who had a proposal for him. Pohl and Bradbury wanted Asimov to write a juvenile science fiction novel that would serve as the basis for a television series. Fearing that the novel would be adapted into the "uniformly awful" programming he saw flooding the television channels, he decided to publish it under the pseudonym "Paul French". Asimov began work on the novel, David Starr: Space Ranger, on 10th June. He completed it on 29th July, and it was published by Doubleday in January 1952. Although plans for the television series fell through, Asimov continued to write novels in the series, eventually producing six. A seventh, Lucky Starr and the Snows of Pluto, was planned, but abandoned when Asimov elected to devote himself to writing non-fiction almost exclusively. With no worries about being associated with an embarrassing televised version, Asimov decided to abandon the pretense that he was not the author (although the books continued to be published under the Paul French pseudonym). He brought the Three Laws of Robotics into Lucky Starr and the Big Sun of Mercury, which he wrote in his autobiography "was a dead giveaway to Paul French's identity for even the most casual reader".
Eventually, Asimov used his own name in later editions. Some cover pages bear his name only, while others credit "Isaac Asimov writing as Paul French".
- David Starr, Space Ranger (1952)
- Lucky Starr and the Pirates of the Asteroids (1953)
- Lucky Starr and the Oceans of Venus (1954)
- Lucky Starr and the Big Sun of Mercury (1956)
- Lucky Starr and the Moons of Jupiter (1957)
- Lucky Starr and the Rings of Saturn (1958)
Although the hero's given name - used on the first book - was "David" (chosen in honor of his own son), Asimov decided this lacked vigor, so the titles of all the later books used his nickname "Lucky".
These novels have a long and varied publishing history. They came out in hardcover with Doubleday in the first edition. Bantam was the latest, in 1993, to bring out the series in 3 volumes, publishing pairs of titles together. In 2001 the Science Fiction Book Club published all six novels as a collection in a single volume, under the title The Complete Adventures of Lucky Starr.
The British first editions of all six novels omit the prefix altogether, being titled Space Ranger, Oceans of Venus, etc. A later British paperback edition of the 1970s, published by NEL (in the New English Library series), restored the original titles – but in numbering them from 1 to 6, on the covers, in fact published them in the wrong order.
The first book was translated into French in 1954 under the title Sur la planète rouge ("On the Red Planet") with the original pseudonym, Paul French. It was published in the "Anticipation" science fiction imprint of Fleuve noir. It was later adapted as a French comic book twice, in 1975 and 1992.
Three books were also published in Dutch. Titles were, in order of the original American series:
- Een man alleen (orig. David Starr, Space Ranger), 1977
- Piraten van de asteroïden (Lucky Starr and the Pirates of the Asteroids), 1978
- De grote zon van Mercurius (Lucky Starr and the Big Sun of Mercury), 1978
He carefully introduced astronomical and physical concepts which the scientific knowledge of the time supported. In later editions, he added a preface pointing out that new scientific discoveries have rendered some locations and concepts obsolete: Mercury does not present only one side to the Sun, and Venus is not covered by a global ocean, for example.