Perry Rhodan

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Perry Rhodan is the name of science fiction series published since 1961 in Germany, as well as the name of the main character.

Perry Rhodan is a space opera, dealing with several themes of science fiction. Having sold over one billion copies (in pulp booklet format) worldwide, it is the most successful science fiction book series ever written.[1] The series and its spin-offs have captured a substantial fraction of the original German science fiction output and exert influence on many German writers in the field[citation needed].

The series is told in an arc storyline structure similar to that later used by Babylon 5. An arc — called a "cycle"[2] — would have anywhere from 25 to 100 issues devoted to it, similar subsequent cycles are referred to as a "grand-cycle"[3].


[edit] History

Written by an ever-changing team of authors, Perry Rhodan is issued in weekly novella-size installments in the traditional German Heftroman (pulp booklet) format. The series was created in 1961 by K. H. Scheer and Clark Darlton. Initially conceived for thirty volumes[4], it endured and passed 2450 installments in August 2008[5]. There have been several reissues (5 printings and a 6th ebook version), and a revised, edited version in hardcover format. Significant spin-offs include the Atlan series and the Planetenromane ("Planet Novels") paperbacks that provide additional playgrounds for stories set in the Perry Rhodan universe but are usually not considered canonical[citation needed].

Over the decades there have also been comic strips, numerous collectibles, several encyclopedias, audio plays, inspired music, etc. The series has seen partial translations into several languages. It also spawned the movie Mission Stardust (1967), which is considered so appallingly bad[6] that fans of the series playfully deny its very existence.

[edit] Plot

The story line starts in 1971 with the first manned moon landing by U.S. Space Force Major Perry Rhodan and his crew, who discover a marooned extraterrestrial space ship. Appropriating the alien technology, they proceed to unify Terra and carve out a place for humanity in the galaxy and the cosmos. As the series progresses major characters, including the title character, are granted relative immortality. It is Relative in the sense that they are immune to age and disease, but could suffer a violent death. The story continues over the course of millennia, including flashbacks thousands and even millions of years into the past, and the scope widens to encompass other galaxies, extremely remote parts of space, parallel universes and weirder cosmic structures, time travel, paranormal powers, weird/cute/aggressive aliens, bodyless entities (some with sheer god-like powers)...

[edit] Cosmology

The series employs physical theories as they are currently known, making it more logic and realistic than several other SF-series. For example, special relativity and its effects are regularly mentioned. (Same goes for geology, biology...) Further hyperphysical theories are added, to explain the SF-plot. However, they are not contrary, as the authors sometimes use real and fictional physics unisono to explain something.

[edit] The universe

The universe in which the plot regularly takes place, is named Einstein-universe. Its laws are virtually identical to those of our real universe (though newer theories about Dark Matter and Dark Energy are not used in the series).

The Einstein-Universe is embedded in a high-dimensional manifold, called hyperspace. This hyperspace consists of several subspaces, that are used by different technologies for faster-than-light travel. The exact traits of those higher dimensions are not thoroughly explained. The border of the universe is a dimension called the deep (once used for construction of the gigantic discworld "deepland").

The Psionic Web crosses invisibly through the whole universe, constantly emitting "vitalenergy" and "psionic energy", guaranteeing normal (organic among others) life and the wellbeing of higher entities.

[edit] The Multiverse

This Einstein-universe is only one in an infinite ensemble of universes: Some are different to various degrees, some are related to the Einstein-universe (parallel universes, the anti-universe, the antimatter-universe...)

The Moralic Code crosses through all these universes. ("Moral" should not be misunderstood as having an ethical meaning.) He is subdivided in the Cosmogenes, which are again subdivided into the Cosmonucleotids. (This picture is used to create associations to the DNA.) The Cosmonucleotids determine reality and fate themselves for their respective parts of a given universe, via messengers. Higher beings are trying to gain control of this possibility to rule reality itself.

[edit] The onion-shell-model

To all life, an evolutionary theory called the "onion-shell-model" is employed. It states, that there is a continuous evolution from lower life-forms (bacteria) to higher life-forms like intelligent life and finally bodyless entities. Upon invention, the onion-shell-model was used by the authors as if there are definite and discrete stages in cosmological evolution. However, later in the series further life-forms, representing stages between the known shells, were introduced.

The main shells are:

  1. life-less matter
  2. bacterias
  3. higher animals
  4. intelligent species
  5. intelligent species, that has contacted other species
  6. superintelligences
  7. matter-fountains/matter-sinks
  8. cosmocrats/chaotarchs

The superintelligences are the next step above normal minds. They are born, for example, when a species collectively gives up its bodies and unites their spirits. Those superintelligences claim a domain as theirs, consisting of up to several galaxies. The superintelligence nourishes mentally on the species in its domain, sometimes symbiotically (as in the case of ES), sometimes parasitically. There are positive and negative superintelligences. Again, these attributes should not be treated as ethical description, although negative superintelligences are in general described as being more sinister.

The matter-fountains/matter-sinks are born, when a superintelligence fuses with all life and matter in its domain. Little more is known.

The high powers are the highest known life-forms. They live in an unimaginable distant dimension and have nearly unlimited and godlike powers in ruling over lower beings. However they are not god-like in two ways: They are not omniscient and they are unable to directly interact with lower beings. In such a case, they have to put on a mortal shape, reducing their powers and sometimes their knowledge/memory. This is known as the transform-syndrome.
Among the high powers are two factions known as the cosmocrats and the chaotarchs. The cosmocrats want to transform all universes in a state of absolute order, while the chaotarchs want to transform all universes in a state of absolute chaos. Accordingly, they are engulfed in a cataclysmic neverending war, stretching among almost all known universes. They are ruthlessly using, manipulating and dooming whole species for their actions. However, open warfare is just one tool among many in their epic conflict. In the current cycles (2300 - 2499) the milkyway is victim of a full-fletched military assault by the forces of chaos, as they are trying to establish a bastion of chaos, a negasphere, in the nearby galaxy Hangay.

Recently it was revealed to the protagonists, that life itself has become a rival to the higher powers. It has spread uncontrollably among the universe and can be found in virtually every niche. The cosmocrats and chaotarchs both use life for its tendencies to create order and chaos alike. Its unplanned and unregulated cosmological actions and manipulations are a constant disturbance for the plans of the cosmocrats and the chaotarchs alike. The pangalactic statisticians (a neutral organization of obervers) have stated, that 21% of all cosmological manipulations are executed by cosmocrat-servants, 16% are executed by chaos-servants and 63% are executed by the vast uncontrollable life itself.
To reduce the influence of life, the cosmocrats have stopped their programs that encourage the development of life and intelligence. Additionally, they have increased the hyper-impedance, drastically reducing effectivity and durability of most forms of hyper-technology.

[edit] Criticism

The first aliens mentioned in the series are the Arkonides: They look like albino humans and are distant relatives of mankind's ancestors.

As mankind faced a galaxy populated with a giant decadent empire, brutal mercenaries, cunning traders and the like, they had to resort to commando-operations, covert-ops and sometimes terrorist attacks to defend themselves against extinction and gain technology and knowledge. Decades later, mankind began to found colonies in the milkyway. Most of them were united in the Solar Empire. The Solar Empire faced further enemies and these novels were pretty violent, mainly due to the main-author Karl-Herbert Scheer. Shoot-outs and battles between spaceships were regular. This became known as Scheer's style and earned him the nickname handgrenade Herbert (Handgranaten-Herbert).
This was in the 70's. The series faced criticism that it tried to implant fascist and violent ideas in the youth, that it tried to create a cult around the leader Perry Rhodan. This criticism is unsubstantiated, as both Darlton and Scheer were ideologically rather liberal.

From this violent phase, the series turned to a more cosmological scene. The degree of violence was tuned down, mankind visited new galaxies and met new entities and gained knowledge about the structure of the universe itself. This phase lasted from issue 800 to 1799. With issue 1800 the millennium of wars began the milkyway would have to endure. This return to a more action-laden plot will last until at least issue 2500.

The main character Perry Rhodan is regularly described as peaceful, but at some point in the plot, aggression is inevitable. Perry Rhodan doesn't make this decision easy, but he resorts to violence for the greater good. This was misinterpreted many times to portray Perry Rhodan as war-hungry.

A series depends on its main characters. Accordingly Perry Rhodan and his friends always had influental political positions (though democratically elected). This was misinterpreted, as the series would embolden dictatorial tendencies.

After all these decades, negative criticism of the Perry Rhodan-series can still be traced back to misinformation. The authors of such articles make sometimes obvious mistakes, that expose that they have either misunderstood central parts of the plot, or not read the novels at all.

The series was considered by many as "juveniles" (i.e. for a younger readership): "At one point a major publisher (name now forgotten by me) expressed an interest, only to fling Perry back in my face crying, "We didn't know this was a juvenile!" (Forrest J. Ackerman).[7]
However, the age of readers ranges from 15 to 60.

[edit] Publication

[edit] English translation

In the 1960s, science-fiction fan Forrest J. Ackerman organized the publication in the U.S. of an English translation of the series, with his wife Wendayne ("Wendy") doing most of the translation[citation needed]. Other translators on the series included Sig Wahrmann, Stuart J. Byrne, and Dwight Decker) #1, containing German issues 1 and 2, was published by Ace Books starting in 1969. The series was a commercial success[citation needed], eventually being published three times per month. Forrest also incorporated elements from the SF pulp magazines, such as short stories, serialized novels and a film review section.

Ace ended their run of Perry Rhodan — double issue #117/118 was their last of the regular series — by publishing three "lost" episodes that had been skipped for not having enough action[citation needed]. They also published five of the Atlan "side series" stories (Atlan is a major character in the Rhodanverse) and one story from the 415-volume Planetenromane spin-off.

The Ackermans created Master Publications and released #119 through #137 before having to cease their subscription-only edition of the series. That was the end of an English version until the 1990s, when John Foyt founded Vector Enterprises and restarted an American version. It would be published in magazine format, against the advice of some of his employees[citation needed], instead of book format. This version only lasted for four printed issues and one electronic issue — #1800 to #1804.

The German publishers, Pabel-Moewig Verlag (VPM), have currently licensed FanPro to publish a translation of their recent Lemuria mini-series in the summer of 2006. As of January 2007, the first volume of the Lemuria story is available for purchase from and the second can be reserved[citation needed]. FanPro's American site has only recently released information on the novels and has yet to provide book artwork to for the second volume of Lemuria (however, the first volume has the same artwork as the German original[8][9]). Some additional material present in the German version, such as a history of generation spaceships in SF history, were dropped from the American version.

FanPro seems to have recently shut down its American operations and website. The six books are still being translated and provided to the German publishers.

[edit] In other countries

Translations of Perry Rhodan are currently available in Brazil (#1 to #536 and #650 to #833 as of August 2006), Russia, China, Japan(#1 to #704 (9,2008)) France, the Czech Republic, and the Netherlands. Apart from the US version, there were also editions in Canada, Great Britain, Italy and Finland. However, the latter have been discontinued.

Rhodan was so popular in the Spanish-speaking world that the Flash Gordon comic strip was called "Roldán el Temerario" (Rhodan the Fearless) in a somewhat misleading attempt to identify Flash with Perry[citation needed].

The first language to which PR was translated was Hebrew. In 1965, the first four episodes appeared in Tel-Aviv in a pirated translation, and which for unknown reasons ceased before publication of the fifth (it was not because it was detected by the German publishers, who only heard about it many years later). The few surviving copies of this 1965 translation are highly valued by Israeli collectors.[10]

[edit] Structure

[edit] Cycles

The original series is divided into the following cycles and grand cycles:

Note: Only the grandcycles The Great Cosmic Mystery and Thoregon have official names. The other grandcycles weren't planned as such. They were named by the readers in hindsight due to their shared themes.
  • Milky Way
    • The Third Power (Issues 1 to 49)
    • Atlan and Arkon (50 to 99)
    • The Posbis (100 to 149)
    • The Second Empire (150 to 199)
  • Distant Galaxies
    • Masters of the Island (200 to 299)
    • M 87 (300 to 399)
  • Crumbling Empire
    • The Cappins (400 to 499)
    • The Swarm (500 to 569)
    • The Old Mutants (570 to 599)
    • Cosmic Chess Game (600 to 649)
    • The Council (650 to 699)
  • Superintelligences
    • Aphilia (700 to 799)
    • BARDIOC (800 to 867)
    • PAN-THAU-RA (868 to 899)
    • The Cosmic Castles (900 to 999)
  • Moral Code
    • The Cosmic Hansa (1000 to 1099)
    • The Endless Armada (1100 to 1199)
    • Chronofossiles (1200 to 1299)
    • Walkers of the Web (1300 to 1349)
    • Tarkan (1350 to 1399)
  • Cell Activators
    • The Cantaro (1400 to 1499)
    • The Linguids (1500 to 1599)
  • Grand Cycle The Great Cosmic Mystery
    • The Ennox (1600 to 1649)
    • The Great Void (1650 to 1699)
    • The Ayindi (1700 to 1749)
    • The Hamamesh (1750 to 1799)
  • Grand Cycle Thoregon
    • The Tolkander (1800 to 1875)
    • The Heliotic Bulwarks (1876 to 1899)
    • The Sixth Messenger (1900 to 1949)
    • MATERIA (1950 to 1999)
    • The Solar Residence (2000 to 2099)
    • Empire of Tradom (2100 to 2199)
  • (still unnamed)
    • The Star Ocean (2200 to 2299)
    • TERRANOVA (2300 to 2399)
    • The Negasphere (2400 to 2499); since 17. August 2007

[edit] English publication history

  • Ace Books
    • #1 to #5 — Double issues. Each volume contains two episodes, but edited to be a single novel.
    • #6 to #108 — Single issues. "Maga-book" format, or the format of a magazine in the style of a book. Letter and film review in #6. Would later include short stories — old and new — and reprints of classic serialized novels such as Edison's Conquest of Mars by Garrett P. Serviss (reprinted as Pursuit to Mars). Of special note is a lost chapter of the H.G. Wells novel The Time Machine that was published in this manner.
    • #109 to #118 — double issues again, but each one set apart.
    • Perry Rhodan Specials #1 to #5 — Double issues. #1 to #3 are lost episodes published with an Atlan episode. #4 are two Atlan episodes and #5 (unnumbered) is a Planetenroman.
  • Master Publications
    • #119 to #136 — Magazine size and format.
    • #137 — Book format. To fill out remaining subscription orders, the book format also printed Stuart J. Byrne's Star Man series. #137 was published with the first five episodes of Star Man in one volume. The remaining Star Man episodes were published as a separate volume.
  • Vector Enterprises
    • #1800 to #1803 — Magazine format. #1800 is published in a manner similar to the German series. 1801 to 1803 are large-sized magazine format.
    • #1804 — Electronic format only.
  • FanPro Games (American operation of German company FanPro)
    • Lemuria #1 "The Star Ark"

Copies of the Ace books and the rarer magazine versions can be found in online auction sites such as eBay and fixed-price online stores like Used bookstores often have some of the Ace books, but rarely the magazine versions[citation needed].

[edit] Cultural impact

[edit] In space

The Perry Rhodan issue that went into space. Credit: ESA/André Kuipers

Dutch ESA astronaut André Kuipers was inspired to become an astronaut from an early age by the Perry Rhodan albums his grandmother bought for him[citation needed] (and that he eventually started buying himself from his allowance). When he finally launched into space on April 18, 2004, he brought his very first booklet along with him. It was number ten in the red series, Ruimteoorlog in de Wegasector ("Space War in the Vega Sector" or "Raumschlacht im Wega-Sektor")[citation needed]

[edit] In music

Christopher Franke, former member of German electronica group Tangerine Dream and soundtrack composer for U.S. science-fiction TV series Babylon 5, released Perry Rhodan Pax Terra in 1996, composed of music inspired by the Perry Rhodan epic.
The German group The Psychedelic Avengers claim to be inspired by Perry Rhodan on their 2004 release And the Curse of the Universe.

[edit] In science fiction fandom

Bubonicon, an annual science fiction convention in Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA, adopted as its mascot Perry Rhodent, a rat wearing only one shoe (or boot). Perry's image is reinvented each year for the convention's program and t-shirts, often by the convention's Artist Guest of Honor.[citation needed]

[edit] References

  1. ^ Perry Rhodan 35th anniversary Press Release (July 1996)
  2. ^ [ Official FAQ of the publisher, section 2 (about the series itself) (in German)
  3. ^ [ List of Perry Rhodan arcs: cycles and grand-cycles (in German)
  4. ^ Press-release by the publisher for the 45th anniversary (in German)
  5. ^ Current issue of the first edition as of 2008-09-02 is #2454
  6. ^ Official US FAQ, point 12
  7. ^
  8. ^ Perry Rhodan Lemuria 01. Die Sternenarche at
  9. ^ Perry Rhodan Lemuria Vol. 1: Star Ark at
  10. ^ Eli Eshed on Perry Rhodan in Israel

[edit] External links

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