The space adventure series Perry Rhodan recently reached its 35th anniversary in Germany. Along with the celebration, the German publisher, Verlagsunion Pabel-Moewig (VPM) sent out the following press release.
September 8 1996: Hundreds of thousands of enthusiastic Science-Fiction readers have circled the date on their calendars: The Perry Rhodan series celebrates its 35th birthday. On this exact day in 1961 the first issue, Enterprise Stardust, was released. Since then there have been over 1800 weekly issues, over 400 paperback novels, as well as 54 hardback editions published. All told, the Perry Rhodan property is responsible for over a billion issues.
The literary space adventure began on that date, September 8th, 1961: On board the rocketship "Stardust," American astronaut Perry Rhodan and three other crew members travel to the moon, where they encounter an extraterrestrial spaceship. With the help of the extraterrestrials he prevents a global nuclear war and brings humanity together under one unified government. The united human race then ventures out into the depths of the universe as scholars and adventurers. The large cosmic sweep of Perry Rhodan stretches over millions of light-years, covers gigantic time periods and includes thousands of foreign planets, solar systems and alien beings.
For the last 35 years a ten person author - team at has created Perry Rhodan. With a billion copies sold, Perry Rhodan is the greatest space series in the world. For some time now the most important German Science-Fiction export has been a multimedia event as well: Perry Rhodan is translated and published in several different European countries as well as Japan, and is licensed for Books, Paperbacks, Lexicons, Technical Manuals, an Art Collection, Trading-Cards and Comics.
And if everything continues like this, as both the authors and publishing house expect, the next step for Perry Rhodan will be to create a computer game for the series as well as a Multimedia CD-ROM.
Rastatt, July 1996
With over a billion printed copies, it's been a world success for 35 years: From publishing house Pabel Moewig (Verlagsunion Pabel Moewig or VPM in German), located in the Baden province's city of Rastatt emerges Perry Rhodan, the most successful Science-Fiction series in the world. Nine authors now write the Perry Rhodan series, which appears each week in a magazine-style novelette form (Hefte). So far there have been 1800 Hefte issues and over 400 paperbacks.
When the first novel of the Perry Rhodan series, "Enterprise Stardust" appeared on September 8, 1961, nobody could have predicted the great success that would spring from the concepts of the Author-Duo of Karl-Herbert Scheer and Walter Ernsting (aka Clark Darlton). Their story of the astronaut Perry Rhodan, who landed on the moon in 1971 where he found extraterrestrials who helped him to avert a global nuclear war and unify the human race, immediately found a multitude of enthusiastic readers. Becoming more complex each year, from the present through the year 4875, this future history of mankind features realistically written, normal human characters that highlight the literary world class success from Rastatt.
In the meantime there have been over 1800 magazines with the adventures of - thanks to an extraterrestrial "superintelligence" referred to as IT - the immortal Perry Rhodan and his loyal associates, which since the beginning have included non-humans: Strange aliens like the gigantic, monstrously built Haluter Icho Tolot or Gucky (Pucky in the English series), who belongs to a race of small, intelligent "Mousebeavers," as well as other series characters such as intelligent robots, plant-civilizations, electronic brains, and beings who live in atmospheres that are poisonous to humanoids.
To be able to write a such future history for 35 actual - and almost 2900 story - years without a break requires great effort. In Vienna, Author-team leader Ernst Vlcek composes the summary action for each weekly issue: Data sheets and plot briefs from which the authors write their novels. For example, if in one issue the spaceship GILGAMESCH starts out with a particular crew, in the following issue the spaceship should arrive at its destination with the same crew.
Supporting Ernst Vlcek is Robert Feldhoff, who brings new ideas and suggestions for the series from the North German city of Oldenburg. Calculations for solar systems as well as scientific frameworks are provided by specialists. Even so, it is inevitable that some background errors or plot mistakes will be discovered by the keenly discerning readers.
Of course, without the dedicated readership the series would not be a success. Each week between 50 and 100 reader letters arrive. They are read and answered personally by the author Arndt Ellmer. Interesting suggestions from readers are sometimes worked into the series. In each issue reader letters are published, providing fans a forum for discussion and making contacts.
Dozens of Fan-Club have sprung up in Germany as well as other countries, with names like Perry Rhodan Briefclub Bully's Schreibtisch [Perry Rhodan Letter Club - Bullys desk (Note: in German Reginald Bell is named Bull, with the nickname Bully)], Perry Rhodan Club Terrania Post Readers, Arge Festak, Perry's Video Club or Perry Rhodan - Club Zeitschatten [Perry Rhodan Club Time Shadows] and correspond with each other enthusiastically. Many produce their own Fan-magazines with names taken from Fantasy names such as "Rigans messenger", "Starfire," "Grabbelsack" or "Paradise," in which fans write their own stories, do their own drawings, and publish critical articles. Each year they gather at events, the so-called Cons, to buy books and magazines, to talk with the authors about the series or simply to enjoy each other's company. In the meantime the Perry Rhodan-Fan Central, which publishes among other things the magazine "Sol," tries to coordinate and support the fan activities.
Commercially the mix of exciting stories and fantastic situations has paid off: In Germany alone the Perry Rhodan series has been responsible for over a billion issues. Several reprint versions of the space series have appeared in the course of time, two of which are still offered in more modern forms than the first-edition Paperbacks.
Parallel with the magazines, every month new paperbacks appear with self-contained stories, in which the authors can take up subjects which don't fit in the regular flow of the series. To date there have been 400 paperbacks, and since November 1993 they have been published by the Wilhelm Heyne publishing house in Munich.
The Hardcover compilation books, which are published four times a year, bring together several magazines in a new, completely revised edition. They are published with a three-dimensional holographic cover and silver binding which distinguishes the books from the "normal" book market well. In this way a hardcover version of the Perry Rhodan series has emerged, with 54 "Silver Issues" to date.
The success in Germany spilled over to foreign countries by the 1970's. Perry Rhodan is running successfully in Japan, in France, in the Czech Republic and in the Netherlands. In the past there were Perry Rhodan translations in the USA, in Italy, Finland, Brazil and the UK. The next step for the Perry Rhodan Mythos is clear: Perry Rhodan Multimedia-CD-ROMS and Perry Rhodan computer games will appear in the near future.
Rastatt, July 1996
In the 1950s and 1960s Science Fiction in Germany was dominated by English and American authors, and their works came out in magazines and paperbacks. German authors like Walter Ernsting could get their first novels published only under English sounding pseudonyms. That changed in1961: With Perry Rhodan a continuing magazine series came to the market, which was written exclusively by German authors - the liberation for independent German Science Fiction.
The concept for the Perry Rhodan series was already born by the end of the 1950's in the editorial department of the Moewig publishing house: Along with the then Chief Editor, Kurt Bernhardt, authors Karl-Herbert Scheer and Walter Ernsting (aka Clark Darlton) conceived the idea of a new Space Adventure magazine, which would feature a "fearless hero." Magazines with fearless heroes had already appeared in German language Mystery and Western series, but it had not yet been done for Science Fiction.
The goal was to create "a far reaching novel cycle concerning a possible future of humanity" with a lot of action, but also the intention to make this more than pure adventure. The authors wanted to show how current problems of humanity could be solved - problems such as overpopulation, hunger and war - through cooperation.
The Author- Duo Scheer and Ernsting was completed with the addition of Klaus Mahn (aka Kurt Mahr) and Winfried Scholz (aka W.W. Shols), and they were aided by Günter M. Schelwokat, who took over the editorial process. The covers were done by Johnny Bruck from the beginning; as one of the most popular German Science Fiction artists, he was a natural choice. Scheer wrote the storylines for the first ten issues - nobody expected the series to run for more than 30 issues, at the most 50.
The first novel of the Perry Rhodan series appeared on September 8, 1961, under the title "Unternehmen Stardust" (Enterprise Stardust); there were only 35,000 copies printed, which was a normal run for Science Fiction magazines. However, the sales exceeded all expectations, and the first two issues were quickly reprinted.
In the second year of the Perry Rhodan - history a new team member, Willi Voltz, joined the author-team. He would leave a strong imprint on the series during the 1970s. Voltz was a young author who had earned his first paychecks in amateur magazines, the so-called Fanzines, and K.H. Scheer had systematically brought him along.
In the 1960s the series grew, the first extra editions were produced, Fan-clubs emerged, and the first Fan-Congress was put together in Frankfurt. In 1964 the first Perry Rhodan paperbacks ("Planetenroman") with a self contained story came on the market. In the meantime the series reached over 400 issues.
In the beginning of the 1970s the Perry Rhodan series changed: K.H. Scheer grew ill and became less and less involved in developing story lines, Willi Voltz assumed more and more of his duties and finally took the formation of the Perry Rhodan series completely in 1974. The novels in the 1960s were strongly influenced by the Cold War and jumped into the action from the first line. In the 1970s the series developed a more humanistic feel, which the readers enthusiastically approved of. Mysteries of the cosmos, the origin of the life in the universe and the spiritual development of humanity were essential parts of these story cycles.
Several peaks in the Perry Rhodan - history happened in the year 1980: Issue 1000, "Der Terraner" (The Terran) appeared, a novel in which Willi Voltz heavily criticized human behavior and the adversarial relationships among people and nations. For the celebration of this 1000th anniversary the publishing house organized a Perry Rhodan World Congress (called Weltcon) in Mannheim, which some thousand Fans attended.
The death of Willi Voltz in 1984 was greeted with sadness. After that event, however, new authors with fresh ideas joined the team. Story plotting and drafting have been done by the Austrian Ernst Vlcek since then, although for the last two years he has been assisted by Robert Feldhoff. To celebrate the sale of a billion copies worldwide in 1986, 3000 Fans appeared in Saarbrücken at the second Perry Rhodan Weltcon.
Although fans could celebrate the 30th birthday of the series in 1991 at the Karlsruhe convention, during 1990s there were several sad events: K.H. Scheer, one of the two founder-authors, passed away, as did the author Kurt Mahr, known as "physicist of the service," and Günter M. Schelwokat, who had overseen the editorial side of the series for over 30 years. Johnny Bruck, who for 34 years had created all of the covers, fell victim in1995 to a traffic accident, and in early 1996 Peter Griese, a popular member of the author-team, passed away as well.
Despite these setbacks, the team is optimistic. The effect of the "New Media" should be felt during the second half of the 1990s: The countdown to a CD-ROM with Multimedia - applications and computer games has already begun!
Rastatt, July 1996
The Perry Rhodan - series describes a vision of the future of humanity in its 1800 issues. That the first issue begins in 1971 made sense at the time: The first issue appeared in 1961 - and at that time 1971 was still well in the future. No wonder, then, that many Fans consider the first issues of the series to be nostalgia.
Since people first looked up to the night sky, they were fascinated by the stars and the space surrounding them. The oldest myths of humanity say that the Gods were inhabitants of foreign worlds. In the meantime the human race has overcome the Earth's gravity, traveling to nearby space is no longer unusual - and today nobody doubts it is possible that planets of other suns may harbor intelligent beings.
Of course, no one can imagine what would be the consequences of an encounter with intelligent beings from other worlds - however, it is safe to say that they would be revolutionary. One of the issues dealt with in the early issues of Perry Rhodan is the possibility of a such contact. In defiance of all obstacles, humanity ventures out into space filled with a variety of friendly, hostile and indifferent beings.
The story begins in 1971: With the rocket ship "Stardust," four American astronauts under the command of Perry Rhodan land on the moon and find there a spaceship which has made an emergency landing. From this encounter Perry Rhodan develops his idea of a unified humanity, which he defends against all hostile forces: The "Third Power" (note: in the American edition, this was the "New Power") emerges, Perry Rhodan prevents a global nuclear third World War and unifies humanity.
From this small step to the moon emerges the largest adventure of the human race: the opening of space. With the help of extraterrestial technology Terra builds spaceships which cross the universe faster than the speed of light. The deeper that human beings - who now refer to themselves as Terrans - penetrate into space, the clearer it becomes that the universe is stranger and more fantastic than they could have imagined.
The Terrans encounter hostile forces between the stars, which have been established for millennia and do not react enthusiastically to interference by the Earth. They meet with the spirit being IT, which imposes on Perry Rhodan a series of weighty tests before it grants relative immortality to him and his companions. And the Terrans learn to understand that many events in the universe are tied up inseparably with each other.
Humanity and the Earth are increasingly entangled in cosmic events, which sometimes relate to the Earth's history - and the Terrans play a special role in these cosmic events.
With each step that Perry Rhodan takes into space, the cosmic riddles become larger and the fate of humanity becomes more and more mysterious. In the course of centuries and millennia billions of persons leave the earth and settle on foreign planets. Many change, and sometimes it happens that they forget their original home.
Gigantic spaceships help Perry Rhodan with his expeditions into the vast unknown, which go as far as the "other side" of our cosmos. In incredibly distant parts of the universe humanity must settle seemingly unsolvable problems in order to decode ancient mysteries and to discover their destiny: To live between the stars as a cosmic people, in partnership with strange alien people, and in the knowledge that the cosmos has more wonders waiting for them.
Rastatt, July 1996
Webmasters John Foyt (firstname.lastname@example.org)
and Steve Taylor (email@example.com)