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Pulp Librarian @PulpLibrarian
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#London, 1950. The war has ended, but austerity still remained - not least in the thin gruel of available science fiction. So step forward one man (actually two), one publisher and one artist to change all that.

This is the story of Vargo Statten and Scion Science Fiction...
John Russell Fearn was a prolific pulp writer. Known in the UK for his western and detective novels, he was also the first British writer to really break into the American sci-fi pulp market during the pre-war era.
But after the war Fearn struggled to sell stories to the American sci-fi magazine market (even with the help of Frederik Pohl as an agent) and instead concentrated on the UK. He still wrote science fiction the Toronto Star Weekly, but it didn't pay much.
The problem was the US sci-fi magazine market had both grown and matured during the war years. Writers such as Robert Heinlein and E.E. Smith had brought a more thoughtful and harder-edged style to the genre. American audiences now expected quality as well as quantity.
In contrast, British sci-fi magazines were in poor shape. Wartime paper rationing had hit the market hard, and with one or two exceptions the post-war titles were formulaic and predictable. Writers with no sci-fi background were paid 10 shillings per 1,000 words to fill them.
So in 1950 John Russell Fearn approached Maurice Read at Scion Ltd, a publisher of gangster and western paperbacks, and pitched him a reworked version of one of his old sci-fi stories. Read liked the idea and agreed to publish it under a new label - Scion Scientific Novels.
Ron Turner started his career as an illustrator aged 14, as an apprentice at Odhams art studio. In 1949 he began drawing the Atomic Mole strip for Scion's Big Atlantis comic, until Read commissioned him to do covers for the new Scion Scientific Series.
Because John Russell Fearn was well known for writing westerns, Scion decided to set up a house alias for him to publish under. 'Vargo Statten' sounded memorable and vaguely American, and it became the main name for Scion sci-fi stories during the early 1950s.
Scion published over 70 science fiction novels between 1950 and 1954, the majority written by John Russell Fearn (as Vargo Statten) and E. C. Tubb, who often used Scion's other house name Volsted Gridban. The majority of their book covers were done by Ron Turner.
It didn't matter if Fearn was reworking story ideas from his earlier American work, the British wanted sci-fi by the bushel, and he and Ron Turner were happy to oblige. Vargo Statten quickly became the main name in 1950s British space pulp.
Ron Turner's bok covers for Scion were extremely good: bold colours and imaginative use of perspective give a sense of urgency and excitement. Hints of art deco are also dropped into the frame.
However Scion was in financial trouble and in 1954 it was declared bankrupt, though it quickly resurfacing as Scion Distributors. Later that year it launched Vargo Statten Science Fiction Magazine, before giving it to Dragon Press as part-payment for outstanding debts.
Ron Turner was also keen to move on from Odhams and in 1953 he bacame a freelancer, working on Space Ace for Lone Star comic before beginning more lucrative work in the 1960s for Gerry Anderson.
Although Scion Scientific Novels was short-lived it had a big impact, encouraging many other British publishers into the sci-fi market. 'Vargo Statten', aided by Ron Turner, really did kick start a new wave of UK space pulp. He who dares...

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