The Girls From Planet 5

by John Holbo on April 20, 2009


You know what that means. I’ve been reading Jonah Goldberg again. Here we go, pondering the notion that a few of these teabag types might be right-wing extremists of a certain sort.

I wrote a book on fascism which tried to show that what everybody knows isn’t necessarily true. The idea that soldiers will return from war and become right-wing militants? Well, that has its roots in Fascist Italy, where veterans returned as black-shirted shock troops of “Il Duce,” Benito Mussolini. The only problem with this theory is that what they clamored for was socialism — the socialism of the trenches! — and their leader had earned the title “Il Duce” as the leader of the Socialist Party.

Now obviously ‘socialism of the trenches’ means something like: recover that feeling of unity and common cause we had, in the immediate aftermath of that initial irruption of chaos and disaster, when everyone set aside petty class differences and stood, shoulder to shoulder, against a perceived external enemy.

And it’s obvious that nothing like that could be spiritually akin to – oh, say, Glenn Beck’s 9/12 project. Because Glenn Beck isn’t in favor of socialism.


Let’s talk Texas secession. Like I said, Belle bought me this stack of old paperbacks – because she loves me – and the whole mouldering lot are turning out to be weirdly prescient. First the beaver management, now this.

You can read the back, too.


I’ll just give you a sample from Chapter 5. A bit of background. A flying saucer full of beautiful female aliens has landed, wiping out Alexandria, VA by accident. But they are apparently friendly. These seductive Lyru are welcomed in ‘Biddyland’, as the Texans now refer to North America outside of Texas. (They haven’t actually seceded, but they’ve basically severed social and cultural contact with the rest of the country. Oh, and you have to be able to rope a steer in order to vote. It’s sort of Cowship Troopers, that way.) But all is not well …

David Hull let Lily, the mare, clop along the composition paving with a slack rein while he listened to the radio that was build into his saddle. Crazy Texans, he thought fondly. They’d probably have rigged up a saddle-video, too, if they could think of a way to watch it at a gallop.

Dave had got the news about the Lyru at the office, and now he was listening to a commentary by Panhandle Pete, whom the announced introduced as Texas’ Own Analyst of Current Events.

“Evenin’, Texans,” Pete drawled. “The latest reports of the goin’s-on in Biddyland are disquietin’, to say the least.

“These here Lyru critters, who wiped out two thousand people quicker’n you or me could even draw a bead on a rattler, have now been given the run of the range, so to speak, despite the valiant objections of our own Lone Star congressmen. No good can come of this indecent haste in admitting strangers to the very bosom of our lives.

These gals’ve left plenty of questions unanswered. You probably noticed how they squirmed and stammered when they was asked about their menfolk. What kind of men have they got, I ask you, who’d let women do their dangerous scouting work for them? Or maybe they haven’t got any menfolk – maybe they only seem to be women. But how can we tell if we take them at their word for everything and let ourselves be hoodwinked by a pretty face and a show of leg?

“Fellow Texans, let’s not join the idiot parade. I say to you that these Lyru people have a lot more to make clear before we give them the run of our range – before we let them into Texas to perpetuate [sic] whatever nefarious schemes may be bubblin’ in the black cauldron of a space ship hangin’ up there in the sky …”

Panhandle Pete, in his melodramatic, over-folksy way, voiced the prevailing mood of most of Texas, Dave knew. And more than mere anti-feminism was behind it. It was a natural caution that seemed to be lacking in the love-thy-neighbor philosophy of the females who were running things from Washington.

Dave reined up at a hitching post outside a white frame house set back from the road behind a neat garden. He looked again at the number to be sure he had the right house. He’d expected something more rough-hewn, frontier style, from Frank Hammond, the ex-Pennsylvanian gone Texan.

Frank met him at the porch, holding two highball glasses.

“Time for a drink before dinner,” he said. “Might as well sit out here. Nice evening.”

“Perfect,” Dave agreed, relaxing in a deep chair and looking at the long shadows from the setting sun. “Didn’t think I’d find you in such a pretty place, Frank. Guess I expected more of a bunkhouse atmosphere.”

Frank laughed. “Hardly. Ann would never approve.”


“My wife, She’s responsible for the garden, and for the roast pork you’ll be putting away shortly.”

“I didn’t know you were married. I don’t know why -”

“I know why,” Frank said, “You robably thought I fled to Texas to get away from women. That’s only partly true. There are women and women, and the ones I can do without are the domineering, brassy, this-is-the-way-I-run-your-life kind. Ann’s the other kind, as you’ll see. A man’s woman. And when it comes to her I’m no mysogynist, believe me.”

“Well, sure,” Dave said, “but I supposed women were pretty scarce in Texas as a result of the great migration.”

“It wasn’t quite so great as all that – in its effects, at least” …

[I’ll just skip ahead a couple paragraphs. I’m getting tired of typing.]

“I heard you talking about me behind my back,” she said. “so I spunkily made myself a drink along with refreshers for the fearsome menfolk.”

“Forward woman,” Frank smiled. “Next you’ll be wanting to vote.”

She sat down next to her husband and made a face at him.

“Just so you’re not misled, Dave,” Ann said. “women do vote without hindrance in this county. We’re not entirely medieval here. Furthermore, when I was a girl back home I could rope and brand a steer on Daddy’s ranch long before the big male egos made that a requirement for registration.”

Well, to make a long story short, Sam Buckskin – a Walker, Texas Ranger-type – and his followers save America from the Lyru. It turns out that there are ugly old women aliens – the Crones – holding the beautiful young ones as slaves. The Texans free them. And, in the last chapter, it looks like a male Texan might actually be elected President in the year 2000!

There. That was much better than complaining about the rest of Jonah Goldberg’s column.

(The Girls From Planet 5 was apparently published in 1955, in case you are wondering. My reprint is from 1967.)



Oskar 04.20.09 at 4:06 pm

The best part of that entire post was that the book was reprinted a whole 12 years after it was first published. Apparently demand was high.


Barry 04.20.09 at 5:15 pm

“…as slaves. The Texans free them [the slaves]. ”

I guess that this is indeed a science fiction novel.


belle le triste 04.20.09 at 5:27 pm

A Spectre is Haunting Texas (by Fritz Leiber): “Scully Christopher Crockett La Cruz is an actor, fortune seeker and adventurer from the long isolated orbital technocratic democracies of Circumluna and the Bubbles Congeries. He lands in what he believes to be Canada… only to discover that Canada is now North Texas and what is left of civilization in North America is ruled by primitive, backslapping, bigger than life anti-intellectual good ole boys convinced of their own moral superiority. Giant hormone-boosted Anglo-Saxon inhabitants rule a diminutive Mexican underclass…”


Hogan 04.20.09 at 5:31 pm

I guess that this is indeed a science fiction novel.

And the girl who can rope and brand a steer would be the Woody Allen-ish twist.


jim 04.20.09 at 5:44 pm

Apparently no-one regrets Alexandria VA, crushed by the flying saucer.

Jim (in Alexandria VA)


Barry 04.20.09 at 6:17 pm

Jim, you gotta admit that it was just a matter of time.


Anderson 04.20.09 at 6:45 pm

what is left of civilization in North America is ruled by primitive, backslapping, bigger than life anti-intellectual good ole boys convinced of their own moral superiority

I never thought of Leiber as a prophetic writer. Now I’m really afraid to go to San Francisco.


Katherine 04.20.09 at 6:52 pm

No words. Just… none.

I don’t suppose it’s possible that the whole thing is a brilliant and subversive satire?

Okay, some words.


fuyura 04.20.09 at 7:45 pm

Sounds a bit like William Tenn’s The Masculinist Revolt, only that was actually intended to be funny; a middling success in that way, I think.


Righteous Bubba 04.20.09 at 7:47 pm

Well, the back cover says “highly risible” for a reason I’d guess.


belle le triste 04.20.09 at 7:51 pm

ok it’s, woody allen-ish, but his later, unfunny ones


Hermenauta 04.20.09 at 9:57 pm

You obviously forgot that Leftism weaks the fibre of men:

That´s my bet: the lyru were in fact male metrossexual socialists.


jholbo 04.21.09 at 12:28 am

It’s not Woody Allen-ish in the slightest. That part is sheer false advertising. The basic problem is that the joke depends on the reader finding feminism to be, not so much wrong as a bit of a joke that everyone knows is, in some important but unspecified way, absurd. It’s more Saki-esque, then:


John Holbo 04.21.09 at 12:44 am

“Apparently no-one regrets Alexandria VA, crushed by the flying saucer.”

Sorry, Jim, omelettes and broken eggs and all that. I’m sure you understand and won’t take it amiss.


David 04.21.09 at 3:15 am

I prefer the original pb cover, by the great Richard Powers:

Anyone have a spare copy kicking around I’d love it for my collection.


David 04.21.09 at 3:19 am

Indeed, a long held fantasy of mine has been to return as co-commander of an Intergalactic Warship and cover the entire state of Texas to a uniform depth of six feet of fried oatmeal.


Phill Hallam-Baker 04.21.09 at 12:32 pm

A vision just popped into my head of Ann Coulter, Michele Malkin &ct dressed up in Valkrie outfits designed by Larry Flynt – leather bikinis with highly polished stainless steel cups and crotch-guard inserts.

Just as I was starting to think that this might not be so bad after all, Jonah Goldberg appears, dressed in the same outfit, it goes downhill from there.


belle le triste 04.21.09 at 12:39 pm

15: atoms make great spacebras!


Barry 04.21.09 at 1:03 pm

belle, and this adds new flexibility in sizing – instead of A, B,…, we have from Hydrogen to (whatever the heaviest element is). Lots of sizes!


roac 04.21.09 at 3:23 pm

I never heard of Richard Wilson, but Wikipedia says he actually won a Nebula in 1969. (Not for this book, however.)


roac 04.21.09 at 6:28 pm

By the way — Cowship Troopers is great, but Cowchip Troopers would be a modest but real improvement, in my view.


John Holbo 04.21.09 at 11:20 pm

roac, you are quite correct.


Phill Hallam-Baker 04.22.09 at 3:52 am

You folk have forever sullied something pure and clean. Whenever I see a young woman so attired my enjoyment will be contaminated by the thought of Mr Doughy Loadpants.

Excuse me while I try to extract my brain from my skull and attempt to wash it.


John Holbo 04.22.09 at 5:00 am

Hey David, thanks for that scan of the original cover. Man, I wish I had THAT copy.


jazzbumpa 04.22.09 at 11:52 am

Oblique references to Cowchip Troopers (which is brilliant, btw) not withstanding, Ann, based on this short snippet, is, despite her secondary role as frank’s wife, a very Heinline-heroinesque kind of heroine character. Sort of a Friday with spurs. And both cover girls are red heads. Heinline loved redheads. On balance, I prefer the Lancer cover. The Ballantine girl looks too disturbingly much like a cartoonish rendering of a demented high-school-girl. Though the atomic bra is cool – I gotta give you that.

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