Calling Perry Rhodan by Stewart Sternberg

Rhodan was the name of a character in a best-selling science fiction series. Actually,  the most successful science fiction series ever written. The franchise sold over one billion copies. Compare that to the five hundred  million copies of the Harry Potter series and one hundred million for Stephanie Meyers’ Twilight series. Rhodan’s figures are even more fascinating when one considers that the series wasn’t pumped up by a worldwide multimedia campaign bolstered by the release of blockbuster motion pictures or television series [actually there was a film, Mission Stardust, but it was considered so appalling that most fans of the books distanced themselves from it.]

The series was created in 1961  by K.H. Scheer and Clark Darlton, with new installments of the series coming out weekly. Numerous writers lent their talents to the brand, with over 2500 volumes being released during its run.  Originally published in Germany, in the United States, Ace paperbacks would pump out one hundred and eighteen of the brand’s titles. While out of print in America, there are always rumors of a television series re-sparking interest, at least in its native land, according to this Rhodan fan site.

Perhaps the allure of the Rhodan series was the hope it offered. In 1961, when a Cold War between superpowers could easily have melted into a very hot one, possibly involving the deployment of  nuclear weapons, the storyline offered a future history where global conflicts were resolved and mankind found a place in a galaxy populated with other life-forms, full of potential for adventure. While the immortal Rhodan wasn’t exactly James T. Kirk, the character, was an easy to follow hero. He was an astronaut (who possessed specialties in Nuclear Physics and Celestial Mechanics, with a sub-specialty in Atomic Jet Engineering). Courageous, observant, grounded in logic and reason, but at the same time in compassionate and in possession of a dry sense of humor, he was the best of who we were as globally united people.

In 2011,  it would not be surprising to see  a relaunch of Perry Rhodan. If not in print, then at least as a television series of the same caliber as Battlestar Galactica. The time is ripe for the return of the hero. A smart producer and director could mine popular culture’s psyche, finding a need for empowerment of the individual in a world where power is lost in a maze of technology and overwhelmingly complex geopolitics. Such a hero could be Perry Rhodan.

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