Flashback Fridays: The suit makes the . . . man???

You’re a kid who encounter discovers a mysterious ring when you stop a fight between a cat and a dog.  The ring seems  seems connected with the strange people wandering around in black suits and they aren’t from around here . . .

Do you remember:

Black Suits from Outer Space by Gene DeWeese (Putnam, c1985)

One of the many science fiction adventures I read as a kid.  This funny and fairly short contemporary adventure with aliens was one I enjoyed at the time.  Crafted in a time when alien conspiracy was a popular subject and most people were familiar with the terms “men in black” for different reasons than the movie.

Calvin Willeford stops a cat fight one night with a bucket of water.  Only the cat appears to melt away, leaving behind only a mysterious ring.  Along with his friend Kathy, he discovers that the strange ring has a connection with the men in black suits wandering around.  The suited “men” are actually alien visitors, and when one of their suits malfunctions, putting the alien’s life at risk, it’s up to Calvin and Kathy to help him get back to his spaceship.  A great young reader adventure that’s more wild ride than science, but lots of fun.

This is book one of a trilogy of stories about two kids and their alien cat friend from outer space,  The Dandelion Caper (c1986) where Calvin’s mother is kidnapped by evil aliens and The Calvin Nullifier (c1987) where an alien hunter has come to town and arrested Calvin’s father.  All of these stories are under 200 pages, making them quick reads for an interested middle grade audience. These are the type of stories that were a hallmark of science fiction for kids in the 1980s. Super fun, contemporary, and with the impression of a rich universe of alien life and technology just waiting for humanity to discover it.

Author Gene DeWeese is best known for his Star Trek novels, but he wrote a handful of children’s science fiction stories  as well as gothic and mystery novels.  I’ve mostly encountered him through his children’s work, since I was of the age to read his middle grade novels when they hit the shelves.  DeWeese was a lifetime science fiction writer and fan–one of the individuals that was a part of the community from the time he started exercising his writing skills in high school and college. We lost him in 2012, but as an author he contributed heavily to the genre.

I have a real love of these old, obscure children’s science fiction reads.  Part of this is nostalgia, of course.  I remember sitting on the library floor reading page after page with the leisure of a kid who knows mom hasn’t figured out where she is in the library yet.  Part of it is the love of science fiction that rippled through the books of the 70s and 80s.  So much of what was produced was positive and fascinating.  Often the books were short–like DeWeese’s work, a majority of the writers kept their books under two hundred pages.  And this was before young adult fiction really became a separate section.  This meant that the question of where a SF novel “fit” wasn’t so much of a concern.

I’d love to see these books made available as digital copies, but I do acknowledge they are dated and fairly stuck in the decade they were written.  Still,  I can only hope more writers will take on the task of pulling the fun and fascination back into today’s science fiction. (Some are already doing so!).

Do you remember these books?

Comments welcome!


About Stephanie Whelan

I'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.

Posted on November 29, 2014, in Flashback Fridays, General Posts and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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