SF Masterwork of the Week: The Space Merchants

Before it was an online emporium of all things classic in the realm of SF – books, digests, film posters, etc – The Space Merchants was (and still is!) a hugely acclaimed science fictional classic, ruthlessly dissecting the run-amok consumerism that the authors could obviously see in nascent form in the post-war years. Sadly, in the six decades since Frederik Pohl and C. M. Kornbluth turned their scalpel-like satire on the world, things have got worse instead of better.

Pohl, of course, passed away only a year ago, and railed regularly and incisively against what he saw as modern society’s failures. One can only wonder, though, what Cyril Kornbluth (1923-1958) would make of this world, ruled by those who, to quote Wilde, know the price of everything and the value of nothing … ?


The ad man sets his sights on the gravy train that is Venus: unconquered and waiting to be populated by Earth’s capitalist-driven consumers.

It is the 20th Century, an advertisement-drenched world in which the big ad agencies dominate governments and everything else. Now Schoken Associates, one of the big players, has a new challenge for star copywriter Mitch Courtenay. Volunteers are needed to colonise Venus. It’s a hellhole, and nobody who knew anything about it would dream of signing up. But by the time Mitch has finished, they will be queuing to get on board the spaceships.

The Space Merchants is available as an SF Masterworks paperback. You can read more about Frederik Pohl and C. M. Kornbluth in their entries in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.