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I have been reading “John Ciardi: a Biography” by Edward M. Civelli. Although Ciardi is best-known as a poet, he did write one science fiction short story - The Hypnoglyph - co-authored A Grossery of Limericks with Isaac Asimov, and was generally interested in the field. In particular, Civelli tells us that in 1953:

Ciardi’s chief occupation that year was Twayne, where he was developing science fiction titles from his home office and working on a new concept called Twayne Triplets, which was conceived as a series of books, each about a “hypothetical (but thoroughly possible) planet different from ours.” Once the hypothetical planet had been given its essential characteristics the data was given to three established science fiction writers, each of whom was to write his own story fitting the “facts”. The resulting hardcover triplet would therefore be one book with three independently written stories...

By 27 March 1953, Ciardi had eight of these books in various stages of development and production - with twenty four authors, contracts, and manuscripts to juggle and balance.

It sounds an interesting proposal. However, Ciardi was unable to come up with the financing for the project, “and so the deal fell through”.

Looking through isfdb, I see that there are two “Twayne Triplets” listed: Witches Three containing an essay by Ciardi, together with works by Fritz Leiber, James Blish, and Fletcher Pratt, and The Petrified Planet, containing works by Fletcher Pratt, H. Beam Piper, and Judith Merril. I have not found munch information about Witches Three, but The Petrified Planet fits exactly the criteria above, the details of the planet being devised by Dr John D. Clark of “Ignition” fame.

Assuming that Witches Three was one of the books that Ciardi proposed, do we know anything about the remaining six? Even through the deal fell through, presumably the author list had been settled - it would be interesting to know who they were!


Andrew has discovered another proposed triplet, that would have contained Question & Answer / Planet of No Return by Poul Anderson, Sucker Bait by Isaac Asimov, and a third story by either Virgina Kidd or James Blish. Further more it seems that A Case of Conscience by Blish was intended to be published as a Twayme Triplet (either this one or another).

A blog posting by Ricard Horton also reveals that:

... stories written for Twayne Triplets include “A Case of Conscience” and “Get Out of My Sky” by James Blish, “Second Landing” by Murray Leinster, “Sucker Bait” by Isaac Asimov, “Question and Answer” (aka No World of Their Own) by Poul Anderson, and “First Cycle” by H. Beam Piper (later completed by Michael Kurland).

Brian Kunde suggests that The Great Fetish (1978), by L. Sprague de Camp was also originally intended to be part of a Twayne Triplet.)

This is confirmed in L. Sprague de Camp's autobiography (see the comments on the blog posting).

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  • I know "Uller Uprising" well, but not the other two. I'll have to look for those. Mar 6 at 17:56
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    I've got a copy of Witches Three somewhere around the house. "Conjure Wife" as I recall was set on Earth, at a college where the faculty wives were all secretly using witchcraft to help their husbands advance in their careers. The scifi element is that the good guys use a computer to design a powerful new spell. I don't remember what the other two were about.
    – user14111
    Mar 7 at 0:50
  • @user14111 I've read the Blish entry from Witches Three - it's in the 1970s 'best of', but the story notes say it's substantially different from the 'triplet' version. Mar 7 at 12:53

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One aborted Triplet would have consisted of "Question and Answer" (aka "The Planet of No Return") by Poul Anderson, and "Sucker Bait" by Asimov (both involving a visit to a planet that a previous mission had failed to return from).

Per this article https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sucker_Bait the other author was to be either Virginia Kidd or James Blish

Asimov was approached in 1953 by the editor Fletcher Pratt, of Twayne Press, with a story proposal: a scientist would create a world, and then Asimov, Poul Anderson, and Virginia Kidd (although Anderson stated that the third writer was Kidd's husband, James Blish) would write novellas set in that world.

The scenario created was that of a binary star system in the globular cluster, Messier 13, with an Earthlike planet called Troas (or more informally, "Junior") located at one of the system's Lagrangian points. An earlier expedition to Troas for colonization had suffered some mysterious disaster, and a second expedition is being sent to find out if "Junior" was suitable for colonization, and to find out what happened to the first expedition.

Additional information from David Ketterer's "Covering A Case of Conscience" https://www.jstor.org/stable/4239480

When Blish published the novella "A Case of Conscience" in IF Worlds of Science Fiction in September 1953 he had no intention of carrying the story beyond what now appears as Book One of the novel version. There were, however, plans for the novella to appear as part of a "Twayne Triplet" (Twayne being the publisher) entitled Lithia. In fact, "A Case of Conscience" was originally commisssioned for this common-setting collection by Fletcher Pratt-which, according to Brian Stableford, was why Blish wrote so uncommercial a story.3 A letter in the Bodleian Library Blish Papers from one "Doc Clark" suggests that he was to be one of the contributors to this volume and that he first dreamed up a planet named Lithia: "you've taken my goddamned 'Lithia,' built to order for space opera, and have made a story on an intellectual level approaching that of Everest. "4 "Doc Clark" must be John D(rury) Clark, the physical chemist who had a hand in The Petrified Planet (1952), one of the two Twayne triplets edited anonymously by Fletcher Pratt which actually did appear. As an introduction, Clark provides a scientific description of the two worlds which figure in the three stories that follow (by Fletcher Pratt, H. Beam Piper, and Judith Merril): the silicone planet Uller and the fluorine planet Niflheim. Lithia, presumably, was to be the lithium planet. The Lithia triplet never appeared but in the meantime the magazine version of Blish's story had received praise not only within the SF community but from the respected literary critic Gilbert Highet in a letter to Blish dated 2 June 1954. Influenced by this response, Ian Ballantine, who had founded Ballantine Books in 1952, commissioned an extended version of the story and, in a letter to his agent, Frederik Pohl, Blish speaks in characteristically explosive (or is it nflationary?) terms of "blowing it up into a novel"

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    Nice catch! Just five more to go. Mar 6 at 22:39
  • I'll let you know if I find anything else
    – Andrew
    Mar 7 at 0:47

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