Wandering Through the Public Domain #27

A regular exploration of public domain genre work available through Project Gutenberg, Internet Archive, and Librivox.

By Colleen McMahon: Back on January 17, the daily Scroll noted that it was the anniversary of the release of Freejack, the extremely forgettable movie based on Robert Sheckley’s Immortality Inc., also called Time Killer.

I am one of the few who saw Freejack in the theater on the original release, mostly because there had been great hoopla about it being filmed in Atlanta (back when that was still a big event!). My most vivid memory of the movie was my first exposure to how movies play with locations in the editing — a wild car chase plunges down a ramp that in real life leads to an underground parking deck, but a few wild turns later, the chase continues on a highway in New York City. My friends and I immediately began to refer to that ramp as the “teleportal.”

Of course, the mention of the book behind the movie sent me off to see whether that book was in the public domain. It isn’t. But a whole bunch of Sheckley stories are:

Sheckley appears to have gone through a couple of incredibly prolific periods for short stories in the 1950s, so much so that twice here he has more than one story published in a single issue, so one story appears under a pen name. “The Leech” was published under the name Phillips Barbee, and “Forever” has Ned Lang as the author. The second story by Sheckley in that February 1959 issue of Galaxy was none other than “Time Killer”; presumably the copyright to that was renewed with the tie-ins around the 1992 movie, so it’s not available on Project Gutenberg.

Most of Sheckley’s stories have been recorded in various Short Science Fiction collections at Librivox; you can check his index page here.

Two Robert Sheckley stories were dramatized in the X Minus One radio show, and you can listen to them here:

Recent Librivox releases:

  • The Black Cat, Vol. 01 No. 01 October 1895 by Various

    The Black Cat (1895-1922) was a monthly literary magazine, publishing original short stories, often about uncanny or fantastical topics. Many writers were largely unknown, but some famous authors also wrote original material for this magazine.


  • The Rainbow Cat by Rose Fyleman (1877-1957)

    There was once a cat which was not in the least like any cat you have ever seen, or I either, for the matter of that. It was a fairy cat, you see, and so you would rather expect it to be different, wouldn’t you? It had a violet nose, indigo eyes, pale blue ears, green front legs, a yellow body, orange back legs and a red tail. In fact, it was coloured with all the colours of the rainbow, and on that account it was known as the Rainbow Cat. It lived, of course, in Fairyland, and it had all sorts of strange adventures.


  • Grampa in Oz by Ruth Plumly Thompson (1891-1976)

    Another great book in the world of Oz, in which King Fumbo of Ragbad loses his head in a storm and Prince Tatters, accompanied by the wise and wonderful old soldier Grampa, sets off to find the king’s head, a fortune, and a princess. With Bill, a live iron weathercock, they visit a Wizard’s Garden and discover Urtha, a lovely girl made all of flowers — and proceed to fall, swim, explode, sail, and fly above and below Oz and Ev. Grampa and Co. eventually meet Dorothy herself, traveling with a Forgetful Poet in search of the missing princess of Perhaps City who has been condemned to marry a monster!


  • The Variable Man by Philip K. Dick (1928-1982)

    A man from the past. He fixed things—clocks, refrigerators, vidsenders and destinies. But he had no business in the future, where the calculators could not handle him. He was Earth’s only hope—and its sure failure!

3 thoughts on “Wandering Through the Public Domain #27

  1. It’s worth north noting that that material in the Internet Archive is not necessarily in the public domain. Their data scrapers collect pretty much everything that can they regardless of copyright status. I know that because I had to have them remove material we had up at Green Man that was not for archiving elsewhere (and which came down during a certain nasty legal trial you may have heard about). So checking on its copyright status is a very good idea.

  2. I’m aware, and I definitely don’t assume that everything on IA is public domain!

    I rarely share links to IA unless they are books that are available through the American Libraries collection or magazines in the Pulp archive from 1924 or earlier. The Old Time Radio recordings are widely available going back to the age of cheaply produced tape cassette collections, so I have been kind of assuming they are PD, but you do raise a good point. Verifying PD status is way above my pay grade for this little side project, so it might be better to avoid the radio recordings as well going forward.

  3. The list of copyright renewals I have for Galaxy may be relevant here: https://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/webbin/cinfo/galaxysf I notice that Sheckley’s publications there from 1954 to 1959 tended to be renewed (including TIme Killer), but before and after that time period they weren’t. (From 1964 on, they would have auto-renewed along with other stories in the magazine issues from those years, though due to particularly long cover date lead times, the first Galaxy issue to actually be published, and copyrighted, in 1964 was the April 1964 issue.)

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