The Dig Allen Series: Doomed to Obscurity?
By Jonathan K. Cooper
The first Dig Allen book I ever read was Captives In Space. I found it one day as I was combing a bookshelf in my Grandmother's house for more Tom Swift books to read. I clearly remember taking it off the shelf and being fascinated by the cover image. Who were those men in spacesuits? What were they doing? What was happening to their spaceship? After leafing through the book I was more interested than ever and decided to take it home and read it.
Years later, Captives In Space -- thanks to an unbeatable combination of story and art -- is still my favorite series book. To this day I still enjoy taking it off of the shelf and reading through it, and I know that many other people feel the same way.
The Dig Allen series is, in my opinion, the best children's series ever published. Unlike many modern books (such as, say, the modern Hardy Boy books), the series is not made up of rehashes of the same, boring, predictable plot, executed in the same, boring, predictable manner, with the same, boring, predictable cliché's. No, the Dig Allen series had a certain freshness and excitement to it that just isn't in any other books that I have read. Great care and thought went into writing those six volumes, and it clearly shows.
The Dig Allen series, however, does suffer from one flaw: obscurity. Everyone who has tried to find these rare books in bookstores knows this fact very well. Even series experts who have spent years studying various series books usually aren't aware that they even existed. In fact, of all of the dozens of dealers that I have talked with over the years, only one person had heard of them, and she only knew about the first one (The Forgotten Star).
To me this is a great pity. These books are far better than any children's books that are currently available in bookstores and yet they languish in lonely obscurity. Something, I think, should be done to change that. These books should be on the shelves in bookstores.
The question, however, is this: what should be done? Reprinting them seems like a great idea until you remember that the series was written in the late 1950's. Technology has changed a great deal since then, and many of the "advanced" features of the books -- like giant supercomputers that worked via tiny wires, or robots that run on vacuum tubes -- would be laughed at today. Were this series to be reprinted, then, the outdated technology would probably kill any chances of success that the series might have had.
That, then, leaves two options: either new Dig Allen books need to be written, or the old ones need to be updated and re-released. The problem, however, is who is going to write the new or revised books? Joseph Greene, the original author, has been dead for several years. We would need to find a new author who would write in the same style, and that could prove to be an enormous challenge.
And yet, at the same time, I think that it is a challenge worth overcoming. The world is in need of quality children's books -- indeed, I think that it has been without good books for so long that many have forgotten just what a good book is like. People tell me that nobody is interested in reading anymore, but answer me this: if you were a child, would you read the books that are currently available? I know I wouldn't, and I certainly wouldn't expect anyone else to, either.
What we need is a new series that will turn the tide and will start a rush of new, quality series books. The fight could be long and difficult, but I believe that, in the end, it will be worth it.
As the fabled red hen said the other farm animals, I say to you: who will help me sow the wheat? Who will help me thresh the wheat? Who will help me cook the bread? Is there anyone out there who can help put the Dig Allen books back on the shelves? Perhaps you know of (or are) a writer who could revise the texts or write new ones. Perhaps you could help republish the series, or help gathering public support, or perhaps you're simply interested in seeing them reprinted and would like to offer your moral support.
In any case, if you're interested, please e-mail me at scooper(at)freewwweb.com ! Perhaps, together, we can save the Dig Allen series from a lonely death in obscurity.
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