October 1961 cover by Alex Schomburg
This cover to Amazing Stories offers a lot to talk about. The story "The Augmented Agent" is one of my favorites by Jack, and I was glad I could right an injustice done him forty years ago. More on that later, but let's try to follow the natural genesis of events.
It begins, not with Jack, but with Alex Schomburg, an artist of many a Science-Fiction tale. I don't know the facts concerning the original commision of this piece. Perhaps it was meant for another story that never materialized, or an article on Inter-Continental Ballistic Missles that was rejected for inaccuracy, but the editor of Amazing Stories ended up with this great image on its hands and nothing to run with it. What to do? Call Jack!
They showed Jack the painting and asked him to come up with a story for it. This was, and still is, a common practice in the publishing world. In some cases, several writers do their own take on a visual in an anthology. I feel that there is something bogus about this. A writer should be the originator of his own stories, but I suppose the accomodation can yield positive results. Clearly, that has happened here. It worked so well in fact, that they asked Jack to do it again the next year, and he delivered with another great story called "Sail 25". Unfortunately, they commited the same injustice to Jack as I mentioned earlier.
The injustice took the shape of editorial bone-headedness. Jack took the painting of Alex's and created an original concept of his own. While the story still dealt with ICBM's, they were only a stage prop in this drama of a secret agent impersonating the leader of another country, and his subsequent subsumation in the others identity. Jack's title for the story was "The Augmented Agent", but the editor had a worse idea. The title was changed to "I. C. a BeM".
A BeM is SF parlance for bug-eyed monster, a science-fiction cliche. There are no bug-eyed monsters in this story, so why the title? The editor makes a futile attempt to justify the damage in the introduction to the tale, but the explanation is as silly as the new title, which is probably one of the worst in the history of science-fiction. I took great pleasure in utilizing a graphics program to replace the offending title on the magazine's cover and restoring Jack's original.