Tuesday, October 25, 2016

"So It’s Going To Be Murder in Cold Blood, Is It?"

"The Man Who Saw Through Time."
By Leonard Raphael (?-?).
First appearance: Fantastic Adventures, September 1941.
Reprinted in Fantastic Adventures Quarterly, Spring 1942.
Short short story (5 pages).
Online at Pulpgen (HERE) and UNZ (HERE).
"Gary Fraxer went into the future and saw something that must not happen. So he came back with a plan to prevent a future crime."
We've heard of going that extra mile for a friend, but this one . . . this one takes the cake.

~ Walter Yale:
   Side A.
~ Gary Fraxer:
   Side B.
~ Carol Lewis:
   The hypotenuse.

Typo: "at that in stint"
- Just about everything you'll need to know about time travel is examined at Winchell Chung's hypersite, Atomic Rockets, (HERE).
- As for our author, all that we know about him is what the folks at FictionMags were able to find:
   (1) "The Man Who Saw Through Time," Fantastic Adventures, September 1941
   (2) "The Corpse That Talked," Mammoth Detective, January 1943
   (3) "Mystery of the Crushed Peppermints," Mammoth Detective, March 1943
   (4) "Bad Man’s Picnic," The Saturday Evening Post, February 10, 1951

The bottom line: "If the Universe came to an end every time there was some uncertainty about what had happened in it, it would never have got beyond the first picosecond. And many of course don't. It's like a human body, you see. A few cuts and bruises here and there don't hurt it. Not even major surgery if it's done properly. Paradoxes are just the scar tissue. Time and space heal themselves up around them and people simply remember a version of events which makes as much sense as they require it to make."
Douglas Adams

Monday, October 24, 2016

"I Can Only Tell You That at That Moment Both My Life and My Reason Rocked Unsteadily on Their Seats"

We don't celebrate Halloween here at ONTOS, but we do love a good scary story once in a while—especially if it's written by a fine author. If you go (HERE) you'll find a summertime review of MORE TALES TO TREMBLE BY (1968), a fine anthology of, not "horror" stories, but "tales of terror."

"He's Not the Funny Sort, Is He?"

"The Passing of 'Third Floor Back.'"
By Jerome K. Jerome (1859-1927).
First appearance: The Saturday Evening Post, November 19, 1904.
Reprinted in Passing of the Third Floor Back (1908); The Argosy (UK), December 1926; The Golden Book Magazine, January 1927; and AHMM, January 1995.
Play version, 1908 (HERE); filmed in 1918 and 1935 (HERE—WARNING: SPOILERS).
Short story (19 pages).
Online at SFFAudio (HERE) (PDF) and Project Gutenberg (HERE).
(Note: Title sometimes listed as "The Passing of 'The Third Floor Back.'")
"Really, the man quite haunts me."
Perfect understanding can make us uncomfortable, even fearful, but while the truth can be awful, the pain never lingers for very long.
Main characters:
~ The stranger, Mrs. Pennycherry, Mary Jane, and the boarders at 48 Bloomsbury Square.
Comment: This one, something of an allegory, never goes where you think it might, with the only mystery being just who—or what—the young stranger is, and the only crimes being how normal it seems for us to mistreat others—and ourselves.
Typo: "'You have been misinformed,' assured him the stranger"

The bottom line: "Fear hath torment."
The Bible

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

"If the Editor Writes Us Out, He'll Destroy Our Whole Social System"

"Rejection Slip."
By Ben Singer (?-?).
First appearance: Future Science Fiction, May 1952.
Short short short story (4 pages).
Online at SFFAudio (HERE) (PDF).
(Note: Text fuzzy in places.)
"The story of the desperate scribe who held a gun on the editor is hardly a new theme — but here's a novel twist on it!"
Maybe all writers are crazy and all editors should be shot, and maybe—in this era of political correctness—we're all destined one day for a trip to the social-super-egotorium for evaluation and from there to slander-sublimation-school for re-education. Or maybe we're just dreaming all of this like Zhuangzi's butterfly-man, flapping our way through meta-reality. Or maybe, just maybe, we should take this story as the author intended it and smile . . .

- Just like Frank Banta (HERE), we don't have a clue as to who Ben Singer might have been.

The bottom line:

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

"We Need Some Plain, Old-fashioned Evidence of a Crime"

"The Happy Homicide."
By Frank Banta (?-?).
First appearance: Worlds of IF, March 1962.
Short short short story (4 pages).
Online at Archive.org (HERE).
"It's not so bad being on trial for murder. Of course it's a little embarrassing — when the principal witness is the corpse!"
You'd think that the more advanced the technology, the less prone to error it would be—a common fallacy, as everyone should know by now. Take, for instance, this man's trial for cold-bloodedly killing his wife:
"John Bork, you have heard the indictment," stated the judge formally. "How do you wish to plead: Not guilty, no contest, or wait and see?"
"I'll wait and see, your honor."
"I thought you would," sighed the judge. "We haven’t had a straight not-guilty plea in ages. Proceed, Mr. Prosecutor."
Infused with unwavering confidence, the prosecutor does proceed:
"In this machine rests the proof of the crime charged against the defendant," he said dramatically, patting the smooth gray side of the machine. "This machine will tell you all you need to know about the murder. Oh, to be sure, I shall show you the corpus delicti presently; but why and how this crime was committed shall be revealed only by this machine’s stimulation of the deceased’s brain. She will herself relate who her killer was!"
There was a shocked gasp from the jurors and the spectators in the court room when the prosecutor pulled back the sheet from the body, uncovering her head and chest. "The jury will note that the government has removed her skull down to her eyebrows so that we could contact her brain’s recordings with the ma-chine’s probe. The jury will also note the four bullet holes in the deceased’s chest, which we intend to prove were put there by John Bork."
"I missed twice," said John Bork, nodding.
Ordinarily the reliability of the defendant's testimony is at issue in a trial for murder, but how much can we rely on what the victim, given the chance, might say?

- With this story we can add another totally anonymous author to our collection.
- Reading somebody's mind, dead or alive, is still a tricky business; some of the implications are discussed in a California Magazine article (HERE): "Catching the Brain in a Lie: Is 'Mind Reading' Deception, Detection, Sci-Fi—or Science?"

The bottom line: "I like nonsense; it wakes up the brain cells."
Theodor Geisel

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Top 5 in September

ONTOS has been lurking on the Net for several years now. Here are the most popular postings going all the way back to September 2013.

~ September 2016 ~
(1) "I've Got a Score to Settle on Earth" - (HERE)
(2) "No Contributing Factors in the Way of Bullets, Poisons or Blows Were Found—It Was a Perfect Crime" - (HERE)
(3) "How Did He Get Out of the House with a Dozen Detectives Watching Every Possible Exit?" - (HERE)
(4) "The Only Witness Against Him Was Himself" - (HERE)
(5) "It Occurred to Me That Some Unseen Dimension, If One Could but Penetrate It, Would Be the Ideal Place for the Commission of a Homicide" - (HERE)

~ September 2013 ~
(1) Julian Symons Reviews Robert Barnard's A TALENT TO DECEIVE - (HERE)
(2) Detective Fiction — Private Detective vs. Private Eye - (HERE)
(3) A Collection of Edgar Wallace Thrillers - (HERE)
(4) Random Internet Comments by and About Poe - (HERE)
(5) A Shilling Shocker - (HERE)

~ September 2014 ~
(1) The Three Dr. Thorndykes - (HERE)
(2) "The Melodramatic Development of the Latter Pages Stretches the Rubber Band of Suspense to Its Limit. It Might Snap." - (HERE)
(3) "Beware of Trying to Rouse Our Pity and Terror with a Penny Whistle" - (HERE)
(4) "He Has Discovered At Least One New Trick in the Detective Story Writer's Bag" - (HERE)
(5) "The Book Is Not a Detective Story: The Reader from the First Recognizes the Criminal" - (HERE)

~ September 2015 ~
(1) A Not-So-Nice Example of the Locked Room Mystery - (HERE)
(2) OLD-TIME DETECTION, Summer 2015 - (HERE)
(3) True Crime from Craig Rice - (HERE)
(4) FANTASTIC FlashFanFic from the Fabulous Fifties - (HERE)
(5) True Crime from Erle Stanley Gardner - (HERE)

Friday, October 14, 2016

"It Wasn't Worth It"

"The Man from When."
By Dannie Plachta (?-?).
First appearance: Worlds of IF, July 1966.
Reprinted quite a few times (HERE).
Short short short story (2 pages).
Online at Archive.org (HERE).
"He came out of nowhere — and could never go back!"
The stranger isn't a criminal per se, but human nature being what it is, his victims could justifiably regard what he does as a criminal act.

- We looked but we couldn't find any biographical information about our author, Dannie Plachta; however, the ISFDb does have a short bibliography (HERE).

The bottom line:
   "Well, that's it," I said after we had waited for another five minutes and found ourselves still in a state of pleasantly welcome existence. "The ChronoGuard has shut itself down and time travel is as it should be: technically, logically, and theoretically...impossible."
   "Good thing, too," replied Landon. "It always made my head ache. In fact, I was thinking of doing a self help book for science-fiction novelists eager to write about time travel. It would consist of a single word: Don't.”
   — Jasper Fforde