Tuesday, June 18, 2024

"What Is Nowadays Termed 'Science Fiction' Is 'Historical Fiction' — Of the Future"

WAR not only encourages humankind to invent newer and more efficient ways to murder one another in ever increasing numbers but also has a strong effect on culture (for the survivors, anyway). Bundled in that umbrella term of "culture" is "literature," which not only reflects history but also reacts to it, potentially becoming a guide to what might happen in the future (including warfare). The Second World War was no different from most conflicts, extermin-ating millions while producing technologies that are still having effects, good and bad, on today's culture (e.g., the microwave oven and the atomic bomb). Literature's reaction was an enlargement of a subgenre which had served a niche reading market before the war but flourished just after it ended: science fiction (SF or sometimes Stf). Readers finally came to realize that those ridiculous fictional weapons of mass destruction which they'd read about in the '20s and '30s could, in reality, suddenly land right in their laps. Savvy magazine editors took the hint, and science fiction burgeoned. One of the beneficiaries of this publishing explosion was Robert Heinlein, by no means a hack writer, who encourages would-be SF authors to . . .

"Bet on the Future and Win."
(a.k.a. "The Historic Novel of the Future").
By Robert A. Heinlein (1907-88; Wikipedia HERE; ISFDb HERE; SFE HERE; IMDb HERE).
First appearance: Bookshop News, February 1950.
Reprinted in Writer's Digest, March 1950 (today's text).
Also in The Nonfiction of Robert Heinlein: Volume I (2011).
Article (1 page).
Online at SFFAudio (HERE).

   "In fact, 'science fiction' is a poor term—non-descriptive. The older term of speculative fiction is closer to the truth . . ."

HEINLEIN tells us that whether or not it's called science fiction, nevertheless in every kind of literature "human problems remain basically the same—war and love and death and birth. The background scene is changed; the people are not."

Referenced in the article:
- Forever Amber (Wikipedia WARNING! SPOILERS! HERE and HERE), a wildly popular novel and movie from the late '40s.
- Destination Moon (Wikipedia WARNING! SPOILERS! HERE and IMDb HERE).
- The Man Who Sold the Moon (Wikipedia HERE and ISFDb HERE).
Resource:
- Robert Heinlein's science fiction could often provoke controversy. Was his novel Starship Troopers controverted by Joe Haldeman's The Forever War (HERE)?

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HERE'S Mack Reynolds, who's probably serious when he says . . .

"My Best Friends Are Martians."
By Mack Reynolds (1917-83; Wikipedia HERE; ISFDb HERE; SFE HERE; e-fanzines HERE.)
First appearance: Writer's Digest, March 1950.
Article (10 pages).
Online at SFFAudio (HERE).

   "If you don't like the stuff, if you don't read it yourself, if you aren't familiar with it—forget about it. You'll never crack science fiction."

Some random comments from the article:
- At the time Planet Stories was producing "space operas," which Reynolds defines as "wild west stories laid on Mars instead of in Nevada."
- "L. Ron Hubbard, who also writes under the pseudonym Rene Lafayette, has recently sold his Doc Methuselah series, which runs in Astounding, to the picture market for a five-figure sum."
- "The fans want the notion story, the gimmick story, the snap ending, preferably with some scientific principle worked into the snap."
- Furthermore, the fans have an influence on what sees print: "If your science is a bit weak, if your story isn't up to snuff, if your gimmick doesn't snap, you get a first-class working over. . . Writers and illustrators in the field are made and unmade by the fans' vitriolic comments."
- "But, I didn't particularly like detective stories. Oh, I read them occasionally; usually novel lengths rather than shorts. I actually had to drive myself to read the pulp detective mags to be up on the market requirements. In the evenings, after working all day writing whodunits, I'd relax by reading science fiction."
- "But what are the advantages of writing science fiction, that I should think so highly of it? There is one tremendous one: the comparative freedom from taboos."
- "The larger the circulation of the publication, the more numerous the taboos."
- ". . . editors are looking for new talent; but in a field expanding as rapidly as science fiction, the need is more desperate."
- "Fred [Brown] is a master of the narrative hook, the clever twist, the gimmick."
- "Readers who buy science fiction magazines want plenty of pseudo-science."
- "There are three shopworn themes: dictators, the menace to earth, and mutants." (And this is 1950!)
- "The stories should have enough adventure to keep things going, but the adventure shouldn't run away with the science."

Other references:
- Max Ehrlich's The Big Eye (Wikipedia HERE; ISFDb HERE).
- Fredric Brown's What Mad Universe (Wikipedia HERE and WARNING! SPOILERS! HERE).
- Jack Williamson's The Humanoids (ISFDb HERE and Wikipedia WARNING! SPOILERS! HERE).
- The Best Science Fiction Stories of 1949 (ISFDb HERE and Wikipedia HERE).
- A Treasury of Science Fiction (ISFDb HERE and Wikipedia HERE).
- Jack Woodford (Wikipedia HERE).
- Mr. Adam (Wikipedia WARNING! SPOILERS! HERE).
- James Hilton's Lost Horizon (WARNING! SPOILERS! Wikipedia HERE and HERE).
- Crosley (Wikipedia HERE).
Resources:
- Go to Wikipedia for more about science fiction (HERE) and its history (HERE).
- Due to his prolificity, Mack Reynolds has appeared on ONTOS several times (often with a coauthor): (HERE), (HERE), (HERE), (HERE), and (HERE).

The bottom line:
   "The dropping of the atom bomb in 1945 made science fiction respectable. Once the horror at Hiroshima took place, anyone could see that science fiction writers were not merely dreamers and crackpots after all, and that many of the motifs of that class of literature were now permanently part of the newspaper headlines."
   — Isaac Asimov

Unless otherwise noted, all bibliographical data are derived from The FictionMags Index created by William G. Contento & edited by Phil Stephensen-Payne.
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Friday, June 14, 2024

"Douser's Heart Played Hopscotch, Marking Lines on His Stomach and Jumping Up and Down on It, Hard"

"Half-Pint Homicide."
(a.k.a. "Enter—The Douser").
By Ray Bradbury (1920-2012; Wikipedia HERE; the ISFDb HERE).
First appearance: Detective Tales, November 1944.
Reprinted in:
   Detective Tales (Canada), May 1945
   A Memory of Murder (1984) (Wikipedia HERE)
  The Collected Stories of Ray Bradbury: A Critical Edition: Volume 2: 1943-1944 (2014), as "Enter—The Douser."
Short short short story (5 pages).
Online at SFFAudio (HERE; today's text) and pulpmagazines.org (HERE; go to text page 67).

   "The Douser had a very simple way of taking care of some very complicated people . . . . As witness his effective remedy for the fat, 
lush and powerful Mr. Schabold . . . ."

THERE'S a thin line between bravery and foolhardiness, and Douser wobbles all over it with aplomb. Doing that once too often with a vicious mobster, though, can get you killed: "Oh, 
I'd love to pull this trigger. And keep pulling it, over and over."

Principal characters:
~ Douser Mulligan ("Tag, you're it!"); Schabold ("I pride myself on my clever record"); and Sergeant Palmborg ("A body's cooling in there, just brought in from the railyards").

Notable phraseology:
  "The sea came in and went out, lifting its salty skirts."
  "Douser's fingers crawled like wary spiders, chest, stomach, legs, arms, then flying 
to his face."
  "You're an oyster with its shell off, soft and white underneath!"
  "Under the plankings the sea walked on salt feet between the piles."
And does this prefigure Columbo?
  "I'm no sleuth. I just know how to bother people. Nuisance value."

Typo: "I'l kill you".

References and resources:
- The Douser's last name is evocative, which may explain why Bradbury used it:
  "A mulligan is a second chance to perform an action, usually after the first chance went wrong through bad luck or a blunder. Its best-known use is in golf, whereby it refers to a player being allowed, only informally, to replay a stroke, although that is against the formal rules of golf. The term has also been applied to other sports, games, and fields generally. The origin of the term is unclear." (Wikipedia HERE.)
  Mulligan's first name can also be spelled "dowser," which takes us to what many regard as a pseudoscience:
  "Dowsing is a type of divination employed in attempts to locate ground water, buried metals or ores, gemstones, oil, claimed radiations (radiesthesia), gravesites, malign 'earth vibrations' and many other objects and materials without the use of a scientific apparatus. It is also known as divining (especially in water divining), doodlebugging (particularly in the United States, in searching for petroleum or treasure) or water finding, or water witching (in the United States)." (Wikipedia HERE.)
  It's unlikely the author wanted the reader to make that association. It's more likely he intended us to think about the sinister connotations of "douse," i.e., "quench" or "smother."
- "It was a frame. . . . With gilt edges, too":
  The "frame" is used quite a lot in crime fiction, both written and televised:
  "Framing someone means providing fake evidence in order to falsely prove someone guilty of a crime. 'Frame' here means making someone innocent look guilty by 'putting the person in a picture frame of suspicion.' Of course, it results in a need for the Hero to Clear My Name. If the hero has to clear someone else who has been wrongfully accused of a crime, it's Clear Their Name." (TV Tropes HERE.)
- "Take your fingers away from your nose":
  "Thumbing one's nose, also known as cocking a snook, is a sign of derision, contempt, or defiance, made by putting the thumb on the nose, holding the palm open and perpendicular to the face, and wiggling the remaining fingers." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "Got your draft cards?":
  It's 1944 and a lot of people are eligible for military service:
  "The Selective Training and Service Act of 1940 was passed by Congress on 16 September 1940, establishing the first peacetime conscription in United States history. It required all men between the ages of 18 and 64 to register with the Selective Service. To register, men typically completed a D.S.S. Form 1 Military Draft Registration Card from the Director of Selective Service. Over 49 million draft cards were completed, including The Old Man's Draft." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "barrage balloon":
  Bradbury uses it as a metaphor for all it's worth: "A barrage balloon is a type of airborne barrage, a large uncrewed tethered balloon used to defend ground targets against aircraft attack, by raising aloft steel cables which pose a severe risk of collision to hostile aircraft, making the attacker's approach difficult and hazardous." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "I came to the Coast to blackmarket gas":
  "Black markets flourish during wartime. States engaged in total war or other large-scale, extended wars often impose restrictions on use of critical resources that are needed for the war effort, such as food, gasoline, rubber, metal, etc., typically through rationing. A black market then develops to supply rationed goods at exorbitant prices. The rationing and price controls enforced in many countries during World War II encouraged widespread black market activity." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "until my alibi is water-tight":
  "Often, when someone is suspected of a crime, they can prove they were somewhere else at the time, or otherwise physically incapable of committing the crime. This is called an 'alibi.' It's a common plot element in the mystery and crime genres, but sometimes pops up elsewhere. Note, however that the term 'alibi' is sometimes misused. . ." (TV Tropes HERE.)
- "1929":
  "The Wall Street Crash of 1929, also known as the Great Crash, Crash of '29, or Black Tuesday . . . It was the most devastating stock market crash in the history of the United States when taking into consideration the full extent and duration of its aftereffects . . . The crash, which followed the London Stock Exchange's crash of September, signaled the beginning of the Great Depression." (Wikipedia HERE; also see HERE.)
- "Venice Amusement Pier":
  "Venice is a neighborhood of the City of Los Angeles within the Westside region of Los Angeles County, California, United States. Venice was founded by Abbot Kinney in 1905 as a seaside resort town. It was an independent city until 1926, when it was annexed by Los Angeles. Venice is known for its canals, a beach, and Ocean Front Walk, a 2.5-mile (4 km) pedestrian promenade that features performers, fortune-tellers, and vendors." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- Bradbury produced only two Douser Mulligan stories:
  (1) "Half-Pint Homicide," (ss) Detective Tales, November 1944 (above)
  (2) "Four-Way Funeral," (ss) Detective Tales, December 1944.
- Our author grabbed our attention most recently with "The Crowd" (HERE).

The bottom line:
  "Every civilization carries the seeds of its own destruction, and the same cycle shows in them all. The Republic is born, flourishes, decays into plutocracy, and is captured by the shoemaker whom the mercenaries and millionaires make into a king. The people invent their oppressors, and the oppressors serve the function for which they are invented."

Unless otherwise noted, all bibliographical data are derived from The FictionMags Index created by William G. Contento & edited by Phil Stephensen-Payne.
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Wednesday, June 12, 2024

"A Novel Without Any Death in It Is Still to Me a Novel Without Any Life in It"

"The Corpse in 20th Century Detective Fiction."
By George L. Scheper and Peter V. Cenci.
Article (6 pages).
Online at Academia.edu (HERE).

   "A bibliographic overview of how the corpse is used as a literary trope and plot device in British and American detective fiction of the 20th century."

WHEN it comes to detective fiction, there are requirements almost amounting to what can be termed "rules" to this game. Our authors skim through the rather large corpus of the genre to establish what those "rules" are with respect to the absolutely indispensable victim. Brief excerpts follow:

  "First, there must be a corpse -- that is the tautological sine qua non of the murder mystery."
  "The second consideration of the mystery writer must be to decide who will play the role of the corpse. In real-life crime and realistic crime fiction the murderee may be either an innocent or what criminologists call a 'crime provocative' victim. In traditional English mysteries and their American counterparts, however, it is usually the latter, in fact someone who is such an eminently murderable person as to constitute the Most Likely Victim."
  "The third consideration is the manner of dispatching the victim."
  "Hence the fourth consideration, disposal of the inconvenient corpse."
  "Finally, if the corpse is not disposed of, then what matters is its disposition, and here the differences between the English and American traditions are evident . . ."
  "At the end, there is the matter of what the corpse reveals to investigation."

Concerning that fourth consideration:

  "The disposition of the corpse is at the heart of the Chandler/Auden debate." This is a reference to Raymond Chandler, who "praised Dashiell Hammett because he 'took murder out of the Venetian vase and dropped it into the alley . . . . Hammett gave murder back to the kind of people that commit it for reasons, not just to provide a corpse'." To which W. H. Auden responded: "Mr. Raymond Chandler has written that he intends to take the body out of the vicarage garden and give the murder back to those who are good at it. If he wishes to write detective stories. . . he could not be more mistaken."

  As far as we know, that debate has never terminated.

Typo: "max1m1zmg".

Resources:
- "Dorothy L. Sayers, despite her work to legitimise crime fiction, wrote that there 'certainly does seem a possibility that the detective story will some time come to an end, simply because the public will have learnt all the tricks.' Of course, many readers have 'learnt all the tricks,' or most of them. This does not, however, detract from the genre’s overall appeal. We have not grown bored with, or become tired of, the formula that revolves around good and evil, and justice and punishment. Quite the opposite. Our knowledge of, as well as our faith in, the genre’s 'tricks' gives a level of confidence to readers who are looking for endings that punish murderers and other wrongdoers, allowing for more satisfactory conclusions . . ." 
   - "A Taste for Murder: The Curious Case of Crime Fiction" (2014) by Rachel Franks (HERE).
Rachel Franks's Taxonomy of Crime Fiction. (Click on image to enlarge.)
- Some mysteries generate a LOT of corpses:
  "As a lifelong reader of classic whodunits, I’m always a little disappointed when the first murder that occurs is the only murder in the story. I always crave that mid-point killing, the one that completely changes the dynamics of the narrative. The truth is, I want multiple murders. My favorite Christie is And Then There Were None, which comes right out and tells you that there will be no one left standing at the end.
  "Of course, I’m probably not the only one amused by the fact that the great detectives of fiction often don’t catch the murderer until half the suspects are dead. Hercule Poirot in Christie’s Death on the Nile gets all the credit for eventually uncovering the diabolical killer, but doesn’t get any points knocked off his score for all the deaths that occur while he’s interviewing suspects. (By the way there are five deaths in Death on the Nile—not too shabby.)"
   - "The Unique Pleasures of a Mystery Novel with a High Death Count" (2022) by Peter Swanson at CrimeReads (HERE).

Unless otherwise noted, all bibliographical data are derived from The FictionMags Index created by William G. Contento & edited by Phil Stephensen-Payne.
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Monday, June 10, 2024

"You See. Arms, Heads, Legs, Torsos All Over the Place. It's an Epidemic"

AND now for something completely different . . . from our last story, that is, as we offer an SFF tale with a much lighter tone:

"Operation Peep."
(a.k.a. "Pawley's Peepholes").
By John Wyndham (1903-69; Wikipedia HERE; ISFDb HERE; SFE HERE).
First appearance: Suspense, Summer 1951.
Reprints pages:
  As "Operation Peep" (ISFDb HERE).
  As "Pawley's Peepholes" (ISFDb HERE).
Short story (13 pages).
Online at SFFAudio (HERE). 
Note: The hardcover edition of The Seeds of Time containing "Pawley's Peepholes" is on The Luminist Archives (HERE; go 
to text page 112.)

   "With parts of people poking right through the walls at most embarrassing moments, life became intolerable. Only an 'invention' could restore precious peace and privacy . . ."

THE main problem with most technologies is that they can be used for good or ill. The sandlot baseball bat and the carpenter's reliable claw hammer, for instance, make excellent murder weapons. We've always maintained, however, that the ideal weapon doesn't maim or kill but instead controls the victim, rendering him unable to resist. It's a lot less messy and saves time and money. Which takes us to today's story: An "inventor" who doesn't know he's an inventor contrives a solution (but not an invention) to a situation that is driving everybody bonkers. It's essentially the same problem that made pest control companies into corporate giants, but it is a lot less messy, saving not just time and money but, most importantly, everyone's sanity . . .

Main characters:
~ Jerry, the narrator ("It struck me all of a heap—so simple"); Sally ("We've got two ways of using inventions"); Patrolman Walsh ("found a head sitting up on the sidewalk"); Mrs. Rourke and Miss Farrell ("But there was nothing to be seen on the ceiling"); Jimmy Lindlin ("his hobby is collecting queer facts"); the traffic cop ("You could see his nostrils kind of spread, the way a horse's do"); Anna ("Naturally, I screamed at once"); and Jerry's boss ("First bust-up in twenty years").

References and resources:
- "a new kind of pink elephant":
  "'Seeing pink elephants' is a euphemism for hallucinations caused by delirium tremens or alcoholic hallucinosis, especially the former. The term dates back to at least the early 20th century, emerging from earlier idioms about seeing snakes and other creatures. An alcoholic character in Jack London's 1913 novel John Barleycorn makes reference to the hallucination of 'blue mice and pink elephants' while describing the two different types of men that consume alcohol excessively. Another notable instance of the appearance of pink elephants in popular culture is the 'Pink Elephants on Parade' section of the 1941 Walt Disney animated film Dumbo." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "You couldn't expect a person to be kind of broadcast and then come together again any old place":
  Just don't tell TV producers that: "In the original [Star Trek] series, beaming to and from the transporter chamber was a necessity." (Wikipedia HERE; see under "Technological and scientific restrictions.")
- "I'd think Oak Ridge":
  Thanks to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, everybody in 1951 knew about Oak Ridge:
  "Oak Ridge was established in 1942 as a production site for the Manhattan Project—the massive American, British, and Canadian operation that developed the atomic bomb. In 1942, the United States federal government chose the area as a site for developing materials for the Manhattan Project. Major General Leslie Groves, military head of the Manhattan Project, liked the area for several reasons. Its relatively low population made acquisition affordable, yet the area was accessible by highway and rail, and utilities such as water and electricity were readily available with the recent completion of Norris Dam. The project location was established within a 17-mile-long (27 km) valley. This feature was linear and partitioned by several ridges, providing natural protection against the spread of disasters at the four major industrial plants—so the plants would not blow up 'like firecrackers on a string'." (Wikipedia HERE; also see HERE.)
- "the imminence of Judgment Day":
  "Christianity considers the Second Coming of Jesus Christ to entail the final judgment by God of all people who have ever lived, resulting in the approval of some and the penalizing of most. The concept is found in all the canonical gospels, particularly in the Gospel of Matthew. The Christian tradition is also followed by Islam, where it is mentioned in many chapters of the Quran, according to some interpretations." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "batteries of Klieg lights":
  "A Klieg light is an intense carbon arc lamp especially used in filmmaking. It is named after inventor John Kliegl and his brother Anton Kliegl. Klieg lights usually have a Fresnel lens with a spherical reflector or an ellipsoidal reflector with a lens train containing two plano-convex lenses or a single step lens. The carbon-arc source was so bright that it allowed film directors to shoot daytime scenes at night. The ultraviolet rays produced by the light also led to some actors developing an eye inflammation referred to as 'Klieg eye'." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "out sight, out of mind":
  "When something is not nearby, it is forgotten about." (Wiktionary HERE.)
- "Peep shows" had an innocuous beginning several centuries ago, steadily losing their innocence over time:
  "A raree show, peep show or peep box is an exhibition of pictures or objects (or a combination of both), viewed through a small hole or magnifying glass. In 17th and 18th century Europe, it was a popular form of entertainment provided by wandering showmen. Peep shows, also known as peep box or raree show ('rarity show') can be traced back to the early modern period (15th century in Europe) and are known in various cultures." (Wikipedia HERE.)
   Technology improved: "The Kinetoscope is an early motion picture exhibition device, designed for films to be viewed by one person at a time through a peephole viewer window. The Kinetoscope was not a movie projector, but it introduced the basic approach that would become the standard for all cinematic projection before the advent of video: it created the illusion of movement by conveying a strip of perforated film bearing sequential images over a light source with a high-speed shutter. First described in conceptual terms by U.S. inventor Thomas Edison in 1888, it was largely developed by his employee William Kennedy Laurie Dickson between 1889 and 1892." (Wikipedia HERE; also see Rivera Inventions HERE.)
  Another version: "The Mutoscope is an early motion picture device, invented by W. K. L. Dickson and Herman Casler and granted U.S. patent 549309A to Herman Casler on November 5, 1895. Like Thomas Edison's Kinetoscope, it did not project on a screen and provided viewing to only one person at a time." (Wikipedia HERE; also see HERE.)
- The FBI is tasked with keeping track of homicides in the U.S.; see Statista (HERE) for the 2022 data. We're often told that even Al Capone used a baseball bat on at least one occasion (Wikipedia HERE), but did he? (Gangland Wire HERE.)
- Would civilization collapse completely if personal privacy simply vanished? Fredric Brown envisioned it (and he did so, please note, several years after today's author got there first) in his story Martians, Go Home (1955) (WARNING! SPOILERS! Wikipedia HERE; online at Archive.org HERE, borrow only; free read at The Luminist Archives HERE.) (Filmed in 1990: WARNING! SPOILERS! HERE).

The bottom line:
  "Science fiction is any idea that occurs in the head and doesn't exist yet, but soon will, and will change everything for everybody, and nothing will ever be the same again. As soon as you have an idea that changes some small part of the world you are writing science fiction. It is always the art of the possible, never the impossible."

Unless otherwise noted, all bibliographical data are derived from The FictionMags Index created by William G. Contento & edited by Phil Stephensen-Payne.
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Friday, June 7, 2024

"Somebody Didn't Mind Murdering in Order to Survive, Who?"

"Nonentity."
By E. C. Tubb (1919-2010; Wikipedia HERE; SFE HERE; ISFDb HERE; IMDb HERE).
First appearance: Authentic Science Fiction Monthly, February 1955.
Reprints page (ISFDb HERE).
Novelette (19 pages).
Online at The Luminist Archives (HERE; go to text page 87).
(Parental note: Violence, adult situations and language.)

   "Someone in here is a murderer, and the only thing I'm certain about is that it isn't me."

Terrorists come in all shapes, sexes, and sizes, something to remember when you're a castaway in space: "Death rode the hands of the chronometer—and they all knew it. And knowing it, reacted each in their own fashion."

Principal characters:
~ "The officer" ("Would any of you be a doctor?"); Henley ("Now we'll see who survives"); 
Lorna ("You think I want to keep company with a corpse!"); Jeff ("When the chips are down only the strong can survive"); Prentice ("He was old and he was almost dead with fear"); Mrs. Caulder ("I'm not every clever at that sort of thing"); and Tommy ("Some poor devil separated from his people in the rush").

Comment: Grim, grimmer, grimmest. (You've been warned.)

References and resources:
- "he spilled the pile then smashed the rod-controls":
  It's obvious they were aboard an atomic rocket, which many in the fifties thought would be the only way to really get around in the Final Frontier. (Wikipedia HERE and HERE.)
- "the hostile satellites of Jupiter":
  As space probes have told us in the past half-century, they can be very hostile indeed:
  "Jupiter is expected to have about 100 irregular moons larger than 1 km (0.6 mi) in diameter, plus around 500 more smaller retrograde moons down to diameters of 0.8 km (0.5 mi)." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "Free fall":
  "In classical mechanics, free fall is any motion of a body where gravity is the only force acting upon it. In the context of general relativity, where gravitation is reduced to a space-time curvature, a body in free fall has no force acting on it. An object in the technical sense of the term 'free fall' may not necessarily be falling down in the usual sense of the term. An object moving upwards might not normally be considered to be falling, but if it is subject to only the force of gravity, it is said to be in free fall." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "before we left for the asteroids":
  "Of the roughly one million known asteroids, the greatest number are located between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, approximately 2 to 4 A.U. from the Sun, in a region known as the main asteroid belt." (Wikipedia HERE; also see HERE.)
- "His blood would drift in tiny globules":
  Sounds a lot like a certain sci-film from thirty-six years later: "The blood that spurts out of the Klingon's wounds was created using computer generated imagery; the animators had to make sure that the blood floated in a convincing manner while still looking interesting and not too gory." (WARNING! SPOILERS! Wikipedia HERE; see under "Effects.")
- "if we're talking of survival":
  What can go wrong with people in outer space? Plenty:
  "The effects of spaceflight on the human body are complex and largely harmful over both short and long term. Significant adverse effects of long-term weightlessness include muscle atrophy and deterioration of the skeleton (spaceflight osteopenia). Other significant effects include a slowing of cardiovascular system functions, decreased production of red blood cells (space anemia), balance disorders, eyesight disorders and changes in the immune system. Additional symptoms include fluid redistribution (causing the 'moon-face' appearance typical in pictures of astronauts experiencing weightlessness), loss of body mass, nasal congestion, sleep disturbance, and excess flatulence. Overall, NASA refers to the various deleterious effects of spaceflight on the human body by the acronym RIDGE (i.e., 'space radiation, isolation and confinement, distance from Earth, gravity fields, and hostile and closed environments')." (Wikipedia HERE; also see HERE.)
- Reading "Nonentity" reminds us strongly of an atypical and greatly underrated movie by Alfred Hitchcock (WARNING! SPOILERS! HERE). We also know of a telefilm that was a conscious SFFnal reworking of Hitchcock's movie (WARNING! SPOILERS! HERE), thereby taking it closer to being an inadvertent adaptation of today's story. Finally, we have to wonder if this film (WARNING! SPOILERS! HERE) was a failed attempt to "adapt" (i.e., rip off and avoid royalties) "Nonentity"?
- If you didn't get a bad case of claustrophobia from today's story, then you might want to consult "101 Movies Based in One Room" (IMDb HERE); in TV productions the situation in our story would constitute a "bottle show" (Wikipedia HERE).
- To give you an inkling of how prolific a writer E(dwin) C(harles) Tubb was, consider this FictionMags list of his noms de plume:
  Stuart Allen, Antony Armstrong, Ted Bain, Alice Beecham, Anthony Blake, L. T. Bronson, Raymond L. Burton, Julian Carey, Morley Carpenter, Julian Cary, Norman Dale, Robert D. Ennis, James Evans, James R. Fenner, R. H. Godfrey, Charles Gray, Charles Grey, Volsted Gridban, Alan Guthrie, D. W. R. Hill, George Holt, Alan Innes, Gordon Kent, Nigel Lloyd, Robert Lloyd, Frank T. Lomas, Ron Lowam, Phillip Martyn, John Mason, Colin May, Carl Moulton, L. C. Powers, Edward Richards, John Seabright, Roy Sheldon, Eric Storm, Andrew Sutton, Ken Wainwright, Frank Weight, Douglas West, Eric Wilding & Frank Winnard.

Unless otherwise noted, all bibliographical data are derived from The FictionMags Index created by William G. Contento & edited by Phil Stephensen-Payne.
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Monday, June 3, 2024

Two from DT

DETECTIVE TALES (DT) proved to be a durable magazine; while it was launched in the middle of the Great Depression, DT outlived the economic downturn. FictionMags elucidates:

   "The second most successful of Popular Publications’ detective magazines, Detective Tales ran for 18 years, mainly on a monthly basis, producing a total of 202 issues. Most of the issues offered twelve stories for ten cents, which has occasionally led to it being mis-listed as Twelve Stories Detective Tales. Finally, in 1953, it merged with New Detective to form Fifteen Detective Stories."

AS to the quality of the stories, most of them seem to have been at or above the standards of the prevailing pulps; certainly the ones that we've read so far meet the minimal criteria of being readable and entertaining. Two brief examples, both of the "perfect crime" variety, follow:

(1) "Too Many Alibis."
Edward S. Williams (?-?; FictionMags HERE).
First appearance: Detective Tales, April 1943.
Reprinted in Detective Tales (Canada), October 1943.
Short short short story (5 pages).
Online at pulpmagazines.org (HERE; go to text page 41).

   "Harvey Brandt had planned a crime with the meticulous skill of a campaign strategist. He had figured on everything but . . . TOO MANY ALIBIS."

THE next time you turn up the thermostat on a cold winter's night, give a thought to Harvey. He's earned it . . .

Main characters:
~ Harvey Brandt ("Think, you fool!"), The Burtons ("Why don't you come over and have breakfast with Tom"), Old Pop McAtee ("Too bad, he thought, about Pop"), and the McDaniels boy ("The kid will never notice the additional twelve miles on his speedometer").

References and resources:
- "this damned war":
  Since it's 1943, everybody reading this story would know immediately it was a reference to the Second World War and probably nod their heads in agreement. (History.com HERE.)
- "classed 4-H, so far, by the Draft Board":
  According to the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940, that would be Brandt's draft status: "IV-H - Deferred, age 38 to 44 inclusive - Valid from January 1, 1943 to March 6, 1943." (Wikipedia HERE; also see HERE.)
- "the Leverton Company, retooled to turn out parts for tanks":
   ". . . Chrysler broke ground on what would come to be known as the Detroit Arsenal Tank Plant, situated in what is now the suburb of Warren. Its goal: to build swarms of tanks according to auto-making mass production principles—something never accomplished before. . . . In the end, the Detroit Arsenal built more tanks than all of the Third Reich during the war years, tanks that roared through enemy lines all the way to Hitler’s Berlin." (History.com HERE). For every tank the Germans produced the United States built three. (See MotorTrend.com HERE; also see Wikipedia HERE.)
- "Murder in the commission of a felony is murder in the first degree":
  This is known as the Felony Murder Rule: "As of August 2008, 46 states in the United States had a felony murder rule, under which felony murder is generally first-degree murder. In 24 of those states, it is a capital offense. When the government seeks to impose the death penalty on someone convicted of felony murder, the Eighth Amendment has been interpreted so as to impose additional limitations on the state power. The death penalty may not be imposed if the defendant is merely a minor participant and did not actually kill or intend to kill. However, the death penalty may be imposed if the defendant is a major participant in the underlying felony and exhibits extreme indifference to human life." (Wikipedia HERE; see also HERE.)
- Cars also played an important role in the Columbo TV series, being both character designators and alibi busters (think "odometers"). Go to The Columbophile Blog (HERE) for more.
- FictionMags's story list for Edward S. Williams is impressive; his first effort was his only Western in December 1931, after which he started generating crime fiction at a prodigious rate for Dime Detective in 1934 and the other available detective pulps of the '30s and '40s, only stopping with Street & Smith's Detective Story Magazine in November 1944. Series characters: Jonathan Stark (2 stories in Detective Tales, 1937) and Dennis O'Ryley, a.k.a. "The Voice" (11 tales for Ace G-Man Stories, 1940-43).

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(2) "A Drink for Aunt Louisa."
By Francis Fredericks (?-?; FictionMags HERE).
First appearance: Detective Tales, October 1944.
Short short short story (3 pages).
Online at pulpmagazines.org (HERE; go to text page 71).

   "Arnold called the turn . . . Aunt Louisa'd have her soup first, then, as usual, she'd make her tea. And—incidentally—make her nephew into a wealthy man, who would be very, very brave at her funeral. . . ."

"It was so simple. . . ." They all think that, don't they?

Main characters:
~ Arnold Hewes ("The second best was for Arnold"), Aunt Louisa ("She believed in the rights of the first-born"), Walter ("dead at thirty in a soldier's grave in Italy"), Doctor Paine ("He told me to call the police"), and Lieutenant Hallard ("I'm going to perform an experiment").

Resources:
- "A Drink for Aunt Louisa" is the only story credit listed on FictionMags for Francis Fredericks; no other data are available.
- Could "Francis Fredericks" have been Ray Cummings cruising under an alias? Certainly Cummings's affinity for the "perfect crime" has been amply demonstrated on this weblog, for examples: "The Clue Got Lost" (HERE); "The Note on the Dead Man" (HERE); "That Well-Groomed Look" (HERE); "Time for Murder" and "Time Out for Murder" (HERE); and "The Clue Outside" (HERE).
- The last story that we featured which first appeared in Detective Tales was Fredric Brown's "To Slay a Man About a Dog!" (HERE).

Unless otherwise noted, all bibliographical data are derived from The FictionMags Index created by William G. Contento & edited by Phil Stephensen-Payne.
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