Friday, July 23, 2021

"They're Going To Kill Us, You Know"

"Lady Into Hell-cat."
By Stanley Mullen (1911-74).
Illustrated by Alden McWilliams (1916-93; HERE).
First appearance: Planet Stories, Spring 1949.
Reprints page (HERE).
Short story (11 or 16 pages).
Online at The Luminist Archives (HERE; original text; 11 pages; scroll down to page 66), Project Gutenberg (HERE; 16 pages as a PDF), and Archive.org (HERE; original text; 11 pages).

   "Tracking her across black space-lanes and slapping magnetic bracelets on her was duck soup for S.P. Agent Heydrick. Only then did he learn what a planet-load of trouble he'd bought."

Transporting a prisoner has its hazards, but our protagonist will find out just how hazardous transporting this particular prisoner can be . . . .

Main characters:
~ The inspector of security police:
  "They ought to give her a medal. I feel sorry for the girl—good-looker, too. Still sounds like a police job."
~ Ria Tarsen:
  "Of course you're sorry. Now shut up. I hate post-mortems."
~ The co-pilot:
  "I thought you were through with the service."
~ Thorsan:
  "They're no use to us, either of them."
~ Tyko:
  "I don't understand."
~ Heydrick:
  "The universe is getting too crowded."

References and resources:
- "They can't use scopolomine [sic]": It's supposed to make you tell the truth; however:
  "Although a variety of such substances [known as "truth serums"] have been tested, serious issues have been raised about their use scientifically, ethically and legally. There is currently no drug proven to cause consistent or predictable enhancement of truth-telling. Subjects questioned under the influence of such substances have been found to be suggestible and their memories subject to reconstruction and fabrication. When such drugs have been used in the course of investigating civil and criminal cases, they have not been accepted by Western legal systems and legal experts as genuine investigative tools" (Wikipedia HERE and HERE).
- "she's hiding out on Ganymede": Considering its size that would be a neat trick:
  "Ganymede is the third of the Galilean moons from Jupiter. It is the largest moon in the Solar System, bigger than the planet Mercury (though less massive), almost 52% larger than the diameter of the Moon and with twice its mass. It is 77% the diameter of Mars. Ganymede's size made it a popular location for early science fiction authors looking for locations beyond Mars that might be inhabitable by humans. In reality, Ganymede is a cold, icy, cratered world with a vanishingly thin atmosphere" (Wikipedia HERE and HERE).
- "fungi hunters": Evidently at the time of our story it's big (and possibly illegal) business in the Solar System:
  "The fungus kingdom encompasses an enormous diversity of taxa with varied ecologies, life cycle strategies, and morphologies ranging from unicellular aquatic chytrids to large mushrooms. However, little is known of the true biodiversity of Kingdom Fungi, which has been estimated at 2.2 million to 3.8 million species" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "the Moons of Jupiter": When this story was first published nobody knew just how many natural satellites Jupiter has:
  "There are 79 known moons of Jupiter, not counting a number of moonlets likely shed from the inner moons, and S/2003/J/24" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "felt his head swell as if it were going to explode": Anyone who has experienced explosive decompression will tell you it's not a pleasant experience:
  "The term uncontrolled decompression here refers to the unplanned depressuri-sation of vessels that are occupied by people; for example, a pressurised aircraft cabin at high altitude, a spacecraft, or a hyperbaric chamber" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "some benzedrine": It certainly makes taking a nap less likely:
  "At therapeutic doses, amphetamine causes emotional and cognitive effects such as euphoria, change in desire for sex, increased wakefulness, and improved cognitive control. It induces physical effects such as improved reaction time, fatigue resis-tance, and increased muscle strength. Larger doses of amphetamine may impair cognitive function and induce rapid muscle breakdown" (Wikipedia HERE, HERE, and HERE).
- "a velocity of 89 Martian gravities": A scientific error:
  "The average gravitational acceleration on Mars is 3.72076 ms−2 (about 38% of that of Earth), and it varies" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "the Moons of Saturn": The ringed planet has even more satellites than mighty Jupiter:
  "The moons of Saturn are numerous and diverse, ranging from tiny moonlets only tens of meters across to enormous Titan, which is larger than the planet Mercury. Saturn has 82 moons with confirmed orbits that are not embedded in its rings" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "the northern ice-cap of Mars": Living at Earth's South Pole might be more congenial:
  "Mars has ice caps at its north pole and south pole, which mainly consist of water ice; however, there is frozen carbon dioxide (dry ice) present on their surfaces" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "The fused-quartz pane": Our author has anticipated the useful properties of this material in spacecraft windows and pressure domes:
  "Because of its strength, fused silica was used in deep diving vessels such as the bathysphere and benthoscope. Fused silica is also used to form the windows of crewed spacecraft, including the Space Shuttle and International Space Station" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "in the lighters": It was only natural that SFF authors would transpose Earth's nautical practices to outer space:
  "A lighter is a type of flat-bottomed barge used to transfer goods and passengers to and from moored ships" (Wikipedia HERE).
- Stanley Mullen was a member in good standing of Pulpsters Anonymous; see Wikipedia (HERE), the SFE (HERE), and the ISFDb (HERE).
- We've encountered our author a couple of times already: "Shock Treatment" (HERE) and "S.O.S. Aphrodite!" (HERE).
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Tuesday, July 20, 2021

"Heart Stopped—I Can't Feel a Pulse!"

"Right After the Doctor."
By Roy de S. Horn (1894-1973).
First appearance: Detective Novel Magazine, August 1944.
Illustrator unknown.
Reprinted in Top Detective Annual, 1951.
Short story (11 pages).
Online at Archive.org (HERE).
(Note: Text faded but legible.)

The love of money has been called the root of all evil, a fact an asthmatic sea captain is about to learn the hard way . . . .

Principal characters:
~ Captain Munroe:
  "Well, when a seventy-five-year-old man has chronic asthma and dies from choking to death, that's generally the diagnosis."
~ Royal:
  "The canary in the corner—did he die of asthma, too, Doctor?"
~ Kerry:
  "Thirty millions—and he ain't got no more use for it now than that canary!"
~ The parrot:
  "Quarr-r-rrk! Quarrk! All hands and the cook! The cook—the cook—to blazes with the cook. Quarr-r-rrk!"
~ Brewster:
  "I thought I told you to take those infernal birds out of here!"
~ Miss Fenner:
  "I did, Doctor. Truly, I did. But he ordered me to bring them back! Said he preferred honest pets to selfish humans!"
~ Cassidy:
  "Who the devil's been burning old rags in here?"
~ Welton and Harriet Munroe:
  "Captain Munroe's nephew" and "the Captain's niece."
~ Mrs. Murphy:
  ". . . a red-faced, middle-aged woman, unmistakably Irish . . ."
~ Meeghan:
  ". . . captain in charge of the precinct station."
~ The bearded man:
  ". . . looked dazed, nodded, and drew out a legal-looking paper."

Typos: "Well tear up the ticket" [We'll]; "desave" [?].

References and resources:
- "enough cyanide in him to kill a cow!": A favorite with many killers, fictional and real life:
  "If hydrogen cyanide is inhaled it can cause a coma with seizures, apnea, and cardiac arrest, with death following in a matter of seconds. At lower doses, loss of consciousness may be preceded by general weakness, dizziness, headaches, vertigo, confusion, and perceived difficulty in breathing. At the first stages of unconscious-ness, breathing is often sufficient or even rapid, although the state of the person progresses towards a deep coma, sometimes accompanied by pulmonary edema, and finally cardiac arrest" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "while I put on the darbies": "British slang: handcuffs; manacles" (Dictionary.com HERE).
- Roy de Saussure Horn wrote in different genres, including sea adventures, Westerns, war stories, and the occasional detective yarn; FictionMags's list of his short fiction begins in 1920 and runs to 1944, ending with today's story. Their thumbnail: "Naval officer, editor, publisher. Born in Boston, Georgia; died in Annapolis, Maryland."
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Friday, July 16, 2021

"I Understand You Can Perform a Perfect Murder"

"The Killer."
By J. T. Oliver (1927-88).
First appearance: Imagination, March 1952.

Short short short story (3 pages).
Online at Project Gutenberg (HERE) and The Luminist Archives (HERE; original text; scroll down to page 85).

     "Smith made a profitable business out of murder. It was all quite simple—he killed a man and then disposed of the body—forever!"

They never see it coming . . . .

Main characters:
~ Wilma:
  "'I want you to kill my husband,' she said pleasantly."
~ Smith:
  "Here's to a policeman's nightmare—the perfect murder."
~ Rogers:
  "Who are you?"
~ Graevod:
  "Oh but there is a body."

Typo: "envelope their bodies".

Resources:
- Sooner or later even lumbering bureaucracy will catch up with the cleverest killers; see John E. Stith's short short short story, "Goodbye, Howard Henning," featured (HERE).
- The ISFDb bibliography lists only five stories for superfan Joseph Tombs Oliver (HERE). There's a photo tribute site (by Bill Plott) to our author (HERE; PDF), with snippets of background information about the SFF scene that Oliver inhabited; also see (HERE).

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Monday, July 12, 2021

"A Mummy Can Very Well Be Priceless"

EDGAR ALLAN POE essentially invented the detective fiction motif of the "Watson," the clueless narrator being constantly dazzled by the brilliance of the sleuth; with slight variations Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, and a host of other writers heartily embraced it. Today's author does the same when he has his protagonist investigating the skullduggery going on in the . . .

"Museum of the Dead."
By Curtiss T. Gardner (1898-?).

First appearance: Five-Novels Magazine, May-June 1946.
Novelette (28 pages).
Online at Archive.org (HERE).
(Note: Text very faded but legible.)

     "If you don't keep the Company from suffering a heavy loss on this claim, you may find yourself back on the street taking orders from some more resourceful Claims Manager."

When a mummy goes missing from a museum display and a recently murdered man is found in its place, after which more murders start turning up, a sharp insurance investigator, with his fire-breathing boss pushing him hard for results, realizes that he might be in over his head and wisely seeks specialized help: "A mummy? Simply a name for a pickled corpse" . . .


Principal characters:
~ Webb:
  "Collecting ancient curiosities is my hobby."
~ Keefe Scanlan:
   "Are you referring, Webb, to that thing in your hand or the company's time you are wasting?"
~ Clifford Ainsworth:
  "Bleed me . . . Vandals . . . the rug."

~ Dr. Franklin O'Connor:
  "I can't sign away the Museum's claim. That would be acceptance of a bribe, betrayal of my trust."
~ Paul Bancroft:
  "I don't follow you."
~ Bruno Steele:
  "I'm just an ordinary guy in the insurance game. But Bruno Steele is a Master Mind."

~ Sara Murcheson:
  "My horoscope says that sudden death for someone close means independence for me."
~ Lt. Lacey:
  "She's been stabbed. And whoever killed her was taking no chances on possible identification."
~ Prince Ronnoco:
  "In fact, at this very moment, you are in trouble through his activities."

References and resources:
- "a genuine fifteenth century chiseled Italian dag": In times past, as much, if not more, effort was put into making a weapon a work of art than engineering; see the related Wikipedia article (HERE).

- "I reached for my panama": It has never gone out of style:
  "Despite their name, Panama hats have never been made in Panama. They originated in Ecuador where they are made to this day. Their designation as Panama hats originated in the 1850s, when Ecuadorian hat makers emigrated to Panama, where they were able to achieve much greater trade volumes" (Wikipedia HERE).

- "Amenhotep IV, the heretic king who changed his name to Aknaton": A reformer whose memory was almost completely erased:
  "As a pharaoh, Akhenaten is noted for abandoning Egypt's traditional polytheism and introducing Atenism, or worship centered around Aten" (Wikipedia HERE).
  "King Amenhotep IV suffered from an illness called Marfan’s Syndrome, which now affects about one in 5,000 people. This illness is a genetic disorder that involves the body’s connective tissue. The depictions of Akhenaten and his family show that they suffered from Marfan’s Syndrome. Some of these symptoms are an elongated head, neck, arms, hands, and feet. They also had a potbelly and heavy thighs, poor muscle tone, and a short torso. This illness makes people taller than they have to be and they even may die in early ages. Surprisingly, Akhenaten insisted that all of his depictions must be real instead of the muscular-looking depictions of pharaohs in the past as he wanted to look as he really was in his depictions" (Trips in Egypt HERE).

  Akhenaten's "son-in-law and successor" was Smenkhkare:
  "Smenkhkare (alternatively romanized Smenkhare, Smenkare, or Smenkhkara; meaning 'Vigorous is the Soul of Re') was an Egyptian pharaoh of unknown background who lived and ruled during the Amarna Period of the 18th Dynasty. Smenkhkare was husband to Meritaten, the daughter of his likely co-regent, Akhenaten. Very little is known of Smenkhkare for certain because later kings sought to erase the Amarna Period from history. Because of this, perhaps no one from the Amarna Interlude has been the subject of so much speculation as Smenkhkare" (Wikipedia HERE).

- "to its peak during the XXIst dynasty and its decline and abandonment after the Ptolemaic period": We wouldn't know much about Egypt's history if people hadn't left things lying around:
  "The history of Egypt has been long and wealthy, due to the flow of the Nile River with its fertile banks and delta, as well as the accomplishments of Egypt's native inhabitants and outside influence. Much of Egypt's ancient history was a mystery until Egyptian hieroglyphs were deciphered with the discovery and help of the Rosetta Stone. Among the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World is the Great Pyramid of Giza" (Wikipedia HERE).

- "still crusted with the resinous paste used by the embalmers": They were meticulous because they believed there was a lot at stake:
  "The ancient Egyptians had an elaborate set of funerary practices that they believed were necessary to ensure their immortality after death. These rituals included mummifying the body, casting magic spells, and burials with specific grave goods thought to be needed in the afterlife" (Wikipedia HERE).

- "a sculptured figure of the Assyrian King, Tiglath-Pileser III": He was an important figure in ancient Middle Eastern history:
  ". . . a prominent king of Assyria in the eighth century BCE (ruled 745–727 BCE) who introduced advanced civil, military, and political systems into the Neo-Assyrian Empire. He made sweeping changes to the Assyrian government, considerably improving its efficiency and security. He created Assyria's first professional standing army" (Wikipedia HERE).

- "zdravtze" [sic]: Misspelled in the text:
  ". . . Zdravetz, also known as Bulgarian Geranium, is steam distilled from Geranium macrorrhizum, a perennial flowering plant with aromatic leaves. The oil possesses a beautifully complex green, woody, herbaceous and slightly floral aroma" (From Nature with Love HERE).

- "hyssop": A very useful plant:
  "Hyssopus officinalis or hyssop is a shrub in the Lamiaceae or mint family native to Southern Europe, the Middle East, and the region surrounding the Caspian Sea. Due to its purported properties as an antiseptic, cough reliever, and expectorant, it has been used in traditional herbal medicine" (Wikipedia HERE).

- "stratigraphy": A heavy subject of study—or the study of a heavy subject:
  "Stratigraphy is a branch of geology concerned with the study of rock layers (strata) and layering (stratification). It is primarily used in the study of sedimentary and layered volcanic rocks" (Wikipedia HERE).

- "Hissarlik [sic] . . . ancient Troy": It's traditional to assume Homer wrote about it:
  "After many decades of scientific and literary study by specialists, the site is generally accepted by most as the location of ancient Troy, the city mentioned in ancient documents of many countries in several ancient languages, especially ancient Greek, where it appears as Ilion in the earliest literary work of Europe, the Iliad" (Wikipedia HERE).

- "Kreisler, Heifetz and Menuhin": Three well-known violinists in their day:
  "Fritz Kreisler (1875–1962) was an Austrian-born American violinist and composer. One of the most noted violin masters of his day, and regarded as one of the greatest violinists of all time, he was known for his sweet tone and expressive phrasing" (Wikipedia HERE).
  "Jascha Heifetz (1901–87) was a Russian-American violinist. Born in Vilna (Vilnius), he moved as a teenager to the United States, where his Carnegie Hall debut was rapturously received. He was a virtuoso since childhood . . ." (Wikipedia HERE).

  "Yehudi Menuhin, Baron Menuhin, OM KBE (1916–99) was an American-born violinist and conductor who spent most of his performing career in Britain. He is widely considered one of the great violinists of the 20th century" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "the Egyptian god, Horus": Being a god of the sky, he was often associated with the falcon:
  "Horus or Her, Heru, Hor, Har in Ancient Egyptian, is one of the most significant ancient Egyptian deities who served many functions, most notably god of kingship and the sky. He was worshipped from at least the late prehistoric Egypt until the Ptolemaic Kingdom and Roman Egypt" (Wikipedia HERE).

- "a carboy of embalming fluids": That could be anything up to 16 gallons:
  "The word carboy is from the Persian qarābah (قرابه), from Middle Persian Karāvah. Arabic also borrowed it as qarrāba, meaning 'big jug'" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "a devil's tattoo": "A drumming with the fingers or feet" (Wiktionary HERE).
- "Stalin's real handle of Djugashvili": At the time of our story he had seven years left to live, and nobody missed him when he was gone:

  "Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin (born Ioseb Besarionis dzе Jughashvili, 1878–1953) was a Georgian revolutionary and political leader who ruled the Soviet Union from 1927 until his death in 1953" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "a child of the intense fiery sign of Scorpio": Don't confuse it with the astronomical constellation of Scorpius:
  ". . . the Sun transits this sign on average from October 23 to November 22" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "the flail": A nasty thing that can be as dangerous to its user as it is to its target:

  "A flail is a weapon consisting of a striking head attached to a handle by a flexible rope, strap, or chain. The chief tactical virtue of the flail was its capacity to strike around a defender's shield or parry. Its chief liability was a lack of precision and the difficulty of using it in close combat, or closely ranked formations" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "a Pearl Harbor attack": Of all of the air raids in history this one seems to be most remembered:
  "The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service upon the United States (a neutral country at the time) against the naval base at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii, just before 08:00, on Sunday morning, December 7, 1941. The attack led to the United States' formal entry into World War II the next day" (Wikipedia HERE).

- "read Gray's Elegy": You've never heard of it?
  "It embodies a meditation on death, and remembrance after death. Claimed as 'probably still today the best-known and best-loved poem in English,' the Elegy quickly became popular. It was printed many times and in a variety of formats, translated into many languages, and praised by critics even after Gray's other poetry had fallen out of favour" (Wikipedia HERE).
- Curtis Tarring Gardner's FictionMags thumbnail: "Born in Maryland; graduate of MIT; lived in Tice, Florida."

- Our author evolved a series character which the editors of G-Men Detective seem to have been fond of: Bill “Munchausen” Tolliver, steadily appearing in 15 stories from 1943 to 1948. Gardner's other series characters: Charles Mallory (2 stories, 1944 and 1946) and Val Vickers (3 stories, 1943-44). (FictionMags data.) The rest of his short tales, like today's narrative, seem to have been one-offs.
- Another story about an insurance investigator that you might enjoy is Ronald Knox's novel The Three Taps (1927), which we highlighted (HERE).

- With her enthusiasm for archaeology, it's not surprising that Agatha Christie would center one of her Hercule Poirot adventures on a mummy, "The Adventure of the Egyptian Tomb" (1923), which is online at Wikisource (HERE).
- The producers of the Ellery Queen TV series (1975-76), with Jim Hutton as EQ, couldn't resist working a plot around an Egyptian mummy; see "The Adventure of the Pharaoh's Curse" in the Wikipedia article (WARNING! SPOILERS! HERE) and the IMDb (HERE; WARNING! SPOILERS! in comments).
- Philip Wylie also dealt with foul murder in a museum in his story, "Ten Thousand Blunt Instruments" (1944), part of a collection that we highlighted (HERE); to read it, though, you'll have to buy the Crippen & Landru book (HERE).
- We have featured visually impaired detectives in the past: Thomas McMorrow's John Dyce (HERE) and Max Carrados in Ernest Bramah's "The Knight's Cross Signal Problem" (HERE).

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Thursday, July 1, 2021

"A Man Tumbled Out the Window, Bounced Off the Awning in Front of the Building, and Dropped Heavily to the Ground"

"The Time Snatcher."
By Randall Garrett (1927-87).
Illustrator unknown.
First appearance: Imagination, February 1957.
Reprints page (HERE).
Short story (12 pages).
Online at Project Gutenberg (HERE) and Archive.org (HERE).
So what's so serious that a Time Patrolman has to get involved with it? Building a dam, obviously:

  "Time travel, he knew, was possible only so long as the traveller into the past did nothing that would change history significantly; the time-stream itself would straighten out little changes in the past so that overall history would remain the same. But a big change was something else again. If you stick your finger in a river, there are a few ripples around it, but the flow of the river remains the same. If you build a dam, though . . . ."

And a wanted criminal is determined to build that dam . . . .

Principal characters:
~ The Councillor:
  "I'm afraid I don't understand what you mean."
~ Brek Halliday:
  ". . . felt a sudden blow on the back of his neck, and his knees sagged."
~ Joe Sagginer:
  ". . . had been convicted once for illegal use of a time machine, and had been sentenced to ten years . . ."
~ Dori Clayton:
  ". . . stared at him, no recognition in her eyes."
~ The sheriff:
  "You've got trouble, stranger."
~ Chuck:
  "Ed, it really ain't none of my business, but I thought you ought to know that Cactus is gunnin' for you."
~ Sam:
  "No noise from the house."

Reference and resource:
- "a very ordinary-looking cayuse": Without horses there would have been no Wild West to write about:
  ". . . in full, Cayuse Indian pony, North American wild or tame horse, descended from horses taken to the New World by the Spanish in the 16th century. The small and stocky horse had become a distinct breed by the 19th century. It was named for the Cayuse people of eastern Washington and Oregon" (Britannica HERE).
- As we said long ago, we'll be returning to Randall Garrett's pulp fiction quite often; our latest contact with him was his "Heist Job on Thizar" (HERE).
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Monday, June 28, 2021

"Old Fitzhugh's Room Was Locked and Bolted from the Inside"

IN COMMITTING a locked room murder, a killer has a chance to make a clean getaway 
when . . .

"Death Takes a Bath."
By Lampoon—ESS.
First appearance: Campus Humor, Winter 1957.
Short short short story (4 pages).
Online at Archive.org (HERE).

     "The police say it was accidental death."

Three armchair detectives debate the salient points of an acquaintance's watery demise . . . .

Main characters:
~ Bentley:
  "How in the world do you get three?"
~ Herberts:
  "Discoveries?"
~ Genevieve:
  "Yes, like Columbus or Galileo. I made a few discoveries . . ."
~ Fitzhugh:
  ". . . did not step into that tub of his own free will."
~ Charlie:
  ". . . old Fitzhugh treated him badly."

References and resources:
- "He had been reading Finnegan's [sic] Wake": Depending on who you ask, it's either absolutely brilliant, engenders multiple headaches, or induces narcolepsy:
  "Finnegans Wake is a book by Irish writer James Joyce. It has been called a work of fiction which combines a body of fables ... with the work of analysis and deconstruc-tion. It is significant for its experimental style and reputation as one of the most difficult works in the Western canon" (Wikipedia HERE).
  "into a tub with James Joyce": "Joyce's method of stream of consciousness, literary allusions, and free dream associations was pushed to the limit in Finnegans Wake, which abandoned all conventions of plot and character construction, and is written in a peculiar and obscure English, based mainly on complex multilevel puns" (Wikipedia HERE).
- Our author might have been influenced by Dorothy Sayers's first Lord Peter novel, Whose Body? (1923):
  "Thipps, an architect, finds a dead body wearing nothing but a pair of pince-nez in the bath of his London flat" (WARNING! SPOILERS! Wikipedia HERE; text available at Faded Page HERE).
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Friday, June 25, 2021

"Titanic War Hovered Darkly in the Background"

"Hotel Cosmos."
By Raymond Z. Gallun (1911-94).
Illustrations by H. Wesso (1894-1948; HERE).
First appearance: Astounding Science-Fiction, July 1938.
Reprints page (HERE).
Short story (11 pages).
Online at The Luminist Archives (HERE; go down to text page 140).
(Note: It will be necessary to download the entire issue, 158 MB as a PDF.)
(Further note: Text very faded but legible.)
     "A screaming fury was in his nerves—something that was like murder madness, urging him to kill and kill and kill!"

It has been said that being easy going instead of overly sensitive can lead to a long life; a security agent is about to find out just how true that is . . . .

Principal characters:
~ Dave Ledrack:
  "Concealed in his right ear was a tiny etherphone receiver, part of the equipment of every member of the Terrestrial Guard Police, to which he belonged as a requirement of his position as Chief of Watch in the greatest other-world hostelry in the Americas."
~ John Holman:
  ". . . was high-strung. Here in the grip of the sinister aura that pervaded this building, he would be a hopeless, homicidal maniac!"
~ 4-2-5:
  ". . . was reputed to be the greatest trouble-maker, and one of the most brilliant scientists, in the galaxy."
~ X-4-3:
  "Someone has tried to destroy me."
~ The proxies:
  ". . . hurtled toward Dave, like wickedly glittering projectiles, their camera eyes agleam, their metal arms extended like spearpoints."

References and resources:
- The hotel in our story is not to be confused with the one in Moscow (HERE).
- Twenty years after our story first appeared, "Journey to Babel," a Star Trek episode, developed a similar plot set-up; go to Wikipedia (WARNING! SPOILERS! HERE) and Memory Alpha (WARNING! SPOILERS HERE).
- "specially prepared for the individual for which it was reserved": Accommodating the diverse needs of aliens, these being sick or injured, was the prime focus of James White's "Sector General" series:
  "The series derives its name from the setting of the majority of the books, the Sector 12 General Hospital, a huge hospital space station located in deep space, designed to treat a wide variety of life forms with a wide range of ailments and life-support requirements, and to house an equally diverse staff. The Hospital was founded to promote peace after humanity's first interstellar war, and in the fourth book the authorities conclude that its emergency services are the most effective way to make peaceful contact with new species" (WARNING! SPOILERS! Wikipedia HERE).
- "Planet Five of Antares": It's unclear whether or not Antares has a planetary system, but if it does the inhabitants there are no doubt not enjoying the climate:
  "Classified as spectral type M1.5Iab-Ib, Antares is a red supergiant [roughly 550 light-years from the Sun], a large evolved massive star and one of the largest stars visible to the naked eye. Its exact size remains uncertain, but if placed at the center of the Solar System, it would reach to somewhere between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Its mass is calculated to be around 12 times that of the Sun" (Wikipedia HERE and HERE).
- "a porous, silicous composition": Life forms based on silicon, rather than carbon, have been appearing in SFF for quite some time:
  "The silicon atom has been much discussed as the basis for an alternative biochem-ical system, because silicon has many chemical properties similar to those of carbon and is in the same group of the periodic table, the carbon group. Like carbon, silicon can create molecules that are sufficiently large to carry biological information.
  "In cinematic and literary science fiction, at a moment when man-made machines cross from nonliving to living, it is often posited, this new form would be the first example of non-carbon-based life. Since the advent of the micro-processor in the late 1960s, these machines are often classed as computers (or computer-guided robots) and filed under 'silicon-based life,' even though the silicon backing matrix of these processors is not nearly as fundamental to their operation as carbon is for 'wet life'" (Wikipedia HERE) and (Memory Alpha HERE).
- "they looked quite a bit like those abhorrent Earthly marine animals—sting rays": In the late '30s, SFF writers could with some justice assert that Venus was a water world:
  "Some scientists envisioned Venus as Panthalassa ('all ocean'), with perhaps a few islands. Large land masses could not exist, they said, because land would cause vertical atmospheric currents breaking up the planet's solid cloud layer" (Wikipedia HERE). "'Everything points to there being large amounts of water on Venus in the past,' says Colin Wilson, Oxford University, U.K. But that does not necessarily mean there were oceans on the planet’s surface" (Universe Today HERE).
- "a fragment of Old Mars": As with Venus, SFF pulpsters often fancied Mars as a dying desertified planet:
  "Mariner 4 in July 1965  found that Mars—contrary to expectations—is heavily cratered, with a very thin atmosphere. No canals were found; while scientists did not believe that Mars was a moist planet, the lack of surface water surprised them. Science fiction had so influenced real explorations of the planet, however—Carl Sagan was among the many fans who became scientists—that after Mariner 9 in 1971–1972, craters were named after Wells, Burroughs, and other authors. The Mariner and Viking space probes confirmed that the Martian environment is extremely hostile to life. By the 1970s, the ideas of canals and ancient civilizations had to be abandoned.
  "Authors soon began writing stories based on the new Mars (frequently treating it as a desert planet). Most of these works feature humans struggling to tame the planet, and some of them refer to terraforming (using technology to transform a planet's environment to be Earthlike)" (Wikipedia HERE).
- Raymond Zinke Gallun (pronounced "galloon") had a very creditable SFFnal career: Wikipedia (HERE), the SFE (HERE), Fancyclopedia (HERE), the ISFDb (HERE), and the IMDb (HERE; 3 credits).
- It has been almost five years since we made first contact with Raymond Gallun when we highlighted his story, "Saturn's Ringmaster" (HERE).
Artwork by Gary Larson.
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