Friday, September 16, 2016

"Why Are We Fighting Over Unworkable Earthside Rules?"

"Mars Trial."
By Theodore L. Thomas (1920-2005).
First appearance: Future Science Fiction, Summer 1957.
Novelette (41 pages).
Online at SFFAudio HERE (PDF).
(Note: Text fuzzed up in a few places but still legible.)
"The Auerbach Case was crucial for the Mars colony, for the complications of four sectors brought on a controversy as to whether the English, Russians, Germans, or Americans would try the murderer. And that was the start of ruinous conflict . . ."
Long before he emigrated to Mars, Gray Landers had given up being a lawyer and went into operations management; besides, as he tells a friend, the two thousand people in the Mars colony, who come from just about every advanced nation, are totally dedicated to sustaining themselves, making a success of the colony, and overcoming the Red Planet's harsh condi-tions, so:
"There's no room for lawyers; they don't contribute enough to our kind of society."
And that is the case—until there's a murder, upsetting the whole carefully balanced social order on Mars, threatening to cause all of that international comity to evaporate like fog on
a hot summer morning, and pushing the colonists towards civil war.
A reluctant Landers finds himself caught in the middle of this muddle:
"Everybody keeps telling me I'm a lawyer and then giving me hell when I talk like one."
He doesn't like it, but Landers will need to figure out how to apply common sense to this explosive situation to avoid a total disaster—and if that means starting a revolution, then
so be it.

Comment: This story isn't crime fiction per se, but rather an account of how people deal with a crisis precipitated by a crime.

Typos: "The went into the living room"; "the entire hanger crew"; "the increase difficulty in breathing."
Click on image to enlarge. (Credit: National Geographic Kids Magazine.)
- You can read plenty about our author, Theodore Thomas, (HERE), (HERE), (HERE), and (HERE).
- The story mentions the Irresistible Impulse Rule (see HERE) and the McNaughten Case (discussed HERE).
- At least by the summer of 1957 science fiction authors knew enough about Mars to give their characters protective clothing ("outsuits" in the story); Wikipedia has more about the Red Planet in fact (HERE), fiction (HERE), and culture (HERE).
Mars compared to the Earth
- Wherever people go—and that includes outer space—there'll always be a need for some sort of legal organization to protect lives and property (as much as they can, anyhow); see "Space Law" on the Atomic Rockets supersite (HERE) for many ideas gleaned from fact and science fiction (basically, "No laws = no civilization nor the benefits thereof").
- Since our story takes place in a colony on Mars, you can read all about "Planet and Space Colonies" (HERE), also on Atomic Rockets; because Earth governments make the colonists' situation worse, scroll to "Decay of the Fatherland" (HERE). In the end, of course, space colonization might never happen because of that ineluctable bottom line:
The sad fact of the matter is that it is about a thousand times cheaper to colo-nize Antarctica than it is to colonize Mars. Antarctica has plentiful water and breathable air, Mars does not. True, the temperature of Mars does occasionally grow warmer than Antarctica, but at its coldest Mars can get 50° C colder than Antarctica. In comparison to Mars, Antarctica is a garden spot. Yet there is no Antarctican land-rush. One would suspect that there [will be] no Martian land-rush either, except among a few who find the concept to be romantic.
Click on image to enlarge. (Credit: National Geographic Kids Magazine.)

The bottom line: "I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical."
Thomas Jefferson

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