Thursday, December 15, 2016

"This Calls for an Anachronistic Approach"

"Kangaroo Court."
By Daniel F. Galouye (1920-76).
First appearance: Worlds of IF, September 1960.
Reprinted in The Last Leap and Other Stories of the Super-Mind (1964).
Novelette (36 pages).
Online at Archive.org (HERE).
"Blake's future was dark. He had murdered his friend—his life was forfeit—and now he had to break the news to the corpse!"
In the year 4366, asteroid miners Greg Blake and his partner Art Thorman have just struck a motherlode of kitarium in the Hound's Tooth Nebula and, to celebrate, launch themselves into a B-jolt bender to end all B-jolt benders; Greg's elation evaporates, however, when he comes to and finds his friend murdered in the ship's control cabin and himself the prime suspect. The facts that only his fingerprints are on the murder weapon, that the control room was locked, and that he can't remember anything at all seem to make it one of those prover-bial open-and-shut cases. It's definitely damning enough for large numbers of the Consensus to believe him guilty.
The Consensus—Greg Blake's world of the 44th century is comprised of free-reading telepaths (including Greg) with, mercifully, a limited range—an entirely empathic society from which nothing can be concealed for very long. Since everyone's life is an open book to everyone else, it's impossible to lie or keep a secret; consequently crime has disappeared and with it the need for law enforcement, i.e., no cops. Because Greg doesn't know whether or not he killed Art but is afraid he might have, he's willing to surrender and take the conse-quences, which in the case of the Consensus would be summary execution by the focused mental power of thousands of its citizens—not a pleasant prospect.

Greg, though, is mistaken; he didn't kill his partner, either intentionally or accidentally, but someone did—very intentionally—someone who has managed to do what everybody thinks is impossible, commit murder in a fishbowl and get away with it . . . well, almost.

Comment: This story takes the basic premise of Alfred Bester's The Demolished Man (1953) and squeezes a new plotline out of it.

Characters:
~ The victim:
   "Art Thorman lay there, dead, with his left shoulder and half of his head burned away."
~ Greg Blake:
   "Greg broke and lunged for the building. The car streaked for him, accelerating close to Mach One, and he hurled himself to the ground. The cyclonic tailwash of the vehicle rolled him over and over like a dry leaf. Gaining altitude, it screamed around in a tight turn and dived once more."
~ Virgil Blake, Greg's brother:
   "He—the real murderer—could at this very moment be plotting your 'accidental' death so the public will consider the whole case settled."
~ Felco Irwan, the Monitor of the Consensus:
   "Police used to be an armed force within a community. That was in pre-empathy days, when crime flourished in psychic privacy. This, Mr. Blake, is an unusual crime. We might 
call it an anachronism. And it's my judgment that primitive methods of resolution are warranted. I therefore assigned Chief Ronsted and Detective Waverly to the case."
~ Elar Ronsted, the Chief of Police:
   "Can you imagine what would happen if someone were to devise a way to permanently conceal part or all of his conscious thoughts?"
~ Stafford Waverly, the Detective:
   "And the Detective was the official who outsmarted the criminal. After a crime was committed he found out how it was done, why and who did it."

Resources:
- Bio-bibliographical data about Daniel F. Galouye are easily accessible (HERE), (HERE), and (HERE).
- The only other reprints of this story in English were in the U.K. edition of IF and in book form in England, The Last Leap and Other Stories of the Super-Mind (1964); here's the TOC:
   "The Last Leap," Worlds of IF, January 1960
   "Kangaroo Court," Worlds of IF, September 1960
   "Sanctuary," Fantasy and Science Fiction, February 1954
   "Deadline Sunday," Imagination, October 1955
   "Fighting Spirit," Galaxy, December 1960
   "Jebaburba," Galaxy, October 1954
   "Seeing-Eye Dog," Galaxy, September 1956.
- The idea of telepathy and crime interacting with each other seems to be one that science fiction writers simply can't resist; ONTOS has covered two instances of that (HERE) and (HERE).
- At first telepathy sounds like a great idea, but as TV Tropes cautions us, "A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Read" (HERE).

The bottom line:
   I'd like to find a woman who just tells me what she's thinking,
   Who doesn't feel she has to lie just to be kind,
   So if you're out there listening, I'm looking for love,
   And the catch is, I can read your mind . . .
   — Tom Smith

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