Monday, October 21, 2019

"This Is the Trial of a Living Man for the Crime of a Man Who No Longer Exists"

"A Question of Identity."
By Frank Riley (1915-96).
Illustration by Virgil Finlay (1914-71; HERE).
First appearance: IF — Worlds of Science Fiction, April 1958.

Online at Project Gutenberg (HERE; 27 pages as a PDF) and (start HERE, finish HERE; 22 pages).

     "What is a Man?...A paradox indeed—the world's finest minds gathered to defend a punk killer...."

When do you stop being you?

Major characters:
~ Judge Hayward:

  "Any mule can kick a barn down; it takes a good carpenter to build one."
~ Tony Corfino:

  ". . . a bungling hoodlum who had killed two bystanders in a miserable attempt to rob 
a bank."
~ The D.A.:
  ". . . I'm going to whip you, Jake—and that punk's going to burn!"
~ Jake Emspak:
  "First, we will prove that the law has not kept pace with the progress of science and the forward march of human thought. Second, we will prove that Tony Corfino is not Tony Corfino!"

Typos: "was fasted around Tony's right arm" ["fastened" or "made fast"]; "a complex 
casual series" ["causal"].

References and resources:
- "In the glass-fronted TV booth, where the 80-year-old Edward R. Murrow had created something of a stir by his unexpected appearance a few moments earlier": For a while in the 1940s through the '60s, Murrow (1908-65; Wikipedia; HERE) enjoyed fame as a radio and then later television newscaster, but contrary to our story he died at the age of 57; his age places the story in 1988. "Could Jake Emspak's fee be traced back to Peiping, new headquarters for the Comintern?": A very dated reference to the Communist International (Wikipedia; HERE), an organization dedicated to "struggle by all available means, including armed force, for the overthrow of the international bourgeoisie and the creation of an international Soviet republic as a transition stage to the complete abolition of the state." "This looked like an interminable case, even on microfilm.": A now-primitive kind of document reader (Wikipedia; HERE and especially HERE). "From Los Angeles, the 
ebullient old television commentator, George Putnam, still indefatigable in his late 
sixties, reported . . .": Putnam (1914-2008; Wikipedia; HERE) would indeed have been 
that old in 1988. "It was Benjamin Cardoza [sic] who said . . .": Benjamin N. Cardozo 
(1870-1938; Wikipedia; HERE), the lawyer and judge.
- Like all worthwhile human endeavors, organ transplantation (Wikipedia; HERE) can be perverted into criminal activity (Wikipedia; HERE); meanwhile, due to how they were 
abused, lobotomies (Wikipedia; HERE) have since fallen out of favor.
- Frank Wilbert Rhylick adopted the nom de plume of Frank Riley, although his SFF-nal output was quite limited; see Wikipedia (HERE), the SFE (HERE), the ISFDb bibliography (HERE), and a collection of his stories on Project Gutenberg (HERE).
- Science fiction/fantasy (SFF) has been kicking around the idea of what constitutes humanity for a long time; even Star Trek weighed in on the topic thirty years ago with a Next Generation episode (HERE; Wikipedia; SPOILERS). Long before then, however, the provocative existence of Adam Link gave rise to the notion (HERE), although he wasn't comprised of "meatware" like Corfino and couldn't be classified as a cyborg (Wikipedia; HERE).
- Just this past May we featured another trial-themed Frank Riley story, "The Cyber and Justice Holmes" (HERE).


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