Friday, December 6, 2019

"Surprises Had Come Too Fast—Surprise Number One Being That He Was Still Alive"

SCIENCE FICTION often deals with the impact of new developments on society, e.g., if more people have cars, how would that affect the birthrate? (Think about it.) The advent of personal force shields on society at large and social status in particular is the main concern of today's story, appropriately entitled . . .

"Crack in the Shield."
By Arthur Sellings (Arthur Gordon Ley, 1921-68).
First appearance: The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, January 1968.

Reprints page (HERE).
Novelette (26 pages).

Online at (HERE).

     "A gun spoke from somewhere."

It seems self-evident—in fact, blindingly obvious—that if everyone is impervious to harm, crime would plummet—and wouldn't that be great? But, then, there are always unintended consequences . . .

~ Randall Gotfryd:

  "Some of you could find yourselves laughing all the way down to the Street."
~ Freda Tawn:
  ". . . had turned on her heel and was stalking off."
~ George Bleckendorf:
  "George had a wicked sense of humor, but he kept it in check at his wife's gatherings."
~ Ray Donovan:
  "All you millions of people behind your smug little personal shields and car shields and house shields are living in a womb."
~ Gloria Paston:
  "Why, hel-lo. Where have you been hiding your gorgeous self all this time?"
~ Philip Tawn:
  ". . . ran amok—such being the world in which he lived—with the utmost probity, within himself."
~ Kim:
  "They didn't solve the problem of violence, only retreated from it."

First sentence:
   "The day—the climactic day in the life of Philip Tawn—began with deceptive normality."
Final sentence:
   "The trumpets sounded fine."

Comment: The Eloi (HERE)-Morlock (HERE) schism flipped over with a few clever tweaks.

- REFERENCES: ~ "Chicago's nurse slayer": A sensational crime that dominated the news at the time of our story's publication:

   "Richard Benjamin Speck (1941-91) was an American mass murderer who systematically tortured, raped, and murdered eight student nurses from South Chicago Community Hospital on the night of July 13 into the early morning hours of July 14, 1966." — Wikipedia (HERE).

~ "Austin's mad sniper": A mass murderer whose story has attracted the attention of movie and TV producers over the years:

   "On August 1, 1966, after stabbing his mother and his wife to death the night before, Charles Whitman (1941-66), a former Marine, took rifles and other weapons to the observation deck atop the Main Building tower at the University of Texas at Austin, then opened fire indiscriminately on people on the surrounding campus and streets. Over the next 96 minutes he shot and killed 14 more people (including an unborn baby) and injured 31 others. One final victim died in 2001 from the lingering effects of his wounds. The incident ended when a policeman and a civilian reached Whitman and shot him dead. The attack was the deadliest mass shooting by a lone gunman in U.S. history until it was surpassed 18 years later by the San Ysidro McDonald's massacre." — Wikipedia (HERE).

~ "the riot in 1967": Referring to civil unrest in Motor City:

   "The 1967 Detroit Rebellion, also known as the 1967 Detroit Riot or 12th Street riot was the bloodiest incident in the 'Long, hot summer of 1967'. Composed mainly of confrontations between black residents and the Detroit Police Department, it began in the early morning hours of Sunday July 23, 1967, in Detroit, Michigan. The precipitating event was a police raid of an unlicensed, after-hours bar then known as a blind pig, on the city's Near 
West Side. It exploded into one of the deadliest and most destructive riots in American history, lasting five days and surpassing the violence and property destruction of Detroit's 1943 race riot 24 years earlier." — Wikipedia (HERE).

~ "he had been without the protection of his shield": An artificial force field:

   "In speculative fiction, a force field, sometimes known as an energy shield, force shield, force bubble, defence shield or deflector shield, is a barrier made of energy, plasma, or particles. It protects a person, area, or object from attacks or intrusions. This fictional technology is created as a field of energy without mass that acts as a wall, so that objects affected by the particular force relating to the field are unable to pass through the field and reach the other side. This concept has become a staple of many science-fiction works, so much that authors frequently do not even bother to explain or justify them to their readers, treating them almost as established fact and attributing whatever capabilities the plot requires." — Wikipedia (HERE).

~ "much more primitive roots of totem and taboo": An oblique allusion to a book by Sigmund Freud (Wikipedia HERE).
~ "guns synchronized to shoot through the sweep of their airscrews": Quite popular for a while:

   "A synchronization gear, or a gun synchronizer, sometimes rather less accurately called an interrupter, is attached to the armament of a single-engine tractor-configuration aircraft so it can fire through the arc of its spinning propeller without bullets striking the blades. The idea presupposes 
a fixed armament directed by aiming the aircraft in which it is fitted at the target, rather than aiming the gun independently." — Wikipedia (HERE).

- Until his fatal heart attack, Arthur Sellings was on a roll to achieve even greater fame in SFF circles; see Wikipedia (HERE), the SFE (HERE), and the ISFDb (HERE).

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