Wednesday, March 13, 2024

"Three Measly Little Miles!"

"Old Fireball."
Kerry Dale No. 1.
By Nat Schachner (1895-1955; Wikipedia HERE; ISFDb HERE).
Illustrated by Schneeman (1912-72; ISFDb HERE).
First appearance: Astounding, June 1941.
Novelette (27 pages, 2 illos).
Online at The Luminist Archives (HERE; go to text page 79).
(Note: Text slightly faded.)
(Parental caution: Some harsh language.)

   "As space became less of a thing unknown, and law and order took the place of the old scramble for new worlds, however, codes were established, spheres delimited and space law came into being."

A contract is a contract, and you're well-advised to read the fine print. A battle of wits and wills erupts between the umbrageous owner of a huge space corporation and a normally smart young lawyer who injudiciously forgets about the fine print and gets himself in a bind. Ultimately the question becomes whether the younger guy will be able to outsmart the corporate magnate before said captain of industry goes toes up . . .

Main characters (in order of appearance):
~ Simeon Kenyon:
  "Old Fireball was his nickname because of his habit of staging explosions on the slightest provocation."
~ Sally Kenyon:
  "She was mighty easy to look at."
~ Kerry Dale:
  "It was quite a comedown—from legal light to cargo wrestler. But what the hell! It was a job; and his funds were out."
~ Roger Horn:
  ". . . that smug old fossil."
~ Jem:
  "He shoved suddenly; and Kerry, off balance, went flying into the hold."
~ Captain Zachariah Ball of the Flying Meteor:
  "'Put this blasted swab into the brig,' he roared, 'without food or water until he's ready to work. And if he bothers me again, I'll make rocket fuel of him'."
~ Jericho Foote:
  "He must of spent a cool hundred thousand on that expedition of his alongside. All he brought back for it was a beautiful chart of that whole sector of space."
~ Jake Henner:
  "There wasn't anything left tuh bring back tuh bury, so I sorta registered the rock for his sake, me bein' sentimentallike."
~ Bellamy:
  "'They . . . they wouldn't have met,' Bellamy went on unhappily."

References and resources:
- "many and Homeric were the legal tilts and battles":
  "Homeric": A reference to the poet Homer and his magnum opuses, The Iliad and The Odyssey. (Wikipedia HERE.) "tilts": Contests usually called "jousting." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "the dangers of the Belt":
  Science fiction writers fell in love with the Asteroid Belt a long time ago. (Wikipedia HERE and HERE.)
- "the government of Mars":
  In those days Mars was a stylized version of the Sahara. (Wikipedia HERE and HERE.)
- "Ceres, Pallas, Vesta, and Juno":
  Not nearly as hospitable as many SFF authors have imagined: Ceres (Wikipedia HERE), Pallas (Wikipedia HERE), Vesta (Wikipedia HERE), and Juno (Wikipedia HERE).
- "the web-footed natives of Venus":
  Our author adopts the swampy version of the mysterious planet. (Wikipedia HERE and HERE.)
- "the Ganymedan hoosegow":
  So far the biggest known moon in the Solar System. (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "not far from Jupiter itself":
  Some wag has said that the Solar System consists of the Sun, the planet Jupiter, and a bunch of debris; over 1,300 Earths could fit inside Jupiter. (Wikipedia HERE and HERE.)
- "the first gold stampedes on Earth to California and the Klondike":
  It's reasonable to assume that gold fever will move out into space when humans do. (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "he formed holding companies":
  "A holding company is a company whose primary business is holding a controlling interest in the securities of other companies. A holding company usually does not produce goods or services itself. Its purpose is to own stock of other companies to form a corporate group." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "the law of inertia":
  In our story Kerry Dale puts a lot of faith in inertia. (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "a little space knockabout with a cruising range to the Moon":
  An extrapolation from maritime usage: "a small yacht or dinghy."
- "a still-unexplored Saturn":
  And still the most spectacular of the Outer Planets; some would say it's the prettiest one in the System. (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "The new atom-smashers that powered the world's work":
  An optimistic expectation. (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "the elements of its orbit":
  "Evolution of the orbital elements takes place due to the gravitational pull of bodies other than the primary, the nonsphericity of the primary, atmospheric drag, relativistic effects, radiation pressure, electromagnetic forces, and so on." (Wikipedia HERE.) It's that "and so on" that has Kerry worried.
- "do something, do anything, to shift that infernal bit of rock away":
  Moving space mountains around can have dire consequences. (Wikipedia HERE and HERE; see especially "Deflection technology concerns.")
- About the significance of Simeon Kenton's first name, see (HERE).
- "I got me a fine, too":
  In some jurisdictions it's common practice. (Wikipedia HERE.)
- The premise of possibly getting hit by a big space rock became the story starter for two 1960s TV series episodes: (WARNING! SPOILERS! HERE) and (WARNING! SPOILERS! HERE).
Previous story:
- There were only two novelettes in this series: No. 1, "Old Fireball" (above) and No. 2, "Jurisdiction" (ONTOS HERE), later combined in a fix-up novel. Since "Jurisdiction" 
heavily references events in "Old Fireball," we recommend that you read "Old Fireball

Unless otherwise noted, all bibliographical data are derived from The FictionMags Index created by William G. Contento & edited by Phil Stephensen-Payne.

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