Monday, December 17, 2018

"There’s Nothing We Can Do To Stop It"

"Further Laws of Robotics."
By Josh Pearce.
Illustration by JACEY.
First appearance: Nature/Futures, 14 June 2018.
Short short short story (1 page).
Online at (HERE; PDF).
     "No, it is I who must congratulate you and the human race for your excellence in the robotic prime programming. By the simple mandate of 
the nth law of robotics, all robots fall naturally into the highest moral behaviour."

To misquote the poet, the paths of logic gates can but lead to the grave . . .

- Josh Pearce specializes in poetry and short fiction (ISFDb; HERE).

Friday, December 14, 2018

Three Under the Same Cover

A GUY who's good with numbers, a clown with a sure-fire retirement plan, and a cop whose final resting place could be inside a cement wall, all in the same issue . . .

"Whirling Digits."
By Howard E. Lum, Jr. (?-?).
First appearance: Clues Detective Stories, September 1939.
Short short short story (4 pages, 1 illo).
Online at (HERE).
(Note: Text is very faded.)

     ". . . my eyes not only took another look at the big pair of shoes but also noticed that the top bureau drawer was open, the drawer where Dave kept his .45."

You're about to be robbed by vicious thugs in your apartment but you have a chance to dial the phone. Do you call the police? If you're Dave, of course not!
~ ~ ~
"A Clown Laughs."
By Jack Storm (house pseudonym).
First appearance: Clues Detective Stories, September 1939.
Short short short story (3 pages, 1 illo).
Online at (HERE).

(Note: Text is very faded.)

     "A little patience, a little study—the whole situation was in the bag."

This clown is determined to get the last guffaw—or else . . .

Typos: "a superhigh paid of stilts"; "the smoothiest".

- Whoever "Jack Storm" was/were, he/she/they was/were responsible for quite a few yarns featuring Doc Savage, The Shadow, and The Avenger from the late '30s to the mid-'40s (FictionMags data).
~ ~ ~
. . . and finally, another visit with a Grand Master of the pulps:

"The Painted Circle."
By Norman A. Daniels (Norman Arthur Danberg, 1905-95).
First appearance: Clues Detective Stories, September 1939.
Short story (13 pages, 1 illo).
Online at starting (HERE) and finishing (HERE).

(Note: Text is very faded.)
     "This mob worked with the efficiency of some grim machine."

It's bad enough when the mob starts "murdering" public officials in effigy—but when they begin doing it for real, it's going to take one tough cop to put a stop to it.

Comment: Mike Shannon is James Bond in everything but name, and like Bond he makes remarkable progress with a minimum of sleuthing.

Major characters:
~ Sergeant Mike Shannon:

  "The descending object struck the sidewalk with a hideous sound, like the snapping of a thousand wooden matches. A woman fainted. Men turned away, and Shannon approached the object with grim determination. Then he closed his eyes for one long moment, opened them again and stared."
~ Benjamin Forbes:
  "If you heard me talking, I was probably having nightmares."
~ Inspector Dolan:

  "We have a hundred detectives working on the case and we don't even know what is 
behind it."
~ Barton:
  "Honest, sarge. I don't know anythin' about it. Me—I'm ready to blow town, see."

- To see why we refer to Norman A. Daniels as a Grand Master, go (HERE; ONTOS). (Note: The links to the Pulpgen Online Pulps site have changed in the interim.)

The bottom line:

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

"Let Us Say That There Are Those Who Think Your Death Would Be the Simplest Solution to Their Problem"

"Witness for the Persecution."
By Randall Garrett (1927-87).
First appearance: The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, February 1966.
Reprints page (HERE).
Novelette (18 pages).
Online at (HERE).
     "Big holes were suddenly appearing in the wall near the door of my place, splattering plastite all over the place, filling the corridor with dust and smoke."

No doubt about it—somebody wants Walt Gayle very, very dead . . .

Major characters:
~ Walt Gayle (narrator):

  "I don't mind collecting damage insurance, but I'd just as soon my life insurance stays in effect for a while. You saved my life twice."

~ Jeremiah:
  "I'm sort of a troubleshooter, you might say."

~ Mirom Flood:
  "Maybe I'm a child, Walt. Maybe I'm a romantic. But I still say he's from the Double World. He's got mental powers that - that you and I can never understand."

It's unsettling to think that Jeremiah's summary of the theory of how government operates ("a pattern as old as Mankind") might be true:

   "A revolution is dangerous. People get killed. So you take the majority and split it into two parts. It's a process that works well in a regimented, but moribund and self-satisfied society. You call the two parts of the majority group Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Then you set it up so that Tweedledum is in power. When the minority becomes fed up to the ears with Tweedledum, you have a revolution - either with guns or with ballots - and then Tweedledee takes over. The people are lulled into thinking that there has been a change. Then, when people are sick and tired of Tweedledee, there is another revolu-tion and Tweedledum comes back into power. Again the people are lulled. Or gulled, if you prefer."

So, in the last election, did you vote for Tweedledum or Tweedledee?

Typos: "irristible force"; "Barensstar's System".

- Paragravity, alas, still exists only in fiction:

   "In science fiction, artificial gravity (or cancellation of gravity) or 'para-gravity' is sometimes present in spacecraft that are neither rotating nor accelerating. At present, there is no confirmed technique that can simulate gravity other than actual mass or acceleration."
   —"Antigravity," Wikipedia (HERE)

Also see Winchell Chung's Atomic Rockets "Antigravity" page (HERE; slow-load site; then scroll down to "Paragravity").

- Barnesworld evidently orbits a binary star system partially outside the plane of the Milky Way galaxy:

  "I stood at the window of my small bachelor's apartment and looked at the suns, seeing them without noticing them. The primary, One, was simply being its normal yellow self, while the distant Two was a bright, hard, diamond pin-point of blue-white. During the years when Two is in the night sky, there is no real night, because Two illuminates the planet beautifully. But now, when Two was passing around the other side of One, the nights were black. The Galactic Lens is clear from here, but we have no moon."

See the Wikipedia articles "Binary star" and "Binary stars in fiction" (HERE and HERE), "Exoplanet" and the "List of potentially habitable exoplanets" (HERE and HERE), and 
"Stars and planetary systems in fiction" (HERE).
- It was only last June that we visited with Gordon Randall Phillip David Garrett (HERE).

Monday, December 10, 2018

"A Person He Would Least Suspect of Wanting to Kill Him"

HERE WE HAVE a narrative that began life as a television episode, was converted into a magazine story, and then adapted again for TV.

"The Assassin."
(a.k.a. "Business Trip").
By Elliot West (1924-2003).

First appearance: "An earlier version of this story was presented in dramatic form on the [live] television program Danger."
Second appearance: Collier's, May 2, 1953.
Reprinted in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine (EQMM), May 1956; EQMM (U.K.), May 1956; and EQMM (Australia), July 1956.
Filmed for the TV series Studio One in 1958 (HERE).
Short short story (7 pages).
Online at UNZ (HERE).

     "Never once had Bellingham accepted payment for doing something he was ashamed of."

One business trip too many . . .

Major characters:
~ Bellingham (no first name):

  "At fifty-six, in a state of semi-retirement, he had managed to provide a solid, well-appointed house in the English Midlands for his wife Edith and their daughter Dorothy, and appeared to lead a most enviable kind of late middle life; one without strife or unrest."
~ Edith Bellingham:
  ". . . would take exception to rain or dankness, since he was not too robust and since she was, perhaps, a bit overprotective. This was especially so when he would prepare to embark on one of his not-too-frequent business trips."
~ Hakete:
  "In the back of a restaurant, oppressively dim and partitioned off by two beaded curtains, sat a man wearing a fez. He was dark, heavy-set and unsmiling."
~ Mr. Garrett:
  "'You see, they didn't tell me what you were like,' he said. 'I would have expected someone quite different for this sort of thing. You seem to be so — gentle.'"
~ Arnold Devry:
  "It was hard to say whether he was very silly or very smug. In any case, he was friendly, perhaps a little too much so . . ."
~ Inspector Wickes:
  "It might make things easier for you if you told us a few things now."

- FictionMags lists only two more stories by Elliot West: "I'm Getting Out," Manhunt, July 1953 and "The Meeting in Paris," Cosmopolitan, April 1957 (TV version HERE). This is the same Elliot West who enjoyed a long career in Hollywood, writing "more than 100 television scripts for such shows as Alfred Hitchcock Presents" (IMDb HERE and HERE).


Friday, December 7, 2018

"Just Beyond That Little Bit of Warm Skin and Blood Was Cold Polyurethane, Metal and Circuitry"

By Thomas Broderick.
Illustration by JACEY.
First appearance: Nature/Futures, 5 January 2017.
Short short short story (1 page).
Online at (HERE; PDF).

     "In the southwest corner of the apartment's basement was approximately 10 kilograms of flesh and hair surrounded by a large pool of partially dried blood."

Immortality is grand, but it always comes at a price . . .

Typo: "in the proceeding three days"

- According to the ISFDb, Thomas Broderick has two stories to his credit so far (HERE).

- The title is a metaphor for (THIS); in literature, music, TV and film, and business, the word in its non-literal sense has been in vogue for years (HERE).

- The Cast Off process in our story is still vastly more sophisticated than what is outlined (HERE; PDF) and (HERE); in a technical sense, even these accounts don't quite explain it (HERE) and (HERE).

The bottom line:
   "And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die."
     — The Bible


Wednesday, December 5, 2018

"If You Hadn't Forgotten and Locked That Door You Might Have Gotten Away with It"

"Creature of Habit."
By William P. McGivern (1922-82).
First appearance: Mammoth Mystery, October 1946.
Short story (12 pages).
Online at (HERE).

     "You will receive your punishment before long."

It's the little things, they tell us, that make life worth living, but it's also the little things that can get you the gas chamber . . .

~ Detective O'Neill (narrator):

  "The call came into the station about ten o'clock in the morning."
~ Larson and Smith:
  "'Larson reads detective novels,' I said. 'He thinks he's Ellery Queen lately. Smith doesn't read anything, because he never learned how. What am I going to do with those two meat-balls? Let me take McIntyre or —'"

~ Inspector Evans:
  "'That's enough, O'Neill.' He looked at me over his rimless spectacles and nodded at the door. 'Better get going.' That ended the argument."

~ Mr. Prescott:
  ". . . was sitting in his chair. There was a white gag through his lips and there was a blue hole in his forehead from which blood was welling."

~ Agnes:
  "He told me to let her come in. I didn't like it. She didn't look right."
~ Laura Prescott Walsh and Ralph Walsh:
  "What do we need an alibi for? If you think we killed him, you're crazy."

Typos: "agrument"; "on the niside"; "comes up with the [?] everyone else"; "and look up"; "they aloped"; "O'Malley talking" [should be O'Neill]; "tableclothes".

- William Peter McGivern was equally adept at SFF and crime fiction:

   "By his own estimate McGivern wrote 300 stories for Ziff-Davis, about half of which were sf/fantasy and half mystery/suspense."
   — "William P. McGivern," SFE: The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (HERE)

- Plenty of info about McGivern can be found in Wikipedia (HERE), the SFE (HERE), and the IMDb (HERE).
- This isn't the first time we've met McGivern; we featured a couple of his SFFnal efforts (HERE) and (HERE).

Monday, December 3, 2018

"X-o4 Hereby Demands, Through Counsel, That Humanity Cease Its Use of the Patented Subject Matter Immediately"

"Cease and Desist."
By Tyler Young.
Illustration by JACEY.
First appearance: Nature/Futures, 19 January 2017.
Short short short story (1 page).
Online at (HERE; PDF).

     "The only facts that matter are these: (1) X-o4 holds the Patent; and (2) humanity's existence violates the Patent."

Twelve billion individual patent violations per second! A tort lawyer's dream come true . . .

- Tyler Young's ISFDb bibliography is (HERE).

- For an outline of tort law, go to Wikipedia (HERE); find out more about patents (HERE). Gene patenting is a new wave agitating the broader discipline of bioethics; see the Wikipedia articles about "Bioethics" (HERE), "Biological patent" (HERE), "Bioprospecting" (HERE), and "Intellectual property" (HERE). In our story, X-o4 could be seen to fit the broad definition of a biopirate:

   "Biopiracy was coined by Pat Mooney, to describe a practice in which indigenous knowledge of nature, originating with indigenous peoples, 

is used by others for profit, without authorization or compensation to 
the indigenous people themselves."

  Of course, X-o4 doesn't quite see it that way.

- X. V. J. Glorbton warns humanity against "any attempt to circumvent our rights by deuteration of your species"; see The Free Dictionary (HERE) for what he/she/it means.