Tuesday, April 5, 2016

"It Was a New Strategy in Criminal Warfare, Killing People with Laughter"

"Moon Patrol."
By Victor Rousseau (Victor Rousseau Emanuel, 1879-1960).
First appearance: Thrilling Wonder Stories, October 1941.
Short short story (8 pages).
Online at UNZ HERE (and author's comments HERE).
"Officer Connolly's Toothache Becomes a Pain in the Neck to Space Crooks When They Try to Laugh a Lunar Factory Out of Its Payroll!"
If armed robbery and murder aren't laughing matters, then why is just about everyone writhing in mirthful paroxysms while those crimes are happening right before their eyes? Moon cop Dan Connolly, finding himself in the middle of all this mayhem, doesn't think it funny either, but what really has him ticked off is that thief who punches him out and makes off with his ammunition belt . . .

Prominent characters:
~ Dan Connolly: "Ain't we Moon patrol cops the laughing-stock of every souse with a two-cylinder atomic engine who's breaking the rules of the spacelane? Is there anything we can catch with these rocket-busters of ours, except a one-cylinder atomic bike—maybe?"
~ Malva Connolly (offstage): "[She's] as right as a Moon patrol cop's wife has a right to be."
~ Sergeant Rourke: "There's a safe full of money in the plant's offices to pay the men, and it's two months since Pogen broke jail."
~ Pogen: "Pogen cursed. Dan heard the muffled tones through the criminal's oxygen mask."
~ Doc Smag: "I'm having too good a time to think of money."
~ Paxton: "Mechanism dishranged. Too hard for me to handle. Going back for chemisht—exshpert advice."

Typos: "the crooks ware oxygen masks"; "he opened on eye."

- Victor Rousseau, who is not to be confused with the famous sculptor, enjoyed quite a long and varied writing career, from 1907 to 1948; go to these sources for more: Wikipedia HERE, the SFE HERE, Universe of Science Fiction (in Spanish) HERE, the ISFDb HERE, and FictionMags HERE.
- The "Heavyside" [sic], mentioned (and consistently misspelled) several times in the story as interfering with communications, is for real:
The Kennelly–Heaviside layer, named after Arthur E. Kennelly and Oliver Heaviside, also known as the E region or simply the Heaviside layer, is a layer of ionised gas occurring between roughly 90–150 km (56–93 mi) above the ground — one of several layers in the Earth's ionosphere. It reflects medium-frequency radio waves, and because of this reflection, radio waves can be propagated beyond the horizon.
Propagation is affected by time of day. During the daytime the solar wind presses this layer closer to the Earth, thereby limiting how far it can reflect radio waves. Conversely, on the night (lee) side of the Earth, the solar wind drags the ionosphere further away, thereby greatly increasing the range which radio waves can travel by reflection, called skywave. The extent of the effect is further influenced by the season, and the amount of sunspot activity. — "Kennelly-Heaviside Layer," Wikipedia
- As for all that "inert nitrogen lying around on the Moon"—well, unfortunately for him scientific discovery has outmoded our author's plot device:
Elements known to be present on the lunar surface include, among others, oxygen (O), silicon (Si), iron (Fe), magnesium (Mg), calcium (Ca), aluminium (Al), manganese (Mn) and titanium (Ti). Among the more abundant are oxygen, iron and silicon. The oxygen content is estimated at 45% (by weight). Carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) appear to be present only in trace quantities from deposition by solar wind. — "Geology of the Moon," Wikipedia

The bottom line: "From the moment I picked your book up until I laid it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Someday I intend reading it."

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