Saturday, May 14, 2016

"This Bandit Robs with the Law Behind Him"

"Prospectors of Space."
By Malcolm Jameson (1891-1945).
First appearance: Thrilling Wonder Stories, September 1940.
Collected in The Giant Atom (2013).
Short story (10 pages).
Online at UNZ HERE.
"'Join Spaceways and See the Universe' Was the Slogan for All Pilots—But Not if You Wanted a Place in the Sun!"
First come the pioneers, the explorers who take all the chances; afterwards, usually sooner than later, comes bureaucracy to stifle free enterprise, at which point even the entire Solar System isn't big enough.

Neil Allen and his dad, freelance asteroid prospectors and miners on the Klondike, are feeling the dead hand of corporate state monopoly clamping down on their shoulders, pushing them away from what is theirs by right and, indirectly, costing the old man his life:

   "Allen closed his eyes. Neil waited, but the old man had dropped off to sleep. He never woke up . . ."

Unlike his father, though, young Neil refuses to give in to the pressure:

   "After his father's funeral on Earth, Neil Allen wasted no time in the personnel offices of the big companies. There was only one that he knew much about. But the thought of that one filled his heart with bitter rage, a hatred he focused on Horvick, its managing director and principal stockholder. His love of independence, inherited from his father, made him scorn employees as mere robots manipulated by schemers. Instead, he planned . . ."

Along with his planning Neil will do some smart lateral thinking, including a clever applica-tion of the jū yoku gō o seisu principle, letting his enemies bring themselves down.

Major characters:
~ Old man Allen, Neil's father:
   "Let's face facts, Neil! Space prospecting is a thing of the past. As a freelance, I was able to follow my hunches and not have to wrangle with a bunch of Earth-bound directors. You won't be able to freelance. You've learned an obsolete occupation. In my day, there was the whole Solar System to work in . . ."
~ Horvick, General Superintendent of Space Mines:
   "You have your notice, Allen. Call your men and get out."
~ Neil Allen, captain of the Klondike:
   "I appeal to you in the name of the Law. This man has no right to put me off my ship into the void."
~ Sam Bowen, captain of the Golconda:
   ". . . Horvick won't take it lying down. Our dads were pretty foxy, and he cleaned 'em every time. I'm with you a hundred per cent, but he's got me plenty worried."

Typo: "transcient vessels"
- Malcolm Jameson's great-granddaughter, Wendy McClure, has a site dedicated to him HERE.
- There's more about our author HERE (Wikipedia), HERE (the SFE), and HERE (the ISFDb).
- Jameson evolved his own analog of Horatio Hornblower in a popular sequence of stories; Fletcher Pratt briefly reviewed a posthumous collection of them:
"Bullard of the Space Patrol," by the late Malcolm Jameson, which is quite frankly a series of connected shorts and quite as frankly directed at the upper level of adolescent readers. Jameson, a Naval officer himself, has simply and ingeniously altered the problems and customs of the U. S. Navy to what might be encountered in a space navy, taking his Bullard from cadet up to high admiral. The result is really good reading for the age group intended. — Fletcher Pratt, "Fiction Flights in Space & Time," The Saturday Review, February 23, 1952 (HERE).
The Bullard stories:
   1. "Admiral's Inspection" (1940)
   2. "White Mutiny" (1940)
   3. "Blockade Runner" (1941)
   4. "Slacker's Paradise" (1941)
   5. "Devil's Powder" (1941)
   6. "Bullard Reflects" (1941)
   7. "Brimstone Bill" (1942)
   8. "The Bureaucrat" (1944)
   9. "Orders" (1945)
   Collection: Bullard of the Space Patrol (1951) (for sale HERE).
- Jameson's science in this story is a little sketchy, especially regarding the Draconids meteor shower; go HERE for facts about the Draconids.

The bottom line: "Wealth stays with us a little moment, if at all: only our characters are steadfast, not our gold."

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