Friday, May 13, 2016

"What's So Risky About a Hop to Venus?"

Herbert B. Livingston turned out a substantial amount of pulp fiction over the years under the "H. B. Hickey" alias, with some of it combining SF/fantasy and crime fiction tropes into an agreeable mélange. Here are two such:

"Finished by Hand."
By H. B. Hickey (Herbert B. Livingston, 1916-87).
First appearance: Fantastic Adventures, May 1946.
Short short story (7 pages).
Online at UNZ HERE.
(Parental caution: Violence.)
"Carney and Mose thought it was a smart trick to cut off a thief's hands—but they were thieves too!"
An old saying assures us there's no honor among thieves; when Mose, Carney, and Guido carry out a plan to circulate counterfeit bills, one of them proves it by framing one of his partners in crime and then murdering him. The way looks clear for the traitor, until a dead man gives him a hand—in fact, two of them:

   ". . . The red flame that followed the impact engulfed both car and truck. In a few minutes they were fused together in an inseparable tangle . . ."

"To Dust Returneth."
By H. B. Hickey (Herbert B. Livingston, 1916-87).
First appearance: Fantastic Adventures, February 1948.
Novelette (22 pages).
Online at UNZ HERE.
(Parental caution: Violence.)
"They went to Venus in search of a rare metal — but found instead a dread life-force that crumbled life to dust."
The prospect of a fortune worth millions of dollars has been known to move men to take great risks, but what if that fortune is buried in the crust of a hostile planet twenty-five million miles away, and just getting at it means putting your life in danger every moment? More to the point: When does a legitimate search for wealth turn into an excuse for homicidal greed?

   "He stopped abruptly and stared at Simms. There was complete understanding in the glance that passed between them. Why split at all?"

It's the same old story: Murderers never seem to learn that sooner or later there's a bill coming due for their treachery:

   ". . . across the fantastically jumbled red wasteland of Hanan the living dead implacably plodded toward revenge!"
Nice phraseology:
   "Gathering dusk spread its mantle and the breeze whispered a requiem."
   "The sea had become luridly phosphorescent and the rocket ship showed black against the sea of cold flame."
The planet Venus as imagined in the '40s . . .

   "THE very air glowed red about them, colored by the land beneath. Rock was piled on rock and where there were no rocks the red sand shifted like the waves of a sea. And the sea! Wine red, its roaring surf was like the froth of Sparkling Burgundy. Jim Moyne broke the silence. 'Well, I'll be damned, but this beats 'em all! A grapejuice ocean!'"

   "It was apparent that the storm would be on them in a matter of seconds. The darkness grew ever deeper and was broken only by flashes of lightning which illuminated the scene with a red flame as from an inferno. Thunder which threatened their eardrums rolled in, wave upon wave, until the ground beneath trembled, and the rain was no rain but rather the ocean being inverted."

. . . and Venus as understood today (HERE).
Typo: "If this water is so viscuous"

- There's an H. B. Hickey fan page HERE and, of course, bibliographical info at the ISFDb HERE.
- Project Gutenberg (HERE) and ManyBooks (HERE) have precious few of Hickey's works available.
- Last year we highlighted another criminous SF story by this author HERE.

The bottom line: "We are but dust and shadow."

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