Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Lecanora Tartarea

"Shall Stay These Couriers . . ."
By Nelson S. Bond (1908-2006).
First appearance: Thrilling Wonder Stories, February 1940.
Reprinted in Adventure Tales #2 (2005).
Short short story (9 pages).
Online at HERE (scroll to page 80).
(Note: Pages are faded but text is readable.)
"The Men Who Plundered the Spacemail Were After Rare Stamps—But Science Cancelled Their Plans!"
Some people collect things for fun and profit, some collect them just for the fun of it, and some do it only for the money. Take Balder Sorenson, for instance, with his odd conversa-tional tics and criminal tendencies; now, he'll steal anything and everything without regard
to its aesthetic value from whatever hapless spacecraft he can stick his tension beam into, which clearly puts him in that last category of collector.

Everybody from Mercury to the gas giants will soon be heaving a collective sigh of relief, however, when Sorenson indulges a childhood hobby, as he plunders the Spica on her way back to Mars from the outpost asteroid Iris; his luck will run out when he comes up against "a thick-headed space-monkey" gifted with just enough botanical smarts to make him wish he'd stayed in jail.
Main characters:
~ Lt. Russ Hodges, Solar Space Patrol (SSP), in 2113 on special detail as pilot-commander of the Patrol cruiser Spica:
   "All I've got to say is, according to Earth standards and Scott's catalogue, you have here about two million bucks' worth of rare stamps!"
~ Zach Wheatley, SSP, astrogator and helmsman of the Spica:
   "He darted eagerly for the panel. This discovery was important enough to warrant rousing the lieutenant from his slumbers. Zach's hand reached for the call button. But he never reach-ed it. At that instant there came a grinding shock, a crash that shivered hollowly through the Spica."
~ Plaice, Superintendent of the IGMC and official postmaster of the Iris station:
   "I'm doing the best I can out here. I don't want anyone to think I'm doing anything unethi-cal."
~ Balder Sorenson, exiled pirate, escapee from the penal colony on Uranus, terror of the spacelanes between Jupiter and Venus, and . . . philatelist?:
   "One knows quite well what they are, Lieutenant. One was a stamp-collector oneself, when one was young. And now, the stamps, please?"
- There's a website (HERE) listing the rarest and most valuable postage stamps in the Known Universe (i.e., Earth).
- The asteroid Iris gets some attention in our story; the author describes it this way:
. . . a tiny, crudely spherical chunk of rock that was the asteroid Iris. Scarcely a hundred and fifty miles in diameter, Iris was a drab and desolate place, a mining outpost of the Intergalactic Metals Corporation.
In the past seventy-six years astronomers have discovered more about Iris, including that it's about one hundred and twenty-five miles across and a hundred and fifty-two degrees below zero Fahrenheit on its surface—unlike the story, however, there's no evidence of any atmos-phere; go (HERE), (HERE), and (HERE) for data on Iris, the seventh asteroid to be found.
Click on image to enlarge. Note Iris (upper left, near Mars).
- For interesting ideas about communications (including the mail) as they might develop throughout the Solar System in the future, go to the "Space Infrastructure" page (HERE) on Winchell Chung's Atomic Rockets megasite, and scroll down to "Interplanetary Internet."
- As for "Lecanora tartarea," go (HERE).

The bottom line: "Not philosophers, but fret-sawyers and stamp collectors compose the backbone of society."
Aldous Huxley

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