Monday, October 3, 2016

"It Killed Him Like That—Squeezed the Life Out of Him in No Time"

"The Thinking Machine."
By J. J. Connington (1880-1947).
First appearance: Weird Tales, May 1939.
Reprinted in Edgar Wallace Mystery Magazine, July 1966.
Short story (10 pages).
Online at SFFAudio HERE (PDF).
"A strange and curious story about a fantastic weird machine that possessed a brute desire to slay—a startling thrill-tale of an eery invention"
Our narrator, a biologist, is disappointed to find himself sharing a railway carriage with Milton, an old but unpleasant acquaintance and, scientifically speaking, all round dim bulb. When the subject of Prof. Stevenson, an enigmatic physicist colleague whom they both knew, arises, Milton, with some reluctance, launches into an account of what happened to the professor, prefacing it with this caveat:
"Mind, I don't expect you to believe this [he began]. It's a bit out of the common—so much so, that I'd prefer to leave the newspaper story as it stands, rather than contradict it. You'll see why, later on."
And see why the narrator finally does, as Milton unfurls his tale of a brilliant science exper-iment gone radically, fatally wrong; of a genius who, like another scientist (the one named Victor), fails to fully understand his creation and anticipate what it might be capable of . . .

Notable characters:
~ Milton:
   "This machine of Stevenson's was like no machine I'd ever seen before; but its physical appearance wasn't the thing that struck me most about it. It had, somehow, a personality. I can't explain what I mean. It looked wicked, just as a bull looks wicked in comparison with a cow."
~ Prof. Loraine Stevenson:
   "You are the first person to whom I have said anything on the matter. I had not meant to tell you, but I suppose I feel the need of an audience, after all."
~ Narrator (unnamed):
   "A machine of that sort could be made, improbable as it sounds. Science is full of queer things. It's as well to keep an open mind. But if anyone discovers that seacave, I should keep out of it, if I were in his shoes."
- "J. J. Connington" was the nom de plume of Scots-born mystery writer Alfred Walter Stewart; with his scientific training, Stewart was well-equipped to write science fiction, 
but he preferred producing detective fiction novels instead, his only other SFnal work 
being the ecological disaster novel Nordenholt's Million (1923), which is reviewed at 
Vintage Pop Fictions (HERE) and online (HERE). You can find plenty of information 
about him and his mystery fiction at The Passing Tramp (HERE), the GAD Wiki (HERE), 
The Locked Room Mystery (HERE), Wikipedia (HERE), the SFE (HERE), and the ISFDb (HERE).

The bottom line: "A computer once beat me at chess, but it was no match for me at kick boxing."
Emo Philips

No comments:

Post a Comment