Wednesday, February 8, 2017

"What Seems Innocent Enough on the Surface Can Prove to Be Quite Dangerous Underneath"

"The Fire and the Sword."
By Frank M. Robinson (1926-2014).
First appearance: Galaxy, August 1951.
Several reprintings (HERE).
Novelette (30 pages).
Online at (HERE) (text faded) and Project Gutenberg (HERE).
"Nothing could have seemed pleasanter than that peaceful planet. Then why was a non-suicidal man driven to suicide there? Yet it made sense."
Tunpesh: Tahiti in deep space. A planet blessed with an ideal climate and placid, unimpeach-ably honest, almost impossibly healthy but not overtly sociable people—is it even remotely likely that someone would want to kill himself in such an agreeable place, a veritable para-dise?
Eckert, an anthropologist, and Templin travel to Tunpesh to investigate, as unobtrusively as they can over the next six months, why Pendleton, a colleague, committed suicide there—if, that is, as the natives insist, he did indeed take his own life. What they find has them baffled:
"You know, there isn't any crime here. Except the minor crime wave we caused when we landed here five months ago. No criminals, no villains foreclosing mortgages, no gamblers bleeding the gullible white, and nobody trying to sell gold bricks. I can't get over it."
But getting over it is precisely what they'll have to do if they don't want to share Pendleton's fate, dying in paradise . . .
Typos (Galaxy): "an unhapy love affair"; "went throuh a dizzying."
- Frank M. Robinson had a few of his stories made into films; see Wikipedia (HERE), the SFE (HERE), a webpage (HERE), and the ISFDb (HERE).
- Thanks to a Star Trek episode (HERE), what used to be known as the Tahiti Syndrome is now more commonly called the Paradise Syndrome (HERE); for more about Richard Cory, mentioned in the story, see (HERE).

The bottom line: "So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life."

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