Tuesday, May 23, 2017

"You Hate Me, Don't You?"

"Transfer Point."
By Barry N. Malzberg (born 1939) & Bill Pronzini (born 1943).
First appearance: Analog Science Fiction and Fact, April 2015.
Short short story (5 pages).
Online at Archive.org (HERE).
"The detective aspect was one reason I prized my job; I pride myself on having an astute, watchful, highly instinctive and ratiocinative nature."
Our unnamed narrator, a Lunar Immigration officer, can't believe that the Federation would close down the Luna Dome checkpoint and move everything to Mars, especially since they're overstaffed and underutilized as it is; but that's the news he gets from Sector Chief Finney, his supervisor: "I don't have all the answers," says Finney. "We are in the hands of larger powers and so on."

It's obvious the narrator loves his work, is very good at it, and doesn't mind telling us that he has "the most stimulating job in this or any other solar system":

   "For Luna Checkpoint was the gateway to Earth, its first line of defense, and I and the other inspectors were its gatekeepers, its guardians. Every day it was our responsibility to carefully screen and either pass through or reject travelers from all corners of the known Universe. Creatures such as green-speckled and lavender-hued Altairians, striped Melnusian miners, porcine Poldrogs, Archiporteyx spirit-bearers, Titanian slitherers, Aldebarian musicians with their long trilling snouts, and of course the variegate new breeds from planets only recently swept by Federation troops and pronounced benign by Federation exobiologists. The Check-list of Creatures, the checkpoint's bible, had quadrupled in size and scope during my tenure, until it now contained more than one hundred different races. The vast majority of visitors were benign, of course . . ."

. . . but on this particular day he's going to run across an alien who doesn't have benign intentions, and an interplanetary smuggling plot that will succeed—unless he makes the most of his "astute, watchful, highly instinctive and ratiocinative nature" . . .

- For more background on Barry Malzberg, see Wikipedia (HERE), the SFE (HERE), and the ISFDb (HERE). Bill Pronzini sometimes produces SFF, although he's primarily known for his high quality detective fiction; go to Wikipedia (HERE), Mike Grost's megasite (HERE), the SFE (HERE), and the ISFDb (HERE).
- There's more to running a spaceport than just keeping the lights burning; see the Atomic Rockets website (HERE).

The bottom line: "Man is not what he thinks he is; he is what he hides."
André Malraux

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