Wednesday, October 31, 2018

"The Best of All Possible Worlds"

"Reversal of Misfortune."
By J. W. Armstrong (?-?).
First appearance: Nature/Futures, 4 December 2014.
Illustration by JACEY.
Short short short story (1 page).
Online at Nature.com (HERE; PDF).

     "As I waited, an hour before my execution, my unfocused mind ranged freely . . ."

Maybe, sometimes, it is better not to know . . .

Resources:
- The ISFDb informs us that so far our author, J. W. Armstrong, has three SFFnal stories to his credit.

- Previous encounters with the multiverse (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) are Ray Woods's story "Schrödinger’s Gun" (HERE) and Sam Merwin's "Third Alternative" 
(HERE); you'll find plenty of links in those places if you want to explore it further.

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Monday, October 29, 2018

"Before Her Was a Monstrous Creature Which Never Ceased Its Infernal Baying and Howling As It Attacked Her, Tooth and Nail"

THE NAME OF Seabury Quinn might not be familiar to you, but at one time, according to a vote, he was the most popular author writing for Weird Tales; nonetheless, he has fallen into that obscurity which many once well-known writers have suffered in their careers. Quinn's series characters, Jules de Grandin and Dr. Trowbridge, occult investigators bearing a strong resemblance to Poirot and Hastings, encountered dozens of supernatural menaces in Weird Tales from 1925 to the magazine's demise in 1954 (FictionMags data). Since this is the season for spooky stories, we've decided on a couple of Quinn's nonfictional essays instead of a terror tale, ones that probably won't scare you much but should leave you entertained, informed, and sobered by the chilling thought of how much like irrational beasts human beings can become. In 1923-24, Quinn ran a "Weird Crimes" series in Weird Tales, almost as if he were setting the stage for de Grandin and Trowbridge's debut:

   1. "Bluebeard," Weird Tales, October 1923
   2. "The Grave Robbers," Weird Tales, November 1923
   3. "The Magic Mirror Murders," Weird Tales, January 1924 (below)
   4. "Swiatek, the Beggar," Weird Tales, February 1924
   5. "Mary Blandy," Weird Tales, April 1924
   6. "The Werewolf of St. Bonnot," Weird Tales, May-June-July 1924 (below)
   7. "The Human Hyena," Weird Tales, November 1924 (ISFDb data).


As always, we urge you to read these first, before you go to the resource material. Some of the additional sources do augment Quinn's accounts, while others seem to contradict him in some of the details.
~ ~ ~
"The Magic Mirror Murders."
By Seabury Quinn (1888-1969).
First appearance: Weird Tales, January 1924.
Essay (6 pages).
Online at SFFAudio (HERE; PDF).

     "Maiden, behold thy bridegroom. His name is—DEATH!"

A magical mirror becomes a death trap for naive and unsuspecting girls . . .

Resources:
- Thoroughgoing accounts of these events, which have come down to us through history 
as "The Bavarian Ripper" case, can be found at Murderpedia (HERE; typos), Executed
Today.com (HERE), the Jack the Ripper Tour site (HERE), and Krafft-Ebing's Psychopathia Sexualis (HERE; "The most horrible example, and one which most pointedly shows the connection between lust and a desire to kill"); in addition, Quinn offers a new word to 
add to your vocabulary—saponification:

   "Fat in a corpse converts into adipocere, often called 'grave wax'. This process is more common where the amount of fatty tissue is high and the agents of decomposition are absent or only minutely present."
      — "Saponification," Wikipedia (HERE)

~ ~ ~
"The Werewolf of St. Bonnot."
By Seabury Quinn (1888-1969).
First appearance: Weird Tales, May-June-July 1924.
Essay (4 pages).
Online at SFFAudio (HERE; PDF).

     "The Frenchman is curiously logical and direct, even in matters of superstition."

Yellow-toothed and hairy, ill-tempered and clearly crazy, and apt to commit murder—it's obvious that the hermit of St. Bonnot won't be a candidate for Citizen of the Year . . .
Not a person of interest.
Resources:
- There's a lot about this case on Wikipedia (HERE) and (HERE), ExecutedToday.com (HERE), The Abnormal Realm (HERE), the Serial Killers Wiki (HERE), CrimeFeed's article (HERE), and Sabine Baring-Gould's The Book of Were-Wolves (1865; reprinted 2007; HERE), especially the four-page account starting (HERE).
French arquebusier, 1572
Even more Resources:
- There's plenty of info about Seabury Grandin Quinn to be found on several Information Superhighway off-ramps: Wikipedia (HERE), Red Jacket Press (HERE), the SFE (HERE), 
the SF Site (HERE), and the ISFDb (HERE).
- Another one of Quinn's series characters was Major Sturdevant who, according to FictionMags, made steady appearances in Real Detective Tales and Mystery Stories from December 1923 to September 1926 (roughly two dozen tales). Since the stories are apparently in limbo, we must guess just what ground the Major ploughed in his peregrinations. Quinn followed up Sturdevant with Professor Forrester, featuring in Real Detective Tales and Mystery Stories from February 1927 to October 1928 (13 adventures; see one HERE). Three shorter-lived series characters were Carlos de la Muerte (4 stories; 1933-34), Carmichael (3 tales; 1941 and 1944), Bill Ramsey (2 outings; 1941), and the Black Wolf (2 adventures; 1944) (FictionMags data).
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Friday, October 26, 2018

"I Was Particularly Keen Not to Get Caught"

"Ignorantia Juris."
By Gareth Owens (?-?).
Illustration by JACEY.
First appearance: Nature/Futures, 17 July 2008.
Short short short story (1 page).
Online at Nature.com (HERE; PDF).

     "I arrived in a puff of something that looked like smoke and felt like semolina, standing with my briefcase held before me like a shield."

As Barbi Bodega is about to find out, the phrase "the long arm of the law" is more than just a metaphor . . .

Resources:
- In case you're wondering about the story's title, see Wikipedia (HERE).
- The super-duper atom smasher known at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in our tale is real (HERE), and has been in existence long enough to give fictioneers plenty of opportunities to fool around with its capabilities (HERE), including the vanishingly small but non-zero likeli-hood that it could cough up a micro black hole which, in theory at least, could swallow up 
the Earth; see (HERE) and (HERE).
- Our latest story posting involving temporal shenanigans, Milton Lesser's "Stop, You're Killing Me!", is (HERE), which has links to other tales in a similar vein.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2018

"Make It a Medico-legal Case"

"The Anthropologist at Large."
By R. Austin Freeman (1862-1943).
Illustrations in McClure's by Henry Raleigh (1880-1944; HERE and HERE).
First appearance: Pearson's Magazine, February 1909.
Reprinted in McClure's Magazine, May 1910 and The Saint Mystery Magazine, June 1962 (FictionMags data).
Collected in John Thorndyke's Cases (1909); U.S. title: Dr. Thorn-dyke's Cases (1931).
Short story (11 pages).
Online at Archive.org (HERE; with 6 illos), Roy Glashan's Library (HERE; with 2 different illos), Project Gutenberg Australia (HERE; with illos), Project Gutenberg (HERE; with illos), and FadedPage (HERE; no illos).
(Note: Some readers may detect politically incorrect racial biases.)


     "The human race, as you know, is roughly divided into three groups—the black, the white, and the yellow races. But apart from the variable quality of colour, these races have certain fixed characteristics associated especially with the shape of the skull, of the eye-sockets, and the hair."

When "everything that is precious and beautiful—pictures, ivories, jewels, watches, objects of art and vertu—everything" is stolen from a private collection of immeasurable value, it will require an individual who evidently knows everything to find the purloined caboodle—and no one in London fits that description better than the pre-eminent medico-legalist and all-round know-it-all himself, Dr. John Thorndyke . . .

Major characters:
~ Dr. Thorndyke:
  Fighting crime with a microscope.

~ Mr. Marchmont:
  A solicitor with a very nervous client.

~ Solomon Löwe:
  He should never have stayed out so late.

~ Isaac Löwe:
  The injured party, conspicuous by his absence.

~ Jervis:
  He sees, but he does not observe.

~ Polton:
  To Thorndyke, he's indispensable.
~ Inspector Badger:
  Not ready for prime crime.


A few Thorndykeisms:

   "It is most important habitually to pursue a definite train of thought, and to pursue it to a finish, instead of flitting indolently from one uncompleted topic to another, as the newspaper reader is so apt to do. Still, there is no harm in a daily paper—so long as you don't read it."
   "Another art robbery. Mysterious affairs, these—as to motive, I mean. You can't melt down a picture or an ivory carving, and you can't put them on the market as they stand. The very qualities that give them their value make them totally unnegotiable."
   ". . . but we must leave some for the police. They must have the same chance as ourselves, you know."
   "Well, then, my inferences in this case were perfectly simple ones, drawn from well-known anthropological facts."
   "My dear fellow, you have all the data. Enlighten yourself by the exercise of your own brilliant faculties. Don't give way to mental indolence."

Typo: "He opening the bandbox" ["opened"]

Resources:
- "The Anthropologist at Large" would seem to be the second Dr. Thorndyke short story adventure by Richard Austin Freeman (FictionMags); see Wikipedia (HERE) for info about 
the author and (HERE) for more about his creation. Michael Grost's Freeman page (HERE
is the most extensive we've found so far on the Internet.

- A billycock hat, usually known as a bowler (Wikipedia, HERE), figures significantly in the plot of the story, giving Thorndyke a chance to perform his own amusing—but far more scientific—version of Sherlock Holmes's hat analysis:

   "'I understand,' said he [Solomon Löwe], 'that by examining a hat it is possible to deduce from it, not only the bodily characteristics of the wearer, but also his mental and moral qualities, his state of health, his pecuniary position, his past history, and even his domestic relations and the peculi-arities of his place of abode. Am I right in this supposition?'
   "The ghost of a smile flitted across Thorndyke's face as he laid the hat
upon the remains of the newspaper. 'We must not expect too much,' he observed. 'Hats, as you know, have a way of changing owners. Your own 
hat, for instance' (a very spruce, hard felt), 'is a new one, I think.'
   '"Got it last week,' said Mr. Löwe.
   "'Exactly. It is an expensive hat, by Lincoln and Bennett, and I see you have judiciously written your name in indelible marking-ink on the lining. Now, a new hat suggests a discarded predecessor. What do you do with your old hats?'
   "'My man has them, but they don't fit him. I suppose he sells them 
or gives them away.'
   "'Very well. Now, a good hat like yours has a long life, and remains service-able long after it has become shabby; and the probability is that many of your hats pass from owner to owner; from you to the shabby-genteel, and from them to the shabby ungenteel. And it is a fair assumption that there are, at this moment, an appreciable number of tramps and casuals wearing hats by Lincoln and Bennett, marked in indelible ink with the name S. Löwe; and anyone who should examine those hats, as you suggest, might draw some very misleading deductions as to the personal habits of S. Löwe.'
   "Mr. Marchmont chuckled audibly, and then, remembering the gravity of the occasion, suddenly became portentously solemn."


- ONTOS has not ignored the good doctor; see (HERE), (HERE), and (HERE).

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Monday, October 22, 2018

"The Emphasis Is on Targeting Villains, Not Protecting the Innocent"

"A Bullet with Your Name on It."
By David Hall (?-?).
Illustration by JACEY.
First appearance: Nature/Futures, 6 September 2007.
Short short short story (1 page).
Online at Nature.com (HERE; PDF).

     "As you may have guessed, my name is now on a little list."

What happens when smart guns get smarter than people?

Resources:
- What little we know about our author is on the ISFDb (HERE)
.

- At first glance smart guns (Wikipedia, HERE) seem like a good idea (see "Potential advan-tages"), but like all diligent science fiction writers David Hall has anticipated possible negative societal impacts (see "Potential disadvantages") of a new and untried technology. For more detailed information, see the National Institute of Justice Research Report: A Review of Gun Safety Technologies (2013, HERE; PDF; slow load).

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Friday, October 19, 2018

"Whenever Ellery Came to Wrightsville, Evil Came Out of Its Lair"

"Mum Is the Word."
By Ellery Queen (1905-71; 1905-82).
First appearance: Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, April 1966.

Reprinted in Q.E.D.: Queen's Experiments in Detection (1968; 
noted HERE) and Ellery Queen's Anthology #25 (1973).
Novella (39 pages).
Online at Archive.org (HERE).


     ". . . to add the ultimate grotesquerie, the case offered the 'last word' in bizarre and fantastic clues, the 'last word' in baffling and frustrating 'dying messages'."

Instead of millions to bequeath to his family and friends, a retired flower fancier, old and unaware of his hidden illness, must admit to them that he has only thousands left of his fortune. However, there is one thing, he unwisely tells the group, of sentimental value to 
him that could fetch a princely sum, a diamond pendant appraised at a million dollars. 
And so begins, in the mind of someone who won't stop at murder, a plan to kill the old 
man and make off with the gems—a scheme that would certainly work were it not for 
the unplanned-for presence of an amateur detective genius from the Big Apple . . .

Characters:
- From Wrightsville:
~ Godfrey Mumford:

  "These stones are perfectly matched. The Emperor's agents searched the world 
to find enough of these rare yellow diamonds to complete the pendant. As a group, 
they're unique."
~ Ellen Mumford Nash:
  "Ellen Nash's eyes, as hard as the gems, became slitted. She had never heard of 
Emperor Komei or the Imperial Pendant, but she was not invulnerable to beauty, 
especially when it had a high market value."
~ Christopher Mumford:
  "And he also told us that he was the only one who knew the safe combination. 
He said he was going to make a note of the combination for us."
~ Margaret Caswell:
  [About the murder weapon] "It's Godfrey's. I've never seen it anywhere but on 
his desk. He was very sentimental about it . . . He used it as a letter opener."
~ Joanne Caswell:
  "Jo smiled, but inside. She slipped a little mittened glove into his glove, and 
they strolled toward the pines and the pale sun."
~ Wolcott Thorp:
  "Thorp hung up, stared for a moment at the telephone, then dialed Operator. 
'Operator,' he said, swallowing. 'Get me the police'."
~ Dr. Conklin Farnham:
  [About the time of death]
"Between four and five a.m., I'd say. A good spell 
after the snow stopped, if that's what you're thinking of."
~ Chief Anselm Newby:
  "No embroidery, Ellery—it's open and shut."
- From New York City:
~ Ellery Queen:
  "Ellery in Blunderland. Through the Magnifying Glass . . ."
Typo: "her dislike for Ellen show" [Ellen's]
Resources:
- For a quick refresher on Ellery Queen, see Wikipedia (HERE), The World's Best Detective, Crime, and Murder Mystery Books (HERE), Reading Ellery Queen (HERE), and ONTOS's 
latest encounter with EQ, "The Hollow Dragon" (HERE).
- A review of a collection of other EQ stories is at Mystery*File (HERE), including another Wrightsville short story, "Wedding Anniversary," which appeared the next year after "Mum 
Is the Word."
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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

"Surely, the Court Cannot Permit Such a Miscarriage of Justice"

"The Trial of Jeremy Owens."
By Peter Roberts (born 1952; ISFDb entry HERE).
Illustration by JACEY.
First appearance: Nature/Futures, 14 September 2006.
Reprints page (HERE).
Short short short story (1 page).
Online at Nature.com (HERE; PDF).

     "The biological Jeremy Owens sat alone at the plaintiff’s table. He had been rebuffed by every lawyer he had approached to assist him in this trial; some had laughed in his face. The ridicule only added to his determination to prove that he was the only real, true Jeremy Owens."

How do you conclusively prove you're you when there are other you's running around claiming, truthfully, that they're you?

Resources:
- Fictional cyborgs (CYBerneticORGanismS) have been around a lot longer than real-life ones; see Wikipedia (HERE), (HERE), (HERE), (HERE), (HERE), (HERE), and (HERE) for examples from print and film, both predictably hostile and unexpectedly friendly. Cyborg development can be subsumed under cybernetics (HERE), a relatively new scientific field.
Daleks invading Earth
Cybermen
Locutus of Borg
Cover art for Cyborg by Boris Vallejo
From Scanagogo
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Monday, October 15, 2018

"Her Faded Blue Eyes Looked More Like the Men's Eyes Among the Ancestors on the Parlor Wall Than Those of the Frail, Pale Little Women"

"The Locked Jewel Case."
By Dillon Anderson (1906-74).
First appearance: Collier's, October 29, 1954.
Short short short story (4 pages).
Online at UNZ (HERE).

     "I aimed to find that $20,000 pin, and I didn't care how hard Claudie had to work."

Clint and Claudie are having cash flow problems as usual and decide that the best way to earn a quick buck is to go into the detective business with Mr. Gissel; a nice income seems assured—until they meet Miss Ernestine . . .

Characters:
~ Claudie:
  "I looked Claudie right in the eye as I spoke, but he didn't look down the way he usually does. I saw something in his face I wasn't used to at all."

~ Clint:
  "Don't you have some cases you could use a little help on? Some help from me and my associate, Claudie, I mean. Also, we'd prefer murder cases."

~ Rudolph Gissel:
  "He was a short, bald little man in his shirt sleeves, and he had a cigar in his mouth that 

he was not smoking since it had gone out."
~ Miss Ernestine:
  "She wasn't over five feet tall; she was thin as a rail, and I figured she wouldn't weigh seventy-five pounds wringing wet. Her white hair was thin and wispy. She had pale-blue 

eyes and skin so thin I could see the blue veins in her temples and on her hands."

Resources:
- The Wikipedia article about Dillon Anderson (HERE) mentions his time as one of many National Security Advisors to President Eisenhower but not his humorous fiction.
- This story is one of a series of pieces featuring Clint and Claudie, a sort of George and Lennie without the angst. See FictionMags (HERE) for a list of their magazine adventures. Also see John T. Winterich's review of Dillon Anderson's earlier book, I and Claudie (1951):

   "What happens to the pair is exactly the sort of thing one might expect
—they get into tremendous jams and turn all of them to at least temporary advantage, and a temporary advantage is all they ask for.  . . . Mr. Anderson, who pulls the strings (and obviously has a fine time doing it), is a Houston lawyer, and his legal training stands him in good stead, because Clint and Claudie sometimes run pretty close to the border-line (and not of Texas) 
and could frequently use a good lawyer or any lawyer at all."
   — "Don Quixote in Texas," The Saturday Review, November 3, 1951 (HERE)

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Friday, October 12, 2018

"ALAN 3 Is Willing to Break ALL THREE LAWS to Solve a Truly Reprehensible Crime"

(Post-Hurricane Michael Edition)

"RAM Shift Phase 2."
By Greg Bear (born 1951).
Illustration by JACEY.
First appearance: Nature/Futures, 15 December 2005.
Reprints page (HERE).
Short short short story (1 page).
Online at Nature.com (HERE; PDF).

     "RAM SHIFT PHASE 2 begins with the fatal breakdown of a shining, chromeplated Rorabot Model 34c nicknamed LULU 18 in a room with no windows and whose door is locked."

In this week's book review: ALAN 3, "a highly RAM-engaged robotic dysfunction investigator," probes the inexplicable nonfunctionality of LULU 18, "an extremely 
desirable machine still well within its operational warranty" . . .

Resources:
- Gregory Dale Bear is an old pro in SFF circles who's been selling science fiction stories for more than fifty years; see all that Wikipedia (HERE), the SFE (HERE), his own website (HERE), and the ISFDb bibliography (HERE) have available.
- For what is meant by "The Fourth Law, and beyond," see Wikipedia (HERE) and especially (HERE).
- Our latest run-in with robots, John D. MacDonald's "Nicky and the Tin Finger," is (HERE).
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Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Wilkie Collins: A Crime Fiction Writer Ahead of His Time

(Hurricane Michael Edition)

IT SEEMS AS IF every time we turn around we find out something new about crime/
detective fiction. Today's revelation is the not-so-well-known fact that Charles Dickens's 
good pal Wilkie Collins might have been the first to introduce into crime stories that durable plot element used countless times by pupils enrolled in the Hardboiled School, the femme 
fatale. At any rate, it's certain that W.C. got there long before Hammett, Chandler, Goodis & Co.—1880, to be precise. Judging from what's available in print and on the World Wide Wobbly, we must conclude that, as a mystery/crime fiction author, Collins easily out-
classes Dickens. The story we have in mind in this regard is . . .

"Who Killed Zebedee?"
(a.k.a. "Mr. Policeman and the Cook").
By Wilkie Collins (1824-99).
First appearance: Bolton Weekly Journal, 24 December 1880.
Reprinted in Little Novels (1887; online HERE).
Short story (12-20 pages as a PDF).
Online in many places, including Prof. David Stewart's Library (HERE; PDF) and SFFAudio (HERE; PDF).

A tale of murder with a new twist—new, that is, for the 19th century . . .

Comment: If you streamlined Collins's Victorian prose into 20th century colloquial English and removed his name, you just might think Cornell Woolrich wrote it.

Resources:
- We've already dealt with William Wilkie Collins several times, particulary with respect to his two classic novels, The Woman in White (1860) and The Moonstone (1868) (HERE), as well as: T. S. Eliot's take on The Moonstone (HERE); how Collins's crime fiction was a good fit for the Victorian frame of mind (HERE); and why, according to one author, The Moonstone is the only piece of detective fiction literature ever produced (HERE).
- Following in Poe's innovative literary footsteps, Collins added soon-to-be-commonplace elements to the detective story in The Moonstone—although there is some uncertainty about whether he was actually the first; see the Wikipedia subsection (HERE).

- Wikipedia has an uncharacteristically spoiler-free page about "Who Killed Zebedee?" (HERE); however, it's still better for you to read the story first.
- For a scholar's understanding of this work, see Ellen Harrington's "Failed Detectives and Dangerous Females: Wilkie Collins, Arthur Conan Doyle, and the Detective Short Story" (2005) (HERE; especially pages 8—13), but, again, only after you've read the story.
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Monday, October 8, 2018

"Science Fiction Authors Can Follow the Rules Just As Easily As the Authors of Today's Whodunits"

"The Futuristic Detective."
By Robert W. Lowndes (1916-98).
First appearance: Science Fiction Stories, January 1959.
Editorial article (6 pages).
Online at Archive.org (HERE) and The Luminist Archives (HERE) (scroll down to page 102—note: a slow load is certain).

   A really well-done old-fashioned murder mystery is quite rare these days, but even rarer is one with a science fiction/fantasy (SFF-nal) theme. Back in the '50s, uber-editor Robert Lowndes expressed hope that SFF authors would come up with more of them in the future, basing his conception of what a true-blue SFF-nal detective story should be on S. S. Van Dine's prescriptive rules dating from the '20s, most of which, in Lowndes's estimation, were still viable regarding what ought to and ought not to be used in a story. A worthy goal, certainly, but Lowndes evidently didn't get the memo from the hardboiled "realistic" crowd and their publisher cohorts that, as far as they were concerned, the traditional whodunit was, for all practical purposes, dead and buried . . .

A few excerpts:
   "In following them [Van Dine's rules], the science fiction author can produce a story which, in so far as it is a puzzle for the reader to solve if he can, is as much of a sporting event as the offerings of Agatha Christie or Rex Stout . . ."

   "A 'clue' does not have to be an object: It may be an event, a reaction on the part of some character, or a description of the scenery or setting which the detective has seen—but which he does not identify as a clue at the time."

   "One well-used, but entirely legitimate, device is a character's 'evidence' which appears to be substantiated by someone else, but actually is not—we really only have this character's word for it." [Lowndes cites JDC's The Emperor's Snuff-Box: "the trickery was legitimate."]

   "Van Dine here specifically rules out 'mind reading,' and this necessarily holds for the ordinary murder mystery. But in science fiction 'telepathy' could play a role so long as it 
is properly controlled." [In the '50s and '60s, mind readers were often called "psi's" or "espers."]

   "The culprit, too, must be a major character in the story—not a stranger or bit-part player—and someone in whom the reader takes an interest." [And not doing so is still a common reader complaint these days—except when authors fall in love with their char-
acters and forget they're writing a mystery with a plot.]

   "In this passage, he [Van Dine] rules out '. . . pseudo-science and imaginative and specu-
lative devices'—again, a sound prohibition for the ordinary detective tale. And it is this taboo which has made so many feel that we just can't have a 'fair' murder mystery in science fiction."

   "I think we can agree that the culprit should not be a professional criminal . . . The guilty one must not have any sort of organization to fall back upon that any other ordinary person might not have." ["organization": the Mafia, SPECTRE, and the like.]

   "Like Van Dine, we insist upon murder (although lesser crimes may also be involved) for the main misdeed investigated—and the 'murder' must not turn out to have been accident 
or suicide."

  "The 'sporting' detective story of our times has a fine tradition, which continues, despite 
the accumulation of shoddy imitations . . ."

Resources:
- Our author, Robert Augustine Ward Lowndes, is remembered primarily these days for his SFF-nal editorial efforts, although he produced a respectable amount of fiction over the years. Like Isaac Asimov before him, Lowndes took it as a challenge to come up with an authentic science fiction detective story; he explains his thinking here:


  "Back in the early '40s, I remember a bull-session that some of us had with John W. Campbell, where he stated definitively that there could never be any such thing as a science-fiction detective story in the traditional 'murder mystery' sense. His reason for this proclamation was that since almost anything can happen in a science-fiction story – the villain can pull any sort of dingus or super-phenomenon out of his hat – the reader would never have a fair chance to solve the mystery. I didn’t quite believe it, yet I couldn’t think of any counter-argument to throw at John at the time. But, as Holmes would have said, it was all so absurdly simple! Of course there can be science-fiction murder mysteries, offering the reader as good a chance to solve the crime as he has in any ordinary murder-mystery where the author is playing fair. And you can have science-fiction wonders and dinguses and super-scientific phenomenon, too: you just make it clear that nothing essential to the solution of the crime is wrapped up in super-science, or intricate phenomenon and extrapolation that only a scientific wizard could be expected to unravel. The motives, methods, and clues must all lie within the range of what is clearly presented to the reader. I hope Puzzle Planet will convince you that the murder mystery does have a place in science fiction."
   — "The Puzzle Planet," Wikipedia (HERE; no major spoilers)

- Lots of information about Lowndes is on the Interweb: Wikipedia (HERE), the SFE (HERE), Fancyclopedia (HERE), and the bibliography at the ISFDb (HERE).
- Lowndes also wrote a "juvenile" space opera for Winston books, Mystery of the Third Mine (1953).
- To our surprise, we've discovered since we started this weblog that quite a few SFF stories involve criminous activities—never fear, we'll continue our never-ending search for them on the World Wide Webbie. Here, picked at random, are just a few of our previous postings about crime-and-science fiction mashups:
   Anthony Boucher's "Public Eye" (HERE), Fletcher Pratt's "Double Jeopardy" and "The Square Cube Law" (HERE)
   Henry Hasse's "We're Friends Now" (HERE), Adam Christopher's "Brisk Money" (HERE)
   Sam Moskowitz's "The Sleuth in Science Fiction" and "The Super-Sleuths of Science Fiction" (HERE)
   Fredric Brown's "Daymare" (HERE), Daniel F. Galouye's "Kangaroo Court" (HERE)
   Sydney J. Bounds's "Time for Murder" (HERE), Guy Archette's "Not As Plotted" (HERE)
   Mike Adamson's "Masques" (HERE), and David Berreby's "The Punishment Fits the Crime" (HERE).
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