Tuesday, March 10, 2020

"Class of You . . . Purpose . . . Kill . . . Class of Us"

"The Sub-Standard Sardines."
By Jack Vance (1916-2013).
Illustration by Virgil Finlay (1914-71).

Magnus Ridolph No. 4.
First appearance: Startling Stories, January 1949.
Reprints page (HERE).
Short story (14 pages).
Online at Archive.org (HERE) and The Luminist Archives (HERE; go to magazine page 98; it will be necessary to download the entire issue, 125 MB).
(Note: Pages faded but readable.)

     "From behind came a tremendous explosion—jarring Magnus Ridolph like a hammer blow."

It's a clear case of sabotage at the canning factory on Chandaria, but the owner isn't con-
vinced it's necessarily his partner, the man who wants to buy him out, and asks Magnus Ridolph to investigate; for Ridolph, this assignment would have gone down as "probably 
the low point in his career" had it not been for the assistance provided by a shoal of the 
finny tribe and his own not inconsiderable Doctor Dolittle skills . . .

Major characters:
~ Joel Karamor:
  "Magnus Ridolph, accustomed to extremes of deception and self-interest, found him a refreshing variant."
~ George Donnels:
  "My name's Donnels. I sign your check."
~ Naile:
  "Ah, that's the wise one! Sometimes I think he knows more than I do."
~ The stocky, bald man:

  "With hundreds of tons of fish swarming of their own free will into his cannery he wants 
to go out and kill more? I hardly think so. Unless he's crazier'n I think."
~ Magnus Ridolph:
  "I . . . come . . . purpose . . . help . . . class of you."

These caught our eye:
  ". . . spacefreight is not especially expensive."
  "A cheap telescreen at the end of the room displayed a buxom young woman, singing and contorting her body with approximately equal vehemence."
  "The mist wandered away, vague as a sleepwalker."
  ". . . the Barnett Method for Establishing Communication with Alien Intelligences."
  "Valuable as the charts were, conveying an exact sense was like repairing a watch with a pipe-wrench."
  "I detect the Ridolph touch in this scheme. The characteristic lack of principle, the calculated outing of orthodox practise . . ."

Typos: "in anohter"; "came clase"; "this gave Daniels"; "attack Daniels".

- Sardines: A very popular, and useful, fish species, even on another planet. "Sardines or pilchards are a nutrient-rich, small, oily fish widely consumed by humans and as forage fish by larger fish species, seabirds and marine mammals. Sardines are a source of omega-3 fatty acids. They are commonly served in cans, but fresh ones are often grilled, pickled, or smoked. Sardines are related to herrings, both in the family Clupeidae. The term sardine was first used in English during the early 15th century, and may come from the Mediterranean island of Sardinia, around which sardines were once abundant. The terms sardine and pilchard are not precise, and what is meant depends on the region. . . . Sardines are commercially fished for a variety of uses: bait, immediate consumption, canning, drying, salting, smoking, and reduction into fish meal or fish oil. The chief use of sardines is for human consumption, fish meal is used as animal feed, while sardine oil has many uses, including the manufacture of paint, varnish, and linoleum." (Wikipedia HERE).
- "a gigantic carved tourmaline": Semi-precious, it is. "Tourmaline is a crystalline boron silicate mineral compounded with elements such as aluminium, iron, magnesium, sodium, lithium, or potassium. Tourmaline is classified as a semi-precious stone and the gemstone can be found in a wide variety of colors. . . . Gem and specimen tourmaline is mined chiefly in Brazil and Africa. Some placer material suitable for gem use comes from Sri Lanka and India. In addition to Brazil, tourmaline is mined in Tanzania, Nigeria, Kenya, Madagascar, Mozam-
bique, Namibia, Afghanistan, India, Sri Lanka, Belitung Island - Indonesia and Malawi." (Wikipedia HERE).
- "Fomalhaut's fourth planet": You've noticed, haven't you, how there's something fishy about the name of Rhodope's parent star. "Fomalhaut, designation Alpha Piscis Austrini (α Piscis Austrini, abbreviated Alpha PsA, α PsA) is the brightest star in the constellation of Piscis Austrinus, the 'Southern Fish', and one of the brightest stars in the sky. It is a class A star on the main sequence approximately 25 light-years (7.7 pc) from the Sun as measured by the Hipparcos astrometry satellite." (Wikipedia HERE and HERE). Our author would no doubt have reveled in the name given to the extrasolar planet circling Fomalhaut just a few years ago, i.e., Dagon, "a Semitic deity, often represented as half-man, half-fish." (Wikipedia HERE).
- "In the infamous clinic on the planet Pandora—": One Hollywood producer has taken a fancy to the name; see Wikipedia (HERE).
- "the Judas-goat which leads the sheep into the abbatoir": As you may already know, the name has a Biblical origin. "The Judas goat is trained to associate with sheep or cattle, leading them to a specific destination. In stockyards, a Judas goat will lead sheep to slaughter, while its own life is spared." (Wikipedia HERE).
- Like one of our previous Magnus Ridolph selections, the resolution of today's story puts 
us in mind of a Star Trek episode—but we'll let you figure out which one.
- Our three previous postings about Magnus Ridolph are (HERE), (HERE), and (HERE).

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