Wednesday, April 8, 2020

"I'm Up Against Something Fantastic"

"Cosmic Hotfoot."
(a.k.a. "To B or Not to C or to D").
By Jack Vance (1916-2013).

Magnus Ridolph No. 8.
First appearance: Startling Stories, September 1950.

Reprints page (HERE).
Short story (14 pages).
Online at (HERE; some pages blurry but readable) and The Luminist Archives (HERE; much cleaner text; slow load; go to magazine page 82).

     "The Threat of Manual Labor Forces a Space Adventurer to Solve the Riddle of Jexjeka!"

Being an investigator does entail certain risks, particularly on a totally airless and deadly planet: "Magnus Ridolph had disappeared as completely as if Destiny had reached back 
in time and erased the fact of his birth . . ."

Major characters:
~ Howard Thifer:

  "First of all, I'll warn you that if you take on this job there's a good chance you'll be killed. 
In fact you'll certainly be killed unless you do better than the last twenty men."
~ Magnus Ridolph (on "the basis of my method"):
  "I examine every conceivable hypothesis. I make an outline, expanding the sub-headings 

as fully as possible. If I am sufficiently thorough, among these hypotheses will be actuality."

Nice phraseology:
  ". . . a forearm the size of a rolled-up welcome mat."
  "Tables, spires, crevasses the human eye had never been designed to see, the human 
brain to grasp."
  ". . . snorted his mastodonic snort."
  ". . . a fist like a small tub."

Typo: "expect [except] there's no air".

- "Fan, Naos VI, Exigencia, Omicron Ceti III, Mallard 42, Rhodope, New Sudan, Formaferra, Julian Wolters IV, Alpheratz IX, Gengillee": The only two recognizably real stars in this list are Omicron Ceti (a.k.a. Mira; Wikipedia HERE and HERE) and Alpheratz (Wikipedia HERE and Universe Guide HERE). "the Gamma Scorpionis planets": Scorpius, a constellation not to be confused with the astrological sign Scorpio. "Scorpius is one of the 48 constellations identi-

fied by the Greek astronomer Ptolemy in the second century. It is an ancient constellation that pre-dated the Greeks. It lies between Libra to the west and Sagittarius to the east. It is 
a large constellation located in the southern hemisphere near the center of the Milky Way." (Wikipedia HERE and Universe Guide HERE). Noir, "the dark star" in the story, would proba-bly be classified as a brown dwarf today. (Wikipedia HERE).
- The latest Magnus Ridolph adventure was "The Spa of the Stars" (HERE).

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