Tuesday, September 15, 2020

"There Was Another Dead Man Aboard the Constellation"

"Morgue Ship."
By Ray Bradbury (1920-2012).
Illustration by [Joseph] Doolin (1896-1967; HERE).

First appearance: Planet Stories, Summer 1944.
Reprints page (HERE).
Short story (10 pages as a PDF).
Online at Project Gutenberg (HERE).

     "Two men. Rice and himself. Sharing a cozy morgue ship with a hundred other men who had forgotten, quite suddenly, however, to talk again."

"You never catch up with the war." True enough, but sooner or later the war will catch up with you . . .

Main characters:
~ Sam Burnett:
  "This would be his last trip, or he'd know the reason why!"
~ Rice:
  "Only dead men belong here."
~ Lethla:
  "That's how I did it, Earthman."
~ Kriere:
  ". . . the All-Mighty."

References and resources:
- "majordomo": "A majordomo is a person who speaks, makes arrangements, or takes charge for another." (Wikipedia HERE).
- "this Venusian here": In 1944 Bradbury, like many SFF writers of the period, could get away with populating Venus with life forms, but science has moved on. "Fictional representations of the planet Venus have existed since the 19th century. Its impenetrable cloud cover gave science fiction writers free rein to speculate on conditions at its surface; all the more so when early observations showed that not only was it very similar in size to Earth, it possessed a substantial atmosphere. Closer to the Sun than Earth, the planet was frequently depicted as warmer, but still habitable by humans. The genre reached its peak between the 1930s and 1950s, at a time when science had revealed some aspects of Venus, but not yet the harsh reality of its surface conditions." (Wikipedia HERE and HERE).

- "a new war concerning Io": As with Venus, space probes since our story was published have shown Io to be none too hospitable. "Io, or Jupiter I, is the innermost and third-largest of the four Galilean moons of the planet Jupiter. It is the fourth-largest moon in the Solar System, has the highest density of all of them, and has the lowest amount of water (by atomic ratio) of any known astronomical object in the Solar System. It was discovered in 1610 by Galileo Galilei and was named after the mythological character Io, a priestess of Hera who became one of Zeus's lovers. With over 400 active volcanoes, Io is the most geologically active object in the Solar System." (Wikipedia HERE and HERE).
- Even now, with everything getting flushed down the memory hole, Ray Douglas Bradbury is still widely remembered: Wikipedia (HERE), the SFE (HERE), a tribute site (HERE), the ISFDb (HERE), and the IMDb (HERE; 104 screen credits).
- We previously featured Bradbury's "The Pedestrian" (HERE), a story with a theme promoting individual freedom that's more timely than ever. (Note: The second off-site link is now dead.)


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