Saturday, December 19, 2020

"Jubb! Jubb! Jubb!"

A COMMON FICTIONAL TROPE is the reluctant spy, the individual who unintentionally blunders into intrigue and danger; Alfred Hitchcock made the most of it, and so did today's author, who has her protagonist answer the . . .

"Last Call from Sector 9G."
By Leigh Brackett (1915-78).

Illustrations by [Herman] Vestal (1916-2007; HERE).
First appearance: Planet Stories, Summer 1955.
Reprints page (HERE).
Novelette (43 pages).
Online at Project Gutenberg (HERE).

     "Out there in the green star system; far beyond the confining grip of the Federation, moved the feared Bitter Star, for a thousand frigid years the dark and sinister manipulator of war-weary planets."

Not everybody gets a second chance to prove himself worthy, so when it happens to Durham he jumps at the opportunity; the problem, as he quickly discovers, is that it very likely could get him killed . . . .

Main characters:
~ Artie:
  ". . . was a cheap off-brand make, and bought used, and he lacked some cogs. Any first class servall would have seen that the master had passed out in his chair and was in no condition to receive guests. But Artie did not . . ."

~ Burke and Paulsen:
  "Burke stepped quickly behind the servall and pushed the main toggle to OFF. Artie stopped, with a sound ridiculously like a tired sigh. Paulsen went past him and locked the door. Then both of them turned again to face Durham."

~ Durham:
  "Hawtree wouldn't send for me if I was the last man in the galaxy. Hawtree, indeed."

~ Hawtree:
  "He looked tired, but then he always had. Tired and keyed up, full of the drive and the brittle excitement of one who has juggled peoples and nations, expressed as black marks on sheets of varicolored paper, for so long that it has become a habit as necessary and destructive as hashish."
~ Morrison:
  "Blessed are the fools, for they shall inherit nothing."

~ Baya:
  "Was it because of Baya's eyes, that wept tears but had no sorrow in them? He could see them quite clearly, and they were not sorrowful at all, but avid."
~ Varnik:
  "Will you behave now?"

~ The young couple:
  ". . . had come into the square space. They were small lithe people, muscled like ocelots, and their skin color was a pale green, very pretty, and characteristic of several different races, but no good for identification here."

~ Susan:
  "He caught the quick glint of tears in her eyes and was appalled. Tears for him? From Susan Hawtree?"
~ The Senyan captain of the Margaretta K:
  "Remain calm. Remain quiet. In that way you should be able to survive. It is not that we are grudging. It is simply that we cannot share any of our supplies with you, because you are alien life forms and totally incompatible."

~ Karlovic:
  "Listen, Mr. Durham, the emperors of Rome only ruled part of one little world, but they didn't give it up easily."

~ Jubb:
  ". . . looked at him with his large inscrutable eyes, totally alien, unmistakably intelligent."

References and resources:
- "The city was beautiful. Its official name was Galactic Center, but it was called The Hub because that is what it was, the hub and focus of a galaxy. It was the biggest city in the Milky Way. It covered almost the entire land area of the third planet of a Type G star that someone with a sense of humor had christened Pax." Planet-covering cities like Pax are not unusual in science fiction; for example, Asimov's Trantor (Asimov Fandom HERE and Wikipedia HERE) and Coruscant (Wikipedia HERE).
- "Nanta Dik circles a green star":
   "In astronomy, a green star is a white or blue star that appears green due to an optical illusion. There are no truly green stars, because the color of a star is more or less given by a black-body spectrum, which never looks green. However, there are a few stars that appear green to some observers. This is usually because of the optical illusion that a red object can make nearby objects look greenish. There are some multiple star systems, such as Antares, with a bright red star where this illusion makes other stars in the system look green." (Wikipedia HERE).

- "the esperanto it spoke was perfectly understandable":
   "Esperanto is the most widely spoken constructed international auxiliary language. The word esperanto translates into English as 'one who hopes'." (Wikipedia HERE). Our author probably meant the term to designate a universal language used throughout the Galaxy among humans and non-humans alike.
- "higher than Haman": From the Bible:
   "On the king's orders, Haman was hanged from the 50-cubit-high gallows that had originally been built by Haman himself, on the advice of his wife Zeresh, in order to hang Mordechai." (Wikipedia HERE).

- "clear out to Andromeda": The reference here is to the galaxy seen in the constellation of the same name:
   "The Andromeda Galaxy, also known as Messier 31, M31, or NGC 224 and originally the Andromeda Nebula, is a barred spiral galaxy approximately 2.5 million light-years (770 kiloparsecs) from Earth and the nearest major galaxy to the Milky Way. The galaxy's name stems from the area of Earth's sky in which it appears, the constellation of Andromeda, which itself is named after the Ethiopian (or Phoenician) princess who was the wife of Perseus in Greek mythology." (Wikipedia HERE).

- Vintage Pop Fictions has a good summary review of today's story (HERE).
- Leigh Douglass Brackett Hamilton wrote high quality science fantasy, which could explain why you'll see her name on a few of the better Star Wars productions; go to the IMDb (HERE; 23 screen credits). Lots of other info about her is at Wikipedia (HERE), the SFE (HERE), Bewildering Stories (HERE), Black Gate (HERE), and, of course, the ISFDb (HERE).


  1. Leigh Brackett was a wonderful writer. I don't think anybody ever did sword-and-planet adventure stories better. She combined adventure with an odd melancholy tone - she was obsessed with dead and dying civilisations.

    1. I couldn't agree with you more. Hers was the epitome of that particular kind of writing which her imitators could only envy and never equal.