Saturday, January 2, 2021

"The Spotlight Meant Violence and Sudden Death"

HERE'S ANOTHER ATTEMPT that works to combine the hardboiled motif with SFF, and it succeeds very well, with more characterization than usual; our protagonist has no inkling that very shortly he will have to undergo a life-changing . . .

"Shock Treatment."
By Stanley Mullen (1911-74).

Illustration by Wilson (?-?; HERE).
First appearance: Worlds of IF, September 1952.

Novelette (32 pages).
Online at SFFAudio (HERE) and (HERE).

     "One of us is nuts. It's a toss-up."

When a knockout femme comes to a down-on-his-luck bartender for help ("the task," she says, "should be simple"), trouble—and plenty of it—is only just beginning . . . .

Main characters:
~ Newlin:

  "To him all men were enemies. As a spacebum, he had explored the raw expanding frontiers as Man surged from planet to planet."
~ Songeen:
  "Then she came in—and he was no longer bored."
~ Careld:
  ". . . swept up the corpses into neat piles of ash . . ."
~ Genarion:
  "His alien form was a bridge between two worlds . . ."

Comment: Just when you think it's going one way, this story takes the reader in totally unexpected directions; and while Mullen employs copious amounts of descriptive prose, he does it without being boring.

Typo: "sanity as its furthest riples".

References and resources:
- "cloud-shrouded Venus": Up until the 1960s, science fiction writers made the most of mankind's collective ignorance of Venus: "The impenetrable Venusian 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 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." (Wikipedia HERE and HERE).
- "elder brothers to the human race": The SFFnal trope of an elder race (a.k.a. forerunners or precursors) pops up in our story; see Wikipedia (HERE), the SFE (HERE), and TV Tropes (HERE) for more details.
- "like Aeolian harps": "The Aeolian harp has a long history of being associated with the numinous, perhaps for its vibrant timbres that produce an ethereal sound. Homer relates that Hermes invented the lyre from dried sinews stretched over a tortoise shell. It was able to be played by the wind. The same is said of the lyre of King David, which was played by a wind sent from God." (Wikipedia HERE).
- "Chinese windbells": "Wind chimes started to become modernized around 1100 B.C. after the Chinese began to cast bells." (Wikipedia HERE).
- "as far beyond Einstein's as his were beyond Euclid's": If you're going very fast, then Einstein's your man; otherwise, you live in Euclid's universe. (Wikipedia HERE and HERE).
- There's more about our author on Wikipedia (HERE) and the SFE (HERE).
-  We recently highlighted Stanley Mullen's crime/SFF hybrid "S.O.S. Aphrodite!" (HERE).


1 comment:

  1. The combination of hardboiled crime and science fiction is something I'm really starting to like. I thought Paul W. Fairman did a pretty good job of it in his short novel The Girl Who Loved Death.