Saturday, February 27, 2021

"Some Witnesses Were Bribed—and Others Were Murdered"

"Dateline: MARS."
By Richard Wilson (1920-87).
Illustration by [Edd] Cartier (1914-2008; HERE).
First appearance: Planet Stories, May 1951.
Reprints page (HERE).
Short story (14 pages as a PDF).
Online at Project Gutenberg (HERE).

     "It was the story behind the biggest story on Mars—how Fate had grimly reckoned with the Rockhead Rastol—but Scott Warren of Galactic News couldn't write it ... yet."

It's been said that one man's George Washington is another man's Osama bin Laden. It all depends, we suppose, on who you're talking to at the moment. In the case of the head of GNS's Mars bureau, he is unwittingly on his way to finding out. While it's true that "democratic government returned to Mars and everything was dandy—for a while," in the background, ever present if not seen, hover "the stench of Druro" and the man who "had no left arm" . . . .

Principal characters:
~ Scott Warren, the chief of the Mars bureau of Galactic News Service:
  "He wished he could tell them the truth, a truth not dictated by Policy."
~ Ylia:
  "At short range she never misses by so much as a hair."
~ Kring:
  "Ylia's father was Kring, a sub-commissioner of commerce in the government of President Murain."
~ Toby Black:
  ". . . a W.G. investigator whose real job was known to only a few and who posed as a sales manager for a construction firm."
~ Rastol:
  ". . . had ability, of course, but he also had a tinge, if not a definite odor."
~ Acton:
  "Look well. Is it a disguise?"
~ The Green Arrow:
  "The Arrow's raids sparked slow-down movements and some sabotage and evoked Rockhead reprisals, against guilty and innocent alike."

Comment: The fact that our protagonist makes use of "his typewriter" in the future signals yet another failure to anticipate the potential of the recently developed transistor (Wikipedia HERE) and computers in general.

References and resources:
- "in the desert below Syrtis": Probably a reference to Syrtis Major Planum, named by Schiaparelli; see Wikipedia (HERE).
- "pork-barreled": A political term with a charming history; see Wikipedia (HERE).
- "typed '30' at the end of his copy": Another term, this one with a disputed history; see Wikipedia (HERE).
- "A sandstorm blowing across the desert": As far back as the 19th century the surface of Mars was known to experience sandstorms; see Wikipedia (HERE).
- You can find plenty of information about Richard Wilson in the usual reliable sources: FictionMags (HERE), Wikipedia (HERE), the SFE (HERE), Fancyclopedia (HERE), and the ISFDb (HERE).
- The FictionMags Index notes that Wilson wrote five stories in his Galactic News Service series starring Scott Warren:

  (1) "Dateline: MARS," Planet Stories, May 1951 (above)
  (2) "Incident in Iopa," Future Science Fiction, January 1953
  (3) "Strike," Future Science Fiction, July 1953
  (4) "New Weapon," Future Science Fiction, November 1953
  (5) "Inside Story," Galaxy Science Fiction, June 1955.

We'll be returning to Warren of the GNS very soon.
- Several years ago we highlighted Richard Wilson's inferior crime/SFF hybrid "Murder from Mars" (HERE).
- The newsbiz has long been a favorite background for fiction writers, including mystery and less often SFF, and we've come across them on this weblog; here are just a few that we've encountered: Lawrence G. Blochman's "The Girl with the Burgundy Lips" (HERE), Theodore Roscoe's "His Honor Is Missing" (HERE) and "Ghost on Lonesome Hill" (HERE), George Dilnot's "Silverdale of Brain Street" (HERE), Stephen Leacock's "Who Do You Think Did It? or, The Mixed-Up Murder Mystery" (HERE), Will F. Jenkins's "Headline" (HERE), J. Madison Davis's nonfictional "Polly, Nancy, and Torchy Crack the Case: Those Relentless Women Reporters" (HERE), Edward McDermott's "The Snatchers" (HERE), and Robert R. Mill's "Mrs. Murder" (HERE).

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