Friday, July 23, 2021

"They're Going To Kill Us, You Know"

"Lady Into Hell-cat."
By Stanley Mullen (1911-74).
Illustrated by Alden McWilliams (1916-93; HERE).
First appearance: Planet Stories, Spring 1949.
Reprints page (HERE).
Short story (11 or 16 pages).
Online at The Luminist Archives (HERE; original text; 11 pages; scroll down to page 66), Project Gutenberg (HERE; 16 pages as a PDF), and (HERE; original text; 11 pages).

   "Tracking her across black space-lanes and slapping magnetic bracelets on her was duck soup for S.P. Agent Heydrick. Only then did he learn what a planet-load of trouble he'd bought."

Transporting a prisoner has its hazards, but our protagonist will find out just how hazardous transporting this particular prisoner can be . . . .

Main characters:
~ The inspector of security police:
  "They ought to give her a medal. I feel sorry for the girl—good-looker, too. Still sounds like a police job."
~ Ria Tarsen:
  "Of course you're sorry. Now shut up. I hate post-mortems."
~ The co-pilot:
  "I thought you were through with the service."
~ Thorsan:
  "They're no use to us, either of them."
~ Tyko:
  "I don't understand."
~ Heydrick:
  "The universe is getting too crowded."

References and resources:
- "They can't use scopolomine [sic]": It's supposed to make you tell the truth; however:
  "Although a variety of such substances [known as "truth serums"] have been tested, serious issues have been raised about their use scientifically, ethically and legally. There is currently no drug proven to cause consistent or predictable enhancement of truth-telling. Subjects questioned under the influence of such substances have been found to be suggestible and their memories subject to reconstruction and fabrication. When such drugs have been used in the course of investigating civil and criminal cases, they have not been accepted by Western legal systems and legal experts as genuine investigative tools" (Wikipedia HERE and HERE).
- "she's hiding out on Ganymede": Considering its size that would be a neat trick:
  "Ganymede is the third of the Galilean moons from Jupiter. It is the largest moon in the Solar System, bigger than the planet Mercury (though less massive), almost 52% larger than the diameter of the Moon and with twice its mass. It is 77% the diameter of Mars. Ganymede's size made it a popular location for early science fiction authors looking for locations beyond Mars that might be inhabitable by humans. In reality, Ganymede is a cold, icy, cratered world with a vanishingly thin atmosphere" (Wikipedia HERE and HERE).
- "fungi hunters": Evidently at the time of our story it's big (and possibly illegal) business in the Solar System:
  "The fungus kingdom encompasses an enormous diversity of taxa with varied ecologies, life cycle strategies, and morphologies ranging from unicellular aquatic chytrids to large mushrooms. However, little is known of the true biodiversity of Kingdom Fungi, which has been estimated at 2.2 million to 3.8 million species" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "the Moons of Jupiter": When this story was first published nobody knew just how many natural satellites Jupiter has:
  "There are 79 known moons of Jupiter, not counting a number of moonlets likely shed from the inner moons, and S/2003/J/24" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "felt his head swell as if it were going to explode": Anyone who has experienced explosive decompression will tell you it's not a pleasant experience:
  "The term uncontrolled decompression here refers to the unplanned depressuri-sation of vessels that are occupied by people; for example, a pressurised aircraft cabin at high altitude, a spacecraft, or a hyperbaric chamber" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "some benzedrine": It certainly makes taking a nap less likely:
  "At therapeutic doses, amphetamine causes emotional and cognitive effects such as euphoria, change in desire for sex, increased wakefulness, and improved cognitive control. It induces physical effects such as improved reaction time, fatigue resis-tance, and increased muscle strength. Larger doses of amphetamine may impair cognitive function and induce rapid muscle breakdown" (Wikipedia HERE, HERE, and HERE).
- "a velocity of 89 Martian gravities": A scientific error:
  "The average gravitational acceleration on Mars is 3.72076 ms−2 (about 38% of that of Earth), and it varies" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "the Moons of Saturn": The ringed planet has even more satellites than mighty Jupiter:
  "The moons of Saturn are numerous and diverse, ranging from tiny moonlets only tens of meters across to enormous Titan, which is larger than the planet Mercury. Saturn has 82 moons with confirmed orbits that are not embedded in its rings" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "the northern ice-cap of Mars": Living at Earth's South Pole might be more congenial:
  "Mars has ice caps at its north pole and south pole, which mainly consist of water ice; however, there is frozen carbon dioxide (dry ice) present on their surfaces" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "The fused-quartz pane": Our author has anticipated the useful properties of this material in spacecraft windows and pressure domes:
  "Because of its strength, fused silica was used in deep diving vessels such as the bathysphere and benthoscope. Fused silica is also used to form the windows of crewed spacecraft, including the Space Shuttle and International Space Station" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "in the lighters": It was only natural that SFF authors would transpose Earth's nautical practices to outer space:
  "A lighter is a type of flat-bottomed barge used to transfer goods and passengers to and from moored ships" (Wikipedia HERE).
- Stanley Mullen was a member in good standing of Pulpsters Anonymous; see Wikipedia (HERE), the SFE (HERE), and the ISFDb (HERE).
- We've encountered our author a couple of times already: "Shock Treatment" (HERE) and "S.O.S. Aphrodite!" (HERE).


  1. Was Planet Stories the most awesome of all the science fiction pulps? It was certainly the most fun.

    Truth serums seem to have really gone out of style among crime writers.

    1. You're right about PLANET STORIES, Allan—wild and woolly and who cares about physics? It was basically ASTOUNDING/ANALOG that went down the Hard SF trail. And I can't understand why, as you say, truth serums aren't as common anymore; they're still as useful as a plot gimmick as they ever were.