Wednesday, December 20, 2023

"He Had Murdered His Best Friend with a Needle and Thread . . . His Problem Was To Find Out How"

"By Needle and Thread."
By Richard P. Ennis (?-?; ISFDb HERE).
Illustrated by Harry Turner (1920-2009; ISFDb HERE).
First appearance: Nebula Science Fiction No. 10 (1954).
Short story (11 pages; 2 illos).
Online at (HERE) and The Luminist Archives (HERE; go to text page 66).

   "A small tailor’s needle and a piece of thread were things I used every day; it baffled me how I had used them to commit a murder."

When is a murder not a murder? You're about to find out . . .

Principal characters:
~ The unnamed narrator:
  "A case of mistaken identity, I am inclined to call it. But the guards will never learn about it from me."
~ Gerald Frazer:
  "We were all born on Earth and our conversation nearly always deals with affairs of that planet. A ship-born man like Frazer has nothing in common with us."
~ John Sebastian Howard:
  "I tried to imagine his shocked surprise if I told him that I had killed a man on board this ship while he was still an infant in arms."
~ Mr. Humber:
  "I'll need all my wits about me to defeat Humber. The cunning devil! He played his cards with supreme finesse today."
~ The stout officer:
  "You killed who?"
~ The young guard:
  "It’s—It’s like a museum. There’s an air of decay about the whole place that gets you down. And the staff — old men. Earth-born every one of them. They seem more like exhibits than people. It gave me the creeps."

Typo: "The the picture changed".

- Regarding this story, you might benefit from considering the concept of the "unreliable narrator" (Wikipedia HERE). Indeed, it's hard not to find parallels not only between "By Needle and Thread" and a couple of Edgar Poe's tales (Wikipedia HERE and HERE), but also with Nikolai Gogol's only first-person narrative in particular (Wikipedia HERE).
- For the full lowdown about the kind of space travel depicted in our story see "Sublight Starships" in Winchell Chung's Atomic Rockets megasite (HERE). For a briefer overview of the same, see Wikipedia (HERE).
- Our practically anonymous author has only two story credits in FictionMags:
  (1) "By Needle and Thread," Nebula Science Fiction No. 10 (1954) (above)
  (2) "The Lonely Ones," Authentic Science Fiction Monthly No. 61, September 1955.

Bottom line:
  Truth will come to light, 
  murder cannot be hid long.

Unless otherwise noted, all bibliographical data are derived from The FictionMags Index created by William G. Contento & edited by Phil Stephensen-Payne.

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