Thursday, February 29, 2024

"With That Sort of Power, You Can Control Destiny"

IF YOU don't regard Simon Ark as a pure fantasy figure (it's arguable), then Ed Hoch's first genuinely SFF (science fiction-fantasy) story would be . . .

By Irwin Booth (Edward D. Hoch, 1930-2008; ISFDb HERE).
First appearance: Science Fiction Stories, September 1956.
Illustration by Orban (1896-1974; ISFDb HERE).
Reprints page (HERE).
Collected in The Future Is Ours (2015; HERE).
Short short story (6 pages).
Online at The Luminist Archives (HERE; go to text page 121).

   "I wanted to shout out to Mason, to warn him — but I remained numb. What would I be trying to save him from?"

Think about how much you can get done in fifty-five minutes: consecutively soft-boil eleven eggs, drive seventy miles, get married, get divorced, lose your shirt in Vegas (or the stock market—your option), but—very rarely, we hope—you could stage-manage somebody's murder . . .

Principal characters:
~ Rosemary:
  "At twenty-eight, she is already the brains behind Neptune’s smile. The simple fact is that she is a mathematical genius, not just in the usual sense, but in a very unusual sense."
~ Narrator (unnamed):
  "I glanced at the big wall clock as they talked, and I was aware that Rosemary was watching it, too."
~ Mason:
  "He always left the office at three minutes to five. He was the kind of punctual man you could set your watch by; he always walked down the two flights of stairs, rather than wait for the elevator."

It would seem that the problem of book sales as explained by Rosemary (just below) has been somewhat alleviated since the '50s with electronic publishing, but it hasn't been entirely eliminated yet:

   "I knew it was the best way for me to get to the top fast. The big drawback in publishing has always been, it seems to me, that the books aren’t around at the exact instant that most people want to buy them. By the time they see the book they wanted, the purchasing desire has decreased. Put the books into their hands when their purchasing desire is at its peak, and you’ve got sales."

References and resources:
- "a sort of slide-rule mathematical equation":
  "A slide rule is a hand-operated mechanical calculator consisting of slidable rulers for evaluating mathematical operations such as multiplication, division, exponents, roots, logarithms, and trigonometry. It is one of the simplest analog computers." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "I aim one angle of incidence to meet another angle of incidence. Result? Co-incidence!":
  We're not sure how sound Rosemary's logic is; in any event, see Wikipedia (HERE).
- "on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Forty-seventh Street":
  A real place; see Wikipedia (HERE).
- "on his way to Grand Central Terminal":
  Another real place; see Wikipedia (HERE) and (HERE).
- Could Hoch have been influenced by Fritz Leiber's novel Conjure Wife (1952)? (WARNING! SPOILERS! Wikipedia HERE.)
- Hoch used the Irwin Booth byline only three times:
  (1) "Co-incidence," (ss) Science Fiction Stories, September 1956 (above)
  (2) "The Chippy," (ss) Guilty Detective Story Magazine, November 1956
  (3) "Killer Cop," (nv) Terror Detective Story Magazine #4, April 1957.
- A couple of movies that have mathematical whizzes as characters include Good Will Hunting (1997; WARNING! SPOILERS! HERE) and The Oxford Murders (2008; WARNING! SPOILERS! HERE). A more complete list is (HERE).
- Our latest contact with Edward D. Hoch's fiction was also SFF, "The Last Paradox" (HERE).

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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