Friday, April 26, 2024

"He Knew There Were No Gopher Holes on Mars"

By Ron Smith (1936-87; ISFDb HERE; FictionMags HERE).
First appearance: The Original Science Fiction Stories, 
November 1957.
Reprinted in The Original Science Fiction Stories (U.K.) #2, 1958.
Short short short story (2 pages).
Online at SFFAudio (HERE).
(Note: Some text smudged but legible.)

   "What will it do to me? he wondered, sickening at the thought."

A LOT of people think that an American president was the first to say something about how "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself," but that particular formulation was already centuries old when he did that. Regardless of whether it was FDR or Montaigne or someone else is totally irrelevant to the spaceman in today's story. That's because he's about to find out on a very personal level what those words truly mean . . .

Main characters:
~ Shil Wallach:
  "He didn't care; he ignored it, his mind rushing as fast as his feet."
~ The Frejul:
  "Behind him the Frejul was moving closer; not more than a hundred yards separated 
them now."
Reference and resource:
- The Mars depicted in our story is typical of '50s science fiction, but sixty years of space probes have shown that the notion of running around on Mars without life support as our characters apparently do is simply out of the question. See (HERE) for all of the grim facts:
  "According to ESA, Mars' atmosphere is composed of 95.32% carbon dioxide, 2.7% nitrogen, 1.6% argon and 0.13% oxygen. The atmospheric pressure at the surface is 6.35 mbar which is over 100 times less
Earth's. Humans therefore cannot breathe Martian air."
- Ron Smith teamed with John Baxter on a very limited series in Analog featuring a character named Stephen Quist. Those stories were featured on ONTOS a few years ago (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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