Friday, June 28, 2024

"The Mystery of the Frozen Man"

"The Forged Suicide."
By Henry T. Gardner (?-?).
First (and only) appearance: Ainslee's Magazine, May 1901.
Artist uncredited.
Short story (8 pages; 6 illos).
Online at (HERE; go to text page 369).

   "But I was thinking that if it was traced, they would be making some nasty inquiries——"

Quasimodo had his Esmerelda, Heathcliff had his Cathy, Tristan had his Isolde, and Romeo had his Juliet, but will Jacob have his Eleanor without the same results?

Main characters:
~ Alexander Mowatt ("They have a way of doing that"), Parkinson ("The likes of him ought to know their place and be made keep to it"), Officer Peter Clancey ("Them furriners is great for makun way wid umselves"), Izzy Weinstein ("Pretty good stuff, for poetry"), H. Mendelson ("Yes, he said, when he was brought to the morgue, that was the man"), Purvis ("He will never know till he reads this how near he came to making a great reputation for himself on Park Row"), Eleanor Mowatt ("Yes, she was angelic, but——"), Jacob Vinsky ("Then you say 'No' to me?"), and Miss Theobold ("Isn't it nice to be rich!").

Comment: Here we have an early example of crime fiction serving as a delivery vehicle for social commentary—which, in contrast, seems to be the norm these days.

References and resources:
- "casualties among the tenement house population":
  "In the United States, the term tenement initially meant a large building with multiple small spaces to rent. As cities grew in the nineteenth century, there was increasing separation between rich and poor. With rapid urban growth and immigration, overcrowded houses with poor sanitation gave tenements a reputation as shanty towns. The expression 'tenement house' was used to designate a building subdivided to provide cheap rental accommodation, which was initially a subdivision of a large house. Beginning in the 1850s, purpose-built tenements of up to six stories held several households on each floor. Various names were introduced for better dwellings, and eventually modern apartments predominated in American urban living." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "the park policemen in the squad-room of the Arsenal":
  "The Arsenal is a symmetrical brick building with modestly Gothic Revival details, located in Central Park in New York City adjacent to the Central Park Zoo. It is centered on 64th Street west of Fifth Avenue. Built between 1847 and 1851 as a storehouse for arms and ammunition for the New York State Militia, the building is the second-oldest extant structure that was constructed within Central Park, predating the park's construction. . . . it has also served as a zoo, a police precinct and a weather bureau . . ." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "the discovery of an unknown suicide in the upper park":
  "Central Park is bordered by Central Park North at 110th Street; Central Park South at 59th Street; Central Park West at Eighth Avenue; and Fifth Avenue on the east. The park is adjacent to the neighborhoods of Harlem to the north, Midtown Manhattan to the south, the Upper West Side to the west, and the Upper East Side to the east. It measures 2.5 miles (4.0 km) from north to south and 0.5 miles (0.80 km) from west to east." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "on Park Row":
  "During the late 19th century, Park Row was nicknamed Newspaper Row, as most of New York City's newspapers located on the street to be close to City Hall. Among the earlier newspapers in the area were 'The New York Times', which in 1857 became the first New York City newspaper to be housed in a structure built specially for its use. Part of the southern section of the street, centered on the intersection with Spruce Street, was known as Printing House Square. The newspapers housed on Newspaper Row, combined, printed more than 250,000 copies per day at their peak, leading the area to be considered 'America's preeminent press center.' Other papers, such as the 'New York Herald' and 'The Sun', were near Newspaper Row but not actually housed on Park Row itself." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "the cleverest Central Office detectives":
  "The Detective Bureau is one of 14 bureaus within the New York City Police Department and is headed by the three-star Chief of Detectives. The Detective Squad was formed in 1857 with the Detective Bureau later formed in 1882." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "the Theosophical Society":
  "The Theosophical Society is the organizational body of Theosophy, an esoteric new religious movement. It was founded in New York City, U.S. in 1875. Among its founders were Helena Blavatsky, a Russian mystic and the principal thinker of the Theosophy movement, and Henry Steel Olcott, the society's first president. It draws upon a wide array of influences among them older European philosophies and movements such as Neoplatonism and occultism, as well as parts of Asian religious traditions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "the A. P.":
  "The Associated Press (AP) is an American not-for-profit news agency headquartered in New York City. Founded in 1846, it operates as a cooperative, unincorporated association, and produces news reports that are distributed to its members, major U.S. daily newspapers and radio and television broadcasters." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "the University Settlement":
  "The University Settlement Society of New York is an American organization which provides educational and social services to immigrants and low-income families, located at 184 Eldridge Street (corner of Eldridge and Rivington Streets) on the Lower East Side of the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York. It provides numerous services for the mostly immigrant population of the neighborhood and has since 1886, when it was established as the first settlement house in the United States." (Wikipedia HERE; also see HERE.)
- "flaming Sinai":
  "Mount Sinai (Hebrew: הַר סִינַי‬‎, Har Sīnay) is the mountain at which the Ten Commandments were given to Moses by God, according to the Book of Exodus in the Hebrew Bible. In the Book of Deuteronomy, these events are described as having transpired at Mount Horeb. 'Sinai' and 'Horeb' are generally considered by scholars to refer to the same place. The location of the Mount Sinai described in the Bible remains disputed. The high point of the dispute was in the mid-nineteenth century. Hebrew Bible texts describe the theophany at Mount Sinai in terms which a minority of scholars, following Charles Beke (1873), have suggested may literally describe the mountain as a volcano. Mount Sinai is one of the most sacred locations in Judaism, Christianity and Islam." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "his plan for utilizing the intense cold of liquid air":
  "Electricity made the development of effective units possible. In 1901, American inventor Willis H. Carrier built what is considered the first modern electrical air conditioning unit. In 1902, he installed his first air-conditioning system, in the Sackett-Wilhelms Lithographing & Publishing Company in Brooklyn, New York. His invention controlled both the temperature and humidity, which helped maintain consistent paper dimensions and ink alignment at the printing plant. . . . Domestic air conditioning soon took off." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "The sweltering sweat-shop":
  "Between 1832 and 1850, sweatshops attracted individuals with lower incomes to growing cities, and attracted immigrants to locations such as London and New York City's garment district, located near the tenements of New York's Lower East Side. These sweatshops incurred criticism: labor leaders cited them as crowded, poorly ventilated, and prone to fires and rodent infestations: in many cases, there were many workers crowded into small tenement rooms." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "they tell me it's very cold between the stars":
  "Outer space (or simply space) is the expanse that exists beyond Earth's atmosphere and between celestial bodies. It contains ultra-low levels of particle densities, constituting a near-perfect vacuum of predominantly hydrogen and helium plasma, permeated by electromag-netic radiation, cosmic rays, neutrinos, magnetic fields and dust. The baseline temperature of outer space, as set by the background radiation from the Big Bang, is 2.7 kelvins (−270 °C; −455 °F)." (Wikipedia HERE).
- Is this Englishman the author of our story, a victim of World War I (HERE)? Otherwise we know nothing about Henry T. Gardner.
- FictionMags has only two entries for Gardner:
  (1) "John Philip Sousa," (illustrated article) Ainslee’s Magazine, July 1900
  (2) "The Forged Suicide," (short story) Ainslee’s Magazine, May 1901 (above).

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

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

A Quiet Revolution

"Private Enterprise."
By Edwin James (James E. Gunn, 1923-2020; Wikipedia HERE; ISFDb HERE; IMDb HERE).
Illustration by Miller (1928-2015; ISFDb HERE).
First appearance: Astounding Science Fiction, July 1950.
Reprinted in Astounding Science Fiction (U.K.), December 1950.
Short story (15 pages).
Online at SFFAudio (HERE).

   "The Rigelians are a suspicious, clever race, as you know."

THIS particular job requires more than usual: "It's more difficult," says the chief, "than being a spy. A spy can operate undercover, but you must act in the open." It's a lot like what magicians do, pulling off the sneaky stuff in plain sight. But what a magician does looks simple compared to this. Bill will have to do this job extremely well or amicable interstellar relations could fall down and go boom—and him with it . . .

Principal characters:
~ Bill Stewart ("The problem would be to seem completely preoccupied"), the Rigelian secret police officer ("Do you mean to imply by that remark a criticism of the government?"), the Rigelian investigator ("You are not in a position to demand anything"), the chief ("There must be no connection between this and your other activities"), Calr Mtar ("His tracks were well covered"), and the inquisitor ("A state of anarchy is when strong men and strong planets come to power").

  "It has been said that a well-organized minority can control any election. The corollary to that maxim is that a powerful, well-organized economic minority can control a nation, a planet, or a planetary system."

References and resources:
- "Rigel V":
  The chances that Rigel has habitable planets aren't very good because it's hot:
  "Rigel is a blue supergiant star in the constellation of Orion. It has the Bayer designation β Orionis, which is Latinized to Beta Orionis and abbreviated Beta Ori or β Ori. Rigel is the brightest and most massive component – and the eponym – of a star system of at least four stars that appear as a single blue-white point of light to the naked eye. This system is located at a distance of approximately 860 light-years (260 pc) from the Sun. A star of spectral type B8Ia, Rigel is calculated to be anywhere from 61,500 to 363,000 times as luminous as the Sun, and 18 to 24 times as massive, depending on the method and assumptions used. Its radius is more than seventy times that of the Sun, and its surface temperature is 12,100 K (21,140 degrees F)." (Wikipedia HERE.)
  However, science fiction TV producers aren't bothered by that: "In 2266, several women on Rigel IV were murdered by Redjac. ('Wolf in the Fold'). During the same year, Harcourt Mudd, using the illegal Venus drug, attempted to sell Eve McHuron, Ruth Bonaventure, and Magda Kovacs to lithium miners on Rigel XII. ('Mudd's Women')." (Memory Alpha HERE.)
- "Sol III":
  That would be Oith: "Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the only astronomical object known to harbor life. This is enabled by Earth being an ocean world, the only one in the Solar System sustaining liquid surface water. Almost all of Earth's water is contained in its global ocean, covering 70.8% of Earth's crust. The remaining 29.2% of Earth's crust is land, most of which is located in the form of continental landmasses within Earth's land hemisphere. . . . The Modern English word Earth developed, via Middle English, from an Old English noun most often spelled eorðe. It has cognates in every Germanic language, and their ancestral root has been reconstructed as erþō." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "Fifteen thousand credits":
  "The use of 'credits' is particularly common in futuristic settings, so much so that Sam Humphries has pointed it out as a cliché: 'In any science-fiction movie, anywhere in the galaxy, currency is referred to as 'credits.' Credits are frequently envisioned as a form of electronic money." (Wikipedia HERE.)
  "The Federation credit was a monetary unit used by the United Federation of Planets. Although it was stated on more than one occasion that the economy of the future was very different, and that money no longer existed on Earth from as early as the late 22nd century or in the Federation as late as the 24th century, this medium of exchange did still exist within that period. All known examples of credit use were via transactions outside or on the periphery of the Federation." (Memory Alpha HERE.)
- "all the laws of the galaxy and Rigel V":
  For an unserious look at how things get adjudicated throughout the galaxy, see Edward Wellen's "Origins of Galactic Law" (HERE). For other instances of SFFnal treatments of jurisprudence see Alan E. Nourse's "Letter of the Law" (HERE) and Miriam Allen de Ford's "The Eel" (HERE), 
- "refined uranium":
  Just five years after the destruction of two Japanese cities, everybody knew what uranium could do: "As little as 15 lb (6.8 kg) of uranium-235 can be used to make an atomic bomb. The nuclear weapon detonated over Hiroshima, called Little Boy, relied on uranium fission. However, the first nuclear bomb (the Gadget used at Trinity) and the bomb that was detonated over Nagasaki (Fat Man) were both plutonium bombs." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "And, if you are caught, you can expect no help from Earth or this organization":
  Sound familiar? See Wikipedia (HERE).
- "had already sold short":
  "In finance, being short in an asset means investing in such a way that the investor will profit if the market value of the asset falls. This is the opposite of the more common long position, where the investor will profit if the market value of the asset rises. An investor that sells an asset short is, as to that asset, a short seller." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- Interstellar diplomacy can be tricky and sometimes hazardous to your health; just ask Jame Retief of the CDT (Wikipedia HERE).

The bottom line:
  "DEMOCRACY: A governmental system involving a high percentage of negative feedback around all stages of the system from input to output."

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

Monday, June 24, 2024

"How the Devil Could They Get Out Again Leaving the Door Locked and Bolted on the Inside?"

"Miss Marple Tells a Story."
By Agatha Christie (1890-1976; Wikipedia HERE).
First appearance: "Specially commissioned by the BBC as a radio play and read by Christie herself on May 11, 1934" (FictionMags).
First print appearance: The Regatta Mystery (1939; Wikipedia HERE).
Reprinted in EQMM, November 1969 (today's text).
Reprinted in Murder Most Foul (1984).
Short short story (8 pages).
Online at The Luminist Archives (HERE; go to text page 73).

   ". . . just by applying a little common sense, I believe I really did solve a problem that had baffled cleverer heads than mine."

FILL in the blank: "Yesterday, upon the stair, I met a ___ who wasn't there." Miss Marple proves that, in the case of the apparently impossible murder of Mrs. Rhodes allegedly 
by her husband, the usual answer is essentially irrelevant . . .

Main characters:
~ Gwen ("you remember Gwen, my little maid with red hair?"), Mr. Petherick ("A very shrewd man and a really clever solicitor"), Mr. Rhodes ("His manner was most peculiar"), Mrs. Rhodes ("lying in bed stabbed through the heart"), Sir Malcolm Olde, K.C. ("he had indicated a certain line of defense"), Mary Hill ("Her story has never varied"), Mrs. Granby ("an Anglo-Indian widow"), and Miss Carruthers ("rather a horsey spinster who dropped her g's").

References and resources:
- The poem that begins "Yesterday, upon the stair" is "Antigonish" (1899) by William Hughes Mearns: "It is also known as 'The Little Man Who Wasn't There' and was adapted as a hit song under the latter title." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "Mr. Alma-Tadema":
  "A painter of mostly classical subjects, he became famous for his depictions of the luxury and decadence of the Roman Empire, with languorous figures set in fabulous marbled interiors or against a backdrop of dazzling blue Mediterranean sea and sky. One of the most popular Victorian painters, Alma-Tadema was admired during his lifetime for his draftsmanship and accurate depictions of Classical antiquity, but his work fell out of fashion after his death, and only since the 1960s has it been appreciated for its importance within Victorian painting." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "Mr. Frederic Leighton":
  "Frederic Leighton, 1st Baron Leighton, PRA (1830 – 1896), known as Sir Frederic Leighton between 1878 and 1896, was a British Victorian painter, draughtsman, and sculptor. His works depicted historical, biblical, and classical subject matter in an academic style. His paintings were enormously popular and expensive, during his lifetime, but fell out of critical favour for many decades in the early 20th century." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "wore pince-nez":
  "Pince-nez are central to the murder mystery in the Sherlock Holmes story 'The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez.' Another murder mystery, Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers, features a victim found dead in a bathtub wearing nothing but a pair of pince-nez. Numerous fictional characters have been depicted as wearing pince-nez. These include Hercule Poirot in the television series Agatha Christie's Poirot, who wears pince-nez that are attached to a cord around his neck . . ." (Wikipedia HERE.)
   In "The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez":
  "A lone piece of evidence was found in Willoughby Smith's hand: a pair of golden pince-nez glasses. Holmes examines these and from them alone deduces the following details of the murderer:
  "It is a woman;
  "She is of some good breeding;
  "She dresses like a lady;
  "She is a person of refinement and is well dressed;
  "She has a thick nose;
  "Her eyes are close together;
  "She has a puckered forehead, a peering look, and likely rounded shoulders;
  "She has been to an optician at least twice over the last few months."
  — Wikipedia (WARNING! SPOILERS! HERE) and Wikisource (HERE).
- Is Miss Marple channeling Father Brown (HERE)?
- Here are three previous ONTOS encounters with Mrs. Christie's works, by no means the only ones: The Mysterious Affair at Styles (HERE), "The Plymouth Express Affair" (HERE), and "The Case of the Distressed Lady" (HERE).

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

Friday, June 21, 2024

"A Perfect Alibi, and Could He Help It if the Bride and Groom Never Arrived?"

YOU might be going through back numbers of science fiction magazines and sometimes come across a story bylined "S. M. Tenneshaw." As far as we know, no such person ever drew breath. The Tenneshaw moniker was a Ziff-Davis publishing house pseudonym shared by authors who would or had already made a name for themselves in the SFF genre (SFE): Randall Garrett (1927-87), Edmond Hamilton (1904-77), John W. Jakes (1932-2023), Stephen Marlowe (Milton Lesser, 1928-2008), Frank M. Robinson (1926-2014), Robert Silverberg (born 1935), and Charles Beaumont (1929-67). If you're really into any of these authors' styles, you might be able to discern which of those gentlemen wrote the two crime fiction/SF mashups that follow:

"Let Space Be Your Coffin."
By S. M. Tenneshaw.
Illustration by W. E. Terry (1921-92; ISFDb HERE).
First appearance: Imagination, November 1954.
Reprints page (ISFDb HERE).
Short story (12 pages as a PDF).
Online at Project Gutenberg (HERE).
(Parental note: Strong language.)

   "Bert hated Miles, and secretly plotted to kill him. It all seemed simple, yet murder can be complicated—especially in the void!..."

"O beware, my lord, of jealousy! It is the green eyed monster, which doth mock the meat it feeds on." Bert should brush up on his Shakespeare; it would save him from double doubling his toil and trouble . . .

Main characters:
~ Bert Tanner ("You could have killed him tonight and made it look like an accident—but you had to make a scene"), Miles Berendt ("Makes it sort of a sentimental journey"), Carol Grant ("I'm glad everything turned out all right with Bert"), and Jeff Morrow ("All you have to do is bring along a good book, Mr. Tanner").

Comment: The eternal triangle. You can find it in Gone with the Wind, Titanic, Doctor Zhivago, Columbo, Shakespeare—in fact, it's hard not to find it in crime fiction, on TV and in the movies, and permeating world literature. But how about murdering your business partner out of pure jealousy with high technology? We're guessing that plot hinge isn't quite as common. TV Tropes designates it and its many permutations as "Murder the Hypotenuse" (HERE) and "Love Makes You Evil" (HERE).

References and resources:
- Wikipedia presents an exhaustive rundown of the eternal triangle (HERE).
- "you looked like you were all set to land a haymaker!":
  "A punch in which the arm is whipped sideways from the shoulder joint with minimal elbow bend. The name is derived from the motion, which mimics the action of manually cutting hay by swinging a scythe. The haymaker is considered an imperfect/impure punch, as the angle of approach is unsupported by the remainder of the forearm. Since a haymaker's power is derived completely from weight transfer and momentum instead of muscle contraction, a long windup is required to generate sufficient force." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "get to Deimos":
  It's only four miles across but conveniently located for spacers outside of Mars's gravity well: "Deimos is the smaller and outer of the two natural satellites of Mars, the other being Phobos. Deimos has a mean radius of 6.2 km (3.9 mi) and takes 30.3 hours to orbit Mars. Deimos is 23,460 km (14,580 mi) from Mars, much farther than Mars's other moon, Phobos. It is named after Deimos, the Ancient Greek god and personification of dread and terror." (Wikipedia HERE; also see HERE.)
- "the Lenning sanitorium on Venus":
  Not likely now but a lot of people thought so in 1954: "Venus is the second planet from the Sun. It is a terrestrial planet and is the closest in mass and size to its orbital neighbour Earth. Venus is notable for having the densest atmosphere of the terrestrial planets, composed mostly of carbon dioxide with a thick, global sulfuric acid cloud cover. At the surface it has a mean temperature of 737 K (464 °C; 867 °F) and a pressure of 92 times that of Earth's at sea level." (Wikipedia HERE; also see HERE.)
- "the firing mixture would go out of balance as the catalysts cut in prematurely":
  "Hydrazine (N2H4) Used in deep space missions because it is storable and hypergolic, and can be used as a monopropellant with a catalystAerozine-50
 (50/50 hydrazine and UDMH) Used in deep space missions because it is storable
 and hypergolic, and can be used as a monopropellant with a catalyst." (Wikipedia HERE; also see HERE.)
Image: renderosity.
- "The auto-pilot had taken the risk out of space flight":
  "An autopilot is a system used to control the path of an aircraft, marine craft or spacecraft without requiring constant manual control by a human operator. Autopilots do not replace human operators. Instead, the autopilot assists the operator's control of the vehicle, allowing the operator to focus on broader aspects of operations (for example, monitoring the trajectory, weather and on-board systems). When present, an autopilot is often used in conjunction with an autothrottle, a system for controlling the power delivered by the engines." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "Rocket thrust to escape velocity":
  "For example, at the Earth's surface, the surface gravity is about 9.8 m/s2 (9.8 N/kg, 32 ft/s2), and the escape speed for a small object is about 11.186 km/s (40,270 km/h; 25,020 mph; 36,700 ft/s). This is approximately 33 times the speed of sound (Mach 33) and several times the muzzle velocity of a rifle bullet (up to 1.7 km/s or 3,802.8 mph)." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- A couple of ONTOS postings which involve the eternal triangle: Freeman Wills Croft's "Unbreakable Alibi" (HERE) and Leonard Raphael's "The Man Who Saw Through Time" (HERE).
- As we've noted before, the most sophisticated murder method that we've ever heard about was used (HERE).


  "You thought I was here for revenge? I am, baby. Don't get any wrong ideas. But I've also got a job to do."

"Trouble on Sun-Side." 
By S. M. Tenneshaw.
Illustration by W. E. Terry (1921-92; ISFDb HERE).
First appearance: Imagination, October 1956.
Reprints page (ISFDb HERE).
Short story (11 pages as a PDF).
Online at Project Gutenberg (HERE).

   "Jansen came to Mercury to find one man, and that seemed an easy enough task; the hitch was that as a hunter he was also being hunted!"

ONE man controlling the entire food supply? What could possibly go wrong?

Principal characters:
~ Frank Jansen ("Did you turn Ted over to Bareen?"), the barracks orderly ("Don't go out to the bogs unless you have to"), the big man ("I never saw you before in my life"), Wendy Hilliard ("We don't want you on Mercury, Jansen"), Andrew Dinnison ("Jansen felt sorry for him, then ruthlessly beat down the feeling"), an armed man ("You say you're his bodyguard"), and Bareen (". . . was going to kill him . . .").

Future stuff:
The folks at Technovelgy have tracked down when these particular SFFnal notions first appeared:
  - insulsuit (HERE).
  - sub-space tunnel (HERE). Also see Wikipedia (HERE).
  - chlorella farming (HERE).
  - blasting rifles, hand-blaster (HERE). Also see Wikipedia (HERE and HERE).
  - vidiphone (HERE).
Those that came to be real are listed in Wikipedia (HERE).

References and resources:
- "exposure this close to Mercury's sun-side would be impossible for more than a few moments":
  It's surprising to learn that while Mercury is closer to the Sun than Venus, Earth's "twin" is hotter. Mercury takes 88 days to go around the Sun but rotates around its axis once every 59 days, meaning that one side doesn't always face the Sun like astronomers thought for centuries:
  "Combined with its high orbital eccentricity, the planet's surface has widely varying sunlight intensity and temperature, with the equatorial regions ranging from −170 °C (−270 °F) at night to 420 °C (790 °F) during sunlight. Due to the very small axial tilt, the planet's poles are permanently shadowed. This strongly suggests that water ice could be present in the craters. Above the planet's surface is an extremely tenuous exosphere and a faint magnetic field that is strong enough to deflect solar winds. Mercury has no natural satellite." (Wikipedia HERE and HERE.)
Click on image to enlarge.
- The plot hinge of revenge for the death of a brother isn't exactly new:
  "Taxi! is a 1932 American pre-Code film directed by Roy Del Ruth and starring James Cagney and Loretta Young. The film includes a famous, and often misquoted, line with Cagney speaking to his brother's killer through a locked closet door: 'Come out and take it, you dirty yellow-bellied rat, or I'll give it to you through the door!' This line has often been misquoted as 'You dirty rat, you killed my brother'." (Wikipedia WARNING! SPOILERS! HERE.)
- "Girl Friday or something":
  Derived from Defoe's Robinson Crusoe: "The term Man Friday became an idiom to describe an especially faithful servant or one's best servant or right-hand man. The female equivalent is Girl Friday." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "What we grow in the sun-side bogs is chlorella, millions of tons of chlorella, which is converted into synth-steak and other pseudo-meats on Earth":
  "Chlorella is a genus of about thirteen species of single-celled green algae of the division Chlorophyta. . . . Chlorella has been considered as a source of food and energy because its photosynthetic efficiency can reach 8%, which exceeds that of other highly efficient crops such as sugar cane." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "Jansen had been prospecting in the asteroids":
  "Currently, the quality of the ore and the consequent cost and mass of equipment required to extract it are unknown and can only be speculated on. Some economic analyses indicate that the cost of returning asteroidal materials to Earth far outweighs their market value, and that asteroid mining will not attract private investment at current commodity prices and space transportation costs. Other studies suggest large profit by using solar power. Potential markets for materials can be identified and profit generated if extraction cost is brought down. For example, the delivery of multiple tonnes of water to low Earth orbit for rocket fuel preparation for space tourism could generate a significant profit if space tourism itself proves profitable." (Wikipedia HERE; also see HERE.)
- "they were whisked seventy million miles":
  "Since Mercury orbits the Sun, and it follows a very elliptical path on its journey around the Sun, our two planets can vary their distance significantly. When Mercury is at its closest point to Earth, astronomers call this opposition (from the point of view of Mercury). This would happen when Mercury was at its farthest from the Sun, and Earth is at its closest. When this happens, Mercury and Earth would be separated by only 77 million km (48 million miles). Their maximum distance occurs when Earth is at its furthest point from the Sun, and Mercury is at its maximum on the other side of the Sun. The three objects then line up perfectly. At this point, Mercury and Earth can be 222 million km (138 million miles) apart." (Universe Today HERE.)
- Universe Today also has an article about colonizing Mercury (HERE).
- Isaac Asimov (writing as Paul French) set one of his Luck Starr juveniles on Mercury; see Wikipedia (WARNING! SPOILERS! HERE).

The bottom line:
  "A clement twilight zone on a synchronously rotating Mercury, a swamp-and-jungle Venus, and a canal-infested Mars, while all classic science-fiction devices, are all, in fact, based upon earlier misapprehensions by planetary scientists."
  — Carl Sagan

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

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

"What Is Nowadays Termed 'Science Fiction' Is 'Historical Fiction' — Of the Future"

WAR not only encourages humankind to invent newer and more efficient ways to murder one another in ever increasing numbers but also has a strong effect on culture (for the survivors, anyway). Bundled in that umbrella term of "culture" is "literature," which not only reflects history but also reacts to it, potentially becoming a guide to what might happen in the future (including warfare). The Second World War was no different from most conflicts, extermin-ating millions while producing technologies that are still having effects, good and bad, on today's culture (e.g., the microwave oven and the atomic bomb). Literature's reaction was an enlargement of a subgenre which had served a niche reading market before the war but flourished just after it ended: science fiction (SF or sometimes Stf). Readers finally came to realize that those ridiculous fictional weapons of mass destruction which they'd read about in the '20s and '30s could, in reality, suddenly land right in their laps. Savvy magazine editors took the hint, and science fiction burgeoned. One of the beneficiaries of this publishing explosion was Robert Heinlein, by no means a hack writer, who encourages would-be SF authors to . . .

"Bet on the Future and Win."
(a.k.a. "The Historic Novel of the Future").
By Robert A. Heinlein (1907-88; Wikipedia HERE; ISFDb HERE; SFE HERE; IMDb HERE).
First appearance: Bookshop News, February 1950.
Reprinted in Writer's Digest, March 1950 (today's text).
Also in The Nonfiction of Robert Heinlein: Volume I (2011).
Article (1 page).
Online at SFFAudio (HERE).

   "In fact, 'science fiction' is a poor term—non-descriptive. The older term of speculative fiction is closer to the truth . . ."

HEINLEIN tells us that whether or not it's called science fiction, nevertheless in every kind of literature "human problems remain basically the same—war and love and death and birth. The background scene is changed; the people are not."

Referenced in the article:
- Forever Amber (Wikipedia WARNING! SPOILERS! HERE and HERE), a wildly popular novel and movie from the late '40s.
- Destination Moon (Wikipedia WARNING! SPOILERS! HERE and IMDb HERE).
- The Man Who Sold the Moon (Wikipedia HERE and ISFDb HERE).
- Robert Heinlein's science fiction could often provoke controversy. Was his novel Starship Troopers controverted by Joe Haldeman's The Forever War (HERE)?


HERE'S Mack Reynolds, who's probably serious when he says . . .

"My Best Friends Are Martians."
By Mack Reynolds (1917-83; Wikipedia HERE; ISFDb HERE; SFE HERE; e-fanzines HERE.)
First appearance: Writer's Digest, March 1950.
Article (10 pages).
Online at SFFAudio (HERE).

   "If you don't like the stuff, if you don't read it yourself, if you aren't familiar with it—forget about it. You'll never crack science fiction."

Some random comments from the article:
- At the time Planet Stories was producing "space operas," which Reynolds defines as "wild west stories laid on Mars instead of in Nevada."
- "L. Ron Hubbard, who also writes under the pseudonym Rene Lafayette, has recently sold his Doc Methuselah series, which runs in Astounding, to the picture market for a five-figure sum."
- "The fans want the notion story, the gimmick story, the snap ending, preferably with some scientific principle worked into the snap."
- Furthermore, the fans have an influence on what sees print: "If your science is a bit weak, if your story isn't up to snuff, if your gimmick doesn't snap, you get a first-class working over. . . Writers and illustrators in the field are made and unmade by the fans' vitriolic comments."
- "But, I didn't particularly like detective stories. Oh, I read them occasionally; usually novel lengths rather than shorts. I actually had to drive myself to read the pulp detective mags to be up on the market requirements. In the evenings, after working all day writing whodunits, I'd relax by reading science fiction."
- "But what are the advantages of writing science fiction, that I should think so highly of it? There is one tremendous one: the comparative freedom from taboos."
- "The larger the circulation of the publication, the more numerous the taboos."
- ". . . editors are looking for new talent; but in a field expanding as rapidly as science fiction, the need is more desperate."
- "Fred [Brown] is a master of the narrative hook, the clever twist, the gimmick."
- "Readers who buy science fiction magazines want plenty of pseudo-science."
- "There are three shopworn themes: dictators, the menace to earth, and mutants." (And this is 1950!)
- "The stories should have enough adventure to keep things going, but the adventure shouldn't run away with the science."

Other references:
- Max Ehrlich's The Big Eye (Wikipedia HERE; ISFDb HERE).
- Fredric Brown's What Mad Universe (Wikipedia HERE and WARNING! SPOILERS! HERE).
- Jack Williamson's The Humanoids (ISFDb HERE and Wikipedia WARNING! SPOILERS! HERE).
- The Best Science Fiction Stories of 1949 (ISFDb HERE and Wikipedia HERE).
- A Treasury of Science Fiction (ISFDb HERE and Wikipedia HERE).
- Jack Woodford (Wikipedia HERE).
- Mr. Adam (Wikipedia WARNING! SPOILERS! HERE).
- James Hilton's Lost Horizon (WARNING! SPOILERS! Wikipedia HERE and HERE).
- Crosley (Wikipedia HERE).
- Go to Wikipedia for more about science fiction (HERE) and its history (HERE).
- Due to his prolificity, Mack Reynolds has appeared on ONTOS several times (often with a coauthor): (HERE), (HERE), (HERE), (HERE), and (HERE).

The bottom line:
   "The dropping of the atom bomb in 1945 made science fiction respectable. Once the horror at Hiroshima took place, anyone could see that science fiction writers were not merely dreamers and crackpots after all, and that many of the motifs of that class of literature were now permanently part of the newspaper headlines."
   — Isaac Asimov

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