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.

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