Doctor Rivet and Supercon Sal appears in the January 1976 issue of the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and was the cover story. Gary K Wolf eventually went on to create Roger Rabbit, because of course he did.
Long before Mr. & Mrs. Smith or Ecks & Sever, there was Doctor Rivet and Supercon Sal. He’s a rogue robotics engineer whose social ineptitude has led him to prefer to con and keep the company of the robots he’s modified. She’s a sassy dame who’s not afraid to use her feminine wiles to wring every last dollar out of lonely space men. An evil space mining boss has set these two top notch cons against one another to take them out of the picture of his diabolical schemes. Will Doc & Sal figure out they’ve both been set up before sparks fly and light the powder keg they’ve stumbled on?!
Putting crime noir characters in the sort of pulpy setting from which great stuff like Futurama liberally borrows, Doctor Rivet and Supercon Sal embodies so much of what makes science fiction fun. It’s subversive fun, and feels a bit naughty, because it knowingly disregards certain conventions and tropes of both ::finger quotes:: “serious” sci-fi and pulp crime thrillers while taking others and playing them to the hilt in a way that makes the mundane outlandish and the outlandish plausible. By making the crime noir thriller a sci-fi romp and the using sci-fi as a means to ramp up action, Wolf creates a stunning synthesis of the genres that spoofs both but makes a masterpiece to fit in either.
Yesterday, I mentioned my dislike for Stanislaw Lem’s more absurdist writing. In those kinds of stories, absurd concepts are expanded upon like a balloon to see how much the idea and story can take until it pops. Rather than creating a story in which the premise eventually collapses under its absurdity, Wolf only uses the absurd to where it will help prop up the law of awesome. Much like Supercon Sal herself, this story is not afraid to show some leg. Whether it’s a double crossing space pirate robo-kitchenette, the president flying around on a jetpack, not one but two Boss Hogg-quality villains on our heroes’ trail, or even the kitschy 20th century theme diners whose themes all spring from a gross misunderstanding of the 20th century, it’s all about making the story fun, exciting and cool. It’s the sort of mile-a-minute sci-fi action that you rarely see (with The 5th Element still being held up as one of the best recent examples) because it’s often so easy to get bogged down in this or that detail. No bogging down here, just sexy sci-fi hi-jinks.
Not everyone can be a sword wielding prince of Mars, of but with a little luck and ingenuity, we insecure techno-doofs might, like Doc Rivet, have a chance of landing a big score and winning the heart of a bombshell blonde that robots and spacemen alike would give their left nut for a wink and a smile. I’m especially grateful that DR & SS was in this issue, because otherwise the January 1976 issue would’ve been a miserable waste of preachy, dismal or just plain bad short fiction.
On a side note, I’d like to share with you one of the most trolleriffic Guardian articles I’ve ever read (and that’s saying something)! Behold: “Fantasy cannot build its imaginary worlds in short fiction”