Vassals of the Lode-Star by Gardner F. Fox appeared in the Summer 1947 issue of Planet Stories.
Vassals of the Lode-Star is an undeniable mess. Both the narrative style and writing are along the lines of Axe Cop, resulting in a work that seems both incredibly childish and grippingly awesome. Characterizations were weak and the science in this sci-fi seemed pulled from a half-remembered article from Scientific American, but for some reason I could not put this down and found it more entertaining than most of what I’d read in the 1970s F&SF.
Thor Masterson is a prince among men: he is lumberjack, a former college football player, and can run like an Indian, all of which conveniently make him the most prepared of prepared dudes for his epic adventure. Like Frank Baum’s Dorothy, Thor Masterson and his house are ripped from earth and dropped in a strange land. For some reason, a buxom blonde priestess and an angry dwarf show up in his house. He beats the dwarf, who becomes his loyal friend and ally, and teaches the blonde how to speak English. Instead of being met by friendly members of the Lollipop Guild, Thor and his companions are attacked by evil androids. Thank god Thor is a lumberjack who played football, because he easily wrecks their shit.
Thor meets a thing called the Discoverer who explains a bunch of stuff, teaches him the mysteries of astral projection, and tells him about Aava, the bad guy. There’s something about a flipped pocket world (think Dark World from Link to the Past), Thor meets a band of weird aliens plus a British guy, who happens to be an archer and says “By Jove” a lot, they fight a lot of androids, rescue the women, fight more androids, and almost all get killed by androids, until finally Thor stops the evil Aava by covering him with sand because he is a silicon-based life-form.
There is more weird random stuff in this than I can even go into. Viking ships, ape men, evil androids reminiscent of those from Demon with the Glass Hand, astral time travel, illusory cities with hot red-heads, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Axe Cop has the excuse that it was written by a six-year-old; somehow Gardner F. Fox managed to do this on purpose in a serious outing as a writer. This is not at all characteristic of the style from The Arsenal of Miracles, so, bad science aside, his writing gets substantially better. But even this garbled primitive style manages to be so fascinating! Vassals is almost certainly the opposite of message fiction, unless the message is that it is important to be a lumberjack so you can fight androids with the Viking axe you might eventually find (and a club is like an axe with different balance!). Vassals of the Lode-star feels like story-telling in its most primeval form; it’s like reading the translation of a creation story written by a culture that has only recently discovered literacy but somehow also had popular science magazines.