Short Reviews – Beer-Trust Busters, A.R. Stuart

Beer-Trust Busters by A. R. Stuart appeared in the Fall 1945 issue of Planet Stories.

This is by far one of the strangest stories I’ve come across in PS.  It takes a lot of cues from the sort of blue-collar working-class comedy of the day from TV and Film shorts or radio shows and reads across very much like a radio drama, narrated in the first person by one of the characters in the common vernacular.  Three asteroid miners come back from a long haul and are prepared to squander their riches in the bar, only to find that some guy had the good fortune to both own a sizable portion of the breweries in the solar system AND be a member of the government agency that has just enacted new punitive taxes on the malting process, thereby enabling him to double the price of beer throughout space by squashing out his competitors.

The good ol’ boys are determined to stick it to the high fallutin’ bastard, but they aren’t sure how yet.  So they go on a wild and drunken bender, determined to set a new record for days gone unsober, but damned if those high beer prices don’t make it tough, and hard liquor will get you too drunk too quick!

Well, after the drunken bender, one of them figures that Einstein says orbital gravity requires a center of mass and will necessarily create one in its absence, so all they’ve gotta do is get a bunch of asteroids, set em in orbit, and mass will gather at the centrifugal point once they’re spinning fast enough, thereby creating artificial solar systems that will be legally distinct from THE solar system and exempt from the malt tax.  Not only can they brew their own beer tax free, but brewers can buy the rights from them to build factories on the asteroids.  The bad guy shows up (with the girls they’d met earlier in the bar on each arm, no less!), tells them he’s gonna nuke their micro sun, but ends up getting smooshed by one of the asteroids they’re setting in motion.  The three blue-collar spacers are now set up to be rich space real estate moguls and will have all the cheap beer they can drink.

I’m disappointed that this is one of only two known stories published by Stuart, the other being Tamba’s Drum in Jungle Stories, because this was a riot.  It could just be Planet Stories, but the depiction of space being filled with blue-collar workers, particularly miners, construction workers, engineers and porters (the same sort of adventurers who today would drop everything and move to the Dakotas to get in on the shale boom) may actually be more ubiquitous in late golden age sci-fi than your typical Mil-SF setting in which all spacers are part of some Starfleet-esque body.  Space wasn’t just a place where soldiers fought alien wars, it was where you earned your living. Whether in a bawdy farce like this or in a more serious potboiler like The Martian Circe, sci-fi writers spent a lot of time looking at what the space-age joe-average would be dealing with on a day to day basis, how he’d kick back and relax, not to mention the sort of recreational substance abuse that would go on.  Being so advanced a civilization as to have space ships isn’t going to make us magically ‘better’ or ‘enlightened’ in the way we see depicted in settings like Star Trek.  No, we’re still going to have our loud-mouthed working class folks who bitch loudly about taxes, bureaucrats and government overreach and will do whatever they can to undermine systems that oppress human leisure. God bless ‘em!

The illustrated scene of the three characters tossing Amos and Andy off their bar-stools does not actually appear in the story.


One response to “Short Reviews – Beer-Trust Busters, A.R. Stuart

  1. Pingback: Blog Watch: Ray Fencing, Turkish Delight, Distant Lands, and Loud Mouth Working Class Folks | Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

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