[originally posted here at Castalia House]
Prodigal Weapon by Vaseleos Garson appeared in the Summer 1945 issue of Planet Stories.
Prodigal Weapon was, at best, a missed opportunity. Like Garson’s later story, The Little Pets of Arkkhan, I can see this being made into a mediocre episode of Outer Limits or Star Trek, but, for a story about laughter, it offers only a few chuckles.
Humans on earth are being rounded up and taken as slaves by a race of indestructible bald red ogres called “Kraks”. They are impervious to heat, cold or any weapons, and all hope for humanity seems lost. Just to show up one wise guy who thinks he may have a chance against them, the Kraks pull the freshly taken slave out of line and offer him a chance to prove to himself that his captors are invincible.
The Kraks present their captive with all manner of weapons and tell him to have a go. The scene is reminiscent of the tales of Baldr, how the gods delighted themselves in testing Baldr’s invulnerability by firing arrows and breaking blades upon him. But like Baldr, the Kraks do have a vulnerability. Just as the slave is about to give up, he is able to make the 7-foot alien flinch and stagger. Still, the slave is unable to solve the mystery of his overlords’ weakness until he finds the ogre-woman he is sold to dead, wearing a wig, and girl his mistress had procured to keep him company cackling madly. Yes, laughter is these monsters’ mistletoe.
Garson may not be good at writing romantic subplots, but the awkward love triangle he introduced between the main character, his fellow slave and the slave girl provides the one genuinely funny moment in the story. Right as the story is about to pass the Jeffro Test, the main character points out the girl is already putting the moves on one of the other slaves.
Vaseleos Garson may be shaping up to be my least favorite Planet Stories contributor. It’s not that his stories are exceedingly bad; they’re just middle of the road surrounded by stories that are exceedingly good. Prodigal Weapon does score points for being one of the few stories that takes place on an extra-solar alien world, but overall it just falls kinda flat. Being sandwiched between Red Witch of Mercury and Raiders of the Second Moon, both of which were excellent, does not help.