[originally posted here at Castalia House]
The Madcap Metalloids by W.V. Athanas appeared in the Summer 1949 issue of Planet Stories. It can be found here at Archive.org.
One of the cruelest fates an author in Planet Stories can suffer is to follow Leigh Brackett–doubly so if their story is kinda meh.
The Madcap Metalloids is not so much a terrible story as a weak story hampered by some clunky rubes-in-space dialogue. Now, rubes-in-space dialogue is fine if the story’s angle is rubes-in-space, but here it felt like the humor here was forced through the characters’ dialectic affectations in an effort to prop up a merely amusing story.
A pair of spacemen’s ship ends up stuck on a high gravity radioactive asteroid populated by mysterious metallic creatures. Unlike Merritt’s Metal Monsters, these little guys seem to be friendly—one of them plays around and follows the telepathic commands of one of the spacemen, as the pair ponders their predicament.
The spacemen have to figure out how to break the unusual gravity of the asteroid before the radiation contaminates the ship and/or succumb to space madness. The one spaceman who’s been playing around with the metal sphere creatures seems on the verge of breaking, ordering the strange aliens around in parade marches and bowling with them, when he gets the idea to have them sling-shot the ship off the asteroid.
There was some neat sci-fi stuff in this, and it could’ve been a decent short humor piece, but I had a hard time getting past the characters’ rather obnoxious back and forth banter.
Athanas is better known for his westerns.