Short Reviews – The Aristocrat, by Chan Davis

[originally posted here at Castalia House]

The Aristocrat by Chan Davis appeared in the October 1949 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. It can be read here at Archive.org.

Someone forgot to remind Brush that Stevan is spelled with an A.

My next issue of Astounding begins promisingly enough with Chan Davis’ The Aristocrat. While it certainly falls into the category of “thinky stories,” this one manages to strike a balance between the actions and the thinks, though it’s front-loaded with the latter and takes a while to get to the former. It also manages to work a decent enough scientific puzzle into its thinks, while highlighting a struggle between rationalism and realism.

Set After the EndTM, The Aristocrat tells the story of Elder Stevan and the village he presides over. After the bombs and radiation, mankind diverged into two groups—the Folk, who were ignorant and savage but immune to the worst effects of the radiation, and the true Men, who were unmutated and retained the keen intellect of those who had lived in the City, but were weakened and sickly in the radioactive wasteland.

The Men set themselves up as curators of the old knowledge; they sought to guide the Folk, who they deemed as inferior but necessary to the survival of the human race, and act as lawgivers and holy men. They are the Elders. The story is told 1st person from the perspective of Elder Stevan, who has the misfortune of being the village elder at the time when the system collapses.

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Wild Stars Backstock Sale

I don’t know that I’ve mentioned it here, but we have made some of the Wild Stars backstock available via our Amazon store.

We had several damaged copies when trying to fulfill our crowdfunds–these have been made available at 1/2 SRP. I’ll note that while a few of these were pretty mangled, most of them were dents, dings and corner creases. While these would’ve been unacceptable to send to backers or for retail shelves [especially for comic folks], these are perfectly good readable copies if you want Wild Stars at a lower buy-in.

Also, Michael Tierney has authorized us to act as an intermediary for his limited stock of the 1st edition printings of Wild Stars: Time Warmageddon.

Our store is here.

Also, Wild Stars is absolutely buried by Amazon’s algorithm. Please help us by leaving a review if you’ve received and read any of our Wild Stars 35th Anniversary Edition volumes!

Retro Fandom Friday – Astounding Sure Is Something…

[originally posted here at Castalia House]

After a great story by Arthur C. Clarke, I was all ready for the September 49 issue of Astounding to start getting good… Only to find that was the last story.

Okay, that’s not really fair, because maybe L. Sprague DeCamp’s The Queen of Zamba was fantastic, but it was the 4th and final installment of a serialized novel, which took up a good chunk of the issue.

Other features of the issue included a rather dry article on Cybernetics by E.L. Locke and something called “Progress Report”, by John H. Pomeroy, which was a lengthy jargon and BS-filled fake scientific report expanding on Astounding’s (particularly Asimov’s) prolonged trolling about Thiotimoline. I’m in no place to comment on this most literal approach to science fiction, so I’ll suffice to say that after a page or two I just skipped the rest.

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Short Reviews – Hide and Seek, by Arthur C. Clarke

[originally posted here at Castalia House]

Hide and Seek by Arthur C. Clarke appeared in the September 1949 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. It can be read here at Archive.org.

Trollololo

Arthur C. Clarke’s Hide and Seek is the first really good thing in this issue of Astounding. Clocking in at 9 pages, if it ends up being the only good story in a 160 page issue, it will fail to hold the ravenous ghost of Theodore Sturgeon at bay.

More like something you’d see in Planet Stories than anything I’ve read in Campbell-era Astounding thus far, Hide and Seek tells the story of a spy hiding from a space cruiser on Phobos, framed by a story of an old veteran out hunting squirrels with some acquaintances.

While Hide and Seek does delve into Hard SF territory, it does so in a way that explains the whys behind the action rather than losing itself in scientific egg-headery and wank.

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Short Reviews – Special Jobbery, by H. B. Fyfe

[originally posted here at Castalia House]

Special Jobbery by H. B. Fyfe appeared in the September 1949 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. You can read it here at Archive.org, but only if you feel you must.

Alien or Marital-Aid? You be the judge!

What if Sturgeon’s Law is right, but it’s only Campbell-era Astounding that skews it true?!* I’m not quite ready to go that far, but the September 1949 issue has hardly been promising, and Special Jobbery was certainly not the palate cleanser I needed after Poul Anderson’s The Double-Dyed Villains.

This novella by H. B. Fyfe was so boring I couldn’t even. I made it about ten pages in before I gave up and ended up rewatching 13 Going On 30 with my girlfriend, cuz it was legit more interesting and exciting than Special Jobbery.

The main character of Special Jobbery is an egghead asshole who is so self-assuredly smart but disagreeable and ugly that he’s the perfect man to meet a race of weird tentacle aliens who want to sell something to the humans.

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Some Final Numbers for the 2020 Submission Period

Wow, okay, so we blew last year’s record out of the water! In less than half the time, we received nearly 70 more submissions, with a final total of a whopping 221 manuscripts!

Consider this a status update for authors who are wondering how long it will take before they hear back from us.

As of right now, we’ve read and reviewed 66 submissions.

Even with our nose to the grind, it could be nearly a month before we

  • a) finish reading everything
  • b) sorting and prioritizing stories
  • c) finally get around to sending offers
  • and d) sending out rejections.

Short Reviews – The Double-Dyed Villains, by Poul Anderson

[originally posted here at Castalia House]

The Double-Dyed Villains by Poul Anderson appeared in the September 1949 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. It can be read here at Archive.org.

The sword and rocket ship are clearly indicative of Science Fiction.

I am going to need to hurry up and read Poul Anderson’s “important” books that are still being discussed in Appendix N and Pulp Revolution circles, or I’ll be too bummed out by his 1940s short fiction to go into any of his stories without a massive prejudice against him.

Campbell’s lead in for the story is “E. E. Smith suggested one way of maintaining peace in the Galaxy. But there might be another, equally effective method—”. If Smith’s method was the best of the best of the best of the best of all men heroically fighting, Anderson’s is a cowardly and manipulative deep state collaborating with the worst of the galaxy’s criminal elements to avert war. Really, it comes across as apologia for a CIA which, at the time this piece was written, was busy helping Nazis get out of jail and set up global criminal enterprises.

The Double-Dyed Villains tells the story of one Galactic Patrolman on the run from a planetary government, interspersed with tableau set on other worlds illustrating different cultures’ feelings towards the Galactic League, the actions they hope to take against the League to liberate themselves, and how the Galactic Patrol thwarts those efforts.

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