[originally posted here at Castalia House]
Example by Tom Pace appeared in the Winter 1946 issue of Planet Stories. It can be found here at Archive.org.
Sometimes you read a story that just fails to leave an impression. Sometimes you try to read the story again and find out that the reason it fails to leave an impression is that you can’t really make heads or tails of it. Example is a Commander Whatsisface Mil-SF that aims for heavy deep thinks with a skeleton plot, where the substance of the story between the platitudes and grave speechinating is blink-and-you’ll-miss-it.
I’m really not sure what Tom Pace was going for here in Example storywise, but in its two pages I struggled to find enough context for this sliver of story to make sense of it; you miss one sentence, and it falls apart. Example is an excuse to briefly ruminate on the nature of power and dealing with dictators with just barely enough story-structure to prop up such ruminations. There are names attached to impressive sounding titles and characters spouting important sounding things, like “The hands of one man were never meant to hold personal power such as this”, but what is it all about?!
The Beolins are up to something. Various ships passing through their territory have gone missing, possibly destroyed, though there’s not been enough evidence for Interstellar Command to act. The Stella, a ship with a number of “important persons” on board, will be passing near the system and nothing must happen to it. Commander Gray has been given authority to… do something.
Gray and his part-alien personal aide make contact with the dictator of the Beolin System, who is in the process of typical tyrannical dick-waving, using the excuse of “fleet maneuvers”. Commander Gray decides that the best course of action would be to allow the Stella to be destroyed by the Beolins; the catastrophe would force Interstellar Command’s hand, and a “punitive expedition” would easily wipe out the barbary fleet. The story ends with the Commander throwing away the picture of his dame, who it’s revealed is on the ship.
I don’t know; I feel like there was some potential to this one, but its brief length and dialogue that dances around the subject leave this one falling flat. No, it’s not as bad as “The Wheel is Death”, but it’s one of the poorer pieces I’ve read.