Short Reviews – Welcome, Stranger, by Monroe Schere

[originally posted here at Castalia House]

Welcome, Stranger by Monroe Schere appeared in the Winter 1954 issue of Fantastic Story Magazine. It can be read here at Archive.org.

Welcome, Stranger is the short, droll chaser Fantastic Story offers for Kuttner’s The Dark World. And it is, well, weird!

Told in first person by a member of an alien bird-dragon race, Welcome, Stranger recalls the disastrous first contact between mankind and the “Meffids.”

Astronauts land. The Meffids tear apart the astronauts, while taking a few prisoner. The last surviving prisoner gets the narrator drunk on his last flask of liquor, and insisting on having the earthman fetch him the rest of their liquor stores back on the ship, the Meffid accidentally lets the prisoner escape.

The earthman takes off in his rocket, blasting the narrating Meffid with a superheated irradiated mist.

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Short Reviews – The Dark World, by Henry Kuttner

[originally posted here at Castalia House]

The Dark World, by Henry Kuttner was originally published in the Summer 1946 issue of Startling Stories. The reprint reviewed was published in Winter 1954 issue of Fantastic Story Magazine, which can be found here on Archive.org.

“My Plane Crashed Over the Jungles of Sumatra, and Now I’m the Dread Lord Ganelon, but My Ex-Girlfriend is a Vampire and Wants Me Dead!”, an all-new a classic Isekai adventure from Henry Kuttner!

I talked a little bit about this story last week, but now I have some more time to get into the meat of it. The premise is that a mysterious being or act of sorcery [read “intense science magic”] caused the timeline and reality of Earth to split in two [semi-spoilers] around Arthurian times. Our world’s history proceeded as it did, but “The Dark World” saw an accelerated evolution of man’s mental powers and ability to use his mind to harness natural forces. Mutants had evolved powers that took on the aspect of certain mythic beings [werewolves, vampires, gorgons] that somewhat justified the existence of the myths in our own world.

The Dark World starts in earnest when the protagonist is pulled from Earth to the Dark World by the vampire sorceress Medea and told that he is not who he thinks he is, Edward Bond, but is actually Ganelon, Lord of the Coven, bound to the great beast Llyr. There was an Edward Bond, who was from our world—the two were forcibly switched before by magic science, and Edward Bond had been using his knowledge as a WWII fighting man to aid to rebels in the woods who were trying to stop the Covenanters. Now Ganelon is back in his body but stuck with the memories of Edward Bond and the conflict of a split personality; when trying to figure out what is going on and getting his memories back as Ganelon, he discovers that his Coven, even his own lover Medea, is preparing to sacrifice him to the beast Llyr, the only way in which he could be destroyed!

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Short Reviews – [Just a Tease] The Dark World, by Henry Kuttner

[originally posted here at Castalia House]

The Dark World, by Henry Kuttner was originally published in the Summer 1946 issue of Startling Stories. Right now, I’m reading the reprint in Winter 1954 issue of Fantastic Story Magazine, which can be found here on Archive.org.

I’m not going to be able to do a full review of this story this week, as I’m buried in Cirsova submissions and of course the first story I’d pick up would be “a complete novel”, but I don’t want to deprive you of this gem and leave you hanging on Friday.

I’m only a few chapters in, but Kuttner’s got this dark, Byronic gothic vibe down. It’s been ages since I read Norton’s Witch World, but the setup has some striking similarities.

Kuttner’s hero is a wracked and soul-cursed WW2 vet who’s never been the same since his plane crashed over Sumatra. The witchdoctors did what they could, but if those heathens were the sort, they’d all be crossing themselves at the sight of him.

Witchfires, shades, nightmares and werewolf apparitions haunt him even back in the good old US of A. Then, she appears…

 

Short Reviews – The Xi Effect, by Philip Latham

[originally posted here at Castalia House]

The Xi Effect, by Philip Latham was the cover story for the January 1950 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. For whatever reason, it was stripped out of the Archive.org scan of the issue, but if you’re a masochist, it can still be read here at Wikisource.

Welcome to my Friday column, where each week I talk about how much I hate Astounding Science Fiction! Or at least that’s how it feels these days, and believe me, The Xi Effect didn’t help!

A pair of astrophysicists are having issues with their observations; they hear a lecture on the Xi Effect, wherein space-time shrinkage occurs. Well it’s occurring, and the astrophysicists observe it!

It’s exactly as exciting as it sounds.

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Short Reviews – …And Now You Don’t (Part 2 of 3), by Isaac Asimov

[originally posted here at Castalia House]

…And Now You Don’t (Part 2), by Isaac Asimov was published in the December 1949 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. It can be read here at Archive.org.

Dat face….

A young woman privy to knowledge of a galaxy-shaking conspiracy finds herself a potential political prisoner on the world where a tyrant had sought to rebuild a space empire; the evil ephebophilic dictator has seized her guardian and intends to force the teenage girl to be his space queen as he follows in the footsteps of the would-be emperor of 50 years prior!

Armed with only her wits and the warning of the waning-favored mistress of the “First Citizen”, Arcadia Darell must escape the nets laid out for her by the conspirators…

This set-up would be absolutely thrilling in the hands of any other big-name 1940s author besides Asimov, but here we are!

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Final Rounds of Consideration

We finished reading everything over the weekend.

We’re sending out the penultimate wave of rejection letters this week.

Offers are out / have been paid on 26 stories.

There are 34 stories that are still under strong consideration.

I need another paycheck + the end of the month royalties to clear the bank before I make more offers, so those last offers will go out next week while me make very very difficult decisions…

If anyone is interested in helping us be able to buy stories, take out an ad with us in our spring issue!

 

Short Reviews – A Can of Vacuum, by L. Ron Hubbard

[originally posted here at Castalia House]

L. Ron Hubbard’s A Can of Vacuum appeared in the December 1949 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. It can be read here at Archive.org.

A Can of Vacuum is a droll Mil-SF short about officer-hazing (which makes Hubbard’s own military service worth briefly noting; here, it’s been noted). A green ensign, Bigby Owen Pettigrew, has shown up on base all bright-eyed and ready to make a good impression. The project assignment officer. Scout Commander Carpdyke, finds this exasperating and, as the regular prankster around the base, has quite the scheme to put young Pettigrew in his place.

Carpdyke tells him about a new phlebotinum-based technology: Rudey Rays, which could solve all the galaxy’s problems if only they could be harnessed. It’s all very new and very top secret which is why the Ensign has never heard of them before. Carpdyke issues the green officer bogus orders to procure a quart of rudey rays by any means necessary. He hopes to send Pettigrew on a wild goose chase to keep him out of his hair for a while.

Of course, things go immediately wrong. The supply officer Carpdyke was counting on to play along was out, and his fill-in took the orders seriously. Pettigrew is off with a commandeered ship to go looking for and collect rudey rays around novas. Shit hits the fan, and the base is in a panic to find the missing ensign and recover the ship he’s taken off with. The base commander thinks he’s screwed and has to keep things under wraps, because it happened on his watch and would be seen that he’d been complicit in having turned a blind-eye to the hazing of new officers—it HAS to be dealt with in house.

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