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 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.


Arnold reached for the pencil and a pad of yellow scratch paper. “Assume that this line represents the boundary of our local universe or ‘clot’,” he said, drawing an irregular closed figure with a dot near the center. “According to Friedmann, occasionally some disturbance in the outer super-cosmos or Xi space becomes sufficiently violent to affect a particular clot. Now there are several things that can happen as a result, but by far the most probable is that the clot will begin to shrink, very slowly at first and then more rapidly. But for a long time nobody would be aware of the shrinkage because everything within the clot shrinks in proportion, with one exception. That exception is the wave length of electromagnetic radiation.


“Suppose the boundary has shrunk until it has an average radius of a thousand kilometers.” He drew a line from the central dot to a point on the boundary. “Obviously nothing can exist within the boundary bigger than the boundary itself. Therefore, this means that all electromagnetic radiation exceeding a thousand kilometers is eliminated. That accounts for the fadeout in radio transmission. As the boundary continues to shrink shorter wave lengths keep being cut out all the time.”


“I think I’m beginning to get it,” said Stoddard, studying the diagram.


Riveting shit!

The Xi Effect engulfs the earth, and scientists hold a press conference, where they field some questions, tell everyone that they shouldn’t blame scientists for not being able to do anything about the phenomenon they discovered, and the world dies in darkness.

I’m so done with Campbellian sci-fi. I am rage-quitting reviewing Astounding Science Fiction. Give me Planet, Thrilling, Argosy, even Ranchland Romance! Anything but more Astounding!

Jeffro: a couple years back, I sent you a duplicate issue of Astounding I ended up with. I am sorry that I sent you terrible science fiction. I hope that the Leiber and Kline books I sent made up for it!

Next week or so, Short Reviews will be back with something, ANYTHING, besides Astounding Science Fiction!

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