[originally posted here at Castalia House]
Prodigal Weapon by Vaseleos Garson appeared in the Summer 1945 issue of Planet Stories.
Prodigal Weapon was, at best, a missed opportunity. Like Garson’s later story, The Little Pets of Arkkhan, I can see this being made into a mediocre episode of Outer Limits or Star Trek, but, for a story about laughter, it offers only a few chuckles.
Humans on earth are being rounded up and taken as slaves by a race of indestructible bald red ogres called “Kraks”. They are impervious to heat, cold or any weapons, and all hope for humanity seems lost. Just to show up one wise guy who thinks he may have a chance against them, the Kraks pull the freshly taken slave out of line and offer him a chance to prove to himself that his captors are invincible.
The Little Pets of Arkkhan by Vaseleos Garson appears in the Summer 1947 issue of Planet Stories (Vol 3, No 7).
Banished from Earth for various petty crimes, the crew of a ship has landed on an asteroid inhabited by cute cuddly looking furballs… who are actually a race of diabolic telepathic monsters intent on leaving their dying world to conquer another! The creatures can give unlimited illusory pleasure or inflict unimaginable pain to the humans whose minds they control.
This is a pretty troperiffic story, so it’s hard to say whether it actually inspired certain later sci-fi works or if it was just a clichéd product of its time which mirrored other contemporary and ongoing clichés. You have the drunk who is constantly drunk and constantly drinking; unsurprisingly he and his alcoholism prove to be the key to overcoming the aliens’ mind control. The hero has his own cheesy subplot going on about the perfect dame that he left back on earth cuz he didn’t think she was hot for him and liked some other guy instead; being a swell and noble dude, he was all “I won’t interfere with your happiness” and became a spacer. Naturally, the aliens use his feelings for her as leverage against him, just as they use the desires of the rest of the crew to bring the ship toward earth.
Of course the only way the hero can stall the aliens from taking over the patrol ship that intercepts them and reaching earth is getting into a fist fight with the guy who stole his girl (conveniently the captain of the patrol ship)! This buys the hero enough time to figure out that they need to hit up the drunk’s stash of scotch to overpower the aliens’ mind control. Once the alien menace is dealt with, the hero and patrolman sit down to hash things out; turns out the dame was smitten by the hero’s big romantic gesture (of leaving her and going off into space; maybe he said “here’s looking at you, kid”?) and decided to wait for him to return.
I won’t say this is a bad story. It’s a silly and fun story that goes exactly where you expect it. Admittedly, it was one of the weaker stories in the issue, if not the weakest, but considering this issue had stories like “Moon of Danger” and “The Martian Circe”, that’s not too harsh a condemnation. Like several of the lesser known stories in this issue, it is not available online, however it can be found in facsimile reprints of this issue.