Fredric Brown – Honeymoon in Hell (1958)

HoneymooninHell

Vintage Science Fiction
TBR #83 (55e, 28p)
Date Finished: July 7, 2019

A collection of 21 short stories, many of them science fiction, and many of them outstanding. Brown’s humor shines through most of his writing and makes almost everything very enjoyable.

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Amazing Stories – December 1936

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Vintage Science Fiction Pulp
TBR #73 (46e, 27p)
Date Finished: June 25, 2019

This issue finishes the second part of John W. Campbell, Jr.’s “Uncertainty.” The rest of the issue includes the following:

“Time Control” by Philip Jacques Bartel
Time traveling Soviets dealing with bureaucracy. Confusing.

“The Space Marines and the Slavers” by Bob Olsen
Good setting of space marines on secret mission to Mars to rescue slaves marred mainly by dialogue explaining basic stuff of Mars, such as the moons and their names, to junior officer who should know this by now.

“Devolution” by Edmond Hamilton
Men discover aliens who are seeking descendants of the original interstellar settlers of earth, finding all has devolved. Human can’t take it. Much lecturing, little action.

“Death Creeps the Moon” by Wede
Humorously crotchety professor participates with discovery of prehistoric termite civilization. Their writings are easily translated into English with the vast majority of the story then relating boring bug history from the point of view of moon men they defeated.

“When the Earth Stood Still” by Arlyn H. Vance
Odd story of renegade scientist exiled for warning world of impending doom. When the earth stops rotating, gravity, sound, and light inexplicably also stop working. Scientist works to save world  then quits and they live happily ever after on stationary planet, despite all previous reason why that wouldn’t work. Strange, almost if intended ending was cut and all wrapped up differently in a page.

Science fiction remains not my thing, other than Fredric Brown, but perhaps that is because I’m reading 1936 science fiction.

Thrilling Wonder Stories – October 1936

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Vintage Science Fiction Pulp
TBR #63 (41e, 22p)
Date Finished: May 27, 2019

I’m operating outside of my comfort zone with science fiction, but am slowly working my way through some of these pulps. This issue, volume 8, no. 3, of Thrilling Wonder Stories, contains a John W. Campbell story, “The Brain Stealers of Mars” that was included in The Planeteers. Finishing out the rest of the issue were:

“Trapped in Eternity” by Ray Cummings
Time traveling horndog abducts 17-year-old girl and her boyfriend but fizzles out.

“Static” by Eando Binder
Scientist defeats spies by talking.

“The Lanson Screen” by Leo Arthur Zagat
Confusingly terrible story of New York City being cut off from the world in some sort of bubble. New characters being constantly introduced. A mess.

“The Brink of Infinity” by Stanley Weinbaum
A crazy man holds a mathematician prisoner, forcing him to solve a mathematical riddle in order to go free. Challenging but fun.

“Mutiny on Europa” by Edmond Hamilton
Unjustly convicted of treason, a former space officer imprisoned on Jupiter’s moon Europa plots an escape but then faces a uprising of the natives that he must put down to save his captors. Exciting but no consideration given to natives as deserving to control their own world.

“Saturn’s Ringmaster” by Raymond Z. Gallun
Stranded by space pirates, a pair figure out how to outwit them. Meh.

“The Island of Doctor X” by Allan K. Echols
Good scientist fights bad scientist who is going to ruin world economy by manufacturing gold. Poor.

“Earth-Venus 12” by Gabriel Wilson
Man fights political intrigue and mutiny on space liner to Venus. Physics problems distract from narrative.

Amazing Stories – October 1936

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Vintage Science Fiction Pulp
TBR #49 (32e, 17p)
Date Finished: April 20, 2019

Volume 10, number 12 of Amazing Stories features the first part of the John W. Campbell, Jr. serial “Uncertainty,” which was reviewed under its paperback title The Ultimate Weapon.

As for the remaining stories:

“Council of Drones” by W.K. Sonnemann
Man exchanges bodies with a queen bee and plots revenge against humans. Unusual.

“Six Who Were Masked” by Henry J. Kostkos
A doctor uses a blood transfusion from five upstanding men to cure a degenerate murderer but could it also work in reverse? Somewhat dull mystery story with little sf appeal.

“The Human Pets of Mars” by Leslie F. Stone
Humans taken back to Mars to be pets eventually escape in an exciting story marred by casual racism.

“The Outpost on Ceres” by L.A. Eshbach
Good story of solitary man stationed on asteroid refueling station overcoming addiction and rescuing stranded travelers.

I’m not the biggest science fiction fan, but this issue was adequate, though somewhat creaky in its 1930s style.

Planet Stories – Spring 1945

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Vintage Science Fiction Pulp
Deal Me In Challenge: 10♣️
Date Finished: December 30, 2018

The Fiction House science fiction pulp Planet Stories featured more action-oriented space opera stories than did some of the more artistic or experimental magazines. Leigh Brackett, one of their star authors, had a story in this issue, as did one with whom I was not familiar, Albert DePina, who is also mentioned in a cover blurb. Robert Wilson’s “Vandals of the Void” was another entertaining novelet in this issue.

The 10 of clubs selection, “Double Trouble” by Carl Jacobi, features Grannie Annie, science fiction writer in the future, who goes to various planets to do research for her stories, but stumbles across a real mystery amid competing mines on a moon of Jupiter. This seems to have been a continuing series, but here features her narrator assistant more than the quirky woman herself.

 

Fredric Brown – Star Shine (1954)

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AKA Angels and Spaceships
Vintage Science Fiction
Deal Me In Challenge: J ♥️, J♦️
Date Finished: November 16, 2018

Everything Fredric Brown wrote was outstanding, so all of these science fiction short stories were outstanding. Specifically for the Deal Me In Challenge’s Jack of Hearts selection, “The Waveries” tells about an alien creature absorbing all of earth’s electricity, even including lightning, which results in it turning into a utopia, or at least a society not bothered by modern annoyances such as telephones or juke boxes. I’m not sure it would all work out that way, but with electricity driving all of humanity’s technology, doing without would be a return to a completely different time. That time wasn’t all that long ago, as my mother’s family didn’t even get electricity to their farm until after World War II, but modern American life would certainly have an adjustment to make to live without it.

The Jack of Diamonds selection was “Placet is a Crazy Place,” which first appeared in Astouding in 1946. Brown much have had the punchline and then built this story around it. With a master like him, however, it turns out to be very fun. It is tough to summarize, but Earthlings have colonized a planet called Placet, where laws of physics and time are very different.

 

John W. Campbell Jr – The Ultimate Weapon (1936)/The Planeteers (1938)

UltimateWeapon-Planeteers

Vintage Science Fiction
Date Finished: October 12, 2018

This Ace Double has two John W. Campbell sides, both reprinting his fiction from the 1930s. He quit writing shortly after this point and became the long-time editor of Astounding and other magazines. After reading these, I can see why he quit writing.

The Ultimate Weapon, published as the serial “Uncertainty” in the October and December 1936 issues of Amazing Stories, tells of Buck Kendall and a fellow crewman who are the only survivors of an attack on his patrol cruiser out near Pluto. A ship from outside the solar system has come not for peaceful purposes, but obviously for conquest. Earthlings quickly develop the technology to meet this invasion, including the Ultimate Weapon. This is much more a novel of scientific experiments than anything involving characters or bigger concepts.

The Planeteers compiles five short stories that appeared in Thrilling Wonder Stories in the December 1936, August, October, and December 1937, and October 1938 issues. All feature Rod Blake and Ted Penton, who are off exploring the solar system in their nuclear space ship after being exiled for destroying 300 square miles of Europe with their forbidden nuclear power experiments. No remorse is displayed for this horrific event, as the characters are more annoyed at the shortsightedness of earth in not allowing nuclear experimentation. In “The Brain Stealers of Mars” they encounter a race of creatures that is being defeated by a shape-shifting creature that infiltrates and replaces their own people. Escaping, they make it to Ganymeade in “The Double Minds,” where they get involved in another conflict, meeting other types of creatures. On Callisto in “The Immortality Seekers” creatures want to steal the beryllium of their spaceship in order to prolong their lives indefinitely. In “The Tenth World” they visit the planet beyond Pluto and meet creatures who crave heat and eat liquid hydrogen. Each creature has two minds, one controlling the body and one intelligent that seeks only release to a body-less existence. And finally in “The Brain Pirates” the satellite of the tenth planet is very dense with bulky inhabitants.

Each story seems to be Campbell’s experiment in describing strange creatures and then exploring aspects of chemistry or physics, rather than developing plot or characters. The two earth men are virtually interchangeable and nothing is terribly interesting or exciting in any of these stories.