Seetee Ship – Jack Williamson (1943)
‘Late In The 22nd Century
The great Cataclysmic Drift of Seetee – antimatter menaces the universe. Yet certain sky wanderers, reckless men of vision, dare to harness seetee’s unlimited powers for creation.
Rich Drake, celestial pioneer, spurred by his love for highborn lady of space, uncovers seetee’s awesome secret, battles the imperial forces of the mighty Mandate and endures a staggering War of Time.’
Blurb from the 1979 Jove omnibus paperback edition.
Rich Drake returns from Earth to the asteroid Pallas with his newly-earned Spatial Engineering degree, Rich is the son of Jim Drake, who for some time has been experimenting with CT (seetee), contraterrene or anti-matter. In Williamson’s future it is discovered that space is full of seetee matter. A special Seetee Patrol has been set up to map the seetee distribution and ensure that normal matter (including normal space traffic) does not come into contact with it and unleash the awesome destructive power and consequent radiation.
After Rich saves Karen Hood (daughter of the High Commissioner of Interplanet, a corporate concern which more or less controls Earth) he is recruited by Interplanet to help with their own research into creating a seetee bedplate, the elusive grail which will allow matter and anti-matter to be joined, and so control the energy of seetee which will provide free unlimited power for the entire Solar civilisation.
Interplanet’s interests are less philanthropic. As the main supplier of power from uranium and other dwindling sources they would want to suppress any free power supplies, but would be interested in the creation of seetee bombs.
Then Drake senior and his partner, Rob McGee, discover a seetee asteroid with unusual properties. Rich receives an odd message from Captain McGee telling him to be ready to be picked up at the space port, a message which McGee, when he arrives, denies sending.
Captain Anders of Interplanet, has intercepted the message, sent from the region of the anomalous asteroid, and both parties set out for the area to uncover the mystery.
What follows is a convoluted time-paradox tale in which an ancient seetee ship is found composed of terrene and contraterrene matter, which may provide the secret to creating a functioning seetee ‘bedplate’.
This is a vast improvement on Williamson’s earlier work, particularly since he has this time given due consideration to practical matters of gravitation and atmosphere. Asteroids, for instance, are made habitable by the use of ‘paragravity generators’ which produce localised Earth gravity conditions with some interesting effects and consequences.
It is also interesting that Williamson – in the middle of World War II, has written what is effectively an anti-war and particularly anti-militaristic novel.
The Martians, who are a very minor aspect of this book, are Nazis, and we learn in passing that Mars culture is an Aryan Reich. For readers of the time this must have been a topical and perhaps chilling aspect, and the very subtlety of its use renders it all the more effective.
Williamson must also be applauded for the inclusion of a female character who does rather more than scream and stand about waiting to be rescued. Anne O’Banion is a feisty female engineer/pilot who eventually thaws the heart of the Interplanet Captain, Paul Anders.