An interesting fix-up here which is loosely or partly based on Robert Graves’ ‘I, Claudius’, and has been assembled from five stories (“A Son Is Born” (May 1946), “Child of the Gods” (Aug 1946), “Hand of the Gods” (Dec 1946), “Home of the Gods” (April 1947) and “The Barbarian” (Dec 1947)), all originally published in Astounding.
On a far future Earth a child, ‘Clane’ is born to Tania, the daughter of the Lord Leader of Earth. The child is malformed as a result of his mother’s exposure to radiation.
Normally children such as this would be out to death but Jonquin, one of the scientist priests who maintain the temples of the God Metals, convinces the family to allow the child to live in order that he can study the development of such an unfortunate.
van Vogt here postulates a far future Earth where the automated production of power from nuclear materials continues in temples of scientist priests, although no one appears to understand the principles behind the science and attributes the power to Gods who control the God Metals. Following a war with an alien race known as The Riss, humanity has fallen into a stagnated society of ignorance. Nuclear powered ships travel from world to world despite the fact that the secrets of their construction have also been lost. It’s a bit of a hard pill to swallow, it has to be said.
The Lord Leader discovers Clane to be highly intelligent despite his nervous tics when in unfamiliar company, and takes his advice on military strategy when the Earth forces are under siege when trying to conquer the human population of Mars. As pointed out, it loosely follows events in at least Graves’ account of the life of Claudius. The Lord Leader’s exiled stepson, Tewes, for instance, is clearly Tiberius and the Lord Leader, the Emperor Augustus.
Clane fits in to the usual van Vogt ‘logical hero’ template and becomes adept at anticipating and deflecting assassination attempts and, when he finally assumes the position of Lord Leader, defeating invading barbarian armies from Jupiter. In retrospect it might have been far more interesting if van Vogt had kept to the Claudius template. Claudius avoided death because the schemers and plotters around him found him a harmless and somewhat ludicrous figure, which was far from the case. van Vogt has Clane control his nervous reactions very early on, and his physical abnormalities are concealed under voluminous clothing, and so may as well not be there.
Rather like the conclusion to ‘The Weapon Makers’ van Vogt throws in some surreal non-sequitors at the finale. Clane has been captured by the Barbarian leader Czinczar who brings in a package containing a deformed possibly alien body packed in ice. Clane proves that he has complete control of a ball of light which hovers within the room by killing the guards who try to harm him and then the Barbarian surrenders his entire forces to Clane. Is this body an alien threat from outside the Solar System, or one of the Riss?
Martin Magnus returns initially to the Moon where his protégé, Cliff Page, attempts his first Moon landing but settles the ship on a thin crust above one of Moon’s liquid water deposits. As the crew are escaping they discover the wrecked submarine of an alien race. This contains a map which leads to a strange pit in a crater at the bottom of which are chambers full of fantastical machines, as well as archaic helmets and weapons of seemingly gigantic humanoids.
Magnus and Page have no time to explore further as they are scheduled to set off for Mars.
In the first volume, Magnus encountered the amoebalike beings of the Venusian lake who were distinctly hostile.
This time the crew decide to land some way from the lake where it seems a village is located. The natives are humanoid and initially hostile, but once contact has been made they tell the Earthmen that they work for the Mek Men, digging ore. The Mek Men are gigantic humans it seems who carry armour and weapons identical to those found on the Moon
In the native village there is a very hit-tech metal well which fills automatically when water is taken. Water disappears when the natives fail to mine ore for the Mek Men. And so, it is up to Magnus to travel to the city of the Mek Men and discover their secrets.
Although a little more minimal in action and plot than ‘Planet Rover’ it’s an entertaining and well-written piece, peopled by larger than life human characters spiced with some mild humour. The Venusian natives, for instance, are won over ultimately by fried potatoes, which they appear to adore.
Magnus himself is the most fascinating character, however. He is a wisecracking Londoner who is very much a maverick anti-establishment figure, does not suffer fools gladly and has no time for senseless orders passed down through the chain of command.
In this respect it is interesting to compare this book in particular with Heinlein’s ‘Space Cadet’ from seven years earlier. Heinlein would certainly not have approved of such a disrespectful attitude to the chain of command one imagines, and Temple and Heinlein have distinctly different styles and temperaments. What is interesting is that both novels feature Venus and an attitude to colonialism that seems ingrained in the culture of the West at the time.
The Venusians who live in the lake have made it very clear they don’t want humans on their world, but us Homo Sapiens have decided we are going to there anyway, with no discussion or agreements needed with the inhabitants, which is much the same as the situation in the Heinlein novel. This sense of cultural superiority was a regular feature of earlier US SF but does not crop up often in British SF. This in itself is surprising, since the British, after all, are the experts on colonialism. One suspects also that the reasons for this cultural view differ markedly between the UK and the US. The British, or more specifically the English, retained an inherited sense of superiority from the Victorian era, while the US authors (bearing in mind that writers from both sides of the channel at the time were predominantly white male heterosexuals) tend to dwell on issues of racial superiority.
Even so, it’s an interesting parallel.
‘A sky pirate armed with weapons of his own invention…
First contact with an alien race dangerous enough to threaten the safety of two planets…
The arrival of a dark sun accompanied by marauders aimed at the very end of civilization in this Solar System…
These are the three challenges resting the brilliant team of scientist-astronauts Arcot, Wade and Morey. their adventures are a space-opera classic that first brought the name of their author, John W Campbell – the visionary behind the Golden Age of Astounding Science Fiction – into prominence as a master of the inventive imagination.’
Blurb from the undated Cosmos paperback edition
“Piracy Preferred” — Amazing Stories, June 1930
“Solarite” — Amazing Stories, November 1930
“The Black Star Passes” — Amazing Stories Quarterly, Fall 1930
Three tales by Campbell, each featuring Arcot, Morey and Wade (and sometimes the engineer Fuller).
Arcot and Morey are clever young Americans whose inventions and discoveries have transformed society, although the boys have for the most part given their patents to US businesses to develop.
In the first tale, an ingenious pirate manages to gas the crew and passengers of an airplane and get away with millions in sharebonds and cash. Some of the passengers, after having been revived in the manner detailed in a note left by the pirate, find themselves cured of any extant cancers.
Arcot and Morey set off after this misguided genius and in the process discover the secret of invisibility amongst other things. When Wade, the pirate, is captured he is cured of his kleptomania and joins Arcot and Morey in their labs.
The boys then design a spaceship and head to Venus where they intervene in a war between the North and the South of the planet. The aggressors are planning to invade Earth once they have conquered Venus so the boys take it upon themselves to stop that from happening.
In the third (title) section, a black star (not a black hole but a dying star so dim that it cannot be seen) is travelling past the Solar System with its attendant planets. Some of the inhabitants (an ancient and tired race) wish to take over Earth and Venus and revitalise their people.
Once more, Arcot, Wade and Morley must pull out all the stops to save Earth.
‘Science fiction and fantasy’s most adept short-story author reinvents some classic themes in an engaging collection that includes three of his Hugo award-winning stories. These smart expansions of traditional themes summon dinosaurs, dragons, peril in space, myths, faeries, and time travel, each undergoing artful alchemy to create serious genre literature that is playful, original, and clever. Comprising 16 imaginative and mischievous adventures, including the previously unpublished novelette, “The Skysailor’s Tale,” this adroit gathering makes a collection to truly revel in.
The collection The Dog Said Bow-Wow contains the following stories:
“‘Hello,’ Said the Stick”
(Hugo Nominee for Short Story 2003, Locus Nominee for Short Story 2003)
“The Dog Said Bow-Wow”
(Hugo Winner for Short Story 2002, Nebula Nominee for Short Story 2003, Locus Nominee for Short Story 2002)
(Hugo Winner for Novelette 2003, Locus Nominee for Novelette 2003)
(Locus Nominee for Short Story 2006)
(Locus Nominee for Short Story 2007)
“An Episode of Stardust”
“The Skysailor’s Tale”
(Locus Nominee for Novelette 2008)
“Legions in Time”
(Hugo Winner for Novelette 2004, Locus Nominee for Novelette 2004)
“The Little Cat Laughed to See Such Sport”
(Hugo Nominee for Short Story 2003, Locus Nominee for Short Story 2003)
“The Bordello in Faerie”
“The Last Geek”
(Locus Nominee for Short Story 2005)
“Girls and Boys, Come Out to Play”
(Locus Nominee for Novelette 2006)
“A Great Day for Brontosaurs”
“Dirty Little War”
(Locus Nominee for Short Story 2003)
“A Small Room in Koboldtown”
(Hugo Nominee for Short Story 2008, Locus Winner for Short Story 2008)
(Locus Nominee for Novelette 2008)’
Blurb from the 2007 Tachyon Publications paperback edition.
A collection of Swanwick’s trademark quirky tales from the early to mid Noughties. Very stylish and individual pieces.
“‘Hello,’ Said the Stick” Analog Mar 2002
An intelligent talking stick is found by a soldier in a futuristic war, but whose side is the stick on?
“The Dog said Bow-Wow” Asimovs Oct 2001
As usual Swanwick has created a bizarre and exotic world in which to set his tale, which features a genetically engineered dog of the far future who joined forces with a human man (Darger and Surplus) and hatches a scheme to steal the jewels of a member of the aristocracy.
In this future, the Queen (an almost immortal creature with multiple brains set deep into her vast body) lives in a Buckingham Palace which is surrounded by a labyrinth.
Vivid, surreal, amusing and memorable.
“Slow Life” Analog Dec 2002
An exploratory team discover life below the oceans of Titan, a meeting which inflicts drastic change on the Titans, and augurs similar changes for human society.
“Triceratops Summer” Amazon.com Aug 2005
Dinosaurs let loose from a University campus entails the world being put into a time-loop. Effectively people can live whatever lives they wish for three months before the world is reset to the point before the dinosaurs escaped.
“Tin Marsh” Asimovs Aug 2006
A prospector on Venus is driven crazy by the mentally imposed restrictions and his partner’s teasing and tries to murder her.
“An Episode of Stardust” Asimovs Jan 2006
One of Swanwick’s odd and elaborate surreal tales in which a donkey-eared fey tells the tale of how he fell into partnership with a criminal vixen.
“The Skysailor’s Tale” (The Dog Said Bow-Wow, 2007)
In a historical US which is not quite ours, a young man enlists on ‘The Empire’, a vast craft held aloft by individual balloons. Atmospheric and somewhat moving.
“Legions in Time” Asimovs April 2003
Another surreal bit of cleverness which features a woman who is paid to sit in a room and watch a cupboard door for 8 hours a day, but one day her curiosity gets the better of her, and she becomes embroiled in a war fought through time.
“The Little Cat Laughed To See Such Sport” Asimovs Oct 2002
Darger and Surplus engage themselves in a con, trying to sell a dying billionaire the location of the lost Eiffel Tower, dismantled after it was occupied by transdimensional demons attempting to invade Earth. A genetically modified cat throws their plans and emotions into disarray.
“The Bordello in Faerie” Postscripts Autumn 2006
A dark and atmospheric erotic fairy tale in which a young man becomes addicted to visiting a bordello where he engages in sex with various supernatural creatures.
“The Last Geek” Crossroads: Tales of the Southern Literary Fantastic, (Aug 2004,
An odd piece in which the last geek is paid to give a lecture at a university.
“Girls and Boys, Come Out To Play” Asimovs July 2005
Another Surplus and Darger tale involving genetically engineered Greek mythological figures, including Bacchus
“A Great Day for Brontosaurs” Asimovs May 2002
A scientist proposes a way to genetically backengineer birds in order to create dinosaurs, but is that what is really going on?
“Dirty Little War” In the Shadow of the Wall: An Anthology of Vietnam Stories That Might Have Been, Jul 2002
A dinner party somehow overlaps with a battlefield in one of Swanwick’s more surreal stories.
“A Small Room in Koboldtown” Asimovs April 2007
A supernatural detective story, in which a non-human pitfighter is found dead in a hotel room, and the only credible suspect is the ghost janitor. Can Will le Fey solve the case and save his ghost partner’s brother from jail?
“Urdumheim” F&SF Oct 2007
Swanwick’s variation on a creation myth sees Nimrod creating humans and language and then having to wage a war against the Igigi from Mount Ararat.
‘Unusual stories of other worlds and strange peoples
CHILDREN OF THE SUN
On Venus: An ancient and powerful Venusian race finds its ultimate evolution – but can they accept it?
On Mars: The people of the Fourth Planet are eminently reasonable in all things – except for the cult of the sacred Martian Pig, for which “fanatic” would be entirely too reasonable a word.
And on Earth: On the unknown world of one or ten centuries from now, the strangest stories of all become haunting, fascinating reality, as one of science fiction’s most imaginative writers shows us that human beings are, after all, the most alien of creatures…’
Blurbs from the 1964 M-105 Ace Double paperback edition
The Everlasting Food (thrilling Wonder Stories Dec 1950)
A strangely poetic story in which a Venusian Sanedrin (someone who has the power of enhanced perception) loses her power but then gains the power of immortality, able to feed from lightning strikes, but then begins to lose her empathy for others. Somehow the premise doesn’t seem at all odd here. The setting is colourful and detailed. In the vein of Martian / Venusian romanticism.
Idris’ Pig (Startling Stories Jul 1949)
An Earthman has to take over when his friend and relative – who has been commissioned to deliver a blue pig to a Martian cult – falls ill.
Odd little farce.
The Rages (Fantastic Universe Jul 1954)
St Clair presents an interesting background to the story, one in which the populace is kept tranquilised on Euphoria pills to keep them from falling into ‘rages’. The central figure finds himself running short of the ‘Euph’ pills on which he has become dependent until he meets a kind of anti-establishment group of people who make him reassess his worldview.
Roberta (Galaxy Oct 1962)
Probably controversial at the time, this is a tale of transsexual murders along the lines of ‘Dressed to Kill’.
Island of The Hands (Weird Tales Sep 1952)
A dated bit of fantasy in which a man, searching for his lost love, crashes on an island where giant hands in the mist can shape one”s true desire. Humdrum stuff.
If one should ever be transported to ancient Mars or Venus, it should be made clear that one’s wife or betrothed is highly likely to be kidnapped for various reasons on a semi-regular basis.
Grandon, whose royal Venusian mate was kidnapped in the first book of the series, finds himself about to go off on his honeymoon when his beloved Princess is kidnapped again, this time by the terrible yellow pirates who have recently been making a nuisance of themselves on the High Seas.
It is to Kline’s credit that he sustains the excitement and enjoyability of what is essentially the same story repeated once more. Our heroes are pitted against evil toad-people, giant man-eating spider scorpions, white-furred antarctic bear people, and the sinister cat-eyed red-bean chewing yellow men.
It is what it is. Enjoyable hokum.
This wonderful doorstop of a book (as Gollancz Fantasy Masterworks tend to be) is miscategorised (as again Gollancz Fantasy Masterworks tend to be) since although they have fantasy elements, they are at heart SF, although falling within that amorphous subgenre of Science Fantasy. The majority are set on Mars, with some on Venus, and were published over a period of around ten years from 1942 – 1951 (although two later stories are also included.).
Brackett has been clear in admitting that her major influence for these stories was Edgar Rice Burroughs, and this can be seen very clearly in the full length novel included, ‘The Sword of Rhiannon’ (vt Sea Kings of Mars).
Michael Moorcock in his 2005 Amazon review of this volume writes that Brackett was ‘one of the most influential science fantasy writers of the 40s and 50s, inspiring and eventually collaborating with the young Ray Bradbury. Her stories of Eric John Stark, some of which appear in this collection, are perhaps the best examples you can find in the sf pulps of her day, appearing in the likes of PLANET STORIES, STARTLING STORIES and THRILLING WONDER STORIES. I know they were a huge influence on my own early science fantasy tales. Through Bradbury, she also influenced J.G.Ballard in such sequences as his Vermilion Sands stories. As such she can be seen as a kind of godmother to the so-called ‘New Wave’.
Praise indeed, and well deserved.
This volume comprises of:-
The Sorceror of Rhiannon (Astounding Feb 1942)
A tomb-robber, lost in the Martian desert, finds an ancient ship in which ancient Martian science has held the mind of a sorcerer and his blue-haired female nemesis in suspended animation for untold millennia. The pair take possession of the robber’s body and that of his girlfriend, and head for a lost city and its possibly still active technology, pursued by Martian officials and other rapacious archaeologists.
The Jewel of Bas (Planet Stories Spring 1944)
Set on a world which could have been Mars, but doesn’t seem to be, a couple of roving gypsies are kidnapped as slaves and taken to where two androids are building a machine to take over the world, while the immortal Bas sleeps in the heart of the mountain, guarding a jewel of unlimited power.
Terror Out of Space (Planet Stories Summer 1944)
A military team on Venus has captured a form of lamia which adopts the form of seductive women and drives men insane. While being flown back the creature affects some of the crew, crashing the plane and killing all but the pilot, who escapes, meets an aquatic plant race and manages to enter into a dialogue with the creature.
Lorelei of The Red Mist (with Ray Bradbury) (Planet Stories Summer 1946)
Another Venusian tale in which Hugh Starke’s mind is snatched from his dying body and placed in the body of Conan (no, not that one). A musclebound hero, whose mind had been previously broken. He finds himself in the midst of a war between the sea-people and some land people, and then has to descend into an ocean of breathable red mist to convince another group of sea-people to intervene on behalf of the land people.
The Moon That Vanished (Thrilling Wonder Stories June 1949)
Back to Venus where a religion has evolved around a legend of Venus’ fallen moon. It is said those who have visited the moonfire either die or are made gods. The moonfire may be the radioactive remains of a fallen moon, but there may also be truth in the legends.
Sea Kings of Mars (vt The Sword of Rhiannon) (Thrilling Wonder Stories June 1949)
see review here
Queen of The Martian Catacombs (Planet Stories Summer 1949)
Eric John Stark, an Earthman, brought up on Mercury, is recruited by a mercenary army who wish to conquer and unite the warring factors of Mars. However, some of his colleagues are old enemies and seek to kill him. Stark then discovers that the leaders of the army are ancient Ramas, immortal humans who have the power to transfer themselves into young bodies when they grow old, and who plan to make the Martians their slaves.
Enchantress of Venus (Planet Stories Fall 1949)
Eric John Stark arrives ignominiously in a town where he was supposed to have been delivered as a slave to the Lhori, an inbred ancient people who are searching under the red sea for an ancient technological secret. It is a common theme in Brackett’s work that there is technology too dangerous for humans to dabble with, and seems very apt for someone working at the dawn of the atomic era.
Black Amazon of Mars (Planet Stories March 1951)
Stark agrees to accompany a dying Martian, Canar, back to his home where he must return a talisman stolen years before. Canar dies and Stark continues, escaping capture by Lord Ciaran and an army of barbarians who wish him to aid them in conquering the city.
Their ultimate aim, however, is to take their conquest to The Shining Ones, beyond The Gates of Death.
The Last Days of Shandakor (Startling Stories April 1951)
An Oddly Clark Ashton Smith-esque tale in which a traveller agrees to take a mysterious alien back to his home city to die. The human, however, becomes trapped in the dying city as it replays scenes from thousands of years past.
The Tweener (F & SF February 1955)
Seemingly unrelated to her other Martian tales, Brackett here gives us an Earthbound tale in which a doctor, returning from Mars, brings his nephews and nieces a Martian pet, or is it a devolved member of an ancient Martian race?
The Road to Sinharat (Amazing Stories May 1963)
Back to Brackett’s more familiar Mars, we see Earth taking a superior colonial view and attempting to employ technology to ‘aid’ the primitive Martians. One Earthman and his Martian friend set off in a race against time to find the evidence that will stop the Rehabilitation Programme.
Recently republished as part of Gollancz’ ‘Space Opera’ Collection (a gorgeously designed set of paperbacks with beautifully thought out black and white cover illustrations made from photographed paper sculpture and cut outs) this was a novel far ahead of its time when first published.
Stapledon, a communist and atheist it appears, here takes us through the twentieth century and then in leaps and bounds through Mankind’s sometimes enforced evolution, the downfall and eventual rebirth of civilisations, until mankind reaches a pinnacle from which one of the Last men reaches back through time to record this history through the pen of a 20th Century writer.
It had been a common convention of writers for some time previous to this novel’s publication to provide a rationale or a link to reality for their work, in order to give it a certain verisimilitude; an explanation as to how we could be telling a story of the future, or of another world far from ours (see also Edgar Rice Burroughs, who was a regular proponent of this practice).
It has to be said that the initial chapters that detail the way world society progresses in the 20th Century is woefully off its mark and seems to have been employed as a platform for Stapledon’s personal politics.
He has been criticised elsewhere for his extrapolation of US Society although in some ways his warnings of the dangers of Capitalism have been borne out.
Sadly, these chapters are a little tedious, and new readers should be encouraged to persevere, since once Stapledon moves away from the world with which we are familiar the novel accelerates and takes flight into the future.
Not many authors can communicate a sense of understanding of vast passages of time but Stapledon carries it off with aplomb.
One also has to consider that he is writing of subjects such as evolution, genetic engineering, even the concept of viruses as vectors for changing DNA sequences (although obviously it is not described in those terms) in 1930, at a time when most other authors were in the genre were zipping about in unobtainium powered speedsters and carrying American values to the four corners of the Galaxy.
Stapledon takes a more cautious approach to interstellar travel. His evolved men see travelling to another star as being impossible or at least not an option worth exploring. Interplanetary travel is another matter, since Humanity – after a protracted war with gestalt entity Martians lasting thousands of years – is forced to move to Venus when the moon begins to close its orbit on the Earth.
Later (a slight scientific faux pas on Stapledon’s part) Humanity moves to the surface of Neptune when the sun begins to swell and here mutates and evolves into an entire biosphere of human descended wildlife before one of the species again rises to an intelligent level.
Again, in an astonishingly prescient concept, years before Heinlein or Blish employed the idea, Stapledon had the Last men sending out ‘seed ships’ into the galaxy packed with micro-organisms which would be pre-disposed to eventually evolve into a form of Humanity. Man himself, by a fluke of the laws of physics was doomed, but there is always the chance that he can be reborn elsewhere in the Cosmos.
Despite the ending containing some dubious talk of spirituality and immortality, the novel ends leaving the reader enervated and acutely aware of the insignificance of our tiny planet, and how brief our lives upon it are.
It’s a stunning piece of work.
Following hot on the heels of Grandon, who was sent off to Venus in ‘Planet of Peril‘, we find Harry Thorne (not in fact Harry Thorne at all but a Martian) who is transported to ancient Venus by the secret method of Professor Morgan. Harry arrives in the body of the Prince of Olba and is very soon brought up speed with the help of Vern Vangal (another interplanetary traveller). Soon however the prince is in trouble, since an ambitious noble is killing off the Royals in a bid to seize the throne.
Narrowly escaping assassination the prince finds himself in a forest where he intercedes in an argument between an attractive woman and a lisping fop. As is unsurprising, she turns out to be a princess. She is engaged to the idiot and while the men are arguing the Princess is kidnapped. It is the same old entertaining tosh. Harry has to deal with giant reptiles, talking man-eating apes and the immortals of a hidden valley who have learned to transfer their consciousness to machines. Again one gets the impression that Kline wrote randomly, or serially at least… possibly having a goal in sight, but not quite sure how he was going to get there.
At one point Harry and the Princess defeat a reptile which appears to be mostly mouth and a couple of legs. They take over its cave, only to find an egg in there. The egg hatches and the princess feeds the tiny beast, who then follows them. ‘Ah.’ one thinks. ‘the pet is going to prove useful at some point.’ In fact, no. The pair bump into some of the machine-men, get into a cable-car and then just whizz off, leaving the poor beast abandoned on top of a cliff.
The denouement plot structure is almost identical to the last volume. Usurper takes over throne and threatens to marry hero’s girlfriend. Hero has to do something. All ends well.
One can’t really fault Kline for the laziness of his delivery. One imagines that there were far worse things coming out of the publishing houses of the day. Although Kline repeats plot devices in various ways he is at least imaginative. The concept of consciousness transference into a mechanical device, if not original, is certainly well thought through.
In the 21st century it is now a standard theme, particularly from writers such as Richard Morgan and Peter F Hamilton who have widely explored the idea of immortality via digital ‘backup’s of one’s consciousness and memories. It’s interesting to see the idea mooted in 1930.
“terror quest on the misty planet
GREEN MAN’S BURDEN
Anthony Taylor sat watching the wealthy Borden Harper on his multi-vision screen.
‘Is there any more news about the – the Greenies?’ the interviewer was asking.
‘None at all.’ Harper dropped his voice to a deep sober sincerity. ‘We keep on trying, But I’m afraid we are just going to have to face the unpleasant fact that the Greenies are nothing more than human-looking animals…’
Anthony could contain his detestation no longer. Snatching the cushion, he rammed it violently into the speaker-grill, wishing he could ram it down Harper’s throat. Harper and the other humans on Venus, milking it of its miraculous beans, using the green-skinned natives to cultivate the crop, because that’s all they could be trained to do. They had no language, no human-style intelligence, no cultural potential, nothing.
Anthony grabbed up a dummy piano-keyboard savagely. He struck out a crisp-edged series of chords, double-handed, up the keyboard. The notes were sharp, precise sounds.
‘Not bad..’ he said, aloud. ‘For an animal!’
CAST OF CHARACTERS
When he found himself running out of pills, he knew he could no longer pass for human.
She seemed to be a beautiful woman, but how long could she keep up the deception?
A psychiatrist of questionable sanity, he held thousands of Venusians under his sway.
THE OLD MAN
He had the power to wipe out all the human settlements on Venus.
That was the only name she had, for what use did Greenies have for names?
Though he was the richest man on Venus, he really knew very little about the source of his wealth.”
Blurbs from the 1965 M-127 Ace Double Edition.
Anthony Taylor is an accomplished and talented musician, able to reproduce any classical piece from memory on a keyboard, and able to tune any piano. In a future where classical music has become unpopular his work is playing for the customers of a downtown bar.
One evening, Borden Harper, one of the richest men on Venus, turns up at the bar and, amazed at Anthony’s playing, returns with another two ‘chance’ discoveries, a tenor and a soprano, Martha Merrill. Harper offers them the chance to travel to Venus and perform to the humans living under the domes on the misty planet.
The Venusians have become rich due to a miracle bean which seems to cure all ailments. This is gathered and harvested by the green humanoid denizens of Venus, the Greenies, who have been identified as being ‘nothing more than human-looking animals…’
However, Anthony has a secret. All his life he has had to take anti-tan treatment in order to make his skin white, otherwise he would revert to his natural colour of green. He begins to suspect that his new colleague, Martha, is also a secret Greenie and once on Venus, with no supply of anti-tan to preserve their secret, the green begins to show.
Anthony and Martha, fearing that they would be in danger (given the attitude of the human Venusians to Greenies) flee into the wild steaming jungles. There they discover that the Greenies are not the mindless animals that the humans believed them to be, and the secret of how the pair came to be living on Earth.
For 1965, the style is somewhat dated, although the initial scenes on Earth are very interesting, foretelling a world more interested in manufactured music and videoscreens than what might be termed as ‘proper live music’. Phillifent evidently knows his classical music and no doubt at the time, at the age of 49, was wrestling with the concepts of music of the Beatles generation.
There are some obvious points made regarding capitalism and exploitation – this is in a sense a 1960s version of the film ‘Avatar’ – but given the restriction on length of Ace Doubles, doesn’t manage to explore the pros and cons of the respective lives of Venusian Humans and Greenies.