Why did Isaac Asimov work so obsessively
_The deadly light of the stars_
Isaac Asimov was only 21 years old when he experienced the terrible war year of 1941. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, he was drafted like many other leading SF writers. Unlike Heinlein, who had to work in Philadelphia, Asimov was allowed to push a quiet ball and therefore had to write a few stories and deliver them to the editor John W. Campbell of "Astounding Stories". That's why he's in this, his own selected volume represented twice, but Heinlein not at all.
Each story begins with a comment from Greenberg about the author and his work. Asimov only contributes a personal anecdote about how he got to know the author - or not.
Isaac Asimov, born in Russia in 1920, grew up in New York City, studied biochemistry and did his PhD. That's why his fans teasingly call him the "good doctor". However, he became much better known in the field of literature. He joined the “Futurians” circle at an early age, to which SF author Frederik Pohl also belonged. Asimov, who has published a lot about himself, claims to have sold his first story to the most famous SF publisher: John W. Campbell. Its SF magazine “Astounding Stories”, later “Analog”, set standards in terms of quality and fees for good SF stories. Under his aegis, Asimov not only wrote his well-known robot stories, but also his most famous SF trilogy: "Foundation". In addition to SF, Asimov, who published around 300 books, also wrote a lot of non-fiction books, was the editor of an SF magazine and numerous SF anthologies.
Incidentally, Martin H. Greenberg is also shown as the editor in the biobliographical data. He probably still publishes anthologies on inventive subjects today.
1) _Eric Frank Russell: Mechanical mice_ (Mechanical mice)
Dan Burman has a problem: he invented a machine and doesn't know what it's doing. The draft was given to him, as it were, by going on a spiritual journey into the future with a self-invented “psychophone”. Now he has the salad. The machine does nothing. He complains of his suffering to the reporter Bill, who at first does not believe a word, but after his own spiritual journey into the 31st century, the matter seems more plausible to him.
The machine looks a bit scary: like an upturned coffin with photoelectric cells. Suddenly it clicks and hums, opens a flap, grabs two chronometers and closes again. Heat develops, then silence follows. It's midnight and Burman and Bill are retiring. But an uncanny hustle and bustle begins in the laboratory and on the streets.
Police officer Burke noticed two dead cats that night. Their cut throats speak against the assumption that they have fallen victim to death-defying rats. Even more ominous is the sight of the almost empty display of the jewelry store, which Burke is guarding like the apple of his eye. In the lower corner of the shop window he discovers a five centimeter hole, and all the clocks are missing from the display. Strangely enough, the thief ignored the diamond rings.
When his colleagues and the jeweler arrive on Burke's alarm, they cannot explain the robbery. But all of a sudden the watch on Maley's wrist goes into action and whizzes out through the hole in the shop window. What the hell is going on here?
| My impression |
Who does not know the wonderful STAR TREK episode “Trouble with Tribbles”? Cute little alien beasts multiply in it so explosively that there is no getting through on the corridors of the "Enterprise". And above all, they distract the crew from their tasks by their omnipresent appearance. They are like a swarm of bees.
Something similar happens in "Mechanical Mice". The title already reveals half the secret, which I don't find so funny. Dan Burman, the somewhat awkward inventor, brought a Von Neumann machine (or the corresponding concept) with him from the future. Its hallmark is that it creates images of itself. (There is also a wonderful satire in a novel by John Sladek.)
As in a swarm of bees, the images are differentiated according to queen, drone and worker / soldier in order to be able to fulfill different tasks. But this robot mother fatally procures the building material from the clocks, cars and alarm clocks in the area. This leads to a lot of trouble for Dan Burman, which is all the more fun to read.
It goes without saying that he wants to put an end to the misfortune that the machine brings on his fellow citizens and attacks the machine. She defends herself resourcefully. And when he finally succeeded, he found that she had obeyed the highest commandment of all life first of all: She reproduced and made a copy of herself ... tick-tick!
2) _Robert Arthur: The end of development_ (Evolution’s end)
In the year 12,000 mankind split into slaves and masters. Both live in tunnels underground. Ten thousand years ago the gentlemen developed a brain twice the size of normal and the walls of the skull have become so thin that they can no longer keep the heat of the sun from the brain.
Mr. Dmu Dran has secretly started a highly illegal experiment. He allowed two slaves to become smarter and stronger than allowed. Adem, the muscular man, and Ayveh, his beautiful wife who secretly loves him, are now supposed to be separated so that Ayveh marries the hated Ekno. If Aydem does not act against this command of the gentlemen, he ends up in the firebox.
But Dmu Dran shows the two chosen ones that the end of evolutionary development has come. Either he succeeds in increasing the brain capacity of the gentlemen again without the victims of his other experiment going crazy, or he will let Aydem and Ayveh escape to the surface of the earth, to Aiden, where they can dare a fresh start to the stars to strive. There is a crisis in the men's tunnels ...
| My impression |
Like John W. Campbell in Evening Twilight in 1938, a number of SF writers pondered what Darwin's and Thomas Huxley's evolutionary theories mean for humans. The negative utopia in HG Wells' influential novel ["The Time Machine"] http://www.buchwurm.info/book/angebote.php?id__book=3578 helped them, and they often applied this theory to the Genesis myth of the Bible on. The second author in this volume who did this is Alfred Bester with “Adam and no Eve” - see there.
In contrast to Bester's story, Arthur's story looks good and antiquated, tied to a narrative style of the 19th century instead of the modern era that began with Campbell. Arthur's conception of Aydem and Ayveh, easily recognizable as Adam and Eve, is clumsy and devoid of psychology, so that every twelve-year-old could understand it.
The dialogues are basically not monologues either, but mainly monologues by “Lord” Dmu Dran. With his huge skull, bulging eyes, missing neck and thin whistling voice, he is strongly reminiscent of the caricature Martians in Tim Burton's famous film satire. Dmu Dran lectures on evolution and on how the ruling predators, saber-toothed tigers and dinosaurs, fell victim to their own overdevelopment - he foresees the same fate for the “masters”. Hence his two experiments: Either “masters” become gods, or they are replaced by the slaves who are supposed to dare a fresh start.
In the 1930s, many other people had specific ideas about what the future of man should look like. One of them was fascism, another was Stalinism. Both were devastating, as is known. However, I doubt whether the author would have welcomed a new beginning after a nuclear war.
3) _Theodore Sturgeon: Der Gott des Mikrokosmos_ (The microcosmic god)
Kidder is a great inventor and whatever he invents adds to his wealth. He invested it in Mr. Conant's bank, which is getting richer and richer. Conant is eagerly waiting for Kid's next invention. But Kidder has withdrawn to a lonely island off the coast of New England and indulges in his research there. In order to be able to invent more quickly, he artificially brought about evolution and created tiny human beings, the neoterics, who make discoveries for him, for example super-hard aluminum, a vaccine against colds and the like.
Meanwhile, Conant has become the second most powerful man in the world, after the President of the United City, who sits in his capital, New Washington. Of course, Conant wants to be the most powerful. When Kidder, on request, reports to him about a new cheap and almost inexhaustible source of energy and faxes the blueprint for a receiver, Conant is convinced that this is the last building block for world domination. But of course he needs the transmitter.
When Conant visits Kidder on his island, he first robs him of the model of the station, then of his freedom. He lets his engineers build the transmitter while Kidder is confined to his research facility. Kidders neoterics invent a protective field for their facility. When he overhears Conant and realizes that Conant has blackmailed the US president and now wants to have the island bombed, Kidder realizes that his field cannot protect the hundreds of workers and engineers, let alone the whole island.
He's sending an urgent order to his neotericists. Meanwhile, Conant's bombers rise and head for Kid's part of the island.
| My impression |
This is perhaps one of the earliest stories on the subject that science, however exotic it may be, must take responsibility for the consequences of its productions. Second, it's a story about an inventor who is brilliant but also a despotic creator of other beings.
Its creatures have given themselves a creed that punishes all violations against the will of the despot - the microcosmic god - with death. So there is a direct connection between death and life of creatures and useful inventions. If you know the price at which the inventions were created, is it still morally responsible to use them? Applied to our present, one might wonder whether it is responsible to buy carpets that have been made using child and slave labor. I think the answer should be "no".
Often these two topics were taken up again in the SF and transferred to other areas, such as computer technology and virtual reality. But Sturgeon's story is very simple and easy to understand by comparison, almost in a fairytale tone. (But real names hardly ever appear in fairy tales.) Nevertheless, the plot develops increasing tension and comes to a head. Because of this and because its statement is valid over time, it is reprinted again and again.
4) _Isaac Asimov: Liar! _ (Liar!)
The robot psychologist Dr. Susan Calvin is responsible for developing positronic robots. This time she is surprised by the news from the mathematician Bogert that the new type RB-34 can read minds! You and Bogert's boss Alfred Lanning don't find that funny, because it has all sorts of implications. There is already increasing anti-robot propaganda. How are they supposed to make a mind reader acceptable to robot enemies? The factory would be closed to them!
While Lanning and Bogert tackle the tricky problem-solving and quarrel, Susan deals with the psyche of the robot she calls Herbie. She wonders why he is not interested in science but in human emotional life and therefore primarily reads romance novels. He knows full well that she is in love with board member Milton Ashe and assures her that the cousin Ashe hired means nothing to the man Susan adores. Susan is now on cloud nine.
But the crash is all the harder when Ashe reveals to her - in confidence, of course - that he is looking for a house because he wants to marry his cousin. Susan doesn't know what's happening to her, but Herbie does everything possible to support her crumbling mind. When she learns that Herbie also told Bogert and Lanning exactly what they wanted to hear, she realizes the nature of the problem that Herbie represents. It has to do with the three robot laws, what else.
| My impression |
Spock would say: It is actually logical that the application of the three laws of robotics also extends to emotions. A robot must not kill a person or allow the person to be injured by inactivity. Susan Calvin should have foreseen the result, but since she herself is blinded by love, she fails to turn on her gray matter.
When she falls from the clouds, her sanity returns to find out the core of the problem, but what she then does is shocking in its brutality. If Herbie wasn't a mechanical construct, Dr. Booked Susan Calvin for murder. That she also calls him a liar (see title) says more about the reality of people than some lengthy romance.
5) _Ross Rocklynne: Time wants a skeleton_ (Time wants a skeleton)
Planetary Police Lieutenant Tony Crow crashes on asteroid 1007, which is home to three bandits. When he sets the trio, they fire back. He can take out another one, but then he has to take cover. By chance he gets into a cave, but it is not empty. There is a skeleton in it and a green emerald ring is on its finger. He shudders. Crow leaves the cave again and fires at the bandits who are fleeing. He blows up the boulder hanging over the bandits' spaceship with one shot, so that the block falls on the ship and crushes it. You're stuck. Great!
He still handcuffs Johnny Braker and Harry Jawbone Yates - better safe than sorry. Will they die on this rock, they ask themselves. No, because in that second Professor Overland's research ship appears just a hundred meters above them and lands. Overland's pretty daughter Laurette pokes her curly hair out of the manhole and asks the three guys whether they are locals or people. They are definitely human, says Crow. Then they can go on board.
In addition to Laurette and her father, a biology professor, her fiancé Erle Masters is on board, a scientist. He and the professor are researching the pre-asteroid giant planet from which the asteroids between Jupiter and Mars must have originated, shattered by a gigantic collision with another celestial body. By chance, Crow's gaze falls on Braker's hand. There an emerald green ring shines on a golden ring. He backs away in horror. Is it the same one that the skeleton was wearing?
But as a cautious man of the law, he does not ask about it, but about the context. Is it the propulsion of Overland's hypermodern ship? When it starts, it uses this drive, but an accident throws it back millions of years into the past. During the crash landing, the hull is bent in such a way that a take-off is out of the question for the time being. You get out. Outside, a complete planet is waiting for them, green grass, a rushing river. And a skeleton with a ring on a bone finger.
When Crow told the others about his discovery of that ancient skeleton, he might as well have prophesied their death. Time wants a skeleton, but who will it belong to? And suddenly the ring becomes a cursed symbol of imminent death. Above them the alien celestial body approaches the planet, doom seems unstoppable. But the two criminals do not intend to stand idly by this fate ...
| My impression |
This short novel is just stunning. Time and again, the situation seems to be hopeless for Tony Crow and his beloved Laurette, but then something unexpected happens that gives new hope to the whole roller coaster ride. One riddle after another needs to be solved, and the explanations are one more insane than the other. The reader has to throw his disbelief overboard quite early on. And yet a credible understanding of psychology is at work here, and the characters are not just cardboard comrades like E. E. Smith 13 years earlier, but act logically. It is a pulp fiction yarn in the best tradition.
Today, as in 1941, it is a common theory that the asteroids must have emerged from a massive original planet at some point. The high ore content of the asteroids between Jupiter and Mars makes the Brocken a sought-after destination for mining companies - at some point when space flights there are profitable. The exciting scene when the alien planetoid collides with this primordial planet is one of the most monstrous in the whole of SF - only Niven / Pournelle's book "Lucifer's Hammer" can keep up with it.
But who did the skeleton in the cave come from? I will certainly not reveal that for sure, so as not to spoil the surprise.
6) _Cyril M. Kornbluth: The words of guru_ (The words of guru)
Peter was only two months old when he surprised his mother Clara and his father Joe with his first words. When he sees a snail on the wall that Clara cannot see, he learns the word "illusion" from her. Hardly has he called this word twice into the night when Guru appears. Guru offers him knowledge - and many words of knowledge. At the age of eight, Peter was already climbing down the gutter to follow Guru into the night.
On his tenth birthday, he follows him to a strange place with a certain word. Everything there is bathed in red, including the women who greet Guru and Peter. In the assembled circle, everyone is drinking blood from a bowl, and after the third woman has danced naked, she is killed. Appearance rises from its blood. Their authoritarian words transform Peter for good, and he has the power to kill another real person in one word.
But as a last word, Guru teaches him one that has the power to destroy Peter's planet. He disdains all the treasures and beauties of the world for just this one word. But for fear of destroying himself and everything around him, he does not dare to speak out.
| My impression |
What reads here like a pretty weird and, on top of that, bloody fantasy story, which the 18-year-old author just made up for fun, is in fact something completely different. Because the last word that Peter learned from that demon of knowledge corresponds to the knowledge that is necessary for self-destruction: the atomic bomb. Peter's development is nothing other than the development of mankind and, above all, that of their knowledge.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God. So it is in the first book of Genesis. The author has only spun this concept further, perhaps also transferred it to Satan, as which the guru may appear. Since the word is obviously also power, Peter, this everyone, desires more and more of it, but the words he uses always only kill or drive us crazy - the history of humanity?
If this were a vampire or horror story, you could start a whole cycle with it. I have seldom read such a gruesome story and fascinating story. And certainly not suspected that it was in the years 1939 to 1944.
7) _A. E. van Vogt: Die Schaukel_ (The seesaw; correct would be: "The seesaw")
Strange things were happening in the American city of "Middle City" in 1941. When a gun shop appears out of nowhere and then disappears again, reporter Chris McAllister is on the heels of the phenomenon. We learn practically nothing about him, only about his fate. He enters the gun shop in front of Police Inspector Clayton - and lands in a time that lies 7,000 years in the future and is ruled by the Empress Innelda Ischer.
But he only learns that little by little from the young woman who threatens him with a futuristic pistol, and from her father, who is a member of the senior councilor of the arms dealers' guild. Because McAllister reveals through his ignorance that he himself does not belong to the guild and is therefore not authorized to enter the gun shop, the two puzzle how he managed to break in here.
The only plausible explanation they can come up with is the assumption of a novel energy weapon used by the Imperial Forces. In fact, an adjusted look outside reveals that the troops have made themselves invisible and are deploying a range of energy weapons to blow the gun shop into nothing. Behind them, a colossal building soars into the sky: the energy center required for the attack. This apparently also ensured that McAllister was thrown into this time.
But as the young woman named Lystra explains to him, McAllister has accumulated a tremendous amount of time energy units. The slightest contact with a person from this time would release this energy and probably kill him in the process. Hence, isolation is the order of the day. The material of the store itself is non-conductive, otherwise a disaster would have happened. The senior councilor urges McAllister to get into a light insulation suit and go back out that door. But what will happen then? Something like the Archimedean principle with leverage will come into play ...
With the energy center as a counterweight, a kind of time seesaw throws him first into his own year 1941, then back into the future, back into the past and so on, finally millions of years into the past. At the cost of his life he creates the solar system.
| My impression |
Stanislaw Lem calls this process "autocreation", the self-creation of man and his environment. How can the cosmos have arisen out of nothing - there must have been an ingredient, something. So a scientist decides in the distant future to shoot a single electron back against the current of time into the distant past in order to trigger the big bang - as far as Lem's theory is concerned. This person plays God.
Van Vogt's solution, however, looks different: McAllister is involuntarily placed in the position of a weight at the end of a time seesaw; with every oscillation of the seesaw, this weight is charged with an ever greater energy potential. It finally explodes in the unimaginable past and triggers the big bang to which the solar system owes its creation.
But this scenario was refuted as early as 1949: In order to continuously increase the swing of the rocker, the system would have to be constantly supplied with new energy - but where should it come from? Van Vogt does not say a word about that.
8) _Fredric Brown: Armageddon_ (Armageddon)
The nine-year-old Herbie Westerman goes to the show theater with his parents, where the magician “Gerber the Great” is performing again today. Herbie, himself a magic apprentice, has already seen the first performance and is therefore right at the front of the stage when, as he knows, Gerber calls out for a boy from the audience. It goes without saying that Herbie is the first boy on stage. He looks critically at the utensils for the next magic trick, in which three pigeons are supposed to appear ...
At this moment an ancient prayer wheel in Tibet rips itself out of its anchorage and is swept away by a flood. That wouldn't be a problem, because like any prayer wheel it keeps turning, but then it gets stuck on a rock and comes to an abrupt stop.
Herbie can't believe his eyes when Gerber the Great transforms himself into the ruler of hell before his eyes, apparently finally freed from an ancient spell. But Herbie doesn't hesitate for long, lifts the water pistol she has brought and sprays with a very special liquid ...
| My impression | (SPOILER!)
Although Herbie prevents Armageddon - in the biblical sense the predicted return of Satan / Lucifer / Antichrist - his father gives him a good beating with the strop (a leather strap on which the razor was sharpened). Because he wasn't actually allowed to use the liquid Herbie was using: holy water.
The story is told very simply and can be understood immediately. But it is pure fantasy, as it is based on the effect of a fancy prayer wheel in Tibet. Of course, the basic principle can be transferred: Should the controls built into the handling of weapons - such as the atomic bomb - fail, Armageddon would really break out. So indirectly, the harmless children's story is a serious warning.
9) _Alfred Bester: Adam and no Eve_ (Adam and no Eve)
Stephen Crane has returned to an earth that has been devastated with his moon rocket: nothing but dust and ashes. He broke his leg on landing, and now he's crawling on his knees and elbows through the desert towards the seashore. How did it come to that? He remembers …
His assistant Hallmyer advised against using the new catalyst in rocket fuel from the start, but Crane was stubborn. Then Hallmyer resorted to a lazy trick that distracted Crane with a phone call from his fiancée Evelyn until Hallmyer could set fire to the rocket. Crane realized what was going on in time, ran over Hallmyer, fell aboard the rocket with his Danish mastiff Umber and took off immediately before everything went up in flames.
The Hallmyer ghost grins maliciously. Everything turned out as he had prophesied, didn't it? Crane has to admit that. And only Evelyn's spirit comforts him in his loneliness. He is Adam, but without her as Eve. Suddenly she warns him. No, it's not one of the angry dust storms again, it's Umber, his mastiff. But why is his best (and only) friend on earth growling at him so angrily? Could it be that hunger has driven away feelings of loyalty and friendship? Umber bares his teeth and jumps ...
| My impression |
Through the inserted flashback and the two imaginary figures of Hallmyer and Evelyn, the narrative makes use of stylistic devices that only became characteristic of the New Wave 20 years later. The descriptions of the surroundings seem as surrealistic as by J. G. Ballard. Of course, there was excellent modern literature as early as 1941, such as "Ulysses" by James Joyce and T. S. Eliot's poems, etc. But it rarely found its way into the sealed-off world of science fiction & fantasy magazines. Best is one of these rare exceptions. And that's why his stories are still being printed today.
The story Stephen Cranes (there was a US author of the same name in the 19th century) is reminiscent of the world after the nuclear war. It turns out to be the world billions of years ago, but only in the very last sentence. This punch line seems very artificial and we probably owe it to the editor or editor of the magazine in which the story appeared. In addition, the time specification “one hundred million centuries” corresponds to a period of 10 billion years - at that time there wasn't even the earth, maybe not even the solar system. This volte is only struck so that Crane can entrust his body to the sea, namely the primordial soup from which the first life crawled on land billions of years ago.
10) _James Blish: Solar Plexus_ (Solar Plexus)
Brant Kittinger is an astronomer at the Planetary Institute. His current job is near that "invisible gas giant" that is beyond Pluto's orbit (at least in this story) and that he observes and investigates. Suddenly there is a knock on the airlock of his research boat. After he sees and hears no one and no one enters through the open lock, he makes his own way to cross an opaque bridge to the other spaceship.
But nobody seems to be on board, as he finds out in the cockpit. Only one voice greets him by name. The voice is called Murray Bennett, but that was the name of a pilot who eight years ago stole and hijacked a spaceship called "Astrid". “This IS the 'Astrid', Kittinger,” claims Bennett, and in fact the faucets are pretty dated. But how can this Bennett control it? Because he connected his own brain and mind to the ship's circuitry. Motor and sensory nerves ran through the ship, says Bennett.
When Kittinger is unable to fulfill the request to help Bennett be more creative, the ship takes him prisoner. In his corresponding "cell" he comes across Powell, the pilot of a UN patrol boat who had been looking for Bennett and was captured. They think about how to get out of a mess. Since the ship cannot see them, only hear them, they communicate by writing.
Kittinger develops a daring plan and crawls towards the cockpit with Powell ...
| My impression |
This brisk and straightforward story told, but provided with a smart idea, you can see why James Blish later became the author who was allowed to put all the classic adventures of the spaceship Enterprise in prose. Narrated straight on, with brief, precise characterizations of characters and places, he drives the plot towards the unexpected punch line. The reader has an idea of the surroundings and the past before the action begins.
The author shows only one weakness, namely when it comes to the actual construction of this cyborg (Cybernetic ORGanism) of a ship plus brain. How could Murray Bennett connect the flesh of his brain to the metal of the ship? Even more with the use of (completely unexplained) telepathy! The title's solar plexus is of course an ideal point of attack on a cyborg. Prize question: where is it on this ship?
Memories of Siodmak's novel "Donovan's Brain" are awakened in which an isolated brain manages to influence its environment. Stanislaw Lem once carried out such a thought experiment in his parodies and satires.
11) _Isaac Asimov: The night will come_ (Nightfall)
On the world of Lagash, near the city of Saro City, there is an observatory in which the reporter Theremon wants to witness a monstrous event. A process that is only mentioned in the cultists' obscure “Book of Revelations”. It speaks of mysterious "stars". What should it be?
He asks the astronomer Aton, the director of Saro University, because he predicted the end of the world to come. Aton points to the sky. Of the six suns that alternately shine on Lagash, only the reddish beta is faintly shining in the sky. So what? Aton loses patience with this disrespectful bullhorn Theremon, so the psychologist Sheerin takes over the explanations.
After an excursion into celestial bodies, gravity and darkness, Theremon's head is spinning, but he still doesn't see the problem. Well, it's going to be dark. What's so bad about that? A simple demonstration through drawn curtains explains what Sheerin means: claustrophobia caused by the unfamiliar lack of light. Yes, and as was shown once, claustrophobia can be permanent damage.
But that's nothing at all against what comes after dark: the stars. But Sheerin cannot say what these objects could be either, because no living person has seen stars so far. Of that event that took place 2049 years ago and which is to be repeated today, only the "Book of Revelation" reports. And the reason there are no historical reports is because each time civilization went under. Because what do people want most when it is completely dark? Light! And how do you make light? With everything that is tangible, no matter how ...
Beta’s disc is nibbled by what looks like a black fingernail: it’s the moon, which is otherwise invisible. Theremon's heart is uneasy. He barely hears the cultist-instigated mob who come from Saro City to storm the observatory and kill the wrongdoers. The darkness begins to fall. When it is perfect and there is no more light, madness begins. Because the light of the stars is completely different from anything anyone has ever seen on Lagash.
| My impression |
Even today the last scenes and sentences of this story give me goose bumps. Nobody can escape the effect of this picture, which is both terrible and beautiful at the same time. Instead of the 3600 stars visible on average on earth, the Lagashians see around 30,000 stars staring down at themselves like millions of cold eyes! Full of the expected six suns, they are faced with a whole universe to which they feel naked and defenseless. Darkness, fear and claustrophobia make even the most prepared cultists completely insane. If someone announces this event (photos and films are made), then only from the survivors from the sealed off and locked shelters. Not even the insane mob can reach them there.
But there's also plenty of humor in this narrative which has been voted the best SF story of all time many times. The astronomer and photographer Beenay tells of two daring ideas that remind him of science fiction. That there could be a) other suns with planets elsewhere and b) that there could even be - crazy thought, of course - a sun that has only one planet. Of course, life could never develop on it, it goes without saying, because since this world would be dark for half the day, there is simply a lack of the necessary warmth and energy that are simply indispensable for the development of life. Just a crazy idea, guys.
What actually makes the story tragic is that remarkable discrepancy between knowing that something will happen that existed 2049 years ago and the fear that it will be absolutely inevitable.The reader feels put in the position of the seer Kassandra, whose certain prophecies no one believed. The disaster comes, but there is nothing you can do about it (except go to the shelters, but someone has to take the photos).
Yet another aspect makes this story immortal. Starting with a preceding remark by the American philosopher and writer Ralph Waldo Emerson, Asimov shows what could happen if man were able one day to see the face of God. The people of Lagash have never seen the night (at least not according to historical records) and suddenly see the stars. Not just six of their suns, but 30,000 suns! Emerson interprets this sight as "the city of God" and Asimov shows it to us.
The “city of God”, God's face is as beautiful as it is terrible. According to Shaftesbury's definition from the 18th century, these are the characteristics that characterize the sensation of the sublime. So if God is exalted, then his sight, he comes unprepared, is unbearable and brings about destruction. Maybe it's better to stay an earth worm ...
12) _Kuttner / Moore: Once upon a time there was a dwarf_ (A gnome there was)
An idealistic labor reformer named Tim Crockett goes to the Pennsylvania coal mines to agitate for union membership. He was buried when a tunnel was blown up, but to his horror he found himself alive again in the ugly form of a dwarf. He gets a kick in the buttocks. From Gru Magru, the guardian in the outskirts of the dwarf city, over which King Pdranga the second rules. Tim finds the conditions down here understandably terrible, especially when he has to toil ten hours a day himself.
But of course he succeeds in agitating here too, especially when he started the rumor that the king wanted to forbid fighting. Dwarves like to fight each other for their lives, and as brutally as possible. The first general assembly of the dwarfs willing to strike is a complete success, but when Tim mentions in his speech that the king wants to forbid fighting, a tumult ensues. This is exacerbated by the arrival of the king, who defends himself against attacking dwarfs with magically conjured "basilisk eggs". They turn dwarfs into anything: worms, bats, moon calves - and humans.
Tim manages to capture such a basilisk egg and activate it at the last second before Podranga catches him. When he came back to the surface and met the first human being, a farmer, the result of the transformation was by no means what Tim expected ...
| My impression |
This cute fantasy story was supposed to be a blast when Kuttner and C. L. Moore wrote it. In essence, however, they tried to include the issue of trade unions and industrial action. A relatively strenuous mix that doesn't quite ignite. Not because the combination would be difficult, but because Tim Crockett is discredited as an unbelievable recreational revolver, right from the start.
Even his start is that of a pretty stupid snob, who may be highly educated, but has no idea about workers. And someone like that wants to presume to convince workers - here defamed as ugly dwarfs - of the need for a union and better working conditions? Next, he might even want to introduce socialism!
It goes without saying that the two authors are doing a disservice to the issue of labor disputes and justice with this processing, even if they were able to put this topic on the pages of the SF and Fantasy magazines. As far as I know, the Americans, who are against trade unions and socialism anyway, never wrote such stories again.
13) _Anthony Boucher: Snulbug_ (Snulbug)
The biochemist uses a spell to conjure up a demon named Snulbug. Snulbug is not a good demon, as he himself regretfully admits. And he's not a big demon either: He measures just 2.54 centimeters. But at least he can travel to the future. He says. Bill needs ten thousand dollars for his research lab to fight the embolism. To get this sum, Snulbug should help him. He's sending him to get tomorrow's newspaper.
Said and done. It does not announce Hitchens death, but it does announce that of the mayor. Bill sees his chance. If the mayor thanks him for saving his life from the assassin, then there is sure to be a nice reward. Snulbug warns Bill in vain of his mistake in reasoning. Bill has to learn the hard way: there is no way to change the future that's already in the paper.
But there is one person who would pay for tomorrow's newspaper ...
| My impression |
Anthony Boucher (a pseudonym) was the founder and first editor of the "Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction", which is published to this day. He never wrote a novel, but wrote countless stories, and this is his first fantasy story. Remarkably, he takes up a science fiction theme with fantasy means: time travel.
He asks very discreetly what good it would be to know about the events of the next day. Because obviously you can't do anything with it in horse racing, on the stock exchange or anywhere else - because the result is already fixed and, if you intervene, you first end up in a time loop - described very funny - and then back to the starting point. The reason is that apparently the way things are done cannot be changed.
Perhaps Boucher already knew Heinlein's time travel story “By his Bootstraps” (1941). Unfortunately, this story is missing from this selection.
Eva Malsch's translation is teeming with typographical errors. That wouldn't be a problem, but she also made some serious mistakes. When she writes of “more delicate cells” at the bottom of page 55, then it is not a question of taste that is concerned, but rather “more fragile cells”. On page 222, she makes the old rookie mistake of equating American trillions with Europeans. Billions are meant.
On page 238, the sentence “This is where the personal residuals must be” makes little sense at first. Residuals are usually used to refer to leftovers and leftovers. But where should you find them in a spaceship that is controlled by a brain? (It's about the story "Solar Plexus" by James Blish) Since the author does not give any further details, the translator had to pull herself out of the affair with a lazy compromise.
The short novel “Time needs a skeleton”, along with Sturgeon's novella “The God of the Microcosm” and Asimov's “The Night Will Come”, is one of the outstanding contributions in this selection volume, which is not exactly poor in good stories.
The other short stories are sometimes wise, sometimes funny, sometimes really terrifying - a good selection from a colorful palette, as was customary in the magazines of the Pulp Fiction of the time. I therefore recommend reading Asimov's supplementary selected volumes for the years 1939-1940 as well as 1942/43 (all from | Moewig |) and 1944 (from | Heyne |) in order to get an overall impression of this golden age of American SF. All volumes are very inexpensive to use today
get, as well as the "Titan" volumes of the | Heyne | publishing house.
Paperback: 334 pages
Original title: Isaac Asimov presents: The great stories 3 (1941) 1980
Paperback: 334 pages
Translated from the US English by Eva Malsch
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