Another dip with the iPad Kindle reader in the pool of Project Gutenberg, this time a pulldown of Astounding Stories, July 1931.
Astounding Stories was the pulp monthly that later grew and grew, becoming Analog, whose existence, with the closing of our local scifi shop and the general inability of the current generation to read anything longer than 144 characters, is a fact just short of amazing these days (yes, monthly for eighty years).
So it’s a nifty and back-laughing view of the “past’s future”, six stories of plucky heroes (all of them men, all of them sterling and bold, many of them armed, a proudly hard-headed American when applicable, and not a woman among them (women exist only to scream and be saved, evidently)). But don’t let that hang you up – it’s 1931 and the writers are scribbling about space, a place our race hadn’t even probed yet. As an editor tells a reader in the letters section, “We don’t even know positively what space is, let along how our chemicals and instruments would behave in it.”
The doom from Planet 4 – Aliens from Mars trick an isolated research team to building an automatic robotic duplicator as a prelude to invasion. It’s up to the hero to stop them.
The hands of Aten – A lost Egyptian colony is found in the Arctic and are going to sacrifice a beautiful temple girl. It’s up to the hero to stop them.
The diamond thunderbolt – A Russian count is using his rocket ship to smuggle diamonds from a mountain in Tibet, flooding the world’s market. It’s up to the hero to stop him.
The slave ship from space – An invisible alien kidnaps a pair of Earthmen to see what sorts of slaves they’ll make. Its up to the heroes to stop him.
The revolt of the machines – In a freezing future Earth, machines turn on our race and the remnant tribe of humanity is led by a murderous thug. It’s up to the hero to stop both of them.
The exile of time – This was part of a series that I wasn’t following so I skipped it. I’ll assume that it was up to the hero to stop them.
But I liked the stories, really. They were quaintly past-tense (if you know what I mean) with all sorts of old phrasings and heroics and laughable moments. Twice, heroes found themselves at the helm of alien ships in deep space, as alone as alone could be, and somehow they figured out how to operate its controls, locate earth and crash land (wrecking the ship and killing any remaining bad-guy prisoners), which is pretty good considering they didn’t have so much as a read-me file to consult.
One segment that really caught my eye, in our stand-your-ground, cold-dead-hands controversial times, involved the heroic prisoner (of the Egyptians) locating his lost gun…
A stumpy black shape, it was, with a short barrel of cold blue steel, and it looked as much out of place in that chamber as did the fur-clad man who stared half-unbelievingly at it. It was a foreigner, as he was, in the gloomy corridors and chambers of the race that worshipped Aten. It too was American It was a friend – his automatic!
To Wes Craig, bewildered and tired and sadly without hope, it almost seemed to be alive, smiling at him with its wicked round mouth…
A final comment on the period air of the publication – the letters to the editor actually provided the full street addresses of the correspondents, which gave me pause (one can only judge the mountaintop of identity-crime, stalking-incidents and otherwise evil-wackjobbery that takes place these days by a look into the valleys of trust in the past). It was strange. We were certainly a different people then.
But it was a fun read, one you can pull down to your futuristic viewerscope electronic panel readers via THIS LINK. Have a look. And it’s all free…