This short story was Astounding, literally. It came from Astounding Stories in 1957. And I’ll say why I had so much fun with it in just a moment.
First, the story. Advertising Exec Tom Blacker just pulled a boner – his attempt to literally light up the Manhattan skies with a giant image of an actress/client produces the buzz he’d hoped for (and the fallout he’d not anticipated, when the civil authorities pressure his boss to can him). Now without work, he allows a pretty skirt to lead him to Homelovers, Incorporated.
Now, Homelovers is a real-estate conglomerate with a problem. They see the population boom as an opportunity – they own a lot of land that will only rise in value as demand (Make Room! Make Room!) increases. But that assumes a fixed market, an assumption about to go out the window if colonization of the solar system becomes a reality.
And so this is why Homelovers need Blacker – they need public pressure to swing against space exploration, and Tom’s just the clever heel to pull it off. But as the story unfolds, we begin to find layers and layers of truth beneath a simple desire for a monopoly in land, a darker and more sinister plot…
I really enjoyed this. The writing was clever (if period) and the story full of fun twists and discoveries. But what really hit me was the difference between an Astounding Stories hero in this time vs the one’s I reviewed from 1931. Back in the thirties, the heroes were unquestionably heroic, with keen smiles and American values. Our hero here is a bit of a mercenary sleaze, a guy willing to do anything to turn a buck. And unlike our heroes in the thirties, he’s only one man, and cannot depend on it’s up to the hero to stop them.
You want a contrast? Pull down any of the free Astounding Stories here, from Project Gutenberg. And then taste test them against Get out of our Skies, also for free here. It’s fun to actually see the evolution of storytelling.