h, the good old days. Everyone remembers cars being better, little towns being better, and life being better (actually, the cars were lead-sleds that would kill you at 35mph, the towns were superstitious collectives that people left as soon as they could, and life, overall, was shorter and (with exception to recent political events) stupider). But there you go.
In that light, we go back to the “golden age of science fiction” (via a 1932 edition of Astounding Tales) for Raiders of the Universes, a little short story. Taking place in the wondrous future of 3400 or so, the astronomer Phobar peeks through a telescope obsolete by our standards except for “Marcia’s nullifier”, which allows one to “see occurrences in the universe which had hitherto required the hundreds of years needed for light to cross the intervening space”. When I first read that, I thought I’d have to get one of those for my own scope before realizing that it wouldn’t make much of a difference for my viewing. Gimme something that cuts through clouds and I’d be happy.
Anyway, good Phobar spots a series of new suns blossoming in the direction of Hercules, in a straight line directed at Earth, a new one every twenty four hours. And here it comes.
Turns out it’s some sort of rogue planet populated by intelligent creature of metal, each one hundred feet tall, who demand (through Phobar) that Earth mine critical ores and make them available, else it be destroyed. Phobar is transported aboard the ship to act as an ambassador, to carry back the creature’s demands. To make its point, New York is destroyed. Poof.
Okay. Stop here.
First off, I hated these creatures. They should be so alien from us (metal based and older than, nearly and literally, dirt) that communication should be difficult. For them to gloat, to bark out “Puny Earthling” and all those old saws, is as out-of-date as a manual choke. Gloating assumes shared values of shame, humiliation and a sense of domination. Seems like an odd trait for aliens beyond, literally, time and space.
And why would aliens a hundred feet tall, with various tentacles and the like, control a massively sophisticated spaceship (or whatever it is – accelerating planetoid would be more like it) with a human-sized control panel with levers. Like, what, “Time to go forward!” Ratchetty-ratch. What? And yes, I know that in 1932 this seemed like high science but it sure felt dated now. Like maybe their controls should include a manual choke.
But worse – if you are going to gloat, don’t explain to the human how mighty you are by showing how your simple control panel works, especially the lever that will shrink the space between all atoms to critical-mass distances, but only for those atoms from their original universe. And I thought there were irresponsible gun owners, but this?
Anyone see where this ends up?
And with the transport beam locked on Earth, he even got out alive.
What, did the aliens grow so bored of life and the simple pleasures of gloating at doomed races, they just set things up so they could all be killed? Death by astronomer?
Okay, so you’ve gotten my take on it. This one was so screwy (and my review so harsh) that I don’t think anyone will rush out to read it. But if you do, it’s on Gutenberg. Have fun with it.