Went on a little hunt over at Project Gutenberg, where you can get all the free out-of-copyright ebooks you could hope for. Found two scifi shorties (published in pulps) from the mid-fifties. Since neither of them was long enough for a full review, I decided to knock them both out today. And see if you can spot the irony in these two stories…
The Odyssey of Sam Meecham
Sam Meecham is a hen-pecked nine-to-five drone. His life at work is checking the two output wires on rocket engines to make sure their generated thrusts are within tolerances. At home, he watches his wife get fatter and shrewer.
But then one day Sam inspects a wire for an engine mis-wired by a worker who came in drunk. The output pegs way over, damaging the gauge’s needle. Sam blinks at this, then carefully documents the wiring arrangement. Then he goes home, looks at his fat naggy wife, then goes out for a walk and looks anew at the stars he’d given up on.
Charles E. Frinch rattled out a nice short story here, one of an Everyman we can all associate with in some way, a man who has had it with the world he’s found himself in. But the drama isn’t only about him ordering a good engine (that he cannot afford) and flicking out his new wiring diagram, no. There is wonderful tension in other places. It’s well worth the pull for a quick read, and you can get it HERE.
The Man Who Hated Mars
Gordon Randall Garrett popped out this dark little short, a story about a convict on Mars. And unlike those who can find beauty in the wonders of a new planet, Ron Clayton is not one of those men. Big, brutish, and stupid, he only wants off Mars. It’s cold, the air is thin and the beer (because of the thin air) flat (nice touch). He can’t stand it. He want’s off. But as a convict, that isn’t happening.
So Ron is going to make it happen. And he doesn’t care who he will have to kill to pull it off.
For the fifties, this must have been a very dark tale. Even jaded as we are, I gotta give Garrett credit for coming out with this grim yarn. Best is the ironic end where… no, I won’t spoil it for you. You’ll have to see how it works out for him. Check it out HERE.
Anyway, two good stories for avid readers who aren’t afraid of reading tales from another time. And what’s the risk? Free and short. The only way I could make it easier for you is if I came over and read them to you.