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Friday, July 24th, 2020

Retro Hugo 1945: Best Novella

Categories: [ Books/Retro Hugo 1945 ]

The Changeling

A.E. van Vogt (Astounding Science Fiction, April 1944)

In 1972, Leslie Craig discovers his life only started a few years ago. While investigating, he is first interviewed by the US president and then taken prisoner in his own house. He learns that he is mate of totipotent cells that give him the ability to regenerate his body. He also needs to go through a few cycles of regenerations and loses his memory in between those. The reader also learns that the president wants to obtain Craig's blood to become immortal and thus become forever dictator of the country. Craig then escapes from his home, goes on the run, and is eventually arrested after having been setup as the organizer of an attack on a Women's march. He however manages to escape and is contacted by a group of totipotent people. After his next regeneration, Craig develops mind-control powers and in a final part of the story that makes no sense, manages to modify the president's mind to give up on its dreams of immortality.

A God Named Kroo

Henry Kuttner (Thrilling Wonder Stories, Winter 1944)

Kroo is god without any believers left. When Danton, a westerner accidentally enters his temple in the Himalayas, he is unwillingly promoted high priest, and forced to travel (more or less randomly) to a small village in Burma, occupied by Japanese troops who secretly manufacture bombs for a future invasion, using a hydraulic power station. Kroo decides the dynamos will be his altars and with a few demonstrations of his powers, Kroo forces the villagers to believe in him. Unable to destroy the dynamos due to Kroo's taboo, Danton's only preoccupation is to alert the American forces of the imminence of a Japanese invasion. After convincing Kroo to hibernate for a month, Danton travels downriver but fails to find an allied base. When he wakes up, Kroo finds the village deserted and the dynamos are gone. Danton reasons that the Japanese have taken them downriver, and convinces Kroo that a competing deity has taken possession of them. Kroo then destroys them, getting killed in the process, but finally joins the other “dead” deities in their afterlife.

Intruders from the Stars

Ross Rocklynne (Amazing Stories, January 1944)

During the war, a trio of adventurers find a spaceship in Africa. They wake up Bess-Istra, former dictator from another planet, who escaped after a revolution. Bess-Istra uses her technology to end the war with minimum damage, becomes dictator of Earth and reforms it to make it an actually nice place to live. But Bess-Istra's two associates want to take the power for themselves and make Earth a military dictatorship. In the end, they are overthrown by a Bess-Istra apparently converted to Christianity and everything ends well for the humans.

The Jewel of Bas

Leigh Brackett (Planet Stories, Spring 1944)

On a distant world, people live in fear of the Kalds who take people as slaves. Ciaran, with the help of a hunter he freed from the Kalds, wants to save his wife Mouse, taken as a slave. They discover that the slaves are used for building a large machine in a maze of caves, taking orders from androids. As they are discovered, Ciaran flees through the caves and eventually arrives in front of a boy who is asleep. Upon waking up, the boy, named Bas, explains he had come a long time ago from Atlantis, rejected by his people because he had accidentally become immortal, and has built Ciaran's world. Eventually tired of it, he had gone to sleep and has built a more interesting world in his dreams. In the meanwhile, the androids build a machine meant to overthrow Bas. Ciaran eventually convinces Bas to disable the androids and free the humans.

Killdozer!

Theodore Sturgeon (Astounding Science Fiction, November 1944)

A crew of earthworks workers must build an airfield on a remote island. They accidentally free an incorporeal being from a buried building who takes possession of a bulldozer and attempts to kill the workers. At first they do not believe their foreman's depiction of the first murder and believe he is the culprit. When trying to repair the bulldozer with an arc welder, another worker is killed. The eventually recognized that the bulldozer is possessed and that it is afraid of the electric arcs. After a long battle, the manage to destroy the bulldozer.

Trog

Murray Leinster (Astounding Science Fiction, June 1944)

In 1956, American civilization has almost disappeared due to the influence of Trog(lodyte)s whose purpose seem to destroy key infrastructures, the theory being that some sort of global conciousness that rejects industrial civilization. No-one has seen a trog until a group of three parapsychologists use their lab's video-surveillance system to observe one. Trogs use a device triggering narcolepsy in people, allowing them to act undetected. They reason that trogs are actually Germans who, having failed previously to conquer the world because of the superiority of the American industry, now use psychology to diminish their enemy before invading the country. The heroes thankfully manage to counteract the trogs' devices and prevent the invasion.

[ Posted on July 24th, 2020 at 17:22 | no comment | ]

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