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Saturday, August 1st, 2020

The Winged Man

Categories: [ Books/Retro Hugo 1945 ]

A.E. van Vogt and E. Mayne Hull (Astounding Science Fiction, May 1944-June 1944)

An American submarine in the Pacific is transported from 1944 to the year 1,000,000. The crew meets a society of winged men who live in a city floating in the air, above a planet Earth mostly covered in water (brought several hundreds of thousands of years earlier by meteorites) where solid ground is not anymore solid and therefore unsuitable for building and living. They learn that the humans at the time water started to raise have designed two new species, winged men and fishmen who live in a city under water. The fishmen have access to natural resources and devices inherited from the original humans, and have decided to get rid of the winged men by attracting the flying city towards the water. The winged men, who have not access to natural resources and build no devices, have used a time-travel device to fetch war machines from various times in the past. The humans' submarine, equipped with explosive torpedoes, is the only one able to destroy the underwater city of the fishmen. All are promised to be sent back to their time once the city is destroyed. As the commander of the submarine has been taken by the fishmen and is presumed dead, the first officer is taken to the flying city to meet the “council”, an omniscient computer that shows him the lives of both the winged men and the fishmen. He is then returned to the submarine who has been taken over by warlike women from the year 10,000 who are in a hurry to go back to their time. But they do not know how to operate a diesel submarine, allowing the first officer to retake his ship and instead of destroying the whole city, only destroys its core that controls the devices inherited from the humans ancestors, putting the fishmen and winged men on equal footing. As promised, all are then returned to their own time.

[ Posted on August 1st, 2020 at 20:01 | no comment | ]

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Wednesday, July 29th, 2020

Shadow over Mars

Categories: [ Books/Retro Hugo 1945 ]

Leigh Brackett (Startling Stories, Fall 1944)

On Mars, in the city of Ruh, Rick tries to escape the goons of the Terran Exploitation Company. He hides in the house of a seer who predicts he will cast a shadow over Mars if he lives, and attempts to kill him. Rick kills her, but is caught by the Company's men and sent to work in a deep, dark mine. Having caused a riot, Rick manages to escape in the company of Mayo who was looking for proofs that would convince the weak Martian government to do something against the slavers of the Company. They end up in the hands of the Martians, who punish Rick for having killed the seer, but somehow their boy King makes Rick his successor in the hope that he would unite the oppressed humans and the Martians against the Company's rule. Back to the surface, Rick organizes the said rebellion, but he is betrayed and sent away. He then attempts to catch Jaffa, now head of the Company after having murdered his boss and kidnapped Mayo, and the chase eventually takes him through the jungle to the North pole. There he manages to kill Jaffa, free Mayo and come back to Ruh where he decides not to become the supreme ruler of Mars despite the prophecy.

[ Posted on July 29th, 2020 at 18:31 | no comment | ]

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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.


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.


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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Tuesday, July 14th, 2020

Retro Hugo 1945: Best Novelette

Categories: [ Books/Retro Hugo 1945 ]


Fredric Brown (Astounding Science Fiction, June 1944)

Just before the decisive battle between the humans and the Outsiders, one individual of each species is pulled out of time by an unknown entity and pitted together on a deserted place, separated by a force field. The entity promises to wipe out the species of the loser of that fight. Both try building various weapons with rock and wood from the few plants and discover that inanimate objects pass through the force field. The human, very near death due to lack of water understands that unconscious beings can pass through too, including when asleep, and that's how he manages to kill his opponent. He then wakes up, the battle over before it even started.

The Big and the Little (The Merchant Princes)

Isaac Asimov (Astounding Science Fiction, August 1944)

The Foundation has expanded by imposing its technology along with its religion to its neighbours. Mallow is sent to Korell, where he escapes a plot involving a missionary from the Foundation to discredit the Foundation and its religion, but still manages to get the elite interested in the technology, ignoring the religious aspect. A few years later, Mallow is tried for causing the death of the missionary, but shows proof that the missionary was in fact a member of the local political police. Mallow thus discredits his political opponent, head of the Foundation clergy and becomes Mayor of Terminus, having gained popular support by having started a fruitful trade with Korell and much reduced the influence of the clergy by exposing its head for conspiring against him. When Korell declares war on the Foundation, Mallow shows that as Korell's industry and society now depends so much on Foundation technology, its people will refuse the war in order to keep their way of life. Mallow thus has resolved the current crisis foreseen by Harri Seldon and taken the Foundation the next step in its History.

The Children's Hour

Lawrence O'Donnell (C.L. Moore and Henry Kuttner) (Astounding Science Fiction, March 1944)

With the help of his psychiatrist, a man tries to remember what happened to him a year earlier, when he was in love with a strange young woman, around whom impossible things tend to happen. As he recovers more and more memories, he concludes that despite looking like a human adult, she was a multidimensional child who was left to play with humans, her guardians making sure that nothing inappropriate happens to her. In the end, the therapy only reinforces the memory block and the man loses memories of his loved one forever.


Clifford D. Simak (Astounding Science Fiction, May 1944)

Forty years in the future, thanks to individual and fast means of flying, inhabitants of cities have mostly moved to the countryside, isolated from each other. Only businesses and civil servants remain in the deserted city, against all logic. As the empty houses are invested by squatters who cannot afford to move, the mayor wants to burn the houses to chase the squatters away. But the grandson of a now-rich man decides to buy the houses (in particular the one where his grandfather lived) and turn them into a park and a museum.

No Woman Born

C.L. Moore (Astounding Science Fiction, December 1944)

A famous singer and dancer who had tragically died in a fire a year earlier reappears in a robotic body, her brain having been preserved. Certain that her fans will still love her in this metallic body, she successfully reappears on television. But the man who has constructed her body is convinced that the people will soon forget her, once the novelty has faded out. She is convinced of the contrary, but is still unhappy as she foresees that she will miss a companion like her.

When the Bough Breaks

Lewis Padgett (C.L. Moore and Henry Kuttner) (Astounding Science Fiction, November 1944)

A group of small men arrive from the future into the lives of young parents, telling them that their boy is the first of a generation of super-humans, and his future self has sent them to educate him so that he does not have to wait until he is fifty years old to discover his super powers. The child quickly turns into a tyrant and eventually comes to his doom, thus preventing the advent of the super-humans. The parents are in the end rather relieved.

[ Posted on July 14th, 2020 at 18:39 | no comment | ]

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Wednesday, July 8th, 2020

Retro Hugo 1945: Best Short Story

Categories: [ Books/Retro Hugo 1945 ]

And the Gods Laughed

Fredric Brown (Planet Stories, Spring 1944)

Asteroid miners spend their free time telling ludicrous stories. In one of those, the narrator recalls a trip to Ganymede, where the natives were controlled by sentient beings in the form of earrings, who also took possession of his shipmates. He ends the story without telling how he escaped, convincing the audience it was all a lie. The narrator is in fact possessed as well, but without any visible item, proof that this form is suitable for invading Earth.


Clifford D. Simak (Astounding Science Fiction, November 1944)

To study Jupiter, volunteers are transmuted into Jovian beings to be able to bear the enormous pressure and caustic atmosphere and sent down. As none has ever come back, the director of the program decides to go there himself with his dog, and discovers that under the Jovian form Jupiter appears as a paradise, his dog can communicate with him, and he feels better than ever. They too then decide not to return to earthling forms.

Far Centaurus

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

A small crew has spent several hundred years in hibernation travelling to Alpha Centauri. Upon arrival, they are greeted by humans who had colonized it after their departure thanks to a faster-than-light travel technology, and because of their body odour are asked not to meet the population without an airtight suit. One of them, believed to have become mad during the trip actually finds a way to travel back through time and space to Earth only a year after their departure.

Huddling Place

Clifford D. Simak (Astounding Science Fiction, July 1944)

Telecommunications have allowed people to live in relative isolation from each other, causing an increase in agoraphobia among humans. When a surgeon is asked to got to Mars and save the life of a martian philosopher friend of his, he hesitate, but the martians announce they are sending a ship anyway. But the robot butler sends it away, as it is unthinkable that his master would leave his home.

I, Rocket

Ray Bradbury (Amazing Stories, May 1944)

A rocket tells its story, from its first commission as a warship, considering its crew somehow as its blood, and witnessing a failed sabotage attempt. After the war, it becomes a merchant ship, and eventually crashes on an asteroid, its whole crew dead. Some time later, its first captain finds its wreckage and plans to salvage it and use it in the coming war again.

The Wedge (The Traders)

Isaac Asimov (Astounding Science Fiction, October 1944)

A Foundation agent, posing as a merchant, is held prisoner on a planet which forbid buying atomic technology from other worlds, and demand a ransom in gold for the man. One merchant, sent to his rescue, demonstrates a matter transmuter as a way to produce the required gold, and succeeds in selling it to a high-ranking official, recording the transaction and blackmailing him into not denying it officially. As the official will use the machine to recoup his investment and progress his political career, this event will gradually change the society's opinion about atomic technology.

[ Posted on July 8th, 2020 at 11:57 | no comment | ]

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