My first in a new series of reviews that aim to bring to your attention short stories that appeared in magazines (I have substantially more due to Chris’ generosity—go visit him at Battered, Tattered, Yellowed & Creased) but where never collected in later English language volumes. I’ve decided to pair a known author (in this case Joe Haldeman) with a lesser known author (in this case A. G. Moran) published in Amazing Science Fiction.
(Mike Hinge’s cover for the March 1973 issue of Amazing Science Fiction, ed. Ted White)
“Two Men and a Rock” by Joe Haldeman (1973) 3/5 (Vaguely Average): Joe Haldeman, of The Forever War (1975) fame, tells a straight-laced Hard SF tale of two “fools who would rather die breathing space then never see the stars” (87). The place in space is a station in an asteroid rich region. Four prospectors, sixteen sappers, seven pilots, and a variety of secretaries live on the station—the job, ride out to an asteroid on a rickety sled, carrying a pile of nukes, without its own life support system (saves The Company money) and blast the piece of rock to pieces to get at the Rare Earth minerals. The narrator is stuck with Warren Brooks (“Thumbs”) who has the worst type of luck—he always comes back in once piece while his partner dies in the high risk mission. A series of adventures blasting Bertha, the target asteroid, apart transpire and “Thumbs” is viewed in an entirely different light.
There is nothing satirical or remotely unusual about Haldeman’s story of the rough and tough men out in space doing dangerous deeds—they interchangeably be cowboys rounding up cows while avoiding cliffs and rattlesnakes, or men on submarines blasting German subs to bits… Unfortunately, there is little speculation about what drives these men to risk everything in outrageously dangerous missions à la Pohl’s Freudian ruminations in Gateway (1977). “Two Men and a Rock” is told in a solid no frills way and despite the Haldeman’s numerous short story collections (Infinite Dreams, Dealing in Futures, etc) it is of little surprise that this was not included.
(Mike Hinge’s cover for the January 1973 issue of Amazing Science Fiction, ed. Ted White)
“Close Your Eyes and Stare at Your Memories” by A. G. Moran (1973) 3/5 (Average): This appears to be A. G. Moran’s only science fiction publication…. The brief description by Ted White indicates that the story came to him via by the well-known but perpetually average author, Bob Shaw. It’s a shame that Moran did not continue SF publications.
Unlike Joe Haldeman’s story, this one had potential although the final product is unsatisfying. A satirical take on the Cold War that feels occasionally like Fritz Leiber’s The Big Time (1958), “Close Your Eyes and Stare at Your Memories” recounts a war-torn Europe that is the playground of the Russian and American super powers. The story contains two linked narratives—the first, the perspective of an American named Powers who is in charge of developing the time-travel machine that will influence the ways in which war can be waged. The second is Herck, Powers’ test subject, a German boy transformed by his horrid upbringing and society into an assassin who murders across time.
At various points in the story an alternate history element is implied (the jonbar point might be Thomas Eddison’s discover of a time-travel), and the characters seem to have wings…. Unfortunately, the intriguing set-up is weakened by a strange religious/metaphysical ending.
For more short story reviews consult the INDEX