Short Story Reviews: Theodore L. Thomas’ “Broken Tool” (1959), “The Far Look” (1956), and “The Good Work” (1959)

The following review of Theodore L. Thomas’ “Broken Tool” (1959) is the 6th post in my series on “SF short stories that are critical in some capacity of space agencies, astronauts, and the culture which produced them.” I have gone ahead and added two additional stories, including one that explores similar territory with a more positivist conclusion, by the same author.

Thank you Jennifer Jodell, “Friend of the Site,” for bringing it to my attention.

Today: Theodore L. Thomas’ “Broken Tool” (1959) in the July 1959 issue of Astounding Science Fiction, ed. John W. Campbell, Jr. You can read the story online here.

Previously: Theodore Sturgeon’s “The Man Who Lost the Sea” (1959) in the October 1959 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, ed. Robert P. Mills. You can read the story online here.

Up next: Kris Neville’s “Cold War” (1949) in the October 1949 issue of Astounding Science Fiction, ed. John W. Campbell, Jr. You can read it online here.

Martinez’s interior art for Theodore L. Thomas’ “Broken Tool” (1959)

“Broken Tool” (1959), 3.5/5 (Good): You can read the story online here.

Theodore L. Thomas speculates on an unintended consequence of training cadets for deep space exploration—the creation of a radical, unmoored from earth, who only looks outward. Our Continue reading

Guest Post: Year of the Cloud, Kate Wilhelm and Theodore L. Thomas (1970)

The third in my Kate Wilhelm’s SF Guest Post Series (original announcement and post list) comes via Mike White (twitter)—a research biologist at Washington University in St. Louis, MO—who blogs on mostly early SF (pre-1920) and a variety of science topics with a whole cast of other writers at The Finch and the Pea (a “public house for science”).  This is his first contribution to one of my guest post series and it is greatly appreciated (and won’t be his last).

He selected, on purpose (in very Joachim Boaz fashion I might add), what might be Kate Wilhelm’s least known SF novel.  Early in her career she wrote two novels with Theodore L. Thomas: the Nebula-nominated The Clone (1965) and Year of the Cloud (1970).

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(Francois Colos’ cover for the 1970 edition)

Post-apocalyptic stories do many things, one of which is to question our mastery of nature. We’re used to relying on technology to bend the world to our will — science stands between us and the brute forces of nature. Extinction is for lesser species. But post-apocalyptic stories remind us of all the ways that nature could wipe us out: the Earth could collide with a comet or pass through a toxic cloud of space gas, the sun could fade or go nova, or some pandemic plague could arise that kills us directly, wipes out our food supply, or turns us into the walking dead.

As horrifying as these events would be in real life, there is a strain of post-apocalyptic fiction that doesn’t see these disasters as all bad. Killing off most of humanity offers, in fiction anyway, a chance to wipe the slate clean and start over. With the post-holocaust world much less crowded, noisy, and Continue reading