Classic Sci-Fi Tales See Light of Day
A Little Intelligence
By Robert Randall
Crippen and Landru Publishers, 2009, $42/16
Aliens may be blue, green or yellow, mummies may come alive, robots may be killers. So goes the work of the science fiction writer.
These seven short sci-fi stories are typical of the 1950s style of sci-fi, but what sets them apart is an emphasis on ethics and morality, including a taste of religion.
Robert Randall is the pen name of two writers, Robert Silverberg and Randall Garrett, who produced a series of successful science fiction tales for a number of years. Garrett died in 1987.
In an introduction to this volume, Silverberg calls them "science fiction's odd couple," because of striking differences in personality, background and writing style. He tells how they collaborated so successfully by using this diversity to support each other and their writing.
Three stories feature a priest or a nun as the central character, reflecting Garrett's Catholic upbringing, and a young officer of the space corps, who is Jewish, reflecting Silverberg's faith.
One story, "The Mummy Takes a Wife," differs from the others and takes more of a fantasy turn as an Egyptologist transports a mummy and a jeweled belt aboard a luxury liner. It is the tale of a "mummy" come to life amid slapstick comedy worthy of the Marx Brothers.
My favorite among the seven is the title story, featuring Sister Mary Magdalene, who faces fresh challenges when her monastery must provide quarters for visiting aliens as part of peace negotiations between the United States and a hostile planet. The strong-willed and sharp-witted nun must solve the mystery when one of the aliens is murdered and she and other nuns become suspects.
"The Slow and the Dead" is a tongue-in-cheek parody of a western in which a jealous sharpshooter is murdered by someone even faster on the draw.
In "Deus ex Machina" the characters must solve a moral dilemma in settlement of a religious dispute among residents of the planet Regulus IV. It seems that what once was the primary religious faith has been split into two faiths, and each is now intent upon exterminating the other.
However, both the True Faith people and the One Belief people regard the invading Earth men as their own. The plot smacks of latter-day religious divisions but leaves it to the reader to interpret the various faiths as he or she wishes.
One story has an alien smoking a "Terran" cigarette, signaling adoption of an earthly habit. Another story describes a "green, many-legged creature with a snail-like head." And of course there is interstellar exploration.
It's not great literature, but the volume is entertaining and offers much to think about on a more serious level. The best science fiction writing has always branched into the realm of morals and culture, and these stories reflect those aspects.
Publication of science fiction is a first for Crippen & Landru, the publishing house based in Norfolk, Va.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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