International Science Fiction 1


Philip E. High’s Big Tin God

The Prodigal Sun by Philip E. HighFrom International Science Fiction No. 1 (Nov. 1967):

The closing tale of ISF #1 is from England. “The Big Tin God” by Philip E. High was originally published in New Worlds Science Fiction (January 1963). The prevailing authoritarian government is about to be replaced by the product of an underground network of scientists building a monumental “brain” dubbed Dopey. The only certainty is the end of the old regime.

Philip E. High (1914–2006) became hooked on science fiction as a lad when he discovered a copy of Astounding Stories. In addition to reading everything he could find by Jules Verne and H.G.Wells he particularly admired Neville Shute. He once said of Shute, “That his style, his approach, was the one I most admired, and I hoped one day to write as well as he did.”

In 1955 he sold his first story “The Statics” to H.J. Chapbell for Authentic Science Fiction. He recalled, “I received six guineas for it. It was the biggest thrill of my life. I am quite certain I walked up the wall and across the ceiling twice.”

A bus driver in his day job, High continued to write for Nebula and New Worlds, where his stories were highly rated by readers. When the magazines’ fortunes declined High turned to novels, his first, The Prodigal Sun, was published in US in 1964. It was followed by Invader on my Back, Butterfly Planet, The Time Mercenaries, and many others.

Two collections of High’s short stories were published near the turn of the century; The Best of Philip E. High (2002) and Step To the Stars (2004).

Mommers and Vleck’s Monster

Perry Rhodan & AtlanFrom International Science Fiction No. 1 (Nov. 1967):

“Monster” pairs the team of Helmuth W. Mommers and Ernest Vleck for the second time in this edition of ISF, translated by Harry Warner, Jr. Told from the first-person viewpoint of an orphan, Oliver, who is different from all of the institution’s other children. Albino skin for one, but there’s more that is slowly revealed before and after he’s nearly drown by Butcher, a mean-spirited menial of the orphanage.

No one would ever want to bring Oliver home. Yet, one day someone does. As Butcher pushes the orphan through the halls toward his waiting adopters, Oliver’s senses warn him of imminent danger. He flees, eluding the massive manhunt that ensues. From hiding he learns the truth of his origins and why the military wants him dead.

In addition to his collaborations with Mommers, Ernst Vleck wrote the first Atlan novel “Spider Desert” which appeared in the first edition of the Ace double series Perry Rhodan/Atlan (September 1977).

ISF1: Homunculus

From International Science Fiction No. 1 (Nov. 1967):

HomunculusIlya Varshavsky’s second tale for ISF No. 1 is “Homunculus,” again translated by S. Ostrofsky. A four-page hunt for the robot, Homunculus, who has gone berserk and escaped the home of his creator to run amok in the city. When he’s finally confronted the twist is both unexpected and expectant.

ISF1: Witchcraft for Beginners

Story titleFrom International Science Fiction No. 1 (Nov. 1967):

From Italy, F.C. Gozzini contributes the very short “Witchcraft for Beginners.” It’s about a wonderful new weekly periodical, Witchcraft for Beginners and the two brothers who practice the spell detailed in each edition. Unfortunately, when the next issue suddenly fails to appear, they are both left in a lurch with no one to spell them.

ISF1: They Still Jump

ISF No. 1 page 91From International Science Fiction No. 1 (Nov. 1967):

“They Still Jump” is a story by J.L. Mahe from The Netherlands. It originally appeared in Monda Kultura (World Culture) in Esperanto, from which it was translated by Clarkson Crane.

The director of the Eiffel Tower, Monsieur Ploux, has a problem. Far too many are using the iron lady as their method of choice for suicide.

From the first level jumped the lovelorn, those with toothaches, the alcoholics, the unlucky bettors, the insane; from the second, widowers, bankrupts, gamblers, tax-payers; from the third, philosophers and poets.

It is an epidemic. Numerous methods are tried to end it but none can deter the determined. That is, until Monsieur Ploux puts his head together with Mr. Plow, general manager of the Golden Gate Bridge, who happens to have exactly the same problem.

ISF1: Perpetual Motion

International Science Fiction No. 1 page 86From International Science Fiction No. 1 (Nov. 1967):

From The U.S.S.R. Ilya Varshavsky’s “Perpetual Motion,” translated by S. Ostrofsky, is a light-hearted extrapolation on the societal roles of humans and robots, with characters like Spoon and Tape Recorder.

It was a very convenient invention, this calling every person by the name of some object, the image of which he wore on his chest. In this way, people talking to him were spared the trouble of remembering his name. Moreover, everyone tried to choose a name corresponding to his profession or hobby, thus letting people know in advance whom they were dealing with.

Ilya Iosifovich Varshavsky (1908–1974) was born in Kiev, when it was part of the Russian Empire. His writing career began late in his life. Purportedly, after criticizing his son for wasting time reading science fiction, the young man challenged his father to write some of his own—which he did. Varshavsky’s work has been compared to O. Henry’s. Several of his stories have been translated in collections like Path Into the Unknown The Best Soviet SF (Macgibbon & Kee, 1966), The Ultimate Threshold: A Collection of the Finest Soviet Science Fiction (Penguin, 1978), Fantasy & Science Fiction (August 1967), and World’s Spring (Macmillan, 1981).

ISF1: Ecdysiac

International Science Fiction No. 1 page 71From International Science Fiction No. 1 (Nov. 1967):

“Ecdysiac” by Robert Presslie, was originally published in England’s New Worlds Science Fiction (January 1963). Ecdysis is the shedding of an outer coating or a layer of skin like a snake or a crustacean; so the story title gives you the science angle of this one right off if you’re curious enough to look it up. Otherwise, much of what happens is more like a tale of espionage.

Richard Pike is a journalist with the unique ability to spot alien beings that have inhabited the bodies of humans. Then he kills them—or at least tries to. The story opens with his fourth unsuccessful attempt on his current target.

The tale is set in Warsaw and Presslie provides luscious local color as he expertly weaves his mystery through the city’s streets west of the Vistula River.

You would think,” he said, “that the Russians would change the name of their cars. The M in Zim and the S in Zis stand for Molotov and Stalin, both of whom are now out of favor. You would think they would change the name of the factories and call the cars Ziks.” (Khruschchev)

To calm his nerves after his foiled hit, Pike seeks release through drink and a woman. But he lets down his guard and finds himself escorted by authorities for questioning the following morning. His one-man mission is now in jeopardy until Presslie applies a few satisfying twists to cap off an already terrific story.

Robert Presslie (1920–2002) wrote science fiction most actively from the late 1950s through the early 1960s, while earning a living managing a pharmacy. With over three dozen short stories to his credit, his work appeared in New Worlds, Authentic, Nebula and Science Fantasy.

In a profile piece from New Worlds, he says, “If I was given the choice of an era to live in, I would choose the one I have because—like everyone who is in science fiction—I am a dreamer, and dreamers never had it so good. This must be the only age in which dreams come true while you wait.”

ISF1: Rainy Day Revolution No. 39

Story title from ISF1 page 66The Italian corespondent for International Science Fiction No. 1, Luigi Cozzi (b. 1947), contributes a tale of his own, “Rainy Day Revolution No. 39.” Except for a few sparks of wit, this slice-of-life slasher,
 set amid overcrowded, dystopian wreckage, seemed pointless to me.

Luigi Cozzi is more well known as a screenwriter and director than SF author. His directorial credits (as Lewis Coates) include Contamination, Starcrash, Hercules, and Hercules 2.

ISF1: Disposal Man

SF: 101 Best Novels 1985–2010From International Science Fiction No. 1, the opening paragraph of “The Disposal Man” by Australia’s Damien Broderick packs a wallop:

Every Saturday night,” said Aunt Tansy, her eyes wide and blue and honest, “there’s a corpse in my bath.

An outré beginning that requires a careful hand to expand, without unraveling into giddy self-indulgence. Fortunately, Broderick ably juggles curiosity and humor with the fantastic, and pulls off an amusing SF mystery.

The author of nearly two dozen novels, even more short stories, a few radio and movie scripts, and several nonfiction books, Damien Broderick (b. 1944) a noted Australian critic, editor, and scholar now resides in San Antonio, Texas.

ISF1: Uranus

International Science Fiction No. 1, page 47From International Science Fiction No. 1, from France, Damon Knight translates Michel Ehrwein’s story, “Uranus” from Fiction #88 (March 1961), which also happened to include Knight’s own “The Enemy” (“L’Ennemi” in French).

Michel Ehrwein (b. 1934) wrote numerous stories for the publications Satellite and Fiction from 1958 to 1964, and after reading “Uranus” I wish more of his work had been translated for digests across the pond. It’s a terrific story, told primarily in narrative, perhaps to grant readers some distance from its characters’ heart-breaking story.

A pair of deep space astronauts are orbiting Uranus from the safety of an hermetically sealed station. They lose themselves in their work and countless hours of tuning the radio for scraps of transmissions from other research stations around Saturn and Jupiter, Mars, and on occasion even Earth, Venus and Mercury.

Then came a long series of personal messages. Belzard wanted to hear from Fairbanks. Oths was trying to get in touch again with Mercanson, on Io. Su-Chang’s mother had just died. Weeks, taken ill, had had to be brought to Mars from Delmos on a special flight; then he had died on the trip.

The loneliness and isolation of the furthest outpost is made cold and clear. Then, catastrophe strikes.

The sun had entered a phase of intense activity. The Mercury observatory, which specialized in solar research, had tried to measure it, to encompass it in numbers. At the end of two days, their apparatus lost its usefulness. It was not calibrated high enough. Other observatories hastily took an interest
in the phenomenon, equipped themselves, installed new instruments. All the observatories led to the same conclusion: a gigantic solar flare, on a scale previously unknown, with monstrous prominences.

Radiation sweeps out across the system, devastating all civilization in its path. Rial and Greff hear the fall and wonder if its reach will extend nineteen times farther from the sun than Earth.