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International Science Fiction 1

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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.

ISF1: The Epsilon Problem

Story Title

International Science Fiction No. 1 features two stories from Germany, both by the writing team of Helmuth W. Mommers and Ernest Vleck. The first, “The Epsilon Problem” is translated by Harry Warner, Jr.

The Morph-children are the turning point in the long and costly war between mankind and the Spoot. But when their work is done what is to become of them?

Captain Lokart travels to Epsilon base with the daunting task of convincing the unstable Father Epsilon to stand down and begin the process of recuperation.

Helmuth W. Mommers (b. 1943) contributed to German science fiction as a writer, illustrator, editor, and literary agent. After a successful career as a retailer in Sweden, he took an early retirement in Mailorca, Spain, where he co-founded the magazine Nova and edited the annual Visionen (Visions) anthologies. He published a novel, Galacticum, as well as more than fifty short stories. His work has been nominated for the German Science Fiction Award and the Kurd Lasswitz-Award.