A New Dawn by Campbell, John W., Jr., 1934
Lots of people know that John W. Campbell was one of the genre's most important editors, but not so many people understand that he was equally as important as a writer of short stories. During the late 1920's and the early 1930's Campbell was actually one of the three or four most important authors, along with EE "Doc" Smith and Edmund Hamilton. Prior to the works we are about to explore, Campbell wrote super-science stories that were very typical of the pulp era. But in 1934 Campbell had an idea, wrote a novelette called Twilight, and single-handedly changed the entire direction of the genre. It was not a lark; Campbell meant to write something new and different, and reportedly discussed his idea with his wife for months before finishing the work. What he came up with was, and still is regarded by many as the catalyst for the most important paradigm change that SF has ever gone through. Twilight was intense, moody, gloomy and epic. In it Campbell threw off all the motifs of the dominant form of Space Opera and began to explore the psychological reactions of his characters. More importantly he wished to evoke a psychological reaction in his readers, but something other than awe. Something more akin to the tingly feeling you get when a big rig just misses you on the freeway. If you read these stories you will see for certain that he succeeded all around.
Though the change did not occur overnight, it eventually transformed everything that was being submitted to the magazines. The story reverberates in virtually everything you read today. But the pulp style did not go away immediately. It lasted a long time after the publishing of Twilight, and there is even a resurgence these days in the writings of Allen Steele, Kevin J. Anderson and others, and in the re-come-uppance of the Space Opera motifs. But it is next to impossible today to look around and find any serious SF authors who are not either imitating Campbell, or some author whose style developed along the lines he lay.
Campbell became the editor of Astounding in October 1937, and was picked by Tremaine on his way out. Under Campbell's editorship Astounding became the best known magazine in the entire genre, and was not overtaken until at least the 1950's. Most agree that its heyday has never been surpassed. He turned Gernsback's scienti-fiction on its ear, and forever reworked the genre so that pulp would one day soon be a thing of the past. Campbell started the Golden Age of the genre, and ran Astounding during most of its time in the sun. Even after he left Astounding he continued the Golden Age for several more years, until the war's shortages ended it prematurely. The fact that he one day evolved into a demanding autocrat who had lost his way, and stayed at the Analog decades too long does nothing to diminish his importance as the most important SF editor of all time. The following stories, all written under the pseudonym Don A. Stuart (taken from his wife's maiden name of Dona Stuart) give an excellent insight into the editorial style Campbell would develop. Remember as you read these that at the same time E.E. "Doc" Smith and Edmund Hamilton were busy blowing up planets, and Ray Bradbury had yet to put pen to paper.
All the stories suffer a bit for the implausibility of their plots, though they are told excellently. In some places the prose is hardly dated, while in others it is archaic. Campbell's own personal style of writing does take a bit of getting used to. His word order is odd, and some of his syntax selections left me scratching my head. But the atmosphere and mood and voice of every single one of these stories is amazing. Campbell was a master at drawing the reader into his world because his ideas were so huge, his plots were winding and complex, and the meta issues that he talked around were of vital importance to humanity. He tackled the big topics like social engineering, evolution, reproduction and survival. For his day he was also a consummate scientist, and really did not, so far as I can tell, miss many of the technical aspects of the issues he dealt with. It should not be hard to see why Campbell is regarded by many as the absolute best author of his day.
Twilight (1934): Somewhat lyrical and distanced story about a time traveler from the year 3059. Found on the side of the road by a man named Jim Bendall in the 1930's. Ares Sen Kenlan, the traveler, is the first of the next generation of homo sapiens as designed by his father, a geneticist in the future. Kenlan had overshot his return from a trip to seven million years in the future where he witnessed the last heaving breaths of mankind on Earth. Campbell imagines a world where every competitor, threat, and in fact every other living thing on Earth had been destroyed by man in his quest to dominate the face of planet. Mankind had developed machines and artificial intelligences to serve every whim of the species, and had created an artificial food industry to replace what was lost in the elimination of all of the plants and animals. As a result of the total domination of virtually everything in the solar system, mankind had lost all its curiosity and drive, and was slowly dying out, even though the cities and machines that they left worked perfectly millions of years after being abandoned. The story reads like a lament for the soul of humanity, and is one of the finest short-form Dying Earth stories I have ever read. It is noted today mostly for its atmosphere. Itís written in a voice that manages to sound breathless, and full of wonder, and old to the point of death all at the same time. As an aside, many of the ideas pioneered here turn up in the backdrops of Campbell's other stories. As a story, it is impossible to over-estimate the importance of this one tale. As far as I can tell the entire genre as we know it today sprang forth from this one story.
Atomic Power (1934): This must be one of the earliest and most competent hard SF tales out there. In it a physicist discovers that the intermolecular bonds in matter are starting to weaken, as is the force of gravity. Slowly matter starts to disintegrate and become lighter. Eventually the planetary bodies start to drift away from the sun. As the Earth slid outward the temperature dropped dramatically, so everyone in the northern latitudes tried to move south. In New York City onthe last ship out of the iced up harbor:
It was like no other panic crowding. Many of those fifteen thousand were dead already, many more lay dying. A woman's body trampled underfoot. A girl held erect by the crowd's passing, blood slowly oozing from her shoulder, her arm torn completely off, held perhaps in the clenched fingers of her other hand like some monstrous club, dead. A man's dismembered corpse. For the power of human bodies is supplied by chemical combinations. These were the visible damages, there were shrieks, groans of horrible agony, for the chemical power of muscles remained undiminished, while their tensile strength declined. Literally, people tore themselves apart by the violence of their struggles.
Ultimately the story ends with a pair of scientists saving the day, and gives an odd universe-in-a-drop-of-water explanation, so I think its safe to say that overall it was not very revolutionary for its era. But like Twilight the voice is fresh, interesting and lofty and the science is spectacular. I was unable to put this one down.
The Machine (1935): I think that this one was heavily influenced by E.M. Forster's The Machine Stops, also reviewed on this site. It is the story of an alien-made artificial intelligence that came to Earth and remade society. The AI, called Goht, was created by a race of beings on a planet near Sirius, to run their society. For thousands of generations Goht build up his own infrastructure to take care of every whim of that race. Eventually they forgot how to repair the machine, and lost all of their technical knowledge. They devolved to a socially primitive culture and began revering Goht as a God. Goht took pains to end this, but was never able to. It finally decided that in order to do its job it would instead of rewarding good behavior, punish the bad, and educate through punishment and deprivation. It was only then that Goht got the beginnings of the result it wanted, so it left the planet to allow the beings there to develop on their own. Learning from its past mistakes Goht came to Earth and took over the planet and delivered a paradise.
But at last the Machine saw that it was impossible to aid by helping, and only by forcing the race to depend on itself could relief be gained. The positive value of punishment and deprivation was a lesson the machine which had build itself to help and not to deprive learned slowly...The Machine left the planet, knowing that very many of the race would die, but logic, which was the original basic function of the machine, overcame the duty of the Machine, which was to help and protect the race, for only through death and through labor does a race learn, and that is the greatest aid of all.
When Goht came to Earth it terraformed a narrow band around the equator to have a constant, comfortable temperature, and built an infrastructure to make a human paradise. A few hundred years later Goht abandoned the planet again before the entire race could be transformed into mindless hedonists. Those few who had fought to retain knowledge of agriculture, engineering and other vital survival skills migrated north to the unterraformed lands and built a few cities to fight off the surviving barbarians. To help the race along, Goht removed all harmful parasites like rats and rabbits, and also biting insects and disease too. While it was here it destroyed all weapons, then left the survivors a book of instruction on tool manufacture. This story is absolutely full of lovely contradictions that wiggle into one's mind and settle for hours and hours. For example, the contradictory nature of a machine that learns to be altruistic after it evolves past its logical beginnings, which makes logical decisions that may be a wise form of altruism, or a demented and insane form of denial. I loved this story. The only problem was that Campbell never really made it clear that Goht's purpose was to intensify survivability of those who made efforts to remember the old ways, while dealing a figurative death blow to those who gave up trying. Campbell had Goht get all wrapped up in some punishment scheme, then failed to really show what actually happened as a result of its implementation.
The Invaders (1935): This story is a sequel to The Machine. Hundreds of years after Goht has left the Earth is idyllic and the people on it live a gentle lifestyle. The climate has equalized all over the planet. The few people on it are foragers, and there is plenty to eat. They do no work, and they do not fight. After an alien ship lands, that all changes. The Tharoo, who are fleeing the expansion of their own sun, have sent four ships to Sol System. Two have landed on Earth, and two on Venus. They see the ruins of enormous cities and the detritus from a fabulously high tech society and wonder what happened for the race to have fallen so far. They implement a eugenics program to raise man from the slovenly race it has become, and to restore the intelligence and inquisitiveness that it must have had before the fall. They debate whether or not to try to teach men certain skills, or to begin breeding a different race with different characteristics. They decide on both, but as time marched on and the original Tharoo died, the replacements changed the program and started in-breeding different lines so that it was easier to remove those that they did not want and breed those that they did. The original program was inspired by a desire to do good and to bring back to the universe a race that could be a companion to the Tharoo. But as the centuries wore on it became a program to breed slaves. The Tharoo eventually bred different strains of men for different tasks. There were different strains for clerks, engineers, economists, soldiers, and others, and the Tharoo became overlords and slave masters to mankind. The scope of this story is immense. It is a perfect companion piece to The Machine that takes the story in a radically different direction while sticking to the themes of social engineering and forced evolution.
Rebellion (1935): This is the third and final story in The Machine tales. In it Bar-73-R32, a geneticist, rediscovers the concept of secrecy. That idea, along with the notion of rebellion, had been bred out of men by the Tharoo. Bar bred these ideas back into mankind despite Tharoo orders not to because he thought that the Tharoo had made an error in not developing this potential human trait; He thought that their omission would prevent the human race from living up to its real potential, believing that the origional Tharoo goal of breeding a companion race for the Tharoo was still in effect, even if the real purpose was otherwise. He only wanted to please the Tharoo, and honestly believed that giving them highly intelligent humans would do that. So Bar took control of the mating program and arranged for couplings that would accomplish that goal. He had success in his first generation, and got the Tharoo to give him the right to make control of the breeding program a hereditary office. Eventually later generations of highly intelligent and secretive humans bred a new strain that would act on rebellious impulses, and after that the Tharoo domination of Earth came to an end. The new strain of man reinvented atomic tools, invented the computer, and chased the Thaloo to Venus, where the other Thaloo colonization ship had originally landed. This story is not as strong as the other two, but it does make use of the same themes, and does not deviate substantially. In it Campbell took a typical approach towards the science of genetics. He seemed to be saying that the true degree of human potential is controlled entirely by genetics, and ignored the possibility that it was only one factor to consider. He also seems to be saying that humans are slaves to the make-up of their genome, and that one person, no matter how capable, cannot compete with another if his genes do not give him the ability to do so. The story only suffers slightly because of the idea that intellectual concepts like this can be bred into or out of a genome. It would have been more believable if Campbell had been dealing with proclivities.
Blindness (1935): A brilliant scientist dedicates his life to understanding and mastery of "sub-atomic energy." It is very pulpish in that the central conceit concerns how science can defeat any problem, and the scientists who do are all visionary heroes. Itís about the greatness of brilliant men who dedicate themselves to the public good, and the self-sacrifice they will endure to succeed. It is absolutely riddled with hyperbole, though it is not as dated as other pieces by other writers, and it is somewhat infectious.
Men will never again have to worry about power. never again will they have to grub in the Earth for fuels. Or do things the hard way because it is less costly of power. Power -- Power for all the world's industry. All the wheels of Earth's factories driven by the prodigal atom. The arctic heated to a garden by it. Vast Canada opened by it to human habitation, clear to the North Pole.
In the end society has moved on before the scientist returned from a trip to the Sun where he made his great discoveries, but the import of his work was not lost on the people. Itís also an exercise in wish fulfillment for the author. The main character is named John MacKay. I'm not sure if I've mentioned it yet, but Don A. Stuart is a pseudonym for John W. Campbell. The two are both named John, and have a Scottish surname.
The Escape (1935): Aies is a young scientist who is almost twenty-one years old. The Earth government has a bureau called the Population Control Commission that not only decides who people must mate with, but conditions them to enjoy their fate. Aies is certain that she will be mated with a scientist named Bruce, whom she cannot stand. She is in love with Paul, an artist. Aies knows that the Commission sticks to stringent guidelines, and will not mate her with a non-scientist, so she and Paul decide to escape for as long as they can evade the Commission, and hope that Aies becomes pregnant before they can find her. The Commission is on to their plan right away and they send police to stop her and Paul. Aies has been working on a stun weapon and uses it to escape. However, Bruce really is in love with Aies, and gives the police cloaks that will counteract the effect of the weapon. The police capture the couple before they can get too far, and condition Aies to fall in love with Bruce. It works, and they live "happily" ever after. Happiness is what this story really is about. That and like the story above, Blindness, its about the power of science over nature.
Night (1935): This is an amazing Dying Earth tale, equal in scope and power to the first story, Twilight. A scientific experiment team has launched an experimental aircraft. The plane flies up to 45,000 feet and energizes an anti-gravity system. The aircraft crashes to the earth, but the pilot is not in the cockpit. Instead the system has transported him to the far future where he comes into contact with a dead Earth. The pilot searches a city he came to and finds nothing but million year old frozen corpses and non-functional machines. Eventually he came across a device that still had some power, and deduced that it was a communicator. He opened up a channel to Neptune and was transported to the outer planets where he learned that a race of machines had evolved to god-like existence. The machines were still benevolent and remembered that mankind had made them to serve, but they were contemplating allowing themselves to die too and sent the pilot back home. The pilot felt great loneliness when he was in the future, and likened his situation to one he was in when he was a youth.
"Did you ever sit up with a corpse?" Bob looked up at us - through us. "I had to once, in my little home town where they always did that. I sat with a few neighbors while the man died before my eyes. I knew he must die when I came there. He died - and I sat there all night while the neighbors filed out, one by one, and the quiet settled. The quiet of the dead...And I thought of that night I had spent, sitting up with the dead man. I had come and watched him die. And I sat up with him in the quiet. I had wanted someone, anyone to talk to.
"I did then. Overpoweringly it came to me I was sitting up in the night of the universe, in the night and quiet of the universe, with a dead planet's body, with the dead, ashen hopes of countless nameless generations of men and women. the universe was dead, and I sat up alone - alone in the dead hush."
Its not light reading, but it is awesome and vast in voice.
Elimination (1936): This is my least favorite story of the bunch. Ed wants his family attorney to patent a process for generation of limitless energy, and the foolish attorney doesn't want him to do so. The attorney was approached by Ed's father a generation ago and was asked to patent a device called a chronoscope, which allowed users to stare into a TV screen and see all the possible futures. Over the course of several weeks the scientists became addicted to watching the screen. They plotted out their entire lives and every choice they would have to make so that they would have happy, healthy, long and rich lives, but they just could not account for every variable and make huge mistakes along the way that led to a number of their deaths. Ed listens to the lawyer's story and then tells him to get his ass to work. This is a reversal of the traditional pulp story where science conquers all. The scientists are also reduced to sniveling, paranoid wrecks as they go crazy trying to learn their futures and keep the secret of the machine from everyone who hears of it. I think this one came directly from a Lord Dunsany story called The Futuroscope.
Frictional Losses (1936): This is an amazing alien invasion story that manages to convey the horror of war without once describing a battle. The story opens as an "old" man in his forties and a young man sift through the rubble of New York City looking for working technology. Thirty years before Earth was attacked by the Granthee race. The Granthee had atomic weapons and a deadly heat ray that could be turned on entire cities at a time. The only reason that the humans won was because we numbered in the billions, and the Granthee had only a limited number of ships. But the war was completely and utterly devastating for the humans. Every city was destroyed, everyone in Asia died, Japan was completely submerged; after the war only two million humans remained, and captive Granthee told us that the second expeditionary force would wipe humanity out for good. The remnants of humanity were divided about what to do. Some even suggested mass suicide before the second Granthee force arrived. But several men buckled down and not only put back together the basic elements of a wartime infrastructure, such as communications, but devised new weapons and tactics that would shift the balance to humanity. In that respect it was a bit pulpish, but this is more of a military story so the overblown heroism goes down very smoothly.
Forgetfulness (1937): A colony ship six years in space from the planet Pareeth lands on planet a that can support them. They discover an amazingly beautiful city that is completely abandoned, but in perfect shape, with a race of men living in a tiny village off to the side. Seun, one of the villagers, offers to show the men of Pareeth around. He tells them that the city is called N'Yok and the planet is called Rhth. Seun is a village elder and he has heard of Pareeth before. Pareeth circles a sun that used to be a binary with Sol, Rhth's sun, but was split off and flung aside billions of years ago when a rogue star fell through the system. Out of the trauma of that event Rhth and Pareeth were born from the surface of their stars. Both gave rise to intelligent civilizations, but Rhth's progressed to intelligence and high tech very quickly while Pareeth languished. When men of Rhth were able to leave their own system, the travelled to Pareeth and boosted the men there so that they would start a technological civilization too. While that happened on Pareeth, the captain of the mission thinks that Rhth's civilization fell. The captain went home and convinced the Pareeth government to colonize Rhth and returned twelve years later with a dozen ships. He offered to set aside a preserve for the men of Rhth, but once he made his intentions clear Seun demonstrated how little they actually had fallen. The men of Rhth still had all of their sophistication and technology, and lived in villages because they chose to live that way. Seun banished the flotilla to the end of time to keep Rhth and its super high technology out of their hands.
A wave of blue haze washed out, caught and lifted the men and carried them effortlessly, intangible back to the lock, through the lock. From the quiet of the grasslands they were suddenly in the steel of the ship that clanged and howled with alarms. Great engines bellowed suddenly to life.
Ron Thule stood at the great, clear port light of the lock. Outside, Seun, in his softly glowing suit, floating a few feet from the ground. Abruptly, the great atomic engines of the Pareeth shilled a chorus of ravening hate, and from the three great projectors the annihilating beams tore out, shrieking destruction through the air - and vanished. Seun stood at the junction of death, and his crystal glowed softly. Twelve floating ships screamed to the tortures shriek of overloaded atomics, and the planet below cursed back with quarter-mile long tongues of lighting.
This one reminded me a great deal of Chad Oliver's stories, where the central lesson was that you could not judge the sophistication of a society by outward appearances. Sometimes simple looking people have a very complex society, and a technology that you cannot fathom. The only real problem was Seun's monologue. How could men have ever known of Pareth if they evolved after its sun was cast off? How ould man have evolved on both Pareth and Earth? It made no sense, and Campbell never addressed the problem, instead sticking with the mythic tone he got from Seun just "speaking from the mount," as it were.
Out of Night (1937): Four thousand years ago a race called the Sarn came to Earth. After a war that devastated both sides, the Sarn emerged victorious, and enslaved the remnants of mankind. All save the most docile humans were killed, and the Sarn divided the Earth's great land masses up among themselves. The Sarn Mother, the immortal queen of the race, took North America. After this much time has passed the breeding humans have started to reawaken. Campbell postulates that it is because the race has started to breed out the docility that it was stuck with after the war. The Sarn rule the planet, but they let the humans tend to their own affairs. Grayth leads the North American men. The Sarn Mother realizes that men are starting to reawaken, and fears what could happen. So she began a came of chess between Grayth and his competitor, Drummel. Drummel wants power over his race and is willing to kill Grayth to get it. The Sarn Mother commands Grayth to turn the nominal government of the men into a matriarchy, which is how the Sarn run their government. Grayth knows that a matriarchy will never work to rule the men and he balks. But the order was only a pretext anyway. The Sarn Mother only wants Grayth to refuse her so she can justify arming Drummel's men and allow them to take control from Grayth. This is exactly what happened, but Grayth and his coterie have foreseen this and have prepared for it. As it turned out humans were also evolving psi powers, and Grayth's wife had learned to master hers. As Drummel presented Grayth to the Sarn Mother for punishment, Grayth's wife and a few others focused their psi powers and "conjured" Aesir, which was said to be the thought energy of all the humans who had died in the four thousand years since the Sarn came. Aesir, like his namesake God, was omnipotent and could not be killed by the Sarn.
I am the wills of mankind, raised into substance by your own acts, daughter of the Sarn. Three billions died at the Conquest, and their wills released to eternal space carried one single thought: to save Earth from your slavery. They were the crystallizing point, on that heart and nucleus the space-ranging wills of unremembered generations have united into me. Four thousand years have passed, and slowly I have grown, till my powers made contact with Earth's space and time last night, when ne again wills and minds went from Earth in striving for freedom.
Aesir made its appearance in the Sarn Great Hall and frightened the Sarn Mother into letting Grayth and his men go. But before taking any action against the Sarn, Aesir dissipated and left.
Cloak of Aesir (1939): This is the sequel story to Out of Night. It pales in comparison to the original. In this story Grayth and the Sarn Mother try to get an advantage over one another. The Sarn Mother tries to do it by revealing and implementing new technology, and Grayth tries to do it with his band's psi powers. The Sarn Mother's group of queens was still convinced that Aesir was the embodiment of dead human souls, but the Sarn Mother herself thought that Aesir was nothing more than some new human technology. It was true that the humans were stealing Sarn tech and improving upon it, but Aesir was a product of the human's psi powers. Most of this story details Grayth's step-by-step infiltration of the Sarn Mother's castle. Grayth used advanced human technology to combat the Sarn Mother, but he never realized that the Sarn had developed cloaks of invisibility that allowed them to spy on humans with impunity. Fortunately Grayth had his gang of psychics in a locked room. In the end Grayth's wife conjured a form of Aesir that made the Sarn experience great, debilitating depression. They gave up on North American and fled to one of the other Sarn cities in North Africa.
With these two stories Campbell made turn back to his pulp roots. The resolution of the stories still turned on psychology, but the writing was a little bit less ethereal than in earlier Stuart stories, and the aliens were essentially super-powerful human-like creatures. This cycle of stories is often cited as one of Campbell/Stuart's best. I fail to see why, though. All the other stories listed above are stronger, and better written. Though surprisingly one of the best stories in this entire volume is Who Goes There?, which represents a clear jump back to almost pure pulp style. What this story does do, very well actually, is presage Campbell's later editorial style. In the later years of his management of Analog Magazine Campbell became fascinated with the power of human genetics and especially with psi-abilities. The magazine became unreadable eventually because the stories he presented became quite kooky.
Dead Knowledge (1938): Three men aboard a FTL craft arrived at a planet 27 light years from Earth. They went down to the surface of the planet and found a series of magnificent cities, but no citizens. They searched through an apartment block and found some very strange things. In almost every apartment they entered they found several humanoid corpses. It appeared that all of them died in murder-suicide style, and all of them were preserved by some fast-acting preservative that had been injected into them. In all cases the family members were shot in the head, then injected, but the eldest male died, painfully, from only an injection of the preservative. They search other cities and find the exact same thing, all over the planet.
The sun rose again with the fleeting ship's motion, rose and held as they cruised a thousand miles around the bulge of the planet, to slant down once more as the dark green of temperate foliage gave way to the brilliant colors of a tropical jungle. The ship slowed over a broken patch in the spreading jungle growth, a city whose buildings lay in broken ruins beneath the thrust of climbing plant-life. Shattered stone and glass half-hid, half-revealed the crushed bodies of the people who had built and died here. Broken rubbery pavements twisted and writhed over thrusting roots of giant tress towering half a thousand feet above the low white buildings. There was sound here, the faint rustle of a billion leaves in the slow-stirring morning air, and sharp tinkle and crack of masonry disturbed by a life that thrust out blindly, voraciously for more, and yet more room.
The three ascend to orbit to think about what to do. One of them goes to his cabin, and while there commits suicide. Shortly thereafter another does the same, leaving only one who thinks that his two crew members had some epiphany that drove them to suicide. Eventually it came to him (preposterously, actually, as the final crew member had no new information). The planet was infested with semi-intelligent molecules that in the aggregate could take control of the human mind. Once they did that, they would have the host kill itself, and reproduce in the corpse as it disintegrated. The people of that planet had realized what was going on, so they all killed themselves and preserved their bodies so that the molecules could not reproduce with their decaying tissue. The crew had brought the disease on board, and had set the ship to take them back to Earth.
Who Goes There? (1938): This is the story that was filmed twice as The Thing. In the story a group of scientists who are in Antarctica to research magnetism come across a ship in the ice that they believed had been there for twenty million years. Outside the ship they found the corpse of one if its crew. They took the corpse back to their base and debated thawing it out. They were not afraid that it would reanimate, but were afraid of pathogens. The camp's doctor convinced the mission commander that there was no risk of pathogen as anything that came from an alien would have a completely different biology and cross contamination would be impossible. They thawed the creature out, and it in fact did reanimate. Eventually the watchman fell asleep and the creature escaped while and attacked the dogs. To their horror they learned that the alien had the ability to melt other beings, then convert their mass to alien tissue. That in effect transformed whatever the alien attacked into a new alien whose job was to go out and reproduce/transform other creatures. The scientists caught one of the dogs half-way through the transformation process and electrocuted it. Then they realized that this could happen to men and they would never know. The camp doctor came up with a blood serum test to identify transformed men, but the test failed. The entire camp goes slightly insane trying to figure out who had the opportunity to be captured and transformed, then the doctor realized that once blood cells had left the host they turned into a new organism, with its own defense mechanisms. The doctor tests blood samples with a hot needle, and figured out who the aliens were. One of them was in a locked room. Everyone made haste to get to it once it was identified.
Kinner - or what had been Kinner - lay on the floor, cut half in two by the great knife McReady had had. The meteorologist stood against the wall, the knife dripping end in his hand. Van Wall was stirring vaguely on the floor, moaning, his hand half-consciously rubbing at his jaw. Barclay, an unutterably savage gleam in his eyes, was methodically leaning on the pronged weapon in his hand, jabbing - jabbing, jabbing.
Kinner's arms had developed a queer, scaly fur, and the flesh had twisted. The fingers had shortened, the hand rounded, the fingernails become three-inch-long things of dull red horn, keened to steel-hard, razor-sharp talons.
One they had a reliable test the identified the other changelings, approximately one-half of their number, killed them and burned their corpses in the wastes. They then began a methodical search of the rest of the enormous camp and found another alien that had constructed an atomic generator, and was building an antigravity sled so that it could go and take over the world.
The Elder Gods (1939): A sword and sandals fantasy about a group of living Gods who employ a barbarian to bring down an empire. Co-written with Arthur J. Burks, this one was not my favorite, and was horribly out of place with the rest of the book.
Strange Worlds (1939): Essay about how the limits of our perception prevent us from accepting the supernatural.
Wouldst Write, Wee One? (1939): Essay about how to write SF.
Copyright © 2008, Gregory Tidwell