from science fiction by
Murray Leinster

“Murray Leinster” is a pseudonym used by Will F. Jenkins.

This page:

First Contact

Exploration Team


science fiction

index pages:

First Contact

Copyright © 1945 by Street & Smith Publications, Inc.

"My guess, sir, is that they use microwaves for what you might call person-to-person conversation. I think they make short-wave trains as we make sounds."

The skipper stared at him:

"That means they have telepathy?"

"M-m-m. Yes, sir," said Tommy. "Also it means that we have telepathy too, as far as they are concerned. They're probably deaf. They've certainly no idea of using sound waves in air for communication."

"It doesn't seem like adventure to me, sir. I want terribly for the plan to go through. I thought adventure was when you didn't care."

"Oh, no," said the skipper. "Adventure is when you toss your life on the scales of chance and wait for the pointer to stop."



text checked (note A) Feb '05

top of page
Exploration Team

Copyright © 1956 by Street & Smith Publications, Inc.

Hugo Award-winning novelette, 1956

Note (Hal's):
The "exploration team" in the title consists of one man, four Kodiak bears, and an eagle named Semper Tyrannis.

— end note


"I'm curious," he observed. "Why Semper Tyrannis? [...]"

"He was bred for hawking," said Huyghens. "You sic a dog on something. You sic Semper Tyrannis."



"So," said Roane, "since the secret of getting along with people is that of postponing quarrels—suppose we postpone the question of who kills whom?"

"A machine can discriminate, but it can't decide. That's why there's no danger of a robot revolt. They can't decide to do something for which they have no instructions."



"Dammit, let a man work with robots long enough and he thinks all nature is as limited as they are!"
"I'm doing what I'm doing," he added calmly, "I'm being a criminal because it seems to me befitting what I think I am. Everybody acts according to his own real notion of himself. You're a conscientious citizen, and a loyal official, and a well-adjusted personality. You consider yourself an intelligent rational animal. But you don't act that way! You're reminding me of my need to shoot you or something similar, which a merely rational animal would try to make me forget. You happen, Roane, to be a man. So am I. But I'm aware of it. Therefore, I deliberately do things a merely rational animal wouldn't, because they're my notion of what a man who's more than a rational animal should do."




Roane's convictions as a civilized man were shaken. Robots were marvelous contrivances for doing the expected: accomplishing the planned; coping with the predicted. But they also had defects. Robots could only follow instructions—if this happens, do this; if that thing happens, do that. But before something else, neither this or that, robots were helpless. So a robot civilization worked only in an environment where nothing unanticipated ever turned up, and human supervisors never demanded anything unexpected.

text checked (note A) Mar '06

top of page