Science Fiction
by various authors

This page:
A. Rowley Hilliard: Death from the Stars
Arthur Koestler: The Chimeras
Fritz Leiber: Coming Attraction
John D. MacDonald: A Child Is Crying
J. T. McIntosh: First Lady
Lewis Padgett: Mimsy Were the Borogoves
Martin Pearson and Cecil Corwin: The Mask of Demeter
Margaret St. Clair: Quis Custodiet . . . ?
Cordwainer Smith: Scanners Live in Vain
William Tenn: Null-P


Science Fiction

index pages:

A. Rowley Hilliard
Death from the Stars

Copyright © 1931 by Stellar Publishing Corp.

“Not only is life as a whole a disease of matter, but each species of life is a disease to every other. The tubercular bacillus on the wall of your lung has no more personal animosity towards you than you had towards the duck you ate for dinner. It is merely living off its environment, as you are. Obviously, mankind is as truly a disease of ducks as tuberculosis is of mankind. . . .”

“I see what you are driving at. You mean that any new life I might discover would automatically be hostile to many or all terrestrial species. Yet I see nothing terrifying in that. Man has certainly dealt with any number of hostile species during his existence, and has—”

“Man has dealt with nothing!” Julius cut in angrily. “Man has been dealt with. You talk as if he had arrived at his present form by an act of will, and fine determination. That is contrary to the first principles of evolutionary science. Man is a form of life that has been shaped by its enemies.”

text checked (see note) Feb 2005

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Arthur Koestler
The Chimeras

Copyright © 1969, 1971 by Playboy

“Who, in your opinion, is not infected?”

“I am not.”

“Is it not rather strange that you are the only one?”

“It is a tragedy. I would be much happier if I developed a blind spot.”

“But if you are the only sane person, why do you want treatment?”

Anderson looked at the doctor slyly.

“I told you I would be much happier if I, too, had a blind spot. Just a tiny one. Life would be much pleasanter.”

“You mean you came to me not to be cured, but to be made insane?”

“Not exactly insane. Just a tiny blind spot. Life is unbearable when you see clearly what’s going on around you.”

text checked (see note) Dec 2006

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Fritz Leiber
Coming Attraction

Copyright © 1950 by World Editions, Inc.

“Girls going down the street bare from the neck up.” It was not clear whether he viewed the prospect with relish or moral distaste. Likely both.



“If women were to stop wearing masks, in six weeks you wouldn’t know the difference. You get used to anything, if enough people do or don’t do it.”

text checked (see note) Feb 2005

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John D. MacDonald
A Child Is Crying

Copyright © 1948 by Standard Magazines, Inc.

They landed at San Antonio where an army light plane took them a hundred miles northwest to the underground laboratories of the government where able men kept themselves from the thinking of the probable results of their works. They were keen and sensitive men, the best that the civilized world had yet produced—but they worked with death, with the musty odor of the grave like a gentle touch against their lips. And they didn’t stop to think. It was impossible to think of consequences. Think of the job at hand.



text checked (see note) Feb 2005

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J. T. McIntosh
First Lady

Copyright © 1953 by Galaxy Publishing Corporation

When you’ve got a big job in hand, like, say, colonizing a galaxy, there’s only one good way of doing it. Before you start, there may be plenty of ways. Again, if you start and fail, you may try another way. But, if you start and don’t fail, you have to keep on the way you began. I’m not going to argue about it; I’m just saying what I believe.

Fitting into the routine of space travel again is always pretty much the same. Ellen made the same grumbles, phrased differently. This time she wondered ironically why they didn’t feed us on condensed milk and shortbread and make sure we starved. Remarked that you rubbed your head before you got up in anticipation of the bump. Said she realized at last why spacegirls on magazine covers wore tights—they couldn’t squeeze through spaceship doors wearing anything else. Suggested we come to some arrangement whereby I breathed out when she breathed in.

text checked (see note) Jul 2005

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Lewis Padgett

“Lewis Padgett” is a pseudonym used by the husband-and-wife writing team, Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore.

Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Copyright © 1943 by Street & Smith Publications, Inc.

“I had a bad day.”


“Yeah. Flaming youth aspiring toward manhood. I hope they die. In considerable agony. Insh’Allah!

“I want the olive,” Jane requested.

“I know,” Paradine said despondently. “It’s been years since I’ve tasted one myself. In a Martini, I mean. Even if I put six of ’em in your glass, you’re still not satisfied.”

“I want yours. Blood brotherhood. Symbolism. That’s why.”

Youngsters are instinctive dramatists, for purposes of self-protection. They have not yet fitted themselves to the exigencies—to them partially inexplicable—of a mature world. Moreover, their lives are complicated by human variables. They are told by one person that playing in the mud is permissible, but that, in their excavations, they must not uproot flowers or small trees. Another adult vetoes mud per se. The Ten Commandments are not carved on stone; they vary, and children are helplessly dependent on the caprice of those who give them birth and feed and clothe them. And tyrannize. The young animal does not resent that benevolent tyranny, for it is an essential part of nature. He is, however, an individualist, and maintains his integrity by a subtle, passive fight.



text checked (see note) Feb 2005

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The Mask of Demeter
by Martin Pearson and Cecil Corwin

Copyright © 1952 by Fantasy House, Inc.

The International Scientific Association met once a year in New York City, which made it easy for members who lectured at Columbia or N.Y.U. Others had, often, to travel thousands of miles to partake of the delights that comprised the annual meetings. Among these delights were gratuitous insults, given and taken, violent challenges to debate which never came to anything, and—if it was a lucky year—a fist fight between two eminent figures in the realm of science.



Every astronomer has seen peculiar things through a telescope. A joke that goes around observatories tells of the greenhorn just out of school who polished a mirror objective glass with steel wool and discovered twenty new spiral nebulae.

text checked (see note) Feb 2006

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Margaret St. Clair
Quis Custodiet . . . ?

Copyright © 1948 by Standard Magazines, Inc.

“There were thousands of human generations before the bombs, and none of them understood it the way we do. Long before the bombs our people chopped down the forests and left burned-over stumps where the trees used to stand. They plowed up the grasslands and made deserts out of them. They tore the heart out of the continents and sent it floating down in the muddy water of the rivers to lie at the bottom of the sea. The bombs only finished something that had been long ago begun.

“Earth’s done for. We destroyed it.”

text checked (see note) Feb 2005

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Cordwainer Smith

“Cordwainer Smith” is a pseudonym used by Dr. Paul Linebarger.

Scanners Live in Vain

Copyright © 1948 by Fantasy Publishing Co., Inc.

2 “I wanted to tell the old boy about the Up and Out, and what we did there, but it did not matter. He said, ‘Airplanes were good enough for Confucius, and they are for me too.’ ”

Martel imagined that he could see a cruel joyful smile on Vomact’s dead face—the smile of a man who knew himself righteous and who found his righteousness upheld and affirmed by militant authority.

[...] he would have thought only with his mind, not with his heart and guts and blood. How could the other Scanners know?

text checked (see note) Feb 2005

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William Tenn

Copyright © 1950 by Hillman Periodicals, Inc., for Worlds Beyond, January 1951

This was the myth that began with the juvenile appeal to be “A Normal Red-Blooded American Boy” and ended, on the highest political levels, with a shirt-sleeved, suspendered seeker after political office boasting, “Shucks, everybody knows who I am. I’m folks—just plain folks.”

This was the myth from which were derived such superficially disparate practices as the rite of political baby-kissing, the cult of “keeping up with the Joneses,” the foppish, foolish, forever-changing fads which went through the population with the monotonous regularity and sweep of a windshield wiper. The myth of styles and fraternal organizations. The myth of the “regular fellow.”



A journalist, attempting to point up the absolute lack of color in the new official family, asked if any one of them—from Secretary of State to Postmaster-General—had ever committed himself publicly on any issue or, in previous positions, had been responsible for a single constructive step in any direction.

To which the President supposedly replied with a bland, unhesitating smile, “I always say there’s no hard feelings if no one’s defeated. Well, sir, no one’s defeated in a fight where the referee can’t make a decision.”

Apocryphal though it may have been, this remark expressed the mood of Abnegite America perfectly. “As pleasant as a no-decision bout” became part of everyday language.

“Since the time of Socrates,” wrote Monsieur Fouffnique, “Man’s political viewpoints have been in thrall to the conception that the best should govern. How to determine that ‘best,’ the scale of values to be used in order that the ‘best’ and not mere undifferentiated ‘betters’ should rule—these have been the basic issues around which have raged the fires of political controversy for almost three millennia. Whether an aristocracy of birth or intellect should prevail is an argument over values; whether rulers should be determined by the will of a god as determined by the entrails of a hog, or selected by the whole people on the basis of a ballot tally—these are alternatives in method. But hitherto no political system has ventured away from the implicit and unexamined assumption first embodied in the philosopher-state of Plato’s Republic.

“Now, at last, America has turned and questioned the pragmatic validity of the axiom. The young democracy to the west, which introduced the concept of the Rights of Man to jurisprudence, now gives a feverish world the Doctrine of the Lowest Common Denominator in government. According to this doctrine as I have come to understand it through prolonged observation, it is not the worst who should govern—as many of my prejudiced fellow-delegates insist—but the mean: what might be termed the ‘unbest’ or the ‘non-élite.’ ”

text checked (see note) Nov 2023

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Background graphic copyright © 2003 by Hal Keen