মুখ্য The Complete Asimov

The Complete Asimov

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A reader's compilation of 17 volumes: "The Early Asimov", "Buy Jupiter and other stories", "The Complete Stories", "The Complete Robot", "The Naked Sun", "The Robots of Dawn", "Robots and Empire", "The Currents of Space", "Pebble in the Sky", "The Stars, Like Dust", "Prelude to Foundation", "Foundation", "Foundation and Empire", "Second Foundation", "Foundation's Edge", "Foundation and Earth", "Fantastic Voyage II - Destination Brain"
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24 May 2021 (17:17) 
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29 June 2021 (06:57) 
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Asimov, Isaac - The Early Asimov Volume 3 (v1.0)

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To the memory of
John Wood Campbell, Jr. (1910-71)
for reasons that this book will make amply obvious

Although I have written over a hundred and twenty books, on almost every subject
from astronomy to Shakespeare and from mathematics to satire, it is probably as a
science fiction writer that I am best known.
I began as a science fiction writer, and for the first eleven years of my literary career
I wrote nothing but science fiction stories, for magazine publication only—and for minute
payment. The thought of actually publishing honest-to-goodness books never entered my
essentially humble mind.
But the time came when I did begin to produce books, and then I began to gather
together the material I had earlier written for magazines. Between 1950 and 1969, ten
collections appeared (all of which were published by Doubleday).
These contained eighty-five stories (plus four pieces of comic verse) originally
intended for, and published in, the science fiction magazines. Nearly a quarter of them
came from those first eleven years.
For the record, these books are:
I, ROBOT (1950)
It might be argued that this was quite enough, but in arguing so, one is omitting
the ravenous appetites of my readers (bless them!). I am constantly getting letters
requesting lists of ancient stories out of me so that the letter writers can haunt secondhand shops for old magazines. There are people who prepare bibliographies of my
science fiction (don’t ask me why) and who want to know all sorts of half-forgotten details
concerning them. They even grow distinctly angry when they find that some early stories

were never sold and no longer exist. They want those, too, apparently, and seem to think
I have negligently destroyed a natural resource.
So when Panther Books, in E; ngland, and Doubleday suggested that I make a
collection of those of my early stories not already collected in the ten books listed above,
with the literary history of each, I could resist no further. Everyone who has ever met me
knows just how amenable to flattery I am, and if you think I can withstand this kind of
flattery for more than half a second (as a rough estimate), you are quite wrong.
Fortunately I have a diary, which I have been keeping since January 1, 1938 (the
day before my eighteenth birthday); it can give me dates and details.
I began to write when I was very young—eleven, I think. The reasons are obscure, I
might say it was the result of an unreasoning urge, but that would just indicate I could
think of no reason.
Perhaps it was because I was an avid reader in a family that was too poor to afford
books, even the cheapest, and besides, a family that considered cheap books unfit
reading. I had to go to the library (my first library card was obtained for me by my father
when I was six years old) and make do with two books per week.
This was simply not enough, and my craving drove me to extremes. The diary
began as the sort of thing a teen-ager would write, but it quickly degenerated to a simple
kind of literary record. It is, to anyone but myself, utterly boring—so boring, in fact, that I
leave it around for anyone who wishes, to read. No one ever reads more than two pages.
Occasionally someone asks me if I have never felt that my diary ought to record my
innermost feelings and emotions, and my answer is always, "No. Never!"
After all, what’s the point of being a writer if I have to waste my innermost feelings
and emotions on a mere diary? At the beginning of each school term, I eagerly read
through every schoolbook I was assigned, going from cover to cover like a personified
conflagration. Since I was blessed with a tenacious memory and with instant recall, that
was all the studying I had to do for that school term, but I was through before the week
was over, and then what? So, when I was eleven, it occurred to me that if I wrote my own
books, I could then reread them at my leisure. I never really wrote a complete book, of
course. I would start one and keep rambling on with it till I outgrew it and then I would
start another. All these early writings are forever gone, though I remember some of the
details quite clearly.
In the spring of 1934 I took a special English course given at my high school (Boys'
High School in Brooklyn) that placed the accent on writing. The teacher was also faculty
adviser for the semi-annual literary magazine put out by the students, and it was his
intention to gather material. I took that course.
It was a humiliating experience. I was fourteen at the time, and a rather green and
innocent fourteen. I wrote trifles, while everyone else in the class (who were sixteen
apiece) wrote sophisticated, tragic mood pieces. All of them made no particular secret of
their scorn for me, and though I resented it bitterly there was nothing I could do about it.
For a moment I thought I had them when one of my products was accepted for the
semi-annual literary magazine while many of theirs were rejected. Unfortunately the

teacher told me, with callous insensitivity, that mine was the only item submitted that was
humorous and that since he had to have one non-tragic piece he was forced to take it.
It was called "Little Brothers," dealt with the arrival of my own little brother five
years earlier, and was my first piece of published material of any kind. I suppose it can be
located in the records at Boys' High, but I don’t have it Sometimes I wonder what
happened to all those great tragic writers in the class. I don’t remember a single name
and I have no intention of ever trying to find out—but I sometimes wonder.
It was not until May 29, 1937 (according to a date I once jotted down—though that
was before I began my diary, so I won’t swear to it), that the vague thought occurred to
me that I ought to write something for professional publication; something that would be
paid for! Naturally it would have to be a science fiction story, for I had been an avid
science fiction fan since 1929 and I recognized no other form of literature as in any way
worthy of my efforts.
The story I began to compose for the purpose, the first story I ever wrote with a
view to becoming a "writer," was entitled "Cosmic Corkscrew."
In it I viewed time as a helix (that is, something like a bedspring). Someone could
cut across from one turn directly to the next, thus moving into the future by some exact
interval but being incapable of travelling one day less into the future.
My protagonist made the cut across time and found the Earth deserted. All animal
life was gone; yet there was every sign that life had existed until very shortly before—and
no indication at all of what had brought about the disappearance. It was told in the first
person from a lunatic asylum, because the narrator had, of course, been placed in a
madhouse after he returned and tried to tell his tale.
I wrote only a few pages in 1937, then lost interest. The mere fact that I had
publication in mind must have paralyzed me. As long as something I wrote was intended
for my own eyes only, I could be carefree enough. The thought of possible other readers
weighed down heavily upon my every word.
—So I abandoned it.
Then, in May 1938, the most important magazine in the field. Astounding Science
Fiction, changed its publication schedule from the third Wednesday of the month to the
fourth Friday. When the June issue did not arrive on its accustomed day, I went into a
By May 17, I could stand it no more and took the subway to 79 Seventh Avenue,
where the publishing house. Street & Smith Publications, Inc., was then located. There, an
official of the firm informed me of the changed schedule, and on May 19, the June issue
arrived. The near brush with doom, and the ecstatic relief that followed, reactivated my
desire to write and publish. I returned to "Cosmic Corkscrew" and by June 19 it was
I told this story in some detail in an article entitled "Portrait of the Writer as a Boy,"
which was included as Chapter 17 of my book of essays Science, Numbers and I
(Doubleday, 1968).

In it, relying on memory alone, I said that I had called Street & Smith on the phone.
When I went back to my diary to check actual dates for this book, I was astonished to
discover that I had actually made the subway trip—an utterly daring venture for me in
those days, and a measure of my desperation.
The next question was what to do with it. I had absolutely no idea what one did
with a manuscript intended for publication, and no one I knew had any idea either. I
discussed it with my father, whose knowledge of the real world was scarcely greater than
my own, and he had no idea either.
But then it occurred to me that, the month before, I had gone to 79 Seventh
Avenue merely to inquire about the non-appearance of Astounding. I had not been struck
by lightning for doing so. Why not repeat the trip, then, and hand in the manuscript in
person? The thought was a frightening one. It became even more frightening when my
father further suggested that necessary preliminaries included a shave and my best suit.
That meant I would have to take additional time, and the day was already wearing on and
I would have to be back in time to make the afternoon newspaper delivery. (My father
had a candy store and newsstand, and life was very complicated in those days for a
creative writer of artistic and sensitive bent such as myself. For instance, we lived in an
apartment in which all the rooms were in a line and the only way of getting from the living
room to the bedroom of my parents, or of my sister, or of my brother, was by going
through my bedroom. My bedroom was therefore frequently gone through, and the fact
that I might be in the throes of creation meant nothing to anyone.) I compromised. I
shaved, but did not bother changing suits, and off I went. The date was June 21, 1938.
I was convinced that, for daring to ask to see the editor of Astounding Science
Fiction, I would be thrown out of the building bodily, and that my manuscript would be
torn up and thrown out after me in a shower of confetti. My father, however (who had
lofty notions) was convinced that a writer—by which he meant anyone with a
manuscript—would be treated with the respect due an intellectual. He had no fears at
all— but I was the one who had to go into the building.
Trying to mask panic, I asked to see the editor. The girl behind the desk (I can see
the scene in my mind’s eye right now exactly as it was) spoke briefly on the phone and
said, "Mr. Campbell will see you."
She directed me through a large, loft like room filled with huge rolls of paper and
enormous piles of magazines and permeated with the heavenly smell of pulp (a smell
that, to this day, will recall my youth in aching detail and reduce me to tears of nostalgia).
And there, in a small room on the other side, was Mr. Campbell.
John Wood Campbell, Jr., had been working for Street & Smith for a year and had
taken over sole command of Astounding Stories (which he had promptly renamed
Astounding Science Fiction) a couple of months earlier. He was only twenty-eight years
old then. Under his own name and under his pen name, Don A. Stuart, he was one of the
most famous and highly regarded authors of science fiction, but he was about to bury his
writing reputation forever under the far greater renown he was to gain as editor.

He was to remain editor of Astounding Science Fiction and of its successor, Analog
Science Fact—Science Fiction, for a third of a century. During all that time, he and I were
to remain friends, but however old I grew and however venerable and respected a star of
our mutual field I was to become, I never approached him with anything but that awe he
inspired in me on the occasion of our first meeting.
He was a large man, an opinionated man, who smoked and talked constantly, and
who enjoyed, above anything else, the production of outrageous ideas, which he
bounced off his listener and dared him to refute. It was difficult to refute Campbell even
when his ideas were absolutely and madly illogical.
We talked for over an hour that first time. He showed me forthcoming issues of the
magazine (actual future issues in the cellulose-flesh). I found he had printed a 'fan letter of
mine in the issue about to be published, and another in the next—so he knew the
genuineness of my interest.
He told me about himself, about his pen name and about his opinions. He told me
that his father had sent in one of his manuscripts to Amazing Stories when he was
seventeen and that it would have been published but the magazine lost it and he had no
carbon. (I was ahead of him there. I had brought in the story myself and I had a carbon.)
He also promised to read my story that night and to send a letter, whether acceptance or
rejection, the next day. He promised also that in case of rejection he would tell me what
was wrong with it so I could improve.
He lived up to every promise. Two days later, on June 23, I heard from him. It was
a rejection. (Since this book deals with real events and is not a fantasy—you can’t be
surprised that my first story was instantly rejected.) Here is what I said in my diary about
the rejection: "At 9:30 I received back 'Cosmic Corkscrew' with a polite letter of rejection.
He didn’t like the slow beginning, the suicide at the end."
Campbell also didn’t like the first-person narration and the stiff dialog, and further
pointed out that the length (nine thousand words) was inconvenient—too long for a short
story, too short for a novelette. Magazines had to be put together like jigsaw puzzles, you
see, and certain lengths for individual stories were more convenient than others.
By that time, though, I was off and running. The joy of having spent an hour and
more with John Campbell, the thrill of talking face to face and on even terms with an idol,
had already filled me with the ambition to write another science fiction story, better than
the first, so that I could try him again. The pleasant letter of rejection—two full pages—in
which he discussed my story seriously and with no trace of patronization or contempt,
reinforced my joy. Before June 23 was over, I was halfway through the first draft of
another story.
Many years later I asked Campbell (with whom I had by then grown to be on the
closest terms) why he had bothered with me at all, since that first story was surely utterly
"It was," he said frankly, for he never flattered. "On the other hand, I saw
something in you. You were eager and you listened and I knew you wouldn’t quit no

matter how many rejections I handed you. As long as you were willing to work hard at
improving, I was willing to work with you."
That was John. I wasn’t the only writer, whether newcomer or old-timer, that he
was to work with in this fashion. Patiently, and out of his own enormous vitality and talent,
he built up a stable of the best s.f. writers the world had, till then, ever seen.
What happened to "Cosmic Corkscrew" after that I don’t really know. I abandoned
it and never submitted it anywhere else. I didn’t actually tear it up and throw it away; it
simply languished in some desk drawer until eventually I lost track of it. In any case, it no
longer exists.
This seems to be one of the main sources of discomfort among the archivists—they
seem to think the first story I ever wrote for publication, however bad it might have been,
was an important document. All I can say, fellows, is that I’m sorry but there was no way
of my telling in 1938 that my first try might have historic interest someday. I may be a
monster of vanity and arrogance, but I’m not that much a monster of vanity and
Besides, before the month was out I had finished my second story, "Stowaway,"
and I was concentrating on that. I brought it to Campbell’s office on July 18, 1938, and he
was just a trifle slower in returning it, but the rejection came on July 22.
I said in my diary concerning the letter that accompanied it: ". . . it was the nicest
possible rejection you could imagine.
Indeed, the next best thing to an acceptance. He told me the idea was good and
the plot passable. The dialog and handling, he continued, were neither stiff nor wooden
(this was rather a delightful surprise to me) and that there was no one particular fault but
merely a general air of amateurishness, constraint, forcing. The story did not go smoothly.
This, he said, I would grow out of as soon as I had had sufficient experience.
He assured me that I would probably be able to sell my stories but it meant
perhaps a year’s work and a dozen stories before I could click. . . "
It is no wonder that such a "rejection letter" kept me hotly charged with enormous
enthusiasm to write, and I got promptly to work on a third story.
What’s more, I was sufficiently encouraged to try to submit "Stowaway" elsewhere.
In those days there were three science fiction magazines on the stands. Astounding was
the aristocrat of the lot, a monthly with smooth edges and an appearance of class. The
other two. Amazing Stories and Thrilling Wonder Stories, were somewhat more primitive
in appearance and printed stories, with more action and less sophisticated plots. I sent
"Stowaway" to Thrilling Wonder Stories, which, however, also rejected it promptly on
August 9, 1938 (with a form letter).
By then, though, I was deeply engaged with my third story, which, as it happened,
was fated to do better—and do it faster. In this book, however, I am including my stories
not in the order of publication but in order of writing—which I presume is more significant
from the standpoint of literary development. Let me stay with "Stowaway," therefore.
In the summer of 1939, by which time I had gained my first few successes, I
returned to "Stowaway," refurbished it somewhat, and tried Thrilling Wonder Stories

again. Undoubtedly I had a small suspicion that the new luster of my name would cause
them to read it with a different attitude than had been the case when I was a complete
unknown. I was quite wrong. It was rejected again.
Then I tried Amazing, and again it was rejected.
That meant the story was dead, or would have meant so were it not for the fact
that science fiction was entering a small "boom" as the 1930s approached their end. New
magazines were being founded, and toward the end of 1939, plans were made to publish
a magazine to be called Astonishing Stories, which would retail for the price of ten cents.
Astounding cost twenty cents an issue.) The new magazine, together with a sister
magazine, Super Science Stories, were to be edited on a shoestring by a young science
fiction fan, Frederic Pohl, who was then just turning twenty (he was about a month older
than myself), and who, in this way, made his entry into what was to be a distinguished
professional career in science fiction.
Pohl was a thin, soft-spoken young man, with hair that was already thinning, a
solemn face, and a pronounced overbite that gave him a rabbity look when he smiled.
The economic facts of his life kept him out of college, but he was far brighter (and knew
more) than almost any college graduate I’ve ever met.
Pohl was a friend of mine (and still is) and perhaps did more to help me start my
literary career than anyone except, of course, Campbell himself. We had attended fanclub meetings together. He had read my manuscripts and praised them —and now he
needed stories in a hurry, and at low rates, for his new magazines.
He asked to look through my manuscripts again. He began by choosing one of my
stories for his first issue. On November 17, 1939, nearly a year and a half after
"Stowaway" was first written, Pohl selected it for inclusion in his second issue of
Astonishing. He was an inveterate title changer, however, and he plastered "The Callistan
Menace" on the story and that was how it was published.
So here it is, the second story I ever wrote and the earliest story to see professional
publication. The reader can judge for himself whether Campbell’s critique, given above,
was overly kind and whether he was justified in foreseeing a professional writing career
for me on the basis of this story.
"The Callistan Menace" appears here (as will all the stories in this volume) exactly
as it appeared in the magazine with only the editing and adjustment required to correct
typographical errors.


Astonishing Stories, April 1940
Copyright © 1940 by Fictioneers, Inc.
Copyright renewed © 1967 by Isaac Asimov

"Damn Jupiter!" growled Ambrose Whitefield viciously, and I nodded agreement.
"I’ve been on the Jovian satellite run," I said, "for fifteen years and I’ve heard
those two words spoken maybe a million times. It’s probably the most sincere curse in the
Solar System."
Our watch at the controls of the scout ship Ceres had just been relieved and we
descended the two levels to our room with dragging steps.
"Damn Jupiter—and damn it again," insisted Whitefield morosely. "It’s too big for
the System. It stays out there behind us and pulls and pulls and pulls! We’ve got to keep
the Atomos firing all the way. We’ve got to check our course— completely-—every hour.
No relaxation, no coasting, no taking it easy! nothing but the rottenest kind of work."
There were tiny beads of perspiration on his forehead and he swabbed at them
with the back of his hand. He was a young fellow, scarcely thirty, and you could see in his
eyes that he was nervous, and even a little frightened.
And it wasn’t Jupiter that was bothering him, in spite of his profanity. Jupiter was
the least of our worries. It was Callisto! It was that little moon which gleamed a pale blue
upon our visiplates that made Whitefield sweat and that had spoiled four nights' sleep for
me already. Callisto! Our destination! Even old Mac Steeden, gray mustachioed veteran
who, in his youth, had sailed with the great Peewee Wilson himself, went about his duties
with an absent stare. Four days out— and ten days more ahead of us—and panic was
reaching out with clammy fingers.
We were all brave enough in the ordinary course of events.
The eight of us on the Ceres had faced the purple Lectronics and stabbing Disintos
of pirates and rebels and the alien environments of half a dozen worlds. But it takes more
than run-of-the-mill bravery to face the unknown; to face Callisto, the "mystery world" of
the Solar System.
One fact was known about Callisto—one grim, bare fact.
Over a period of twenty-five years, seven ships, progressively better equipped, had
landed—and never been heard from again. The Sunday supplements peopled the
satellite with anything from super-dinosaurs to invisible ghosts of the fourth dimension,
but that did not solve the mystery.
We were the eighth. We had a better ship than any of those preceding. We were
the first to sport the newly-developed beryl-tungsten hull, twice as strong as the old steel
shells. We possessed super-heavy armaments and the very latest Atomic Drive engines.

Still—we were only the eighth, and every man jack of us knew it.
Whitefield entered our quarters silently and flopped down upon his bunk. His fists
were clenched under his chin and showed white at the knuckles. It seemed to me that he
wasn’t far from the breaking point. It was a case for careful diplomacy.
"What we need," said I, "is a good, stiff drink."
"What we need," he answered harshly, "is a hell of a lot of good, stiff drinks."
"Well, what’s stopping us?"
He looked at me suspiciously, "You know there isn’t a drop of liquor aboard ship.
It’s against Navy regulations!"
"Sparkling green Jabra water," I said slowly, letting the words drip from my mouth.
"Aged beneath the Martian deserts. Melted emerald juice. Bottles of it! Cases of it!"
"I know where. What do you say? A few drinks—just a few—will cheer us both up."
For a moment, his eyes sparkled, and then they dulled again, "What if the Captain
finds out? He’s a stickler for discipline, and on a trip like this, it’s liable to cost us our
I winked and grinned, "It’s the Captain’s own cache. He can’t discipline us without
cutting his own throat—the old hypocrite. He’s the best damn Captain there ever was,
but he likes his emerald water."
Whitefield stared at me long and hard, "All right. Lead me to it."
We slipped down to the supply room, which was deserted, of course. The Captain
and Steeden were at the controls; Brock and Charney were at the engines; and Harrigan
and Tuley were snoring their fool heads off in their own room.
Moving as quietly as I could, through sheer habit, I pushed aside several crates of
food tabs and slid open a hidden panel near the floor. I reached in and drew out a dusty
bottle, which, in the dim light, sparkled a dull sea-green.
"Sit down," I said, "and make yourself comfortable." I produced two tiny cups and
filled them.
Whitefield sipped slowly and with every evidence of satisfaction. He downed his
second at one gulp.
"How come you volunteered for this trip, anyway, Whitey?"
I asked, "You’re a little green for a thing like this."
He waved his hand, "You know how it is. Things get dull after a while. I went in for
zoology after getting out of college—big field since interplanetary travel—and had a nice
comfortable position back on Ganymede. It was dull, though; I was bored blue. So I
joined the Navy on an impulse, and on another I volunteered for this trip." He sighed
ruefully, "I’m a little sorry I did."
"That’s not the way to take it, kid. I’m experienced and I know. When you’re
panicky, you’re as good as licked. Why, two months from now, we’ll be back on
"I’m not scared, if that’s what you’re thinking," he exclaimed angrily. "It’s—it's,"
there was a long pause in which he frowned at his third cupful. "Well, I’m just worn out

trying to imagine what the hell to expect. My imagination is working overtime and my
nerves are rubbing raw."
"Sure, sure," I soothed, "I’m not blaming you. It’s that way with all of us, I guess.
But you have to be careful. Why, I remember once on a Mars-Titan trip, we had—"
Whitefield interrupted what was one of my favorite yarns— and I could spin them
as well as anyone in the service—with a jab in the ribs that knocked the breath out of me.
He put down his Jabra gingerly.
"Say, Jenkins," he stuttered, "I haven’t downed enough liquor to be imagining
things, have I?"
"That depends on what you imagined."
"I could swear I saw something move somewhere in the pile of empty crates in the
far corner."
"That’s a bad sign," and I took another swig as I said it.
"Your nerves are going to your eyes and now they’re going back on you. Ghosts, I
suppose, or the Callistan menace looking us over in advance."
"I saw it, I tell you. There’s something alive there." He edged towards me—his
nerves were plenty shot—and for a moment, in the dim, shadowy light even I felt a bit
choked up.
"You’re crazy," I said in a loud voice, and the echoes calmed me down a bit. I put
down my empty cup and got up just a wee bit unsteadily. "Let’s go over and poke
through the crates."
Whitefield followed me and together we started shoving the light aluminum
cubicles this way and that. Neither of us was quite one hundred per cent sober and we
made a fair amount of noise. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Whitefield trying to
move the case nearest the wall.
"This one isn’t empty," he grunted, as it lifted very slightly off the floor.
Muttering under his breath, he knocked off the cover and looked in. For a half
second he just stared and then he backed away slowly. He tripped over something and
fell into a sitting position, still gaping at the case.
I watched his actions with raised eyebrows, then glanced hastily at the case in
question. The glance froze into a steady glare, and I emitted a hoarse yell that rattled off
each of the four walls.
A boy was sticking his head out of the case—a red-haired dirty-faced kid of
thirteen or thereabouts.
"Hello," said the boy as he clambered out into the open.
Neither of us found the strength to answer him, so he continued, "I’m glad you
found me. I was getting a cramp in my shoulder trying to curl up in there."
Whitefield gulped audibly, "Good God! A kid stowaway! And on a voyage to
"And we can’t turn back," I reminded in a stricken voice, "without wrecking
ourselves. The Jovian satellite run is poison."

"Look here," Whitefield turned on the kid in a sudden belligerence. "Who are you,
you young nut, and what are you doing here?"
The kid flinched. "I’m Stanley Fields," he answered, a bit scared. "I’m from New
Chicago on Ganymede. I—I ran away to space, like they do in books." He paused and
then asked brightly, "Do you think we’ll have a fight with pirates on this trip, mister?"
There was no doubt that the kid was filled to the brim with "Dime Spacers." I used
to read them myself as a youngster.
"How about your parents?" asked Whitefield, grimly.
"Oh, all I got ‘s an uncle. He won’t care much, I guess." He had gotten over his
first uneasiness and stood grinning at us.
"Well, what’s to be done?" said Whitefield, looking at me in complete
I shrugged, "Take him to the Captain. Let him worry."
"And how will he take it?"
"Anyway he wants. It’s not our fault. Besides, there’s absolutely nothing to be done
about the mess."
And grabbing an arm apiece, we walked away, dragging the kid between us.
Captain Bartlett is a capable officer and one of the deadpan type that very rarely
displays emotion. Consequently, on those few occasions when he does, it’s like a
Mercurian volcano in full eruption—and you haven’t lived until you’ve seen one of those.
It was a case of the final straw. A satellite run is always wearing. The image of
Callisto up ahead was harder on him than on any member of the crew. And now there
was this kid stowaway.
It wasn’t to be endured! For half an hour, the Captain shot off salvo after salvo of
the very worst sort of profanity. He started with the sun and ran down the list of planets,
satellites, asteroids, comets, to the very meteors themselves. He was starting on the
nearer fixed stars, when he collapsed from sheer nervous exhaustion. He was so excited
that he never thought to ask us what we were doing in the storeroom in the first place,
and for that Whitefield and I were duly grateful.
But Captain Bartlett is no fool. Having purged his system of its nervous tension, he
saw clearly that that which cannot be cured must be endured.
"Someone take him and wash him up," he growled wearily, "and keep him out of
my sight for a while." Then, softening a bit, he drew me towards him, "Don’t scare him by
telling him where we’re going. He’s in a bad spot, the poor kid."
When we left, the old soft-hearted fraud was sending through an emergency
message to Ganymede trying to get in touch with the kid’s uncle.
Of course, we didn’t know it at the time, but that kid was a Godsend—a genuine
stroke of Old Man Luck. He took our minds off Callisto. He gave us something else to
think about.
The tension, which at the end of four days had almost reached the breaking point,
eased completely.

There was something refreshing in the kid’s natural gayety; in his bright
ingenuousness. He would meander about the ship asking the silliest kind of questions. He
insisted on expecting pirates at any moment. And, most of all, he persisted in regarding
each and every one of us as "Dime Spacer" heroes.
That last nattered our egos, of course, and put us on our mettle. We vied with each
other in chest-puffing and taletelling, and old Mac Steeden, who in Stanley’s eyes was a
demi-god, broke the all-time record for plain and fancy lying.
I remember, particularly, the talk-fest we had on the seventh day out. We were just
past the midpoint of the trip and were set to begin a cautious deceleration. All of us
(except Harrigan and Tuley, who were at the engines) were sitting in the control room.
Whitefield, with half an eye on the Mathematico, led off, and, as usual, talked zoology.
"It’s a little slug-like thing," he was saying, "found only on Europa. It’s called the
Carolus Europis but we always referred to it as the Magnet Worm. It’s about six inches
long and has a sort of a slate-grey color—most disgusting thing you could imagine.
"We spent six months studying that worm, though, and I never saw old Mornikoff
so excited about anything before.
You see, it killed by some sort of magnetic field. You put the Magnet Worm at one
end of the room and a caterpillar, say, at the other. You wait about five minutes and the
caterpillar just curls up and dies.
"And the funny thing is this. It won’t touch a frog—too big; but if you take that frog
and put some sort of iron band about it, that Magnet Worm kills it just like that. That’s
why we know it’s some type of magnetic field that does it—the presence of iron more
than quadruples its strength."
His story made quite an impression on us. Joe Brock’s deep bass voice sounded,
"I’m damn glad those things are only four inches long, if what you say is right."
Mac Steeden stretched and then pulled at his grey mustachios with exaggerated
indifference, "You call that worm unusual. It isn’t a patch on some of the things I’ve seen
in my day—." He shook his head slowly and reminiscently, and we knew we were in for a
long and gruesome tale. Someone groaned hollowly, but Stanley brightened up the
minute he saw the old veteran was in a story-telling mood.
Steeden noticed the kid’s sparkling eyes, and addressed himself to the little fellow,
"I was with Peewee Wilson when it happened—you’ve heard of Peewee Wilson, haven’t
"Oh, yes," Stanley’s eyes fairly exuded hero-worship. "I’ve read books about him.
He was the greatest spacer there ever was."
"You bet all the radium on Titan he was, kid. He wasn’t any taller than you, and
didn’t scale much more than a hundred pounds, but he was worth five times his weight in
Venusian Devils in any fight. And me and him were just like that. He never went anyplace
but what I was with him. When the going was toughest it was always me that he turned
He sighed lugubriously, "I was with him to the very end. It was only a broken leg
that kept me from going with him on his last voyage—"

He choked off suddenly and a chilly silence swept over all of us. Whitefield’s face
went gray, the Captain’s mouth twisted in a funny sort of way, and I felt my heart skid all
the way down to the soles of my feet.
No one spoke, but there was only one thought among the six of us. Peewee
Wilson’s last trip had been to Callisto. He had been the second—and had never returned.
We were the eighth.
Stanley stared from one to the other of us in astonishment, but we all avoided his
It was Captain Bartlett that recovered first.
"Say, Steeden, you’ve got an old spaceship of Peewee Wilson's, haven’t you?" His
voice was calm and steady but I could see that it took a great deal of effort to keep it so.
Steeden brightened and looked up. He had been chewing at the tips of his
mustachios (he always did when nervous) and now they hung downwards in a bedraggled
"Sure thing. Captain. He gave it to me with his own hand, he did. It was back in '23
when the new steel suits were just being put out. Peewee didn’t have any more use for his
old vitri-rubber contraption, so he let me have it—and I’ve kept it ever since. It’s good
luck for me."
"Well, I was thinking that we might fix up that old suit for the boy here. No other
suit ‘ll fit him, and he needs one bad."
The veteran’s faded eyes hardened and he shook his head vigorously, "No sir.
Captain. No one touches that old suit Peewee gave it to me himself. With his own hand!
It’s—it’s sacred, that’s what it is."
The rest of us chimed in immediately upon the Captain’s side but Steeden’s
obstinacy grew and hardened. Again and again he would repeat tonelessly, "That old suit
stays where it is." And he would emphasize the statement with a blow of his gnarled fist.
We were about to give up, when Stanley, hitherto discreetly silent, took a hand.
"Please, Mr. Steeden," there was just the suspicion of a quaver in his voice.
"Please let me have it. I’ll take good care of it. I’ll bet if Peewee Wilson were alive today
he’d say I could have it." His blue eyes misted up and his lower lip trembled a bit. The kid
was a perfect actor.
Steeden looked irresolute and took to biting his mustachio again, "Well—oh, hell,
you’ve all got it in for me. The kid can have it but don’t expect me to fix it up! The rest of
you can lose sleep—I wash my hands of it."
And so Captain Bartlett killed two birds with one stone.
He took our minds off Callisto at a time when the morale of the crew hung in the
balance and he gave us something to think about for the remainder of the trip—for
renovating that ancient relic of a suit was almost a week’s job.
We worked over that antique with a concentration out of all proportion to the
importance of the job. In its pettiness, we forgot the steadily growing orb of Callisto. We
soldered every last crack and blister in that venerable suit. We patched the inside with

close-meshed aluminum wire. We refurbished the tiny heating unit and installed new
tungsten oxygen-containers.
Even the Captain was not above giving us a hand with the suit, and Steeden, after
the first day, in spite of his tirade at the beginning, threw himself into the job with a will.
We finished it the day before the scheduled landing, and Stanley, when he tried it
on, glowed with pride, while Steeden stood by, grinning and twirling his mustachio.
And as the days passed, the pale blue circle that was Callisto grew upon the
visiplate until it took up most of the sky. The last day was an uneasy one. We went about
our tasks abstractedly, and studiously avoided the sight of the hard, emotionless satellite
We dived—in a long, gradually contracting spiral. By this maneuvre, the Captain
had hoped to gain some preliminary knowledge of the nature of the planet and its
inhabitants, but the information gained was almost entirely negative. The large
percentage of carbon dioxide present in the thin, cold atmosphere was congenial to plant
life, so that vegetation was plentiful and diversified. However, the three per cent oxygen
content seemed to preclude the possibility of any animal life, other than the simplest and
most sluggish species. Nor was there any evidence at all of cities or artificial structures of
any kind.
Five times we circled Callisto before sighting a large lake, shaped something like a
horse’s head. It was towards that lake that we gently lowered ourselves, for the last
message of the second expedition—Peewee Wilson’s expedition—spoke of landing near
such a lake.
We were still half a mile in the air, when we located the gleaming metal ovoid that
was the Phobos, and when we finally thumped softly on to the green stubble of
vegetation, we were scarcely five hundred yards from the unfortunate craft.
"Strange," muttered the Captain, after we had all congregated in the control
room, waiting for further orders, "there seems to be no evidence of any violence at all."
It was true! The Phobos lay quietly, seemingly unharmed.
Its old-fashioned steel hull glistened brightly in the yellow light of a gibbous
Jupiter, for the scant oxygen of the atmosphere could make no rusty inroads upon its
resistant exterior.
The Captain came out of a brown study and turned to Charney at the radio.
"Ganymede has answered?"
"Yes, sir. They wish us luck." He said it simply, but a cold shiver ran down my
Not a muscle of the Captain’s face flickered. "Have you tried to communicate with
the Phobos?"
"No answer, sir."
"Three of us will investigate the Phobos. Some of the answers, at least, should be
"Matchsticks" grunted Brock, stolidly.
-The Captain nodded gravely.

He palmed eight matches, breaking three in half, and extended his arm towards
us, without saying a word.
Chamey stepped forward and drew first. It was broken and he stepped quietly
towards the space-suit rack. Tuley followed and after him Harrigan and Whitefield. Then I,
and I drew the second broken match. I grinned and followed Charney, and in thirty
seconds, old Steeden himself joined us.
"The ship will be backing you fellows," said the Captain quietly, as he shook our
hands. "If anything dangerous turns up, run for it No heroics now, for we can’t afford to
lose men."
We inspected our pocket Lectronics and left. We didn’t know exactly what to
expect and weren’t sure but that our first steps on Callistan soil might not be our last, but
none of us hesitated an instant. In the "Dime Spacers," courage is a very cheap
commodity, but it is rather more expensive in real life. And it is with considerable pride
that I recall the firm steps with which we three left the protection of the Ceres.
I looked back only once and caught a glimpse of Stanley’s face pressed white
against the thick glass of the porthole.
Even from a distance, his excitement was only too apparent.
Poor kid! For the last two days he had been convinced we were on our way to
clean up a pirate stronghold and was almost dying with impatience for the fighting to
begin. Of course, none of us cared to disillusion him.
The outer hull of the Phobos rose before us and overshadowed us with its might.
The giant vessel lay in the dark green stubble, silent as death. One of the seven that had
attempted and failed. And we were the eighth.
Charney broke the uneasy silence, "What are these white smears on the hull?"
He put up a metal-encased finger and rubbed it along the steel plate. He withdrew
it and gazed at the soft white pulp upon it. With an involuntary shudder of disgust, he
scraped it off upon the coarse grass beneath.
"What do you think it is?"
The entire ship as far as we could see—except for that portion immediately next
the ground—was besmeared by a thin layer of the pulpy substance. It looked like dried
foam—like— I said: "It looks like slime left after a giant slug had come out of the lake and
slithered over the ship."
I wasn’t serious in my statement, of course, but the other two cast hasty looks at
the mirror-smooth lake in which Jupiter’s image lay unruffled. Charney drew his hand
"Here!" cried Steeden, suddenly, his voice harsh and metallic as it came over the
radio, "that’s no way to be talking.
We’ve got to find some way of getting into the ship; there must be some break in
its hull somewhere. You go around to the right, Charney, and you, Jenkins, to the left. I’ll
see if I can’t get atop of this thing somehow."
Eyeing the smoothly-round hull carefully, he drew back and jumped. On Callisto; of
course, he weighed only twenty pounds or less, suit and all, so he rose upwards some

thirty or forty feet. He slammed against the hull lightly, and as he started sliding
downwards, he grabbed a rivet-head and scrambled to the top.
Waving a parting to Chamey at this point, I left.
"Everything all right?" the Captain’s voice sounded thinly in my ear.
"All O.K.," I replied gruffly, "so far." And as I said so, the Ceres disappeared
behind the convex bulge of the dead Phobos and I was entirely alone upon the
mysterious moon.
I pursued my round silently thereafter. The spaceship’s "skin" was entirely
unbroken except for the dark, staring portholes, the lowest of which were still well above
my head.
Once or twice I thought I could see Steeden scrambling monkey-like on top of the
smooth hulk, but perhaps that was only fancy.
I reached the prow at last which was bathed in the full light of Jupiter. There, the
lowest row of portholes were low enough to see into and as I passed from one to the
other, I felt as if I were gazing into a shipful of spectres, for in the ghostly light all objects
appeared only as flickering shadows.
It was the last window in the line that proved to be of sudden, overpowering
interest. In the yellow rectangle of Jupiter-light stamped upon the floor, there sprawled
what remained of a man. His clothes were draped about him loosely and his shirt was
ridged as if the ribs below had moulded it into position. In the space between the open
shirt collar and engineer’s cap, there showed a grinning, eyeless skull. The cap, resting
askew upon the smooth skullcase, seemed to add the last refinement of horror to the
A shout in my ears caused my heart to leap. It was Steeden, exclaiming profanely
somewhere above the ship. Almost at once, I caught sight of his ungainly steel-clad body
slipping and sliding down the side of the ship.
We raced towards him in long, floating leaps and he waved us on, running ahead
of us, towards the lake. At its very shores, he stopped and bent over some half-buried
object Two bounds brought us to him, and we saw that the object was a space-suited
human, lying face downward. Over it was a thick layer of the same slimy smear that
covered the Phobos.
"I caught sight of it from the heights of the ship," said Steeden, somewhat
breathlessly, as he turned the suited figure over.
What we saw caused all three of us to explode in a simultaneous cry. Through the
glassy visor, there appeared a leprous countenance. The features were putrescent, fallen
apart, as if decay had set in and ceased because of the limited air supply. Here and there
a bit of gray bone showed through.
It was the most repulsive sight I have ever witnessed, though I have seen many
almost as bad.
"My God!" Chamey’s voice was half a sob. 'They simply die and decay." I told
Steeden of the clothed skeleton I had seen through the porthole.

"Damn it, it’s a puzzle," growled Steeden, "and the answer must be inside the
Phobos." There was a momentary silence, "I tell you what. One of us can go back and get
the Captain to dismount the Disintegrator. It ought to be light enough to handle on
Callisto, and at low power, we can draw it fine enough to cut a hole without blowing the
entire ship to kingdom come. You go, Jenkins. Charney and I will see if we can’t find any
more of the poor devils."
I set off for the Ceres without further urging, covering the ground in spacedevouring leaps. Three-quarters of the distance had been covered when a loud shout,
ringing metallically in my ear, brought me to a skidding halt. I wheeled in dismay and
remained petrified at the sight before my eyes.
The surface of the lake was broken into boiling foam, and from it there reared the
fore-parts of what appeared to be giant caterpillars. They squirmed out upon land, dirtygrey bodies dripping slime and water. They were some four feet long, about one foot in
thickness, and their method of locomotion was the slowest of oxygen-conserving crawls.
Except for one stalky growth upon their forward end, the tip of which glowed a faint red,
they were absolutely featureless.
Even as I watched, their numbers increased, until the shore became one heaving
mass of sickly gray flesh.
Charney and Steeden were running towards the Ceres, but less than half the
distance had been covered when they stumbled, their run slowing to a blind stagger.
Even that ceased, and almost together they fell to their knees.
Charney’s voice sounded faintly in my ear, "Get help! My head is splitting. I can’t
move! I—" Both lay still now.
I started towards them automatically, but a sudden sharp pang just over my
temples staggered me, and for a moment I stood confused. Then I heard a sudden
unearthly shout from Whitefield, "Get back to the ship, Jenkins! Get back! Get back!"
I turned to obey, for the pain had increased into a continuous tearing pain. I
weaved and reeled as I approached the yawning airlock, and I believe that I was at the
point of collapse when I finally fell into it. After that, I can recall only a jumble for quite a
My next clear impression was of the control-room of the Ceres. Someone had
dragged the suit off me, and I gazed about me in dismay at a scene of the utmost
confusion. My brain was still somewhat addled and Captain Bartlett as he leant over me
appeared double.
"Do you know what those damnable creatures are?" He pointed outwards at the
giant caterpillars.
I shook my head mutely.
"They’re the great grand-daddies of the Magnet Worm Whitefield was telling us of
once. Do you remember the Magnet Worm?"
I nodded, "The one that kills by a magnetic field which is strengthened by
surrounding iron."
"Damn it, yes," cried Whitefield, interrupting suddenly.

"I’ll swear to it. If it wasn’t for the lucky chance that our hull is beryl-tungsten and
not steel—like the Phobos and the rest—every last one of us would be unconscious by
now and dead before long."
"Then that’s the Callistan menace." My voice rose in sudden dismay, "But what of
Charney and Steeden?"
"They’re sunk," muttered the Captain grimly. "Unconscious —maybe dead. Those
filthy worms are crawling towards them and there’s nothing we can do about it." He
ticked off the points on his fingers. "We can’t go after them in a spacesuit without signing
our own death warrant—spacesuits are steel.
No one can last there and back without one. We have no weapons with a beam
fine enough to blast the Worms without scorching Charney and Steeden as well. I’ve
thought of maneuvering the Ceres nearer and making a dash for it, but one can’t handle a
spaceship on planetary surfaces like that—not without cracking up. We—"
"In short," I interrupted hollowly, "we’ve got to stand here and watch them die."
He nodded and I turned away bitterly.
I felt a slight twitch upon my sleeve, and when I turned, it was to find Stanley’s
wide blue eyes staring up at me. In the excitement, I had forgotten about him, and now I
regarded him bad-temperedly.
"What is it?" I snapped.
"Mr. Jenkins," his eyes were red, and I think he would have preferred pirates to
Magnet Worms by a good deal, "Mr. Jenkins, maybe I could go and get Mr. Carney and
Mr. Steeden."
I sighed, and turned away.
"But, Mr. Jenkins, I could. I heard what Mr. Whitefield said, and my spacesuit isn’t
steel. It’s vitri-rubber."
"The kid’s right," whispered Whitefield slowly, when Stanley repeated his offer to
the assembled men. "The unstrengthened field doesn’t harm us, that’s evident. He’d be
safe in a vitri-rubber suit."
"But it’s a wreck, that suit!" objected the Captain. "I never really intended having
the kid use it." He ended raggedly and his manner was evidently irresolute.
"We can’t leave Neal and Mac out there without trying, Captain," said Brock
The Captain made up his mind suddenly and became a whirlwind of action. He
dived into the space-suit rack for the battered relic himself, and helped Stanley into it.
"Get Steeden first," said the Captain, as he clipped shut the last bolt. "He’s older
and has less resistance to the field.
—Good luck to you, kid, and if you can’t make it, come back right away. Right
away, do you hear me?"
Stanley sprawled at the first step, but life on Ganymede had inured him to belownormal gravities and he recovered quickly. There was no sign of hesitation, as he leaped
towards the two prone figures, and we breathed easier. Evidently, the magnetic field was
not affecting him yet.

He had one of the suited figures over his shoulders now and was proceeding back
to the ship at an only slightly slower pace. As he dropped his burden inside the airlock, he
waved an arm to us at the window and we waved back.
He had scarcely left, when we had Steeden inside. We ripped the spacesuit off
him and laid him out, a gaunt pale figure, on the couch.
The Captain bent an ear to his chest and suddenly laughed aloud in sudden relief,
"The old geezer’s still going strong."
We crowded about happily at hearing that, all eager to place a finger upon his
wrist and so assure ourselves of the life within him. His face twitched, and when a low,
blurred voice suddenly whispered, "So I said to Peewee, I said—" our last doubts were
put to rest.
It was a sudden, sharp cry from Whitefield that drew us back to the window again,
"Something’s wrong with the kid."
Stanley was half way back to the ship with his second burden, but he was
staggering now—progressing erratically.
"It can’t be," whispered Whitefield, hoarsely, "it can’t be.
The field can’t be getting him!"
"God!" the Captain tore at his hair wildly, "that damned antique has no radio. He
can’t tell us what’s wrong." He wrenched away suddenly. "I’m going after him. Field or no
field, I’m going to get him."
"Hold on. Captain," said Tuley, grabbing him by the arm, "he may make it."
Stanley was running again, but in a curious weaving fashion that made it quite
plain, he didn’t see where he was going.
Two or three times he slipped and fell but each time he managed to scramble up
again. He fell against the hull of the ship, at last, and felt wildly about for the yawning
airlock. We shouted and prayed and sweated, but could help in no way.
And then he simply disappeared. He had come up against the lock and fallen
We had them both inside in record time, and divested them of their suits. Charney
was alive, we saw that at a glance, and after that we deserted him unceremoniously for
Stanley. The blue of his face, his swollen tongue, the line of fresh "blood running from
nose to chin told its own story.
'The suit sprung a leak," said Harrigan.
"Get away from him," ordered the Captain, "give him air."
We waited. Finally, a soft moan from the kid betokened returning consciousness
and we all grinned in concert.
"Spunky little kid," said the Captain. "He travelled that last hundred yards on nerve
and nothing else." Then, again.
"Spunky little kid. He’s going to get a Naval Medal for this, if I have to give him my
Callisto was a shrinking blue ball on the televisor—an ordinary unmysterious world.
Stanley Fields, honorary Captain of the good ship Ceres, thumbed his nose at it,

protruding his tongue at the same time. An inelegant gesture, but the symbol of Man’s
triumph over a hostile Solar System.
As I reread the story now (it’s the first time I’ve reread it since it was published) I
am amused to see that my stowaway youngster’s name is Stanley. That is the name of my
younger brother, who was only nine when I wrote the story (the same younger brother
who was the subject of my Boys' High essay, and who is now Assistant Publisher of the
Long Island Newsday). Why it is necessary to use "real names"
I don’t know, but almost every beginning writer does so, I suspect.
You will notice that there are no girls in the story. This is not really surprising. At
eighteen I was busy finishing college and working in my father’s candy store and handling
a paper delivery route morning and evening, and I had actually never had time to have a
date. I didn’t know anything at all about girls (except for such biology as I got out of
books and from other, more knowledgeable, boys).
I eventually had dates and I eventually introduced girls into my stories, but the
early imprinting had its effect. To this very day, the romantic element in my stories is
minor and the sexual element virtually nil.
On the other hand, I wonder if the above explanation for the lack of sex in my
stories is not an oversimplification.
After all, I am also a teetotaler and yet I notice that my characters drink Martian
jabra water (whatever that is).
My knowledge of astronomy was quite respectable but I let myself be
overinfluenced by the conventions common in the science fiction of that era. All worlds
were Earthlike and inhabited in those days, so I gave Callisto an atmosphere containing a
small quantity of free oxygen. I also gave it running water, and both plant and animal life.
All of this is, of course, unlikely in the extreme, and what evidence we have seems to
make of Callisto an airless, waterless world like our Moon (and, of course, I really knew
this even back then).
Back to my third story, now— On July 30, 1938, only eight days after Campbell’s
second rejection, I had finished my third story, "Marooned off Vesta." I did not think it
politic to see Campbell oftener than once a month, however, since I suspected that I
might easily wear out my welcome if I did. I put "Marooned off Vesta" to one side,
therefore, and began to write other stories. By the end of the month I had two more:
"This Irrational Planet" and "Ring Around the Sun."
My first three stories, including "Marooned off Vesta," had been typed on a very
old, but completely serviceable Underwood No. 5 typewriter, which my father had
obtained for me in 1936 for ten dollars. After I had submitted my second story to
Campbell, however, my father decided that I was in earnest about a writing career, and
feeling that my failure to sell was irrelevant and, in any case, temporary, he set about
getting me a brand-new typewriter.

On August 10, 1938, a Smith-Corona portable entered the house and it was on the
new typewriter that my fourth and fifth stories were written.
Of the three, I felt "This Irrational Planet" to be the weakest, so I did not submit it
to Campbell. I submitted it directly to Thrilling Wonder Stories on August 26, and it was
not rejected till September 24. Campbell had spoiled me, and the four-week interval
between submission and rejection appalled me. I even called during that interval to make
an indignant inquiry—not knowing that a mere four-week wait was brief indeed for
anyone but Campbell.
But at least the rejection, when it came, was typewritten ' and was not a printed
form. What’s more, it contained the sentence, "Try us again, won’t you?" That
encouraged me. Perhaps I underestimated the story. Buoyantly, I tried Campbell, and he
rejected it in six days. Five other magazines rejected it afterward. I never did sell it, and
"This Irrational Planet" is also nonexistent now. I don’t even remember the plot, except
that I’m pretty certain that the planet of the title was Earth itself. (The only other
information I have about it is that it was quite short, only three thousand words long.
Actually, most of the stories of those early years that I never sold, and no longer exist,
were short. The longest was the first, "Cosmic Corkscrew.") The other two stories written
in the same month were reserved for a better fate, but it didn’t seem so at first On August
30, 1938, I visited Campbell for the third time and submitted both "Marooned off Vesta"
and "Ring Around the Sun"—and both were returned to me on September 8.
The very next day I shipped off "Marooned off Vesta," which I felt to be the better
of the two, to Amazing Stories.
It took a month and a half to hear from them, but this time the wait was worth it.
On October 21, 1938, there came a letter of acceptance from Raymond A. Palmer, who
was then editor of Amazing and who has since achieved his greatest fame as a leading
figure in the flying saucers craze and in other forms of occultism. To this day I have never
met Mr. Palmer personally.
It was my first acceptance, four months to the day after my first visit to John
Campbell. By that time I had written six stories and had collected nine rejections from
Various magazines. The check, for $64 (one cent a word), followed on October 31, and
that was the first money I ever earned as a professional writer. For a number of years I
kept that first acceptance letter, from Palmer, framed on my bedroom wall. But in the
vicissitudes of life, it, too, has disappeared and, yes, I’m sorry.
The story appeared in the March 1939 issue of Amazing Stories, which reached the
newsstands on January 10, 1939, just eight days after my nineteenth birthday. It was the
first occasion on which I ever appeared professionally, and I still have an intact copy of
that issue of the magazine. I did not save one at the time (my sense of historical
importance, as I have already explained, is deficient) but eventually removed my story for
binding and discarded the rest.
Ordinarily, I don’t mind doing this and have done it ruthlessly through all the years
(space is limited even in the best of apartments when one is as prolific as I have been),
but the time came when I was sorry I hadn’t saved that first one intact. The well-known

science fiction fan Forrest J Ackerman heard me express regret and kindly sent me a copy
in excellent condition.
In this book, I am going to pay considerable attention to the money I received for
my stories. This is not because I write primarily for money or regarded money as
particularly important either then or now (my publishers will gladly bear witness to this).
The money I received, however, was crucial in determining my career. It paid enough to
put me through school and not so much as to lure me out of it. You’ll see as we go along.
That copy, by the way, contains a little autobiographical squib in the rear, written
by my teen-age self. On rereading, years later, it turned out to be exquisitely
"Marooned off Vesta" is not included here, since it appeared in Asimov’s
Mysteries. (This doesn’t mean it was a mystery. The reason for its inclusion in that
particular collection is explained there. —Well, go ahead, buy the book and satisfy your
curiosity.) As for "Ring Around the Sun," it was rejected by Thrilling Wonder Stories, but
then, on February 5, 1939, it was accepted by Future Fiction, one of the new science
fiction magazines that were springing up.
It appeared in the second issue of that magazine, which did not, however, reach
the stands until nearly a year after the sale. The payment (theoretically on publication,
rather than on acceptance as was Campbell’s more civilized procedure) was even more
delayed. What’s more, it was at the rate of only half a cent a word, so the check came to a
mere twenty-five dollars. Astonishing Stories also paid only half a cent a word at that
time, but "The Callistan Menace" was the longer story—6,500 words—so it netted me
I didn’t feel put upon, however. I well knew by that time that in the still earlier
history of science fiction magazines, payment of a quarter of a cent a word was common,
and that not on publication but (the saying went) on lawsuit.
Besides, those were lean times, and twenty-five dollars represented something like
five months' pocket money to me (no kidding).
The editor of Future Fiction was, at that time, Charles D. Hornig. I occasionally
visited his office to inquire when a story might appear, or when a check might, but I don’t
recall ever having found him in. In fact, to this day I have never, to my knowledge, met


Jimmy Turner was humming merrily, if a bit raucously, when he entered the
reception room.
"Is Old Sourpuss in?" he asked, accompanying the question with a wink at which
the pretty secretary blushed gratefully.
"He is; and waiting for you." She motioned him towards the door on which was
written in fat, black letters, "Frank McCutcheon, General Manager, United Space Mail."
Jim entered. "Hello, Skipper, what now?"
"Oh, it’s you, is it?" McCutcheon looked up from his desk, champing a foulsmelling stogie. "Sit down."
McCutcheon stared at him from under bushy gray eyebrows.
"Old Sourpuss," as he was euphoniously known to all members of United Space
Mail, had never been known to laugh within the memory of the oldest inmate, though
rumor did have it that when a child he had smiled at the sight of his father falling out of
an apple-tree. Right now his expression made the rumor appear exaggerated.
"Now, listen. Turner," he barked, "United Space Mail is inaugurating a new service
and you’re elected to blaze the trail." Disregarding Jimmy’s grimace, he continued,
"From now on the Venerian mail is on an all-year-round basis."
"What! I’ve always thought that it was ruinous from a financial standpoint to deliver
the Venerian. mail except when it was this side of the Sun."
"Sure," admitted McCuteheon, "if we follow the ordinary routes. But we might cut
straight across the system if we could only get near enough to the sun. That’s where you
come in! They’ve put out a new ship equipped to approach within twenty million miles of
the sun and which will be able to remain at that distance indefinitely."
Jimmy interrupted nervously, "Wait a while, S—Mr. McCutcheon, I don’t quite
follow. What kind of a ship is this?"
"How do you expect me to know? I’m no fugitive from a laboratory. From what
they tell me, it emits some kind of a field that bends the radiations of the sun around the
ship. Get it? It’s all deflected. No heat reaches you. You can stay there forever and be
cooler than in New York."
"Oh, is that so?" Jimmy was skeptical. "Has it been tested, or is that a little detail
that has been left for me?"
"It’s been tested, of course, but not under actual solar conditions."
'Then it’s out. I’ve done plenty for United, but this is the limit. I’m not crazy, yet."
McCutcheon stiffened. "Must I recall the oath you took upon entering the service.
Turner? 'Our flight through space—' "
"'—must ne'er be stopped by anything save death,'" finished Jimmy. "I know that
as well as you do and I also notice that it’s very easy to quote that from a comfortable
armchair. If you’re that idealistic, you can do it yourself. It’s still out, as far as I’m

concerned. And if you want, you can kick me out. I can get other jobs just like that," he
snapped his fingers airily.
McCutcheon’s voice dropped to a silky whisper. "Now, now. Turner, don’t be
hasty. You haven’t heard all I have to say yet. Roy Snead is to be your mate."
"Huh! Snead! Why, that four-flusher wouldn’t have the guts to take a job like this in
a million years. Tell me some other fairy tale."
"Well, as a matter of fact, he has already accepted. I thought you might
accompany him, but I guess he was right.
He insisted you’d back down. I thought at first you wouldn’t."
McCutcheon waved him away and bent his eyes unconcernedly on the report he
had been scrutinizing at the time of Jimmy’s entrance. Jimmy wheeled, hesitated, then
"Wait a while, Mr. McCutcheon; do you mean to say that Roy is actually going?"
McCutcheon nodded, still apparently absorbed in other matters, and Jimmy exploded,
"Why, that low-down, spindle-shanked, dish-faced mug! So he thinks I’m too yellow to
go! Well, I’ll show him. I’ll take the job and I’ll put up ten dollars to a Venerian nickel that
he gets sick at the last minute."
"Good!" McCutcheon rose and shook hands, "I thought you’d see reason. Major
Wade has all the details. I think you leave in about six weeks and as I’m leaving for Venus
tomorrow, you’ll probably meet me there."
Jimmy left, still boiling, and McCutcheon buzzed for the secretary. "Oh, Miss
Wilson, get Roy Snead on the 'visor."
A few minutes' pause and then the red signal-light shone.
The 'visor was clicked on and the dark-haired, dapper Snead appeared on the
"Hello, Snead," McCutcheon growled. "You lose that bet, Turner accepted that
job. I thought he’d laugh himself sick when I told him you said he wouldn’t go. Send over
the twenty dollars, please."
"Wait a while, Mr. McCutcheon," Snead’s face was dark with fury, "what’s the idea
of telling that punch-drunk imbecile I’m not going? You must have, you double-crosser.
I’ll be there all right, but you can put up another twenty and I’ll bet he changes his mind
yet. But I’ll be there." Roy Snead was still spluttering when McCutcheon clicked off.
The General Manager leaned back, threw away his mangled cigar, and lit a fresh
one. His face remained sour, but there was a definite note of satisfaction in his tone when
he said, "Ha! I thought that would get them."
It was a tired and sweaty pair that blasted the good ship Helios across Mercury’s
orbit. In spite of the perfunctory friendship enforced upon them by the weeks alone in
space, Jimmy Turner and Roy Snead were scarcely on speaking terms. Add to this hidden
hostility, the heat of the bloated sun and the torturing uncertainty of the final outcome of
the trip and you have a miserable pair indeed.
Jimmy peered tiredly at the maze of dials confronting him, and, brushing a damp
lock of hair from his eyes, grunted, "What’s the thermometer reading now, Roy?"

"One hundred twenty-five degrees Fahrenheit and still climbing," was the growled
Jimmy cursed fluently, "The cooling system is on at maximum, the ship’s hull
reflects 95% of the solar radiation, and it’s still in the hundred twenties." He paused. "The
gravometer indicates that we’re still some thirty-five million miles from the Sun. Fifteen
millions miles to go before the Deflection Field becomes effective. The temperature will
probably scale 150 yet. That’s a sweet prospect! Check the desiccators. If the air isn’t kept
absolutely dry, we’re not going to last long."
"Within Mercury’s orbit, think of it!" Snead’s voice was husky. "No one has ever
been this close to the sun before.
And we’re going closer yet."
"There have been many this close and closer," reminded Jimmy, "but they were
out of control and landed in the sun.
Friedlander, Debuc, Anton—" His voice trailed into a brooding silence, Roy stirred
uneasily. "How effective is this Deflection Field anyway, Jimmy? Your cheerful thoughts
aren’t very soothing, you know."
"Well, it’s been tested under the harshest conditions laboratory technicians could
devise. I’ve watched them. It’s been bathed in radiation approximating the sun’s at a
distance of twenty million. The Field worked like a charm. The light was bent about it so
that the ship became invisible. The men inside the ship claimed that everything outside
became invisible and that no heat reached them. A funny thing, though, the Field will
work only under certain radiation strengths."
"Well, I wish it were over one way or the other," Roy glowered. "If Old Sourpuss is
thinking of making this my regular run—, well, he’ll lose his ace pilot."
"He’ll lose his two ace pilots," Jimmy corrected.
The two lapsed into silence and the Helios blasted on.
The temperature climbed: 130, 135, 140. Then, three days later, with the mercury
quivering at 148, Roy announced that they were approaching the critical belt, the belt
where the solar radiation reached sufficient intensity to energize the Field.
The two waited, minds at feverish concentration, pulses pounding.
"Will it happen suddenly?"
"I don’t know. We’ll have to wait."
From the portholes, only the stars were visible. The sun, three times the size as
seen from Earth, poured its blinding rays upon opaque metal, for on this specially
designed ship, portholes closed automatically when struck by powerful radiation.
And then the stars began disappearing. Slowly, at first, the dimmest faded—then
the brighter ones: Polaris, Regulus, Arcturus, Sirius. Space was uniformly black.
"It’s working," breathed Jimmy. The words were scarcely out of his mouth, when
the sunward portholes clicked open.
The sun was gone! "Ha! I feel cooler already," Jimmy Turner was jubilant.

"Boy, it worked like a charm. You know, if they could adjust this Deflection field to
all radiation strengths, we would have perfected invisibility. It would make a convenient
war weapon." He lit a cigarette and leaned back luxuriously.
"But meanwhile we’re flying blind," Roy insisted.
Jimmy grinned patronizingly, "You needn’t worry about that, Dishface. I’ve taken
care of everything. We’re in an orbit about the sun. In two weeks, we’ll be on the
opposite side and then I’ll let the rockets blast and out of this band we go, zooming
towards Venus." He was very self-satisfied indeed.
"Just leave it to Jimmy 'Brains' Turner. I’ll have us through in two months, instead
of the regulation six. You’re with United’s ace pilot, now."
Roy laughed nastily. "To listen to you, you’d think you did all the work. All you’re
doing is to run the ship on the course I’ve plotted. You’re the mechanic; I’m the brains."
"Oh, is that so? Any damn pilot-school rookie can plot a course. It takes a man to
navigate one."
"Well, that’s your opinion. Who’s paid more, though, the navigator or the courseplotter?"
Jimmy gulped on that one and Roy stalked triumphantly out of the pilot room.
Unmindful of all this, the Helios blasted on.
For two days, all was serene; then, on the third day. Jimmy inspected the
thermometer, scratched his head and looked worried. Roy entered, watched the
proceedings and raised his eyebrows in surprise.
"Is anything wrong?" He bent over and read the height of the thin, red column.
"Just 100 degrees. That’s nothing to look like a sick goat over. From your expression, I
thought something had gone wrong with the Deflection Field and that it was rising
again," he turned away with an ostentatious yawn.
"Oh, shut up, you senseless ape," Jimmy’s foot lifted in a half-hearted attempt at a
kick. "I’d feel a lot better if the temperature were rising. This Deflection Field is working a
lot too good for my liking."
"Huh! What do you mean?"
"I’ll explain, and if you listen carefully you may understand me. This ship is built like
a vacuum bottle. It gains 40 heat only with the greatest of difficulty and loses it likewise."
He paused and let his words sink in. "At ordinary temperatures this ship is not
supposed to lose more than two degrees a day if no outside sources of heat are supplied.
Perhaps at the temperature at which we were, the loss might amount to five degrees a
day. Do you get me?"
Roy’s mouth was open wide and Jimmy continued. "Now this blasted ship has lost
fifty degrees in less than three days."
"But that’s impossible."
"There it is." Jimmy pointed ironically. "I’ll tell you what’s wrong. It’s that damn
Field. It acts as a repulsive agent towards electromagnetic radiations and somehow is
hastening the loss of heat of our ship."

Roy sank into thought and did some rapid mental calculations. "If what you say is
true," he said at length, "we’ll hit freezing point in five days and then spend a week in
what amounts to winter weather."
"That’s right. Even allowing for the decrease in heat-loss as the temperature is
lowered, we’ll probably end up with the mercury anywhere between thirty and forty
Roy gulped unhappily. "And at twenty million miles away from the sun!"
"That isn’t the worst," Jimmy pointed out. "This ship, like all others used for travel
within the orbit of Mars, has no heating system. With the sun shining like fury and no way
to lose heat except by ineffectual radiation, Mars and Venus space-ships have always
specialized in cooling systems. We, for instance, have a very efficient refrigeration
"We’re in a devil of a fix, then. The same applies to our space suits."
In spite of the still roasting temperature, the two were beginning to experience a
few anticipatory chills.
"Say, I’m not going to stand this," Roy burst out. "I vote we get out of here right
now and head for Earth. They can’t expect more of us."
"Go ahead! You’re the pilot. Can you plot a course at this distance from the sun
and guarantee that we won’t fall into the sun?"
"Hell! I hadn’t thought of that."
The two were at their wits' end. Communication via radio had been impossible
ever since they had passed Mercury’s orbit. The sun was at sunspot maximum and static
had drowned out all attempts.
So they settled down to wait.
The next few days were taken up entirely with thermometer watching, with a few
minutes taken out here and there when one of the two happened to think of an unused
malediction to hurl at the head of Mr. Frank McCutcheon. Eating and sleeping were
indulged in, but not enjoyed.
And meanwhile, the Helios, entirely unconcerned in the plight of its occupants,
blasted on.
As Roy had predicted, the temperature passed the red line marked "Freezing"
towards the end of their seventh day in the Deflection Belt. The two were remarkably
unhappy when this happened even though they had expected it.
Jimmy had drawn off about a hundred gallons of water from the tank. With this he
had filled almost every vessel on board.
"It might," he pointed out, "save the pipes from bursting when the water freezes.
And if they do, as is probable, it is just as well that we supply ourselves with plenty of
available water. We have to stay here another week, you know."
And on the next day, the eighth, the water froze. There were the buckets,
overflowing with ice, standing chill and blue cold. The two gazed at them forlornly. Jimmy
broke one open.
"Frozen solid," he said bleakly and wrapped another sheet about himself.

It was hard to think of anything but the increasing cold now. Roy and Jimmy had
requisitioned every sheet and blanket on the ship, after having put on three or four shirts
and a like number of pairs of pants.
They kept in bed for as long as they were able, and when forced to move out, they
huddled near the small oil-burner for warmth. Even this doubtful pleasure was soon
denied them, for, as Jimmy remarked, "the oil supply is extremely limited and we will
need the burner to thaw out the water and food."
Tempers were short and clashes frequent, but the common misery kept them from
actually jumping on each other’s throats. It was on the tenth day, however, that the two,
united by a common hatred, suddenly became friends.
The temperature was hovering down near the zero point, making up its mind to
descend into the minus regions. Jimmy was huddled in a comer thinking of the times
back in New York when he had complained of the August heat and wondered how he
could have done so. Roy, meanwhile, had manipulated numb fingers long enough to
calculate that they would have to endure the coldness for exactly 6354 minutes more.
He regarded the figures with distaste and read them off to Jimmy. The latter
Scowled and grunted, "The way I feel, I’m not going to last 54 minutes, let alone 6354."
Then, impatiently, "I wish you could manage to think of some way of getting us out of
"If we weren’t so near the sun," suggested Roy, "we might start the rear blasts and
hurry us up."
"Yes, and if we landed in the sun, we’d be nice and warm.
You’re a big help!"
"Well, you’re the one that calls himself 'Brains' Turner.
You think of something. The way you talk, you’d think all this was my fault."
"It certainly is, you donkey in human clothing! My better judgment told me all
along not to go on this fool trip. When McCutcheon proposed it, I refused pointblank. I
know better."
Jimmy was very bitter. "So what happened? Like the fool you are, you accept and
rush in where sensible men fear to tread. And then, of course. I naturally had to tag along.
"Why, do you know what I should have done," Jimmy’s voice ascended the scale,
"I should have let you go alone and freeze and then sat down by a roaring fire all by
myself and gloated. That is, if I had known what was going to happen."
A hurt and surprised look appeared on Roy’s face. "Is that so? So that’s how it is!
Well, all I can say is that you certainly have a genius for twisting facts, if for nothing else.
The fact of the matter is that you were unutterably stupid enough to accept and the poor
fellow raked in by the force of circumstances."
Jimmy’s expression was one of the utmost disdain. "Evidently the cold has driven
you batty, though I admit it wouldn’t take much to knock the little sense you possess out
of you."

"Listen," Roy answered hotly. "On October 10th, McCutcheon called me up on the
'visor and told me you had accepted and laughed at me for a yellow-belly for refusing to
go. Do you deny that?"
"Yes, I do, and unconditionally. On October 10, Sourpass told me that you had
decided to go and had bet him that—"
Jimmy’s voice faded away very suddenly and a shocked look spread over his face.
"Say—, are you sure McCutcheon told you I had agreed to go?"
A chill, clammy feeling clutched at Roy’s heart when he caught Jimmy’s drift, a
feeling that drowned out the numbness of the cold.
"Absolutely," he answered. "I’ll swear to that. That’s why I went."
"But he told me you had accepted and that’s why I went."
Jimmy felt very stupid all at once.
The two fell into a protracted and ominous silence which was broken at length by
Roy, who spoke in a voice that quivered with emotion.
"Jimmy, we’ve been the victims of a contemptible, dirty, lowdown, doublecrossing trick." His eyes dilated with fury.
"We’ve been cheated, robbed—," words failed him but he kept on uttering
meaningless sounds, indicative mainly of devouring rage.
Jimmy was cooler, but none the less vindictive, "You’re right, Roy; McCutcheon
has done us dirty. He has plumbed the depths of human iniquity. But we’ll get even.
When we get through in 6300 odd minutes, we will have a score to settle with Mr.
"What are we going to do?" Roy’s eyes were filled with a bloodthirsty joy.
"On the spur of the moment, I suggest that we simply tear into him and rend him
into tiny, little pieces."
"Not gruesome enough. How about boiling him in oil?"
'That’s reasonable, yes; but it might take too long. Let’s give him a good oldfashioned beating—with brass knuckles."
Roy rubbed his hands. "We’ll have lots of time to think up some really adequate
measures. The dirty. God-forsaken, yellow-livered, leprous—" The rest verged fluently
into the unprintable.
And for four more days, the temperature dove. It was on the fourteenth and last
day that the mercury froze, the solid red shaft pointed its congealed finger at forty below.
On this terrible last day, they had lit the oil-burner, using their entire scanty supply
of oil. Shivering and more than half frozen, they crouched close, attempting to extract
every last drop of heat.
Jimmy had found a pair of ear-muffs several days before in some obscure corner,
and it now changed hands at the end of every hour. Both sat buried under a small
mountain of blankets, chafing chilled hands and feet. With every passing minute, their
conversation, concerning McCutcheon almost exclusively, grew more vitriolic.
"Always quoting that triply-damned slogan of the Space Mail: 'Our flight through
sp—' " Jimmy choked with impotent fury.

"Yes, and always rubbing holes in chairs instead of coming out here and doing
something like a man’s work, the rotten so-and-so," agreed Roy.
"Well, we’re due to pass out of the deflection zone in two hours. Then three weeks
and we’ll be on Venus," said Jimmy, sneezing.
"That can’t be too soon for me," answered Sneed, who had been sniffling for the
last two days. "I’m never taking another space trip except maybe the one that takes me
back to Earth. After this, I make my living growing bananas in Central America. A fellow
can be decently warm out there at least."
"We might not get off Venus, after what we’re going to do to McCutcheon."
"No, you’re right there. But that’s all right. Venus is even warmer than Central
America and that’s all I care about."
"We have no legal worries either," Jimmy sneezed again.
"On Venus, life imprisonment’s the limit for first-degree murder. A nice,-warm dry
cell for the rest of my life. What could be sweeter?"
The second hand on the chronometer whirled at its even pace; the minutes ticked
off. Roy’s hands hovered lovingly over the lever that would set off the right rear blasts
which would drive the Helios but away from the sun and from that terrible Deflection
And at last, "Go!" shouted Jimmy eagerly. "Let her blast!"
With a deep reverberating roar, the rockets fired. The Helios trembled from stem
to stern. The pilots felt the acceleration press them back into their seats and were happy.
In a matter of minutes, the sun would shine again and they would be warm, feel the
blessed heat once more.
It happened before they were aware of it. There was a momentary flash of light
and then a grinding and a click, as the sunward portholes closed.
"Look," cried Roy, "the stars! We’re out of it!" He cast an ecstatically happy glance
at the thermometer. "Well, old boy, from now on we go up again." He pulled the
blankets about him closer, for the cold still lingered.
There were two men in Frank McCutcheon’s office at the Venus branch of the
United Space Mail: McCutcheon himself and the elderly, white-haired Zebulon Smith,
inventor of the Deflection Field. Smith was talking.
"But Mr. McCutcheon, it is really of great importance that I learn exactly how my
Deflection Field worked. Surely they have transmitted all possible information to you."
McCutcheon’s face was a study in dourness as he bit the edge off one of his twofor-five cigars and lit it.
"That, my dear Mr. Smith," he said, "is exactly what they did not do. Ever since
they have receded far enough from the sun to render communication possible, I have
been sending requests for information regarding the practicability of the Field. They just
refuse to answer. They say it worked and that they’re alive and that they’ll give the details
when they reach Venus. That’s all!"

Zebulon Smith sighed in disappointment. "Isn’t that a bit unusual; insubordination,
so to speak? I thought they were required to be complete in their reports and to give any
requested details."
"So they are. But these are my ace pilots and rather temperamental. We have to
extend some leeway. Besides, I tricked them into going on this trip, a very hazardous one,
as you know, and so am inclined to be lenient."
"Well, then, I suppose I must wait."
"Oh, it won’t be for long," McCutcheon assured him.
"They’re due today, and I assure you that as soon as I get in touch with them, I
shall send you the full details. After all, they survived for two weeks at a distance of twenty
million miles from the sun, so your invention is a success. That should satisfy you."
Smith had scarcely left when McCutcheon’s secretary entered with a puzzled frown
on her face.
"Something is wrong with the two pilots of the Helios, Mr. McCutcheon," she
informed him. "I have just received a bulletin from Major Wade at Pallas City, where they
They have refused to attend the celebration prepared for them, but instead
immediately chartered a rocket to come here, refusing to state the reason. When Major
Wade tried to stop them, they became violent, he says." She laid the communication
down on his desk.
McCutcheon glanced at it perfunctorily. "Hmm! they do seem confoundedly
temperamental. Well, send them to me when they come. I’ll snap them out of it."
It was perhaps three hours later that the problem of the two misbehaving pilots
again forced itself upon his mind, this time by a sudden commotion that had arisen in the
reception room. He heard the deep angry tones of two men and then the shrill
remonstrances of his secretary. Suddenly the door burst open and Jim Turner and Roy
Snead strode in.
Roy coolly closed the door and planted his back against it.
"Don’t let anyone disturb me until I’m through," Jimmy told him.
"No one’s getting through this door for a while," Roy answered grimly, "but
remember, you promised to leave some for me."
McCutcheon said nothing during all this, but when he saw Turner casually draw a
pair of brass knuckles from his pocket and put them on with a determined air, he decided
that it was time to call a halt to the comedy.
"Hello, boys," he said, with a heartiness unusual in him.
"Glad to see you again. Take a seat."
Jimmy ignored the offer. "Have you anything to say, any last request, before I start
operations?" He gritted his teeth with an unpleasant scraping noise.
"Well, if you put it that way," said McCutcheon, "I might ask exactly what this is all
about—if I’m not being too unreasonable. Perhaps the Deflector was inefficient and you
had a hot trip."

The only answer to that was a loud snort from Roy and a cold stare on the part of
"First," said the latter, "what was the idea of that filthy, disgusting cheat you pulled
on us?"
McCutcheon’s eyebrows raised in surprise. "Do you mean the little white lies I told
you in order to get you to go? Why, that was nothing. Common business practice, that’s
all. Why, I pull worse things than that every day and people consider it just routine.
Besides, what harm did it do you?"
"Tell him about our 'pleasant trip,' Jimmy," urged Roy.
"That’s exactly what I’m going to do," was the response.
He turned to McCutcheon and assumed a martyr-like air.
"First, on this blasted trip, we fried in a temperature that reached 150 but that was
to be expected and we’re not complaining; we were half Mercury’s distance from the sun.
"But after that, we entered this zone where the light bends around us; incoming
radiation sank to zero and we started losing heat and not just a degree a day the way we
learned it in pilot school." He paused to breathe a few novel curses he had just thought
of, then continued.
'"In three days, we were down to a hundred and in a week down to freezing. Then
for one entire week, seven long days, we drove through our course at sub-freezing
temperature. It was so cold the last day that the mercury froze." Turner’s voice rose till it
cracked, and at the door, a fit of self-pity caused Roy to catch his breath with an audible
gulp. McCutcheon remained inscrutable.
Jimmy continued. "There we were without a heating system, in fact, no heat of any
kind, not even any warm clothing.
We froze, damn it; we had to thaw out our food and melt our water. We were stiff,
couldn’t move. It was hell, I tell you, in reverse temperature." He paused, at a loss for
Roy Snead took up the burden. "We were twenty million miles away from the sun
and I had a case of frost-bitten ears.
Frost-bitten, I say." He shook his fist viciously under McCutcheon’s nose. "And it
was your fault. You tricked us into it! While we were freezing, we promised ourselves that
we’d come back and get you and we’re going to keep that promise."
He turned to Jimmy. "Go ahead, start it, will you? We’ve wasted enough time."
"Hold it, hoys," McCutcheon spoke at last. "Let me get this straight. You mean to
say that the Deflection Field worked so well that it kept all the radiation away and sucked
out what heat there was in the ship in the first place?"
Jimmy grunted a curt assent.
"And you froze for a week because of that?" McCutcheon continued.
Again the grunt.
And then a very strange and unusual thing happened. McCutcheon, "Old,
Sourpuss," the man without the "risus" muscle, smiled. He actually bared his teeth in a
grin. And what’s more, the grin grew wider and wider until finally a rusty, long-unused

chuckle was heard louder and louder, until it developed into a full-fledged laugh, and the
laugh into a bellow. In one stentorian burst, McCutcheon made up for a lifetime of sour
The walls reverberated, the windowpanes rattled, and still the Homeric laughter
continued. Roy and Jimmy stood openmouthed, entirely non-plussed. A puzzled
bookkeeper thrust his head inside the door in a fit of temerity and remained frozen in his
tracks. Others crowded about the door, conversing in awed whispers. McCutcheon had
laughed! Gradually, the risibilities of the old General Manager subsided. He ended in a fit
of choking and finally turned a purple face towards his ace pilots, whose surprise had long
since given way to indignation.
"Boys," he told them, "that was the best joke I ever heard.
You can consider your pay doubled, both of you." He was still grinning away like
clockwork and had developed a beautiful case of hiccoughs.
The two pilots were left cold at the handsome proposal.
"What’s so killingly funny?" Jimmy wanted to know, "I don’t see anything to laugh
at, myself."
McClutcheon’s voice dripped honey, "Now, fellows, before I left I gave each of you
several mimeographed sheets containing special instructions. What happened to them?"
There was sudden embarrassment in the air.
"I don’t know. I must have mislaid mine," gulped Roy.
"I never looked at mine; I forgot about it." Jimmy was genuinely dismayed.
"You see," exclaimed McCutcheon triumphantly, "it was all the fault of your own
"How do you figure that out?" Jimmy wanted to know.
"Major Wade told us all we had to know about the ship, and besides, I guess
there’s nothing you could tell us about running one."
"Oh, isn’t there? Wade evidently forgot to inform you of one minor point which
you would have found on my instructions. The strength of the Deflection Field was
adjustable. It happened to be set at maximum strength when you started, that’s all." He
was now beginning to chuckle faintly once more. "Now, if you had taken the trouble to
read the sheets, you would have known that a simple movement of a small lever," he
made the appropriate gesture with his thumb, "would have weakened the Field any
desired amount and allowed as much radiation to leak through as was wanted."
And now the chuckle was becoming louder. "And you froze for a week because
you didn’t have the brains to pull a lever. And then you ace pilots come here and blame
What a laugh!" and off he went again while a pair of very sheepish young men
glanced askance at each other.
When McCutcheon came around to normal, Jimmy and Roy were gone.
Down in an alley adjoining the building, a little ten-year old boy watched, with
open mouth and intense absorption, two young men who were engaged in the strange

and rather startling occupation of kicking each other alternately. They were vicious kicks,
When I wrote "Ring Around the Sun" I was much taken by the two protagonists.
Turner and Snead. It was in my mind, I recall, to write other stories about the pair. This
was a natural thought, for in the late 1930s there were a number of "series" of stories
about a given character or characters. Campbell himself had written some delightful
stories featuring two men named Penton and Blake, and I longed to do a Penton-Blake
There was a practical value to writing a "series." For one thing, you had a definite
background that was carried on from story to story, so that half your work was done for
you. Secondly, if the "series" became popular, it would be difficult to reject new stories
that fit into it.
I didn’t make it with Turner and Snead. In fact, I never tried. The time was to come,
two years later, when I was to have a pair of very similar characters, Powell and Donovan,
who were to be in four stories and who were to be part of a very successful "series"
By the end of August 1938, then, I had written five stories, of which three were
eventually published. Not bad! However, there followed a dry spell. I was finishing my
third year of college and was trying, without success, to get admission into medical
school. The situation in Europe was disturbing. It was the time of the surrender at Munich,
and for a Jewish teen-ager there was something unsettling about the rapid, sure-fire
victories of Hitler.
The next three stories took not one month, as had the previous three, but three
months. And all were clearly well below the limits of salability even in the most permissive
market. They were "The Weapon," "Paths of Destiny," and "Knossos in Its Glory."
Campbell rejected each one in very short order, and all made the rounds without luck.
There came a time, nearly three years later, when Astonishing seemed interested in "The
Weapon," but that fell through and the other two didn’t even come that close.
All three stories are now gone forever. I remember nothing at all about two of
them, but "Knossos in Its Glory" was an ambitious attempt to retell the Theseus myth in
science fiction terms. The minotaur was an extraterrestrial who landed in ancient Crete
with only the kindliest of intentions, and I remember writing terribly stilted prose in an
attempt to make my Cretans sound as I imagined characters in Homer ought to sound.
Campbell, always kind, said in rejecting it that my work "was definitely improving,
especially where I was not straining for effect."
By the time I was writing "Knossos in Its Glory" I had just received my check for
"Marooned off Vesta" and I was a professional. My spirits rose accordingly, and toward
the end of November I wrote "Ammonium," which was another attempt (like "Ring
Around the Sun") at humor.

I had a pretty good notion that Campbell wouldn’t like it, however, and I never
showed it to him. I sent it to Thrilling Wonder Stories instead. When they rejected it, I lost
heart and retired it. It was only after Future Fiction had taken "Ring Around the Sun" that
I thought I would chance this other one, too.
On August 23, 1939, I sent it in to Future Fiction, which took it, altering its name to
"The Magnificent Possession."


Walter Sills reflected now, as he had reflected often before, that life was hard and
joyless. He surveyed his dingy chemical laboratory and grinned cynically—working in a
dirty hole of a place, living on occasional ore analyses that barely paid for absolutely
indispensable equipment, while others, not half his worth perhaps, were working for big
industrial concerns and taking life easy.
He looked out the window at the Hudson River, ruddied in the flame of the dying
sun, and wondered moodily whether these last experiments would finally bring him the
fame and success he was after, or if they were merely some more false alarms.
The unlocked door creaked open a crack and the cheerful face of Eugene Taylor
burst into view. Sills waved and Taylor’s body followed his head and entered the
"Hello, old soak," came the loud and carefree hail. "How go things?"
Sills shook his head at the other’s exuberance. "I wish I had your foolish outlook on
life. Gene. For your information, things are bad. I need money, and the more I need it,
the less I have."
"Well, I haven’t any money either, have I?" demanded Taylor. "But why worry
about it? You’re fifty, and worry hasn’t got you anything except a bald head. I’m thirty,
and I want to keep my beautiful brown hair."
The chemist grinned. "I’ll get my money yet. Gene. Just leave it to me."
"Your new ideas shaping out well?"
"Are they? I haven’t told you much about it, have I? Well, come here and I’ll show
you what progress I’ve made."
Taylor followed Sills to a small table, on which stood a rack of test tubes, in one of
which was about half an inch of a shiny metallic substance.
"Sodium-mercury mixture, or sodium amalgam, as it is called," explained Sills
pointing to it.
He took a bottle labeled "Ammonium Chloride Sol." from the shelf and poured a
little into the tube. Immediately the sodium amalgam began changing into a looselypacked, spongy substance.
"That," observed Sills, "is ammonium amalgam. The ammonium radical (NHi) acts
as a metal here and combines with mercury." He waited for the action to go to
completion and then poured off the supernatant liquid.
"Ammonium amalgam isn’t very stable," he informed Taylor, "so I’ll have to work
fast." He grasped a flask of straw-colored, pleasant-smelling liquid and filled the test-tube
with it. Upon shaking, the loosely-packed ammonium amalgam vanished and in its stead a
small drop of metallic liquid rolled about the bottom.
Taylor gazed at the test-tube, open-mouthed. "What happened?"

"This liquid is a complex derivative of hydrazine which I’ve discovered and named
Ammonaline. I haven’t worked out its formula yet, but that doesn’t matter. The point
about it is that it has the property of dissolving the ammonium out of the amalgam. Those
few drops at the bottom are pure mercury; the ammonium is in solution."
Taylor remained unresponsive and Sills waxed enthusiastic.
"Don’t you see the implications? I’ve gone half way towards isolating pure
ammonium, a thing which has never been done before! Once accomplished it means
fame, success, the Nobel Prize, and who knows what else."
"Wow!" Taylor’s gaze became more respectful. "That yellow stuff doesn’t look so
important to me." He snatched for it, but Sills withheld it.
"I haven’t finished, by any means, Gene. I’ve got to get it in its free metallic state,
and I can’t do that so far. Every time I try to evaporate the Ammonaline, the ammonium
breaks down to everlasting ammonia and hydrogen. . . But I’ll get it—I’ll get it!"
Two weeks later, the epilogue to the previous scene was enacted. Taylor received
a hurried and emphatic call from his chemist friend and appeared at the laboratory in a
flurry of anticipation.
"You’ve got it?"
"I’ve got it—and it’s bigger than I thought! There’s millions in it, really," Sills' eyes
shone with rapture.
"I’ve been working from the wrong angle up to now," he explained. "Heating the
solvent always broke down the dissolved ammonium, so I separated it out by freezing. It
works the same way as brine, which, when frozen slowly, freezes into fresh ice, the salt
crystallizing out. Luckily, the Ammonaline freezes at 18 degrees Centigrade and doesn’t
require much cooling."
He pointed dramatically to a small beaker, inside a glass-walled case. The beaker
contained pale, straw-colored, needlelike crystals and, covering the top of this, a thin
layer of a dullish, yellow substance.
"Why the case?" asked Taylor.
"I’ve got it filled with argon to keep the ammonium (which is the yellow substance
on top of the Ammonaline) pure. It is so active that it will react with anything else but a
helium-type gas."
Taylor marveled and pounded his complacently-smiling friend on the back.
"Wait, Gene, the best is yet to come."
Taylor was led to the other end of the room and Sills' trembling finger pointed out
another airtight case containing a lump of metal of a gleaming, yellow that sparkled and
"That, my friend, is ammonium oxide (NH4,0), formed by passing absolutely dry air
over free ammonium metal. It is perfectly inert (the sealed case contains quite a bit of
chlorine, for instance, and yet there is no reaction). It can be made as cheaply as
aluminum, if not more so, and yet it looks more like gold than gold does itself. Do you
see the possibilities?"

"Do I?" exploded Taylor. "It will sweep the country. You can have ammonium
jewelry, and ammonium-plated tableware, and a million other things. Then again, who
knows how many countless industrial applications it may have? You’re rich, Walt—you’re
"We’re rich," corrected Sills gently. He moved towards the telephone, "The
newspapers are going to hear of this. I’m going to begin to cash in on fame right now."
Taylor frowned, "Maybe you’d better keep it a secret, Walt."
"Oh, I’m not breathing a hint as to the process. I’ll just give them the general idea.
Besides, we’re safe; the patent application is in Washington right now."
But Sills was wrong! The article in the paper ushered in a very, very hectic two days
for the two of them.
J. Throgmorton Bankhead is what is commonly known as