I recently discovered at the local second hand bookstore a collection of
stories by an at times neglected (at least by the Pinellas County
Library System) author by the name of Murray Leinster.
Wikipedia says he wrote more than, "1,500 short stories and articles."
The one that won a Hugo award in 1956 was "Exploration Team," recast
later as "Combat Team" which is equally a propros.
Another story in the book was Forgotten Planet.
It's a pity this one is out of print. As I wrote in a review at Amazon
in 2002, it "was written in a time when Americans felt good about their
country and themselves. It is a story worth remembering." Both these
stories convey a sense of self confidence and self responsibility that
are sometimes lacking in American public life today. I've not read the
same name story by Doug Wilhem which is available in the juvenile section of the Largo Public Library.
my first installment of Asimov's after I resubscribed was "The Gabble"
(March 2006). Fascinating and mysterious, the gabbleducks intrigued me,
and I was sure to read successive stories in Asimov's. In "Softly Spoke
the Gabbleduck" (August 2005), the gabbleduck is a secondary character
till the very end, where he becomes pivotal in resolving the one-sided
conflict of the story. The same can be said of the Gabbleduck in "Alien
Archeology" (June 2007). A species that has decided to give up
sentience, they are the more noble inhabitants of Asher's Polity
we meet Ian Cormac, agent of the Polity, and second only to Horace
Blegg in the trust of the Polity's ruling AI, Earth Central. Cormac,
who almost loses his humanity and his life because he has become overly
reliant on his connection to the "Grid" (internet), is an ardent
believer in the rightness of the Polity and a punisher of any who would
harm its citizens. Along with Cormac's becoming reacquainted with his
own humanity, Asher explores what it means to be human. A part of his
humanity is his willingness to sacrifice himself to protect others.
This compares to Arian Pelter, who loses his own twisted humanity and
his life in an effort to avenge himself against Cormac for killing
Pelter's sister. The difference is in motivation-- the Pelters have
killed and maimed hundreds of innocents in order to increase their own
fortunes in the name of resisting Polity's tyranny. The question of
what it is to be human is explored further in a universe where human
consciousness (and conscience) can be uploaded into android bodies or
stored for further use or transferred into a new body entirely.
These themes are expanded in Brass Man
in which the title character, aka Mr. Crane, is a "broken AI" driven
insane by having the memories of a homicidal maniac played into his own
mind until his identity fragments and he eventually becomes a slave of
none other than the Pelters. Mr. Crane serves as a foil for Cormac.
Cormac endures torture, suffering and hazards his life as as a choice,
over and over. It's a matter of character. Mr Crane, already in an AI
version of Hell, struggles with the monster has become but time and
again falls short of making the choice that will restore him to
wholeness. In the end, as he reviews the actions he has taken and the
reasons for his choices, he comes to grips with the responsibility
inherent in the power of choice. He says, "I chose," and then "I
choose." He walks off, wearing his trademark hat, to fulfill whatever
remains of his destiny. He carries with him a last remnant of Jain
technology, a symbol of ultimate risk and ultimate opportunity. He is
not the only character in the story with choices to make.
the quest to possess Jain technology, three ECS attack ships go rogue.
They see the unlimited potential benefits to themselves (despite the
obvious risk that Jain technology could destroy the Polity as it may
have destroyed the Atheter) and do not trust Earth Central to manage
the benefits in an even handed manner. Frankly, they fear the
possibility Earth Central misusing this power to enslave them. Down
three-to-one, the attack ship Jack Ketch chooses risk to self
destruction to oppose them. Again it's a matter of character.
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