Colony published 1953

Paycheck and Other Classic Stories
Buy it on Amazon

A crew of explorers from Earth looking for a planet to colonize seem to have found a so-called Garden of Eden. That is until Major Lawrence Hall’s microscope tries to strangle him. Soon after corresponding reports pour in of other crew members being assaulted by inanimate objects in the same way.

They eventually figure out Planet Blue is home to a hostile native life form that can perfectly mimic non-biological items. The only chance of escape without inadvertently bringing this murderous bugger along is to board a rescue ship sans all their clothing. Too bad in the hubbub of getting naked no one considers the life form can mimic the rescue ship too.

In 1956 this story was adapted for NBC’s X Minus One radio series.

Cast of characters

  • Major Lawrence Hall 
  • Lieutenant Friendly 
  • Commander Stella Morrison
  • Captain Taylor – attacked by a rug
  • Lieutenant Dodds – attacked by his gloves
  • Corporal Tenner – attacked by a safety mat
  • Captain Unger – swallowed up by his car
  • Gail Thomas – presumably killed by her uniform
  • Corporal Hendricks – swimming with Gail Thomas when she disappears
  • Captain Daniel Davis – captain of the nearest Terran cruiser

Out in the Garden published 1953

Paycheck and Other Classic Stories
Buy it on Amazon

Before Robert Nye’s wife Peggy has even announced her pregnancy, his friend, when he sees Peggy in the garden with her pet duck, is reminded of the story of Zeus who took the form of a swan and gave Leda a child. Later Robert begins to wonder if the father of his son might actually be this pet duck his wife is so fond of, and his suspicions are confirmed when his young son invites him to a meal of spiders and worms.

Cast of characters

  • Robert Nye – suspects his son might not actually be his son
  • Peggy Nye – Robert’s wife
  • Tom Lindquist – Robert’s friend
  • Sir Francis – Peggy’s pet duck and possible lover and deity in disguise 
  • Stephen – Robert’s “son”

The Great C published 1953

Paycheck and Other Classic Stories
Buy it on Amazon

In a post-apocalyptic, far-off future an artificial intelligence responsible for the Earth’s nuclear destruction demands a yearly sacrifice from the planet’s surviving humans. A youth from one of the tribes makes the long trek out to speak to the Great C to attempt to stump it with three questions. The Great C easily answers these questions (where does rain come from, what keeps the sun moving through the sky, and how did the world begin) and the youth is dissolved in a vat of acid providing fuel for the Great C for another year.

Both Tibor and Pete encounter the Great C in Dick’s Zelazny collaboration Deus Irae, although in that book the Great C is more of a trickster trying to feed on passerby.

In 2018 Secret Location released a VR movie based on this story that also borrows the idea of the computer’s female avatar from Deus Irae

Cast of characters

  • Walter Kent – the tribe leader
  • Tim Meredith – that year’s sacrifice to the Great C
  • Bill Gustavson, Anne Fry, John Page – members of the tribe

Related:

Meddler published 1954

Paycheck and Other Classic Stories
Buy it on Amazon

In the tropey “Meddler” some men peek hundreds of years into the future using a machine called the Time Dip and discover humanity has been wiped out. They send a man forward in time to investigate why, and when he returns he inadvertently brings back the thing (in this case hyper-intelligent butterflies) that ends up destroying mankind.

Cast of characters

  • Wood – operator of the Dip
  • Hasten – travels into the future to find out what has doomed the humans

Related:

The Builder published 1953

Paycheck and Other Classic Stories
Buy it on Amazon

In this quasi-retelling of the Biblical story of Noah a middle class suburban man begins constructing a boat in his backyard without any real understanding of why he is doing it. He spends more and more time away from his job, much to the frustration of his wife, and he endures the mockery of his neighbors who suspect he might be crazy. 

One of his neighbors points out that his boat has no sails or engine, something he hadn’t considered. Just as he is facing despair over wasting his time and energy building something so pointless it begins to rain. 

Cast of characters

  • Ernest Elwood – the titular builder
  • Liz – Elwood’s wife
  • Bob and Toddy – Elwood’s sons
  • Joe Hunt – Elwood’s neighbor
  • Jack Fredericks, Charlie, Ann Pike – Elwood’s co-workers

The Short Happy Life of the Brown Oxford published 1954

Doc Labyrinth decides he has figured out the origin of all life: at some point in the distant past an inanimate object was annoyed enough by some irritant that it sprang to life to escape it. The Doc dubs this the Principle of Sufficient Irritation. 

Paycheck and Other Classic Stories
Buy it on Amazon

In order to demonstrate this theory he builds the Animator (described as a Dutch oven but more accurately is probably a crock pot since it has a heating mechanism). When his invention doesn’t sufficiently irritate a brass button enough to provoke sentience he sells the device to his friend for five dollars. His friend puts his wet oxfords in the Animator to dry overnight and one oxford is sufficiently irritated enough to come to life. Everyone is sufficiently amazed especially when the oxford finds a woman’s slipper to animate for a companion. 

Cast of characters

  • the unnamed narrator – the same unnamed narrator from “The Preserving Machine”
  • Joan – the narrator’s wife
  • Doc Labyrinth – inventor of the Animator. Also inventor of the preserving machine in “The Preserving Machine”