Short Stories

The Hanging Stranger published 1953

Ed Loyce is the only one who seems to find the dead stranger strung up from a lamp post in Pikeville’s town park out of the ordinary. He reports it to the police who want to take him in for questioning, but he escapes from them and discovers the town of Pikeville has been invaded by insect-like aliens from another dimension who have taken on the appearance of everyone in the town, including his family.

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He flees to the neighboring town of Oak Grove and attempts to warn the police commissioner there. But the commissioner explains to Loyce that the stranger was hanged in Pikeville as bait to draw out anyone from the town who wasn’t yet under the control of the aliens. Loyce realizes too late he is fated to become the hanging stranger in the similarly-overrun Oak Grove.

“The Hanging Stranger” was adapted as the more politically-minded and muddled tv episode “Kill All Others” in the first season of Electric Dreams.

Cast of characters

  • Ed Loyce – owner of Loyce TV Sales and Service
  • Don Fergusson – salesman at Loyce TV Sales and Service
  • Jack Potter – works at the shoe shop by the town park
  • Jenkins – a stationary clerk
  • Margaret Henderson – works at the jewelry store by the town park
  • Janet Loyce – Ed’s wife
  • Tommy and Jimmy – Ed’s sons
  • The police commissioner of Oak Grove

Fair Game published 1959

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Professor Douglas is alarmed one night to see a giant eye watching him through the window of his house, but it vanishes before his wife notices it. The next day an enormous face appears in the sky, gazing down at him before fading away. The other professors at Bryant College decide these apparitions must be aliens who are after Douglas because he is the best nuclear physicist in the world. Then Douglas is drawn from his house by the illusion of a woman in distress, and he escapes in his car as lightning bolts strike around him. 

When he is eventually captured by the aliens and carried into the sky in a net he resigns himself to the fact that the aliens want him for his knowledge and ability. Instead, just before he is cast into a frying pan, he finds the aliens only want to eat him.

The reversal here is amusing, but nothing about the setup really works.

Cast of characters

  • Anthony Douglas – a nuclear physics professor at Bryant College
  • Laura Douglas – Anthony’s wife
  • Bill Henderson – head of the Biology department at Bryant College
  • Jean Henderson – Bill’s wife
  • Milton Erick – head of the Math department

Nanny published 1955

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Tom and Mary Fields can’t imagine life without a robot Nanny to help take care of their children. But unbeknownst to them these Nannies are programed to duel to the death with Nannies produced by other manufacturers. When the Fields’ Nanny is destroyed by a neighbor’s Nanny at the park, Tom Fields upgrades to a bigger model. And after that Nanny gets its revenge on their neighbor’s Nanny, their neighbor plans to replace his demolished Nanny with the biggest one ever as the cycle of planned obsolescence continues.

Cast of characters

  • Tom Fields, Mary Fields, Bobby, Jean – a nuclear family who owns a Services Industries, Inc., Nanny

Prize Ship published 1954

The only way for Terran ships to resupply the Earth’s colonies at Promixa is from the launching point at Ganymede. The Ganymedeans realize the leverage they have and hold their launch pads as ransom, demanding twenty per cent of all goods for their continued use. Just as Earth is about to give in to this arrangement they get a report of a captured Ganymedean ship.

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Four men volunteer to pilot the ship hoping it can reach Promixa. The first place they land is populated by tiny humans six inches tall. The second place they encounter is ruled by giants. At this point the men have recognized the similarities to Johnathan Swift’s fictional lands of Lilliput and Brobdingnag. Before they are crushed by a giant they return to Earth where a Ganymedean, who has arrived to claim the Gany property, informs them they were actually traveling in time and explains how the relativity of size in the expanding universe shrinks the past and enlarges the future.

Cast of characters

  • General Thomas Groves, Major Stiller, Commander James Carmichel, Doctor Earl Basset – volunteers who take the captured Ganymedean ship on a test run

Colony published 1953

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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

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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”