Souvenir

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First published in Fantastic Universe Oct 1954

Frank Williamson was the first human from Earth to create a space-drive capable of leaving the solar system. It was always assumed he found another Earth-like planet to colonize, but it took the Galactic System three hundred years to eventually find it. 

In the years since Williamson left Earth the galaxy has organized itself according to the Relay coordinates where all information is uniformly transmitted to every planet in order to form a rational galactic society free of any sort of class warfare. 

Williamson’s World, on the other hand, is made up of scattered villages and clan conflicts. When the inhabitants of Williamson’s World are given the Articles of Incorporation to sign in order to join the rest of the galaxy under Relay control they refuse, preferring their own way of life. They know this will mean their planet will be destroyed, but the galaxy can’t risk their individualistic ideas from spreading. 

In a ham-fisted, tacked-on ending, after the planet has been obliterated one of the soldiers who had been on the surface returns to his family and gives his son the titular souvenir, a hand-made wooden cup that he smuggled away from Williamson’s World. His son’s eyes light up as we see the first seeds of independent thought have been planted. 

Cast of characters

  • Edward Rogers – sent from the Galactic Relay Center to explore Williamson’s World
  • Gene Williamson – an offspring of Frank Williamson living on Williamson’s World
  • Commander Ferris – in charge of the battleship attacking Williamson’s World
  • Corporal Pete Matson – a soldier sent to destroy Williamson’s World

Small Town

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First published in Amazing May 1954

Starting when he was a child Verne Haskel has been creating a perfect miniature replica of Woodland, where he has lived his whole life, for his model train set. By the time he is in his forties he has built the entire town down to the last detail. 

After another miserable day at Larson’s Pump and Valve Works where he has worked for twenty years he returns home, heads straight to his model world in the basement and destroys the Pump and Valve Works building. The next day he quits his job and comes home to find his wife Madge cheating on him with Paul Tyler. Instead of dealing with that he spends the rest of the day remodeling his tiny version of Woodland, vindictively replacing everything to match the world he wants.

Somehow Paul Tyler suspects what will happen next. When Haskel declares he is finished with his grand project Madge and Tyler find that he and the train set have disappeared, and when they drive to the police station to report him missing they see the town now mirrors Haskel’s fantasy world. As Haskel has made himself mayor in this new Woodland things aren’t going to end well for Madge and Tyler.

Cast of characters

  • Verne Haskel 
  • Madge Haskel – Verne’s wife
  • Paul Tyler – having an affair with Madge

Planet for Transients

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First published in Fantastic Universe Oct-Nov 1953

A human named Trent sets off across the radioactive surface of Earth from an underground settlement in Pennsylvania, where food and oxygen supplies are dwindling, in search of another human settlement that can help them survive. On his trek he encounters three different groups of mutants who have adapted to thrive in that environment in the three hundred and fifty years since the nuclear war. 

He eventually finds another settlement, and they let Trent know the hard truth that humans have made Earth inhospitable for themselves and forfeited their right to live there anymore. The Earth belongs to all the mutants, and the humans deserve this for nuking the surface. They are leaving for good in search of other planets in a rocket they have constructed, and they agree to take Trent’s group with them. 

Cast of characters

  • Trent
  • Jackson and Earl Potter – friendly mutants Trent runs into on the surface. They also show up in the wasteland of Deus Irae.
  • Norris – a human in the settlement leaving Earth

James P. Crow

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First published in Planet Stories May 1954

Four hundred years in the future, long after a nuclear war, robots have relegated humans to second-class citizens after they convinced them that humans had been invented by robots and not the other way around.

The only way the humans can compete with the robots is through an impossibly difficult set of tests called the Lists. Only one human, James P. Crow, has been able to pass these Lists, and he did it by secret use of a time window which let him see the future answers to the test but also see into the past. Only he knows the truth that humans created the robots. 

Eventually Crow passes the final List and with a perfect score on all the tests becomes the highest member of the Supreme Council. He tells the robots if they leave Earth he won’t make the robot’s true origins public. They agree to his bargain leaving Crow in charge of the Government to rebuild a new human society. 

With the name “James P. Crow” this is an obvious attempt at a civil rights allegory. It’s kind of muddled in that sense, although I do like the premise.

Cast of characters

  • Donnie Parks – a young boy hoping to pass his Lists test
  • Edgar and Grace Parks – Donnie’s parents
  • James P. Crow – the only human to ever pass the Lists
  • L-87t – a robot sympathetic to the human’s struggle

The Impossible Planet

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First published in Imagination Oct 1953

Three hundred fifty-year-old Irma Gordon wants to see Earth before she dies, except Earth is just a myth that never really existed. She promises enough money to Captain Andrews that he decides to take her cash and find an ‘Earth’ for her to visit over the objections of his second in command Norton. 

Along with Irma’s robot they travel to Emphor III, a third planet with a single moon in a nine-planet system. When they arrive Andrews convinces Irma the barren rock is Earth. After landing Irma and her robot vanish into the ocean. As Andrews and Norton leave Norton picks up a coin stamped with E PLURIBUS UNUM which he assumes is just a piece of trash, and they prepare to head home.

This was adapted as “Impossible Planet” for season one of Electric Dreams. I like the design of this episode with a robot that looks like it’s straight out of ’60s or ’70s sci-fi, but I’m not exactly sure what they were going for by introducing a spiritual love story connection between Irma and the second in command. 

Cast of characters

  • Captain Andrews
  • Norton – the second in command
  • Irma Gordon 
  • Irma’s unnamed ’robant’ companion

Human Is

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First published in Startling Stories Winter 1955

Lester Herrick is a mean and bitter scientist until he returns from a trip to Rexor IV a changed man. Suddenly he enjoys spending time with his nephew, loves to cook and shows affection to his wife Jill for the first time in five years. 

It’s obvious to everyone his body was taken over by a Rexorian, and the Clearance agents intend to destroy the alien, retrieve the true Lester from Rexor IV and set things back to how they were before he left. Before they can do that they have to prove in court he isn’t human. They expect his wife Jill to testify to the change she saw in him. Instead, choosing this affectionate alien to take the place of her husband, she claims she never noticed anything odd, and this Lester is allowed to live.

“Human Is” was adapted for the first season of Electric Dreams where the costumes and production design look like community theater. The husband is a military officer instead of a scientist, but otherwise the story is the same. 

Cast of characters

  • Lester Herrick – a toxicologist for the military
  • Jill Herrick – Lester’s wife
  • Frank – Jill’s brother
  • Gus – Jill’s nephew
  • Clearance Director Douglas