Archive for the ‘Katherine MacLean’ Category

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“Pictures Don’t Lie” by Katherine MacLean

December 30, 2011

The Book: “Pictures Don’t Lie” by Katherine MacLeanOriginally published by Galaxy Science Fiction in August 1951. Read in The Diploids and Other Flights of Fancy published by Avon (G-1143) in 1962.

The Setting: Earth, a military base.

The Story: Aliens are coming to Earth! They’re in contact, audio and video, plus they’ve sent some of their sitcoms along too. But once they’ve landed, no one knows where they are…

The Science: Spoiler: The aliens are tiny and move, speak, the whole works, much faster than we do. Though we both use radio waves to communicate.  I don’t see why it should be possible for other worldly organisms to perceive and interact with space and time in radically different ways than we do. Hell, it’s a major trope in sciencefiction and super hero stories.

The Reaction: A very good story. It has humor, it’s got a twist, and it’s just fun. I’m not surprised that it was widely adapted into other media. 

The Cover: Same as the first time.

Next Up: Foundation by Isaac Asimov.

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“Feedback” by Katherine MacLean

December 26, 2011

The Book: “Feedback” by Katherine MacLeanOriginally published by Astounding Science Fiction in July 1951. Read in The Diploids and Other Flights of Fancy published by Avon (G-1143) in 1962.

The Setting: Earth, in the future. Everytown, USA.

The Story: In the future, everyone is free to be exactly like everyone else – it’s democratic.  Conformity bounces against conformity creating a feedback loop, with unfortunate consequences for individuals.

The Science: A social science problem. It’s not hard to imagine a world where anything outside the norm is met with swift reprisal. Or is that called middle school?  It’s a nice story that takes you to the end of a slippery slope and points and how nasty it is down there.

The Reaction: A good story, which is probably why it’s been retold many times in many ways.

The Cover: Same as the first time.

Next Up: “Pictures Don’t Lie” by Katherine MacLean

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“The Pyramid in the Desert” by Katherine MacLean.

March 31, 2011

The Book: “The Pyramid in the Desert” by Katherine MacLean. Originally published by Astounding Science Fiction in February 1950 under the title “And Be Merry.” Read in The Diploids and Other Flights of Fancy published by Avon (G-1143) in 1962.

The Setting: New York, Earth.

The Story: An endocrinologist spends the summer attempting to find the secret of bodily rejuvenation and succeeds, with psychic consequences.

The Science: A mold by-product has the ability to become any sort of cell and a new sort of cell. Anti-aging ‘science’ is a big deal, what with all the Boomers aging and all. But so far, no science has done a replacement therapy as complete and radical as this. The best thing about the science in the story is that most of the story is the scientist’s notes. And she experiments on herself in a most interesting manner.

The Reaction: Hooray for female scientists! Competent female scientists! Even if she does lie to her husband to avoid spending the summer on an archaeology dig (which is irrelevant to her pursuits as an endocrinologist). Her science is fun to read, but her break with reality at the end is a bit hard to take. Still, totally worth it.

The Cover: Same as before.

Etc:

Next Up: “A Subway Named Mobius” by A. J. Deutsch.

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“Incommunicado” by Katherine McLean

March 29, 2011

The Book: “Incommunicado” by Katherine McLean. Originally published in Astounding Science Fiction, June 1950. Read in The Diploids and Other Flights of Fancy published by Avon (G-1143) in 1962.

The Setting: Space stations near Pluto. The future, obviously.

The Story: During a time of chaos, a guy discovered that a space station population has unconsciously developed a musical rapport with their computer. 

The Science: Musical tones, etc, in the story facilitate knowledge and learning. And it seems true enough that music works in a unique way with the human brain (ear worms anyone?), but I’m not sure about the science of this story. Although I don’t recall it very well. Apparently, according to the story on the author’s Wikipedia page, electronic engineers loved it though, so that’s a good sign.

The Reaction: I loved how pulpy this story felt but, for one reason or another, I had trouble following it around.  I’m not sure if it was me or the story that was the trouble.

The Cover: Same as before

Next Up: “The Pyramid in the Desert” by Katherine MacLean.

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“Defense Mechanism” by Katherine McLean

January 30, 2011

The Book: “Defense Mechanism” by Katherine MacLean. Originally published by Astounding Science Fiction in October 1949. Read in The Diploids and Other Flights of Fancy published by Avon (G-1143) in 1962.

The Setting: Earth.

The Story: A man and his infant son share a psychic link and love bunny rabbits.

The Science: In this story, a man and his infant son share the ability to communicate telepathically and sense other minds around them. Despite its best efforts, science has not yet been able to make a good case for the existence of psychic communication between two human people.

The Reaction:The idea is interesting, but I felt the execution was a little messy. I had to read the end two or three times to really follow along. An attempt to give something of a feminist reading to this makes me glad to point out that the father is taking on a strong care-taker role in his infant son’s life. Perhaps progressive for 1949.

The Cover: Clearly not related to this story, the cover intrigues me with its wandering people, pointy bubbles and chaotic sky. Not my favorite, perhaps, but quite nice nonetheless.

Etc: The first female author I’ve encountered in this project. I look forward to reading more of her stories.

Next Up: “History Lesson” by Arthur C. Clarke