Thursday, August 28, 2008

Henry Kuttner & C L Moore's "See You Later" (as by Lewis Padgett) (novelette, humor): It doesn't pay to enlist Hogbens in a bad deed!

Quote from short story titled See You Later by Henry Kuttner and C L MooreIndian readers will find the plot very familiar - there are innumerable local stories, including many ancient Sanskrit ones, on the general idea: A demon, or occasionally an evil man, goes through a lot of pain to please some specific god. It's time for boon. He seeks a boon that will make him some kind of a despot. But god is smart. The boon is granted literally, leaving a loophole that will backfire on would-be despot at the critical hour.

This is nowhere near as interesting as the almost magical first Hogbens story - "Exit the Professor." But it still made an interesting read.

This is the first story in Hogbens series where Atlantis is explicitly mentioned; "grandpaw" was born there! At least I don't recall its mention in other two stories I've read from this series of 5 or 6. We also learn that the little baby is just "four hunnerd years old & big for his age - 'bout three hunnerd pounds"!

Story summary.

Hogbens is a family of very long lived supermen mutants - now living an anonymous existence in some remote place in the US. More details on family in my earlier "Exit the Professor" post. In this story, they play the role of gods in Indian lore.

They've very nasty neighbors - Yancey Tarbell & his 8 boys. During a mischief-causing mission at Hogbens' home (they thought they had stealthily entered to wreck havoc), the boys are accidentally killed - but not through any action of Hagbens. Hogbens are feeling remorse. That's how Yancey, the kid's dad & sole surviving member of family, will get his boon granted.

What does Yancey want? It gets crazy & hilarious. 30 years ago & in a drunken state, he was stepped on at one of the New York suburban train stations. He could not trace the culprit in the crowds to get even. He now wants to get even!

How? He still doesn't know who the culprit was. Well, if the culprit is still alive, he must be one of the humans somewhere on earth!! If dead, he very likely would have married, & had kids. Yancey wants Hogbens to replicate him - one for each human anywhere on earth - men, women, & kids. They will place him "approximately two feet away from each human being." He plans to carry "a big, rusty monkey wrench". Each of his copies will hit corresponding victim with it "on top of the haid"! His copies will then be brought back into his unique current self.

Hogbens grant the wish, with 3 constraints: each avatar will exist for 5 seconds (so he doesn't get beaten back in return), each avatar will be physically "the same size" & "exactly as strong" as the corresponding victim (so he doesn't have to face the more powerful & it's only fair!), & Hogbens are not among the people he's going to hit.

A gadget to enable this is quickly put together - using "a washbasin & some old scrap iron" in "'bout ten minutes"! But before sending Yancey, the narrator Saunk Hogben wants to test the machine. Narrator also takes with him a "stick of firewood" which his avatars will hand out to every befuddled person in the world & "spit right smack in their eye". Saunk returns safely. Now Yancey goes. Each of his intended victim is not only angry, but has just been equipped with a club. "He never even had a chance to swing that monkey wrench. The whole world had got in the fust lick."

Title comes from a little mistake in the replicating gadget. It actually sent the copies a week into future. So their village, included in the adventure, is still quiet. Wait till next week for some local retaliation. "See you later."

Fact sheet.

First published: Thrilling Wonder Stories, June 1949.
Related: All stories of Henry Kuttner, C L Moore (as by Lewis Padgett); Hogben series.
Rating: A


Anonymous said...

Awesome story! You summarize it very well :)