Sunday, August 3, 2008

Murray Leinster's "Scrimshaw" (short story, science fiction, free): A revenge drama that is not really about revenge

Quote from short story titled Scrimshaw by Murray LeinsterOne noteworthy point about this otherwise ordinary story: it features a spaceship's rocket exhaust as a weapon. This weapon will be a major feature in Larry Niven's beautiful "The Warriors" published a decade later. I'm yet to see a description of this weapon in an earlier story. "Proxima Centauri", another Leinster story with influential ideas, supplied the other major weapon used in "The Warriors".

This story features another curious idea I haven't often seen in fiction: that most people will be too afraid of space travel even after extensive preparation. A company offering pleasure cruises to moon has to quickly shut down because passengers on first couple of trips pretty much go mad.

Story summary.

This is the story of Pop Young, a man whose wife & both kids were murdered by a man named Sattell for some petty amount of cash. In the fracas, Pop was hit on the head & lost his memory. He has now been slowly recovering his memories of a lost life, & suspects Sattell but is not sure of his role. Sattell, of course, thinks Pop is chasing him for revenge.

As a result of this chase, Sattell will find a job in an underground diamond mine on the far side of moon. But Pop too lands there, & is in fact the gatekeeper of the facility. Knowing that he's near Sattell helps him recover bits of his lost memories.

Goons hired by Sattell will threaten Pop with the weapon mentioned above. A significant highlight of the story is the improvised bomb Pop will fashion from available materials to destroy the threatening rocket.

Fact sheet.

First published: Astounding Science Fiction, September 1955.
Rating: B
Download full text.
Related: All stories of Murray Leinster.