Monday, November 17, 2008

Harry Bates' "Farewell to the Master" (novelette, first contact, free): What we see depends on what we are

Quote from short story titled Farewell to the Master by Harry BatesAuthor is the first editor of Astounding (now Analog). But this story is from Campbell era.

Effect of the story is a stronger version of Ross Rocklynne's "Quietus". And ending reminded me of some scenes from Pierre Boulle's "Planet of the Apes".

Story features a technique of creating animals, given just the recorded sounds produced by them!! To me, it sounded substantially more mystical than Arthur Clarke's "Playback".

Story summary.

When an alien ship suddenly materialized on the grounds of Smithsonian Institution (in Washington DC, US), it caused much commotion. Two days later, a man who introduced himself as Klaatu emerged with a powerful hominid robot introduced as Gnut. But before the introductions were over, a jittery assassin shot Klaatu dead. Klaatu's death froze Gnut in his then physical position & posture.

A regretful humanity has now made ship & robot exhibits of Smithsonian's museum; Klaatu was buried with state honors. No one has yet been able to figure out even the place in ship's hull where the port is located, let alone any secrets about the aliens worth knowing.

A curious journalist, Cliff Sutherland, wants a story out of it - three months after the aliens' arrival, & a week after their exhibit was opened. He will contrive to stay overnight in the hall containing the exhibits - a place normally left empty at night. And we get a fast moving adventure...

But the real clincher is the ending - when Cliff learns something about his own very human biases...

Collected in.

  1. Raymond J Healy & J Francis McComas (Eds)' "Adventures in Time and Space".

Fact sheet.

First published: Astounding Science Fiction, October 1940.
Rating: A
"filmed in 1951 as The Day the Earth Stood Still" & "its 2008 remake."
Download full text from Real Pulp Weekly.
Listed among the stories from John Campbell's Astounding/Analog.
Related: All stories from Analog/Astounding; Harry Bates' Astounding.