Stylistically similar to joint works Henry Kuttner & C L Moore, except for ending. That itself is reason enough for me to look for more Tenn; that I've'nt seen anything bad from him yet is more motivation.
Concept is based on the German legend of "Faust" (a man makes a deal with the devil); more on it later in this post. Devil here is a vastly smarter alien; but by the end of the story, both man & alien will be licked.
Story summary.When Bernie, a wheeler dealer in New York City, is offered easy money in obviously rigged deal by a man, he cannot resist: $20 for $5! Then his "share" in
- "The Golden Gate Bridge", San Francisco for $125!
- "The Sea of Azov" in Russia + "Kerch Strait" for $390!
- All of earth for $2700!!
Bernie will later realize the kind of mess he'd got into - he'd given a legal door to aliens to invade earth because of some trading rights he held with UN.
Well - mistake will be eventually corrected, involving hard bargaining with the buyer. Only, Bernie will have to shell out may be twice the amount he made. This being a half century old story, that's huge money - Bernie is a very poor man post deal.
Some discussion with friends & a bit of investigating later will make Bernie realize he wasn't the only one licked; alien too is in a soup, though he probably doesn't realize it yet!
What is the "Faust"?
- Story makes a reference to "Marlowe's Doctor Faustus".
- This reference apparently is to a play titled "The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus" by Christopher Marlowe, available online at Project Gutenberg in two versions that I don't know how to distinguish - so I take the one posted later.
- Project Gutenberg text includes the following subtitle: "From The Quarto Of 1616". Apparently, Marlowe borrowed material from a work called "The Quarto" originally published in 1616?
- A Google search for "The Quarto" throws up references to a work of William Shakespeare. I didn't pursue it further - not sure what the relation is.
- Wikipedia tells us "The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus is a play by Christopher Marlowe, based on the Faust story, in which a man sells his soul to the devil for power and knowledge."
- This "Faust story" seems to have more than one variations, but all are apparently based on a German legend. Does anyone know a reference to an English text no bigger than the size of a short story that tells this legend in language comprehensible to non-Europeans with a very limited knowledge of Western literature? Thank you.
- Isaac Asimov & Martin H Greenberg (Eds)' "Isaac Asimov Presents the Great SF Stories 25 (1963)" (anthology).
Fact sheet.First published: Playboy, November 1963.
Included in Ellen Datlow's Sci Fiction classics.
Related: Stories of William Tenn.