Wednesday, June 12, 2013

William Tenn's "The Sickness" (novelette): A cure for cold war mistrust between US & USSR

This is a story of two epidemics caused by bugs - one physical & literal, other metaphorical as in US/USSR standoff. Knowing Tenn, I won't be surprised if he intended it as a satire on cold war war-mongering at both ends.

Story summary.

US & USSR not only are constantly at each other's throat, they also have independent programs to send people to Mars. An India-mediated joint expedition to Mars might hopefully help understanding & ease tensions - so the ship that goes there contains an equal number of Americans & Russians but with the condition that Americans will only speak Russian & Russians only English during the expedition.

On Mars, they'll find a vast & ancient underground city - still kept alive by machines though its inhabitants are long dead. Human explorer to the city will return infected with a highly contagious (via breathing) bug, & quickly infect the whole expedition. They'll nearly die out, but there is a miracle waiting - both for their personal sickness, & of humanity's sickness back on earth...

Collected in.

  1.  William Tenn's "Time in Advance".

Fact sheet.

First published: Infinity Science Fiction, November 1955.
Rating: B.
Related: Stories of William Tenn.