Saturday, December 24, 2011

L Sprague de Camp's "Employment" (as by Lyman R Lyon) (short story, free): Making prehistorical animals from their fossils!

Quote from short story Employment by L Sprague de Camp
This is only the second story I've seen from before Michael Crichton's "Jurassic Park" that deals with animating prehistoric animals to life today (other is "Amber Insect"). But the method here is very weird.

This, however, is not a monster story; it's more a light fun read. We see the reification of
  1. "a huge wolf, about the size of a Great Dane, but twice as muscular and ten times as mean-looking."
  2. "a specimen of Arctotherium, the immense bear from the California Pleistocene."
  3. A couple of elephants.
And plans are afoot to revive a T-rex.

Story summary.

A machine that does a sort of biochemical equivalent of electrolysis. Put a certain solution in a tank. Add as much fossil of a single animal as you have. Also add a lot of rock from area immediately surrounding the location where fossil was found; apparently, in the process of fossilization, many of the molecules of animal's body would have drifted to surrounding rock!

Put on the power, & over the next few days, stray molecules of animal that had diffused through surrounding rock are pulled back to their correct places, & you have ... the original animal back, skin, hair & all! Only its heart needs to be revived with a separate electrical process, & you get a fully grown animal.

Collected in.

  1. "The Best of L Sprague de Camp".

Fact sheet.

First published: Astounding, May 1939.
Rating: B.
Among the stories from Astounding/Analog issues edited by John Campbell.
Related: Stories of L Sprague de Camp.