There are three stories in this volume that fit with the rest of the series: they are by well-known authors, and were mostly published in the 1930’s through the 1950’s. There are also two stories that don’t fit: they are by Craig Strete, and were published in the 1970’s. The company producing these audiobooks also put out a Craig Strete collection, so either they think he’s great, or they had the rights to all of his work and decided to throw some of it in here.
Helen O’Loy by Lester del Rey (1938) — Two scientists, who have managed to drive off the women in their lives, decide they are experts on human female emotions and work to put them in a robot. Then, there’s some relationship stuff that I don’t get, either because male-female relationships were different in the 1930’s, or because fiction about male-female relationships was different in the 1930’s, or because I just don’t get male-female relationships.
The Council of Drones by W K Sonnemann (1936) — A scientist has a machine that can swap the minds of two animals. He tests it on a beekeeper who wants to see what it’s like to be a queen bee. They don’t think of restraining the man’s body during this procedure, so bee-brain man gets up and thrashes around, destroying the machine and knocking the scientist into a coma. This leaves man-brain bee stuck in the beehive. He starts to think like a bee, getting mad when smoke is blown into the hive and his honey is stolen. He decides to make war on the humans, even though they are his father and his wife. He lays eggs and his offspring inherit his intelligence, so he plans to take over the world and kill all humans. His father gets tired of aggressive bees, and kills man-brain bee. This causes man-brain bee’s consciousness to go back to his original body. Man-brain man then goes back to the beehive to communicate/negotiate a peace, but he just gets stung. He kills the hive with poison gas.
Twilight by John Campbell (1934) — A time-traveler goes seven million years into the future, where humans have lost most of their fertility and all of their curiosity. Most of the cities (and even planets) are empty, but the machines still operate as if the cities were full.
Your Cruel Face by Craig Strete (1972) — The main character is a “wombcop”. This first made me visualize a micro-drone pilot gunning down waves of sperm. Then, I thought it might be some use of language like our modern “nanny state”. Later, the wombcop sits in a “wombcouch”, so I really don’t know why there’s so much womb stuff.
It turns out that wombcops do pilot drones, but they are full-sized ones that patrol the streets. The main character guns down a man for racking up his sixth misdemeanor, then he shoots a deaf woman from behind when she doesn’t follow his verbal orders. He says ‘oops’ and goes to lunch. While eating, he reads an article about typical facial features of criminals, and decides to plug them into facial recognition. The computer IDs him.
Into Every Rain, a Little Life Must Fall by Craig Strete (1975) — This is another wombcop story. Unless I completely missed something, it is also a ghost story, putting it in a completely different genre than the rest of the collection.
Well, I only managed two posts for Vintage Sci-Fi Month. I have an Arthur C Clarke novel I’m eager to review, because it’s full of neat-o science and weird human behavior, but I haven’t had time to type up the details. If you’re craving more classic sci-fi right now, check out the roundup of last week’s vintage sci-fi posts.