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adam-troy
Posted on Tuesday, March 08, 2005 - 07:10 am:   

It took a long time, but it finally happened.

At my advanced age, I've finally encountered the Lamest Science Fiction
Story Of All Time.

You may have a different nominee. I wouldn't be surprised. But to even encounter
a story worthy of that dishonorable title, at this late date, is unexpected.
It requires heroic dimensions of lameness. Lameness extreme even by the
standards of lameness.

It appears in a comic book compilation called STEVE DITKO'S SPACE WARS,
published by Vanguard; one of many books I just received, for possible review
in SCI FI Magazine. (I'll be receiving many such packages over the next
two months and will be assigned only a fraction of their contents.)

And, yes, it's a collection of skiffy comics by Steve Ditko.

This much needs to be said for folks not in the know: Steve Ditko's resume
as an artist is an impressive one. He is, among things, the co-creator of
SPIDER-MAN, among many other lesser characters. He is responsible for establishing
DR. STRANGE's surreal look. He is also, for what it's worth, positive or
negative, a devout follower of Ayn Rand who voluntarily left the more commercial
markets to self-produce comics promoting her philosophies. That's where
we get his resume as a writer, most of which is, let's say, spotty in the
extreme.

I do not know if the following story, dating from the 50s or 60s, was written
by Ditko, but it was drawn by him, and it reads like his work.

THE MOON SNATCHERS!

"While the United Nations of Earth were busy mining the moon for valuable
minerals, a strange occurrence envolving the satellite had been detected..."

That's right. Envolving. Also, passive structure. Least of the story's sins.
It turns out that the Chief Astronomer of Earth has found out that the moon
is actually moving away from the Earth.

A reporter (smoking, with press pass in his hat brim) asks him if the Earth
will be affected if the moon disappears. He says, "certainly, tidal action
of the oceans will cease, but what else might happen we don't know...yet!"

He doesn't mention world-spanning tectonic disturbances, but hey.

A guy in a turban notes, "If we lose the moon we will not only lose a source
of valuable minerals, but our only dumping ground for atomic wastes!"

Somebody measures the speed of its retreat: 20,000 miles per day and accelerating.

The miners all evacuate.

A nameless professor calculates that the moon is headed toward Venus. "Some
great force ray" is pulling the moon out of orbit and there's nothing Earth
can do about it.

One of the miners, Bill Corwin, the nominal protagonist of the story, left
behind when the others bugged out, is introduced at the halfway point. He
is shown standing and looking up at the Earth, which looks pretty dang large
to me; guess his co-workers left in REAL haste. His bosses from home videophone
that they can never forgive themselves for leaving him. The plucky Bill
says, "Well, I'll try to make the make the best of it," and, "At least I'm
getting a free trip to Venus."

He loses contact with Earth and just stands around doing nothing while
Venus looms larger in the sky.

A fleet of spaceships leaves Venus and lands on the moon. One saucer lands
a stone's throw from Bill, who says, "Well, I guess this is curtains for
me!"

We are treated to the following face to face meeting between Bill and the
Venusians. All punctuation is SIC.

Venusian: We brought your moon up here and have set it in orbit around
Venus which has no moon!
Bill: You have no right to steal our moon! My people will fight to
have it back!
Venusian: We are astounded that there is intelligent life on Earth but
since you have explained so much about it, we shall return
your moon to it's earthly orbit! You are welcome to visit
our planet!
Bill: I shall enjoy it!

And the Venusians put the moon back, "much to the relief of lovers everywhere
as well as practical scientists!"

The End.

A pretty good story, if you don't want characters, or conflict, or suspense,
or a friggin' point.

The bad news: it's not even the worst story in the volume. There is one
that achieves greater heights of badness, but for reasons that go beyond
the merely lame. That one's a science-fictional attack on beatniks. Oy vey...!
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Scott Edelman
Posted on Tuesday, March 08, 2005 - 04:40 pm:   

Let me just add that _all_ of the stories in the book are like that! I guess the only way to enjoy them is in an Ed Wood shut-off-your-brain type way.

Reading the volume, I thought, "Is that what comics were like back then?"

But then I remembered EC's SF comics, and I realized that no, that's what _Charlton_ comics were like back then.

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