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Because I am nominating for the 2016 Hugos, and there will be Retro Hugos for 1941 (meaning, material published in 1940), I have been doing some reading of short fiction from 1940. A lot of it has been re-reading of things I remember with some fondness - and I shan't be reviewing those, too much work, but there's been a few things I hadn't read before and was able to find here and there at little cost, so here's my thoughts on those.

"Song in a Minor Key," C. L. Moore

A very short but poignant piece in which one of Moore's great characters, Northwest Smith, reflects on his past... And moves on.

"The Stellar Legion," Leigh Brackett

One of many planetary romance stories Brackett wrote, this one is about treachery, honour and redemption in a Venusian version of the French Foreign Legion. The prose is delicious.

"Farewell to the Master," Harry Bates

Though it tells a rather different story, this novelette was the inspiration for the classic film The Day the Earth Stood Still. Here, Klaatu is killed by a madman the minute he leaves the ship, and he is interred in a mausoleum, while his robot companion Gnut is placed on display in a museum erected near the ship. The narrator, a daring young reporter, notices that despite being apparently immobile, Gnut has been changing position, and hides in the museum overnight to observe. Once he discovers what Gnut has been doing, he tries to help - and learns more than he wanted to about civilisation that Klaatu and Gnut are from.

"Fruit of Knowledge," C. L. Moore

A vibrant and psychologically complex retelling of the story of the Garden of Eden, of Adam and Lilith and Lucifer and Eve.

"Martian Quest," Leigh Brackett

A dispirited young man flees failure and a difficult family background to become a settler on Mars, but even this choice seems doomed when deadly Martian lizards threaten to overrun the settlement areas. An exploration of courage and redemption.

"It," Theodore Sturgeon

An intelligence somehow embedded in a collection of mould and dirt and ancient bones creates terror in a rural community. Solid horror story told from multiple viewpoints, including that of the 'monster.'


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