Science Fiction Though the Decades

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Four Pieces of T.J. Bass's Short Fiction

On the one hand, there's the stereotypical so-called "hard" science fiction that immerses itself in the technicalities of physics and other realms of science, such as astronomy, biology, and chemistry. Among SF fans, while this type of fiction is interesting, it rarely inspires the reader due to its instruction booklet-esque presentation, as if the fiction were a wet fantasy of some pent up writer; in addition, "hard" SF tends to lack both character development and wit (aside from technical puns, another ejaculation of nerds [not always a bad thing, though]).

On the other hand, there are some wondrous examples of "hard" science fiction, such as Hayford Peirce's "High Yield Bondage" (novelette, 1975), which takes a fun and witty romp through economic science, and Greg Egan's Quarantine (1992), which hold a mind-bending adventure through some rather Schrodinger-esque science... then there's T.J. Bass's Hive duology--Half Past Human (1971) and Godwhale (1974)--the oddity, science, and writing of which has never been reproduced. Crammed full of anatomical jargon, it's a delight for those who love words and word origins; filled to the brim with originality, the world that Bass created really pushes the envelope.

However, T.J. Bass (a pseudonym for Thomas Joseph Bassler, M.D.) also produced four pieced of short fiction that were never anthologized, having only seen the light in once or twice in a magazine. Thanks to, back issues of these magazines--and so much more--can be found, which opens up the world of one-off short fiction once-thought-forever buried in time. While they contain the gift of anatomical jargon, much of the wit isn't evident in these pieces, aside from "The Beast of 309", which was published after Bass's first novel. 

I've added links to each source in case you'd also like to take a trip back in time with these magazines.

Worlds of If, September 1968: "Star Itch" (novella, p.72-119)

3.5/5 - Cigar was sent two centuries ago to a distant planet in order to establish a colony with its hold of colonists; sadly, after a decade, one by one, the colonists died of either insanity, starvation, or both as Cigar orbited helplessly above. Now, Olga arrives with her own crew to investigate why the colony failed to establish itself. Of the expendables sent to the surface, Ralph get a first-hand experience on the difficulty of adapting to the planet's ecosystem.

Worlds of If, September 1969: "Star Seeder" (novelette, p.77-97)

2/5 - On Robert Zuliani's home planet, the Games are in full swing and while he doesn't win top prize for any of them, his overall score if enough for him to be crowned the Champion. His victory is short lived as an assassination attempt is made upon him by, which turns out to be, a member of the human clone clan called the Dregs. When its discovered that the Dregs plan to litter the Andromeda galaxy with their monogenetic strain, Zuliani and his home planet come up with a more powerful weapon to defense to human lineage and Andromeda.

Worlds of If, February 1970: "A Game of Biochess" (short story, p.75-87, 152)

4/5 - Spider is named for his malformations of limb and bone, yet the disability doesn't extend to his mind or libido. A master at a form of chess and at a competition, he eventually defeats a female opponent who also becomes his object of desire. With the sly starship Olga meeting his analytical needs, Spider tracks down her ship down to an ancient planet where Olga makes a few discoveries. With his mind prepared for the meeting, Spider takes a frail step to meet the woman whose biology is askew to his own.

Worlds of If, February 1971: "The Beast of 309" (novelette, p.22-48)

4/5 - One of Caesar's earliest memories from the orphanage is waking up with once one eye and having to adapt to life likewise. Replacing catching and throwing for running as his primary activity, Caesar soon makes a name for himself and eventually earns a place with the Starship Academy, with which he can find duties lucrative enough to pay for his eye replacement. On a jaunt back home, he shares information about his once-injured father and retakes to running the trail, only to suffer a heart attack. He soon learns that growing a new heart and a new eye is cheaper than just the eye, but why?