Wednesday, March 20, 2024

SSW: "Day of Succession" by Ted Thomas (1959): Short Story Wednesday

(Arguable "spoilers" for the story throughout what's below; one can read it here first, if one chooses.) 

I posted this note to a discussion list not too long ago, since I thought it might be of at least passing interest:

Probably familiar clip to some: Cassie Mackin, Arthur C. Clarke, Rod Serling on THE DICK CAVETT SHOW

12 July 1972: Clarke mentions 1959 ASF Ted Thomas story, "Day of Succession", which (pseudo-sophisticatedly) posits a pacifist US Pres. and VP, and the "necessity" of killing them to allow the Speaker of the House to do Necessary Killing as Head of State. Cavett also suggests a notional skiffy plot, and H. G. Wells is discussed briefly

Fellow panelist Cassie/Catherine Mackin, an NBC and ABC-TV reporter, died of cancer at 43.

--A fellow-member, writer and editor John Boston (see also), took issue with my characterization, which as I admitted in reply was based entirely on Clarke's description of the story (and, further blame all mine, I managed befuddledly to conflate Ted Thomas with the somewhat more knee-jerking Theodore Cogswell in memory as I watched the excerpt and, shortly after, posted the link).  

I've now (re)read the story, which, since original publication in Astounding Science Fiction in the August 1959 issue, as far as ISFDB is aware has only been anthologized three times since, albeit the three anthologies have been reprinted several times between them: Damon Knight's A Century of Science Fiction (1962),  John F. Carr and Jerry Pournelle's Armageddon!: There Will Be War [series], Volume VIII (1989), and Dennis Pepper's The Young Oxford Book of Aliens (1998; Pepper being an editor who seems to be most interested in sf to the degree that it resembles horror fiction). As John noted,"I thought 'Day of Succession' was about how we get to fascism, which never lets a crisis go to waste."

Well, it is a seemingly double-bottomed story, which has fit comfortably within the world (and beyond)-view of Astounding editor John W. Campbell, Jr., that humans are the Most Dangerous Creatures (he seemed to posit this as a plus, more or less, and preferred fiction where humans were always the superiors of any other sort of sentient creatures they might encounter--as well as avowedly loving to publish stories that would "shake up" readers), and of the militarist editors of the long There Will Be War series, while not actually putting forward any sort of argument for the Destroy the Village in Order to Save It attitude of the not quite protagonist, a highly-placed US Army general, aside from his paranoia in regards to the hostile nature of the alien visitation proving to be apparently correct, as far as we can tell...albeit, that affirmation of their hostility occurs after extreme hostility and destruction, by his command, of the first aliens to arrive, and his claim of the aliens having not being able to make any warning to their fellow-travelers. 

Ted Thomas, who also signed his work Theodore L. Thomas (and wrote, and occasionally co-wrote with Charles Harness a humorous series of patent-related sf stories as by Leonard Lockhart) never published a collection, and his only two novels I'm aware of were in collaboration with Kate Wilhelm, and the first, The Clone, is the best "Blob" story I've read and a fine novel by any standard (it expands a shorter solo story of his). His "The Family Man" (which I read upon publication in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, March 1978)  is a story that has stuck with me much more vividly than "Day of Succession", which I first read not long after, in my copy of the Knight anthology...but this vignette makes its points...and lets you sort them out. 

(Thomas's 1962 story "Test" is one which haunted readers for of the most-remembered stories librarians and booksellers would be queried about by people who couldn't remember the author, title, or both...but the story stuck with them. It can be read, or reread, here.)

Please see Patti Abbott's blog for more of today's short fiction reviews.

Sunday, March 10, 2024

January/February Underappreciated Music: Links to reviews and performances

Maria Alyokhina, Yekaterina Samutsevich, and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova: Pussy Riot Closing Statements (2012)

Cindy Lee Berryhill on Mojo Nixon; Berryhill on Trash Flow Radio on Nixon (about 35 minutes in)

Jim Cameron: Dave "Fathead" Newman:  Davey Blue; Wayne Kramer of the MC5 

Jeff Cantwell: Totally Wired: Machine Music and the Fossils of the Future (on early electronic instruments)

Annette Crossland: Elles Bailey: "Cheats and Liars"

Jeff Gemmill: Emmylou Harris: Thirteen; The Henry Girls: A Time to Grow; The Long Ryders: Native Sons; Maggie Pope: Crow; Sarah Jarosz: Polaroid Lovers; Mol Sullivan: Goose; Hayley Reardon: Live at Starseed Studios; The Castellows: A Little Goes a Long Way; Steve Bergsman: All I Want is Loving You: Popular Female Singers of the 1950s: AI adventures in reviewing Valerie Carter and the Faragher Brothers: "Never Get Your Love Behind Me": Chat GPT and  Gemini

Ted Gioia: My 60 Favorite Nonesuch Albums (in three parts); Part 2 (in part!)Part 3 (in part!)

Music From The Morning Of The World - Album by David Lewiston | Spotify

Jerry House: Hymn Time

James Kaplan: From 3 Shades of Blue: Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Bill Evans, and the Lost Empire of Cool (via Ted Gioia)

Jackie Kashian: Ian Lockwood on recent/current Pop Icons 

George Kelley: Joni Mitchell: Court and Spark; Rosanne Cash: The WheelGirl from the North Country: The Musical; Rock Steady 1971 (a Starbucks album); Daryl Hall and John Oates: Our Kind of Soul; 25 Best Hits of the 1960s [sic]; Oldies but Goodies V. 5 (CD version); Best of the Bubble Gum Years [sic]

Tom Kraemer: John Hall & al.: "Power"

K. A. Laity: "House Music"

Barry N. Malzberg: Anton Bruckner: Symphony No. 3 in D Minor; Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Georg Solti; Bruckner: Symphony No. 6: Frankfort Radio Symphony conducted by Christoph Eschenbach

Todd Mason: 1959 Jazz Albums and the '59 Grammys

Charles Mingus, Abbey Lincoln &...

Thelonious Monk: Rewind and Play (link for beyond US)

Natasha Padilla: Mary Timoney: "Don't Disappear"; Saxsquatch

Wesley Paich: The Kiffness: "Numnum Cat"

James Reasoner:  Antii Martikainen: "Saloon Showdown"

Charlie Ricci: Creedence Clearwater Revival: "I Heard It Through the Grapevine"; Brinsley Schwarz: Thinking Back: The Anthology 1970-1975; The Saw Doctors and Petula Clark: "Downtown"; J. D. McPherson: Signs and Signifiers; Muireann Bradley: I Kept These Old Blues; People!: I Love You; Billy Joel: Turn the Lights Back On; Arthur Alexander: Lonely Just Like Me; Spacehog: "In the Meantime"; The Tonight Show Band with Doc Severinsen

Melanie Safka and Johnny Cash: "Silver Threads and Golden Needles"

Richard Williams: Yoko Ono: Music of the Mind

Friday, March 8, 2024

SSW/FFB: HITCHCOCK IN PRIME TIME edited by Francis M. Nevins, Jr. and Martin H. Greenberg (Avon 1985)

(Avon Books, August 1985, 0-380-89673-7, $9.95, 356pp, trade pb, anthology)    Can be read here.

1  Introduction ·  Henry Slesar  · in

The 1955-56 Season 
8 · And So Died Riabouchinska · Ray Bradbury · ss The Saint Detective Magazine June/July 1953
23 · The Orderly World of Mr. Appleby · Stanley Ellin · ss Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine #78, May 1950
44 · Momentum · Cornell Woolrich · nv Detective Fiction Weekly December 14 1940, as “Murder Always Gathers Momentum”

The 1956-57 Season
77 · The Better Bargain · Richard Deming · ss Manhunt April 1956
88 · The Hands of Mr. Ottermole · Thomas Burke · nv The Story-teller February 1929
109 · The Dangerous People · Fredric Brown · ss Dime Mystery Magazine March 1945, as “No Sanctuary”
121 · Enough Rope for Two · Clark Howard · ss Manhunt February 1957
152 · The Day of the Execution · Henry Slesar · ss Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine June 1957

The 1957-58 Season
163 · The $2,000,000 Defense · Harold Q. Masur · ss Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine May 1958
181 · The Dusty Drawer · Harry Muheim · ss Collier’s May 3 1952

The 1959-60 Season

The 1962-63 Season
225 · Hangover · John D. MacDonald · ss Cosmopolitan July 1956
238 · Hangover · Charles W. Runyon · ss Manhunt December 1960 

The 1963-64 Season
254 · A Home Away from Home · Robert Bloch · ss Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine June 1961
264 · Terror Town · Ellery Queen · nv Argosy August 1956

The 1964-65 Season
310 · One of the Family · James Yaffe · ss Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine May 1956

For whatever reason, this rather obvious project (an anthology of stories adapted by Alfred Hitchcock Presents: and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour) saw only one trade paperback edition from Avon, in 1985, toward the earlier years of the mass influx of Martin Greenberg anthologies, and coinciding with the 1985 latter-day revival of Alfred Hitchcock Presents: (one season broadcast on NBC, then three more seasons cablecast on the USA Network channel); the acknowledgements pages are misleading, and verge on useless, but, happily, along with Henry Slesar's introduction to the volume, the living and game writers (for some reason, Ray Bradbury chose not to) supplied brief but useful or at least interesting notes about the fiction and its adaptation, even when (as with Stanley Ellin), the writer in question has no clear firsthand memory of the adaptation (or, in his case, even seeing it). Co-editor Francis Nevins supplies afterwords for those writers who were already gone or unwilling (even John D. MacDonald, still ticked in 1985 that Shamley Productions had the odd idea of flanging together his story with one of the same title by Charles Runyon for that script, is game to let us know about this; Runyon not much less puzzled, but happy enough to get the check).

At least two of these stories had also made their way into "Hitchcock" anthologies I'd read in the '70s, Robert Bloch's 1961 story "A Home Away from Home" (Bloch notes that he enjoyed expanding the brief short story, an Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine Poe-inspired-contest-winner, when adapting it for the AH Hour adaptation; Bloch would also employ a version of the story as the framing device for his later anthology film-script for Asylum), in Alfred Hitchcock's Noose Report (1966), one of the Dell paperbacks which were essentially best-ofs from AHMM, and Harry Muheim's "The Dusty Drawer", which leads off Robert Arthur's brilliant 1969 anthology for Random House, Alfred Hitchcock Presents: A Month of Mystery (online here)as well as the Dell paperback first-volume (of 2) reprint, AHP: Dates with Death. 

A book well worth having, as well as reading, even given the odd skipping through the seasons of the original television series. One wonders if there was some intention on the part of the editors to make a more comprehensive survey of the stories adapted for the program. Additionally, it's not the worst survey of the sorts of crime fiction one could find in magazines in the (for the most part) 1950s and '60s.

Jack Seabrook corrects Muheim's memory of the previous television adaptation of his "The Dusty Drawer" in his review of the AHP: episode and, in passing, this anthology in this Bare Bones post.