Authors: Richard A. Lupoff
Tags: #Science Fiction
Richard A. Lupoff
In the last years of the twentieth century (as Wells might have put it), Gollancz, Britain’s oldest and most distinguished science fiction imprint, created the SF and Fantasy Masterworks series. Dedicated to re-publishing the English language’s finest works of SF and Fantasy, most of which were languishing out of print at the time, they were – and remain – landmark lists,
consummately fulfilling the original mission statement:
‘SF MASTERWORKS is a library of the greatest SF ever written, chosen with the help of today’s leading SF writers and editors. These books show that genuinely innovative SF is as exciting today as when it was first written.’
Now, as we move inexorably into the twenty-first century, we are delighted to be widening our remit even more.
The realities of commercial publishing are such that vast troves of classic SF & Fantasy are almost certainly destined never again to see print. Until very recently, this meant that anyone interested in reading any of these books would have been confined to scouring second-hand bookshops. The advent of digital publishing has changed that paradigm for ever.
The technology now exists to enable
us to make available, for the first time, the entire backlists of an incredibly wide range of classic and modern SF and fantasy authors. Our plan is, at its simplest, to use this technology to build on the success of the SF and Fantasy Masterworks series and to go even further.
Welcome to the new home of Science Fiction & Fantasy. Welcome to the most comprehensive electronic library of classic
SFF titles ever assembled.
Welcome to the SF Gateway.
It was dark in the room even though Arlie knew it was daytime outside. A little light crept in around the edges of the window shades, and the illuminated clock face on his night table said 7:30. He smiled because he knew a train would pass on the nearby track in a little while. He always listened for the passing train, the steady clatter of its metal wheels on the tracks and
the occasional piercing sound of its whistle. He could make believe he was a passenger on the train, make believe that it was carrying him away from his home and his sickbed.
Arlie’s imaginary train rides were more fun at night, when he could imagine himself a passenger aboard a sleek streamliner. The train passed through a darkened, tree-lined countryside. Mountains rose in the distance, a crescent
moon shone though wisps of clouds, and the towers of an ancient stone castle rose, silhouetted against the landscape.
Travel on the morning trains was more difficult. Arlie knew that most of the passengers were workers on their way to their offices or students on their way to school. Still, it was fun to pretend that he was one of them, rather than confined to his bed.
He could hear his Aunt
Cora bustling in the kitchen. He knew that she would be in with his breakfast and his medicine soon. Uncle Mort and Aunt Mary would already have left for work. They got up early and took the bus to the factory where they built tanks for the army. Now it was just Arlie and Aunt Cora in the apartment.
Aunt Cora was actually Arlie’s great aunt, his grandma’s sister.
Uncle Mort was Aunt Cora’s son
and Aunt Mary was Uncle Mort’s wife. And since Arlie’s mother was dead and his dad was fighting in the army, Aunt Cora and Uncle Mort and Aunt Mary had taken Arlie to live in their apartment.
It was mainly Aunt Cora, though, who cared for Arlie.
The apartment wasn’t as nice as his house had been, but they didn’t have the house any more, and a boy his age could hardly have lived there by himself
alone, even if he’d been healthy.
The door of Arlie’s bedroom swung open and Aunt Cora appeared, carrying his tray. Some light came in through the doorway, too. Arlie blinked. The light shone around Aunt Cora. Arlie could see her smile, see her tooth with the little golden filling in it, her gray hair tied behind her head in a bun.
Arlie pushed himself upright against the old wooden headboard,
a pillow propped behind his back. Aunt Cora set the tray down on the comforter. It balanced neatly across his legs. Aunt Cora held his face between her hands and kissed him on the forehead. She muttered something in the language they used to speak in the old country. That was what she always called it, never mentioned its name, just the old country.
She opened the bottle of dark medicine and
poured a spoonful of it. She held it for him and he swallowed it. It tasted terrible. She screwed the top back on the bottle, gave him his pills one at a time and waited while he washed them down with a glass of orange juice.
Breakfast was a bowl of oatmeal and scrambled eggs and toast. Arlie ate as much as he could, which wasn’t much, and lay back against his pillow. Aunt Cora tried to coax
him to eat more, and he took another forkful of eggs. They didn’t seem to have much taste, and eating made him tired.
After breakfast Aunt Cora picked him up and carried him to the bathroom. When he was ready she carried him back to his bed, took off his pajamas and gave him his sponge bath. He didn’t know why it was called a sponge bath, Aunt Cora just used a warm washcloth and a dry, soft towel.
After his sponge bath she put him in a set of fresh, clean pajamas, even if the old ones weren’t dirty.
“You want a nap, darling?” Aunt Cora asked as she tucked him back into his bed.
Arlie nodded and slid down under the comforter. He closed his eyes and listened for the train.
He heard the distant whistle, smiling to himself in the darkened
room. He knew that Aunt Cora had tiptoed out, whispering
something before she pulled the door shut. He couldn’t make out what she said but he didn’t need to. She said that he had to get well because his daddy was in Europe fighting and Arlie had to be well and strong when he got home, after he’d beaten Hitler.
The train clattered past the apartment building. When Arlie was well he used to stand in the cement courtyard four stories below his window
and watch the train go by. Now he could only listen to its wheels and its whistle, but he could close his eyes in the darkened room and see it as clearly as if he’d been standing in the courtyard watching.
He wanted to reach over to his night table and turn on the radio but he felt too tired so he just waited until he couldn’t hear the train any more, then he thought about other things while
he waited for Dr. Goldsmith to pay his daily visit.
The visit was always the same. Arlie would hear the doorbell ring, hear the door open and close again. There would be a mumbled conversation between Dr. Goldsmith and Aunt Cora. They spoke in a combination of regular American and the Old Country language. Then Dr. Goldsmith would come into Arlie’s room carrying his black doctor bag and set it
on the bed next to Arlie.
Aunt Cora would stand behind Dr. Goldsmith while he examined Arlie. He would take his temperature, look inside his ears with a little flashlight, then make him open his mouth and say ahh while he pushed his tongue down with a flat wooden stick and looked around inside. Then he’d take his
out of his doctor bag and put the little tips in his ears. Arlie was
pleased that he knew the word
. Arlie would have to lift up his pajama shirt so Dr. Goldsmith could press the icy cold metal part against his chest.
When he finished examining Arlie Dr. Goldsmith always smiled. Arlie could make out his big smile even in the darkened room. Dr. Goldsmith always hummed a little tune while be put his little flashlight and his
back in his doctor
bag. Then he would say, “Wonderful, little man, wonderful. Keep up the progress and we’ll have you playing halfback any day now. He always said the same thing.
One time, after Dr. Goldsmith left and Aunt Cora came back to stay with Arlie, he asked her what song Dr. Goldsmith always hummed when he examined Arlie.
Aunt Cora said, “Happy Days Are Here Again.” She asked Arlie if he liked that song
and Arlie said that he did, it was a happy song and it
made him feel good when Dr. Goldsmith whistled it.
Arlie was able to reach over to his night table and turn on the radio. That was another funny thing. He got sponge baths without a sponge and the table was next to his bed all the time, not just at night, but it was still called a night table.
He heard a news report on the radio. There was
a big tank battle going on someplace called the Black Forest. He figured that his father was there, driving a tank and blowing up Nazis left and right. Arlie smiled.
After the news there was a quiz show and he knew most of the answers. If he’d been a lucky contestant he could have won fifty dollars and a year’s supply of canned soup, but he wasn’t a lucky contestant so all he could do was listen
to the radio.
Then it was time for lunch, a lamb chop and spinach and a buttered roll. Aunt Cora cut the meat off the lamb chop and popped it into his mouth bit by bit until he couldn’t eat any more. He ate some spinach, too, even though he didn’t like it much.
Then he had his afternoon nap, and then came the second best part of the day, time for the radio stories.
He listened to
. Ace Larson was the captain of a space ship that went to different planets. He had a girlfriend name Betty Blanton. There were always monsters on the planets they landed on, or sometimes space pirates. Betty got captured most of the time and Ace rescued her. Once Ace got captured and the giant scaly octopuses of Venus were going to sacrifice him on a big stone idol and that time
Betty rescued Ace.
Arlie couldn’t remember much of what his mother had looked like, but he remembered a little. He remembered her hair was really dark and long and she wore dark red lipstick and she always smiled a lot. When he listened to Ace Larson Space Explorer he knew that Betty Blanton looked a lot like his mother. Ace Larson looked like Arlie’s father.
Today Ace Larson Space Explorer
and Betty Blanton were on their way to a new adventure on the Poison Planetoid. Nobody ever went there because it was such a terrible place. All the plants were poisonous and the air was full of horrible mist creatures that looked like black ropes and twisted themselves around your throat and choked you so you couldn’t breathe but Jimmy and Janie Jansen, the twins whose dad was the President of Earth,
had been kidnapped and were being held prisoner on the Poison Planetoid and Ace Larson Space Explorer and Betty Blanton were their only hope of rescue.
The episode ended as Ace Larson and Betty Blanton’s spaceship, the
, was about to land on the Poison Planetoid. Some mist creatures had got into the spaceship and they were attacking Ace Larson Space Explorer and Betty Blanton. They were both
passing out because the mist creatures were choking them and if the
crashed onto the planet they were doomed.
Ace Larson Space Explorer
The Crimson Wizard