Deadline & Other Controversial SF Classics [MultiFormat]
Click on image to enlarge.
eBook by Cleve Cartmill
eBook Category: Science Fiction
eBook Description: Why Did the FBI Want "Deadline" Censored? Author Cleve Cartmill, editor John W. Campbell, publisher's Street & Smith, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, and L. Sprague de Camp were only some of those who came under government investigation after government officials learned of the contents of what was to become science fiction's most controversial brainchild? Why? You will discover the startling answers in Jean Marie Stine's amazing introduction to this first-ever collection of Golden Age author, Cartmill's work. Included in this mammoth volume are four complete novellas, the too-close to reality for the government, "Deadline," the noirish outer space mystery, "Some Day We'll Find You," the intellectual thriller of an attempted revolution against a future theocracy, "With Flaming Swords," and the thought-provoking story of a man whose desire to be a normal, patriotic citizen inadvertently lead to his society's "Overthrow." As a bonus readers will find what critics consider his most adroit short story, an androcentric but highly-amusing meditation on a possible prehistoric turning-point, "The Link." But, be warned: Cartmill questioned authority and traditional explanations of things, and tried to tell his stories in such a way that readers would begin to see and question the shortcomings in their own society. So, if you are completely comfortable with the people in charge and way things are now, and never want to doubt what you are told, put down this book immediately and do not read any further.
eBook Publisher: Renaissance E Books/PageTurner, Published: 2005
Fictionwise Release Date: February 2005
24 Reader Ratings:
Cleve Cartmill (1908-1964) was a newspaper journalist and freelance science fiction writer who contributed some fifty novellas, novelettes and short stories to the sf and f pulp magazines of the time. His earliest work appeared in the pages of the legendary 1940s fantasy publication, Unknown Worlds. Today, many of his contributions to this magazine, particularly the short novels "Hell Hath Fury" and "A Bit of Tapestry" (which Robert Silverberg, himself a multi-award winning sf/f writer, recently hailed as "nicely done fantasy novellas"), are considered minor masterpieces.
However, Cartmill was a double-threat man, and was equally adept at writing science fiction, consistently placing stories with John W. Campbell, the most demanding editor of his day. Campbell's magazine, Astounding--which spawned the careers of Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Sprague de Camp, and other Golden Age giants--almost single-handedly moved science fiction from shoot-'em up space opera to serious scientific, sociological and psychological speculation. Campbell brought out the best in Cartmill, resulting in a series of memorable stories that still retain great vigor and resonance today, among them a norish noirish outer space mystery, "Some Day We'll Find You," an attempted revolution against a future theocracy, "With Flaming Swords," the story of a man whose desire to be a normal, patriotic citizen inadvertently lead to a society's "Overthrow," and an androcentric but highly-amusing meditation on a possible turning point in dim prehistory, "The Link" (all of which you will find in this first-ever collection of his work).
Yet, today Cartmill's memory and reputation rest on one single story, "Deadline," and the controversial events that swirled around its publication in the March 1944 issue of Astounding. In fact, it is possible to make a case for "Deadline" being the most controversial science fiction story ever published--considering that its appearance provoked a full-scale investigation by the FBI. As the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction describes the event: A year before the explosion of the first atomic bomb, at a time when the weapon's existence and workings were World War II's most closely guarded secret, Cartmill's story described the principle behind the bomb as well as the exact means by which it was exploded.
Someone somewhere in military intelligence must have been a science fiction reader, for not long after the issue of Astounding containing the futuristic spy story, "Deadline," hit the stands, a pair of FBI agents appeared in the office of editor John Campbell demanding everything he knew about the story and its author. It soon became apparent that they suspected Cartmill, and perhaps Campbell, of being an enemy agent who had received classified information from another agent and was using the pages of Astounding to pass this information along to Hitler's Third Reich. Moreover, the agents had discovered that both Campbell and Cartmill had suspicious connections with a trio of men, two of whom worked in research at the Philadelphia Naval Yard, and whom who might have been in a position to learn something from someone somehow about the bomb, while the third member of the trio was involved in suggestive experiments.
As aA recently declassified intelligence document discussing the connection between these three men seems to suggest that there is more to their association than met the eye. "It is established that Cartmill is very friendly with [ ], Retired U.S.N.R., who is associated with [ ] at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. This [ ] formerly was doing research work at Columbia University, and he is said to have accepted some material thought to be atomic copper from [ ] in order to measure it in the mass spectroscope at Columbia University. [ ] was advised by [ ] that the device was broken. He never received the material back from [ ]. One [ ] who has written for [ ] Magazine is said to be working with [ ] also. The possibility of the transmittal through [ ] to Cartmill has not so far been resolved..." (The names were blacked out in the document.)
Who were the members of this suspicious cabal? Here is the document with the names filled in: "It is established that Cartmill is very friendly with [Robert A. Heinlein], Retired U.S.N.R., who is associated with [Isaac Asimov] at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. This [Asimov] formerly was doing research work at Columbia University, and he is said to have accepted some material thought to be atomic copper from [Will F. Jenkins (Murray Leinster)] in order to measure it in the mass spectroscope at Columbia University. [Jenkins] was advised by [Asimov] that the device was broken. He never received the material back from [Asimov]. One [L. Sprague de Camp] who has written for [Astounding] Magazine is said to be working with [Heinlein] also. The possibility of the transmittal through [Heinlein] to Cartmill has not so far been resolved..."
Well, of course, a pair of more loyal supporters of the U.S. in the war against Hitler's Third Reich than Robert A. Heinlein and Isaac Asimov would be hard to find, and it is not likely that Campbell, Cartmill, de Camp, and Jenkins were far behind.
Suffice it to say, there was no tempest in this particular teapot, not even much tea. As Campbell pointed out to the FBI representatives in their first meeting, it required neither leaked security secrets or predictive genius for Cartmill to have described the bomb so accurately. They had simply reworked a passage from the many articles on nuclear physics and chain reactions openly published in the technical journals of the period and available in libraries throughout the country. The government's most closely guarded secret, in short, was known to every professional in the field, and if the Germans had wanted to know how to construct an atomic bomb, all they would have had to do was subscribe to those journals (which, it turns out, is just what they did to help advance their own atomic bomb program).
Campbell even supplied the FBI with a copy of the publicly-circulated document that had served as the inspiration for "Deadline," the "Official U. S. Report: Atomic Energy for Military Purposes." In part, it read:
"DETONATION AND ASSEMBLY. As stated in Chapter II, it is impossible to prevent a chain reaction from occurring when the size exceeds the critical size. For there are always enough neutrons (from cosmic rays, from spontaneous fission reactions, or from alpha-particle-induced reactions in impurities) to initiate the chain. Thus until detonation is desired, the bomb must consist of a number of separate pieces each one of which is below the critical size either by reason of small size or unfavorable shape. To produce detonation, the parts of the bomb must be brought together rapidly. In the course of this assembly process the chain reaction is likely to start-because of the presence of stray neutrons-before the bomb has reached its most compact (most reactive) form. Thereupon the explosion tends to prevent the bomb from reaching that most compact form. Thus it may turn out that the explosion is so inefficient as to be relatively useless. The problem, therefore, is two-fold: (1) to reduce the time of assembly to a minimum; and (2) to reduce the number of stray (predetonation) neutrons to a minimum."
You can compare this passage with the way Cartmill describes the same phenomenon when you read his story.
It ought to be noted, in fairness to Cartmill, that if any government or bureaucracy were to properly understand his stories, they would find them all controversial and dangerous. For Cartmill questioned authority, and traditional explanations of things, and tried to tell his stories in such a way that the reader would begin to see their shortcomings in her or his own society and start to question them, too. So be warned, if you are completely comfortable with the people in charge and way things are now, and never want to doubt them, put down this book immediately and do not read any further.
Jean Marie Stine * * * * CONTENTS Introduction Some Day We'll Find You With Flaming Swords Deadline The Link Overthrow SOME DAY WE'LL FIND YOU * * * * CHAPTER I
MR. CUPPY ran a savage eye down the list of payments to the Hunt Club, Inc. When he noted the total to date, his thin, sharp face screwed into a mask of rage. He flicked sparkling eyes at his waiting assistant 'in the briefest of glances, and jabbed a stud on his desk with a shaking finger.
Then he addressed a burning look at the young man who had totted the account, who stood waiting for instructions.
"Well?" Mr. Cuppy barked. "What are you waiting for? Your arteries to harden?"
"N-no, Sir," the young man stammered. "I thought--"
"Ha!" Mr. Cuppy exploded caustically. "Not in my memory. Get back to your work."
As the young man fled, a face filled the desk screen before Mr. Cuppy. The face was large, young, with calm dark eyes and a mouth which bespoke a kind of deadly humor.
It was a face to command the respect of men, for it was quietly arrogant, sure of its power, poised, self-possessed. It was a face before which employees would touch their foreheads with index and middle fingers. And so they did-all but Mr. Cuppy.
"Junior," he said with gentle, quiet fury, "just what are you trying to do?" His voice began to rise. "Break up Trading Posts, Inc.?" This was as much of a roar as Mr. Cuppy's aging lungs could manage.
The face in the screen cracked a tiny smile. "What have I done now, Mr. Cuppy?" The face sighed. "When my father turned this company over to me, he told me there'd be days like this."
Mr. Cuppy thrust the list of payments at the Screenscreen. "Look! Just take a look! For six whole months we've been paying out good money-good money, mind you-to Thorne Raglan to find a couple of space tramps. Did he find them? No! And are you still throwing good money after bad? You are. Loren Bradley, this nonsense must stop!"
"But, Mr. Cuppy. I need those men."
"Why? You can hire a hundred, a thousand good engineers for half what you're paying just to find Ben Wellman and ... and ... what the devil's his name?"
"You've scoured the universe," Mr. Cuppy went on testily. "And now"-he paused, bit his thin lips in an effort to keep his voice from trembling-"you bring a man from Mars to hunt for them and ... and, damme, pay his transportation!"
WMr. Cuppy spluttered to silence, glared at the image of Loren Bradley IV. Bradley's broad mouth twitched with amusement.
"Mr. Cuppy, I have more bad news for you."
Mr. Cuppy glared.
"Maybe you'd better come to my office," Bradley suggested. "If you see what I'm buying, you may approve. I suspect that you can still appreciate beauty."
"Pah!" Mr. Cuppy spat, and cut the circuit.
He tapped the list of expenses with a thoughtful finger for a moment, then strode into the corridor on short, brisk legs. He stepped on a moving ramp, ignoring employees who touched their forehead at his green badge, and was lifted to the next floor. He padded along the corridor, breezed through President Bradley's reception room without a nod to the pretty girl at a desk and thrust through Loren Bradley's door.
"Now what?" he demanded.
Bradley waved a large hand at a girl in civilian tunic. "Miss Jones this is Mr. Cuppy, my chief accountant and man behind the throne. He runs this organization, in his way. Mr. Cuppy, touch the head to Jennifer Jones, our newest employee."
"UmpbUmph!" Mr. Cuppy grunted, and inspected her.
His eyes did not light with appreciation of her startling blond beauty. No smile of delight touched his mouth as noted her shrewd blue eyes, her lithe form, her long brown legs, her small feet and graceful hands. He was sternly silent.
"I'm terribly excited over it," she said in a voice which did not indicate any excitement whatever. "Imagine me, Jenny Jones, working for Trading Posts. Why, it's the biggest thing in the universe. Daddy says it is the universe."
Mr. Cuppy turned sourly to Bradley. "Why tell me, Junior? You can surely hire clerks without tying up the whole organization in a verbal spree." He turned to Jennifer. "I am unable to express my wild delight, Miss Jones, in the fact that you are to be one of us. This old heart throbs like a Jovian spacer, this gray head spins like a Jovian moon. Good day!"
He turned abruptly away, but halted when Loren Bradley spoke sharply. "Cuppy!"
Mr. Cuppy turned to see Bradley's face no longer pleasant, to listen to words without a trace of amusement.
"Mr. Cuppy, you will carry Miss Jennifer's salary-a large salary, by the way-and her expenses as a charge to the Wellman-Stopes account. You will be informed of the accounts."
Mr. Cuppy purpled. "You will not speak to me in that tone of voice, you young puppy! I'll take orders, but not like that."
Bradley smiled, not with amusement. "When I please, I shall speak to you as I please, Cuppy. It pleases me now to apologize. However, the order stands."
"And what," demanded Mr. Cuppy, "is this young lady to do? We've spent a fortune already with Hunt Club, Inc. Is she Thorne Raglan's niece? Are we to add nepotism to our business crimes?"
A soft chime interrupted Bradley's answer, and he spoke into his communivox. "Ali?"
"Mr. Raglan on your visivox, sir."
Thorne Raglan didn't look like a hunter. He was moonfaced, with a glow like that goddess of the night. This effect, perhaps, was wrought by small blue eyes that twinkled over mounded pink cheeks. His short pug nose was almost lost in an expanse of geniality.
"Lorry," he said to Loren Bradley IV, "I touch the head. How's the old space robber?"
"Hello, Thorny." Bradley said quietly. "I'm pretty busy, as a matter of fact."
"Then I won't keep you, chum. Brief, that's Raglan. Everything's brief about me but my waistline and my bills. EhEli? Well, here it is, short as a dead comet's tail. Craig Marten arrives at Spaceport 9 in thirty minutes. Got it? Good-by."
"Wait!" Bradley said. "I want to ask a couple of questions. Your reports on Wellman and Stopes, and your biographical material on Marten show that the three could have met at one time on Pluto. Do you know anything about it?"
"Certainly, Lorry. That's why I'm bringing Craig from our Mars office. He's been a damned good director, but he has at least seen our quarry, which is more than the rest of my staff can say. You know, I've told you that I suspect one or another of our men has seen them here, but, hell, bow how would he know? I'll turn all my dope over to Craig and he'll run 'em down in short order."
Bradley pounced on the hint of new information. "Here? What makes you think they're here?"
"I was going to surprise you, Lorry," Raglan said affably, "but you caught me up. They've been traced here-by Craig."
Bradley's dark face lighted with an unaccustomed took of pleasure. "Good work, Thorny. There'll be a bonus for you."
Raglan's chuckles, as he cut off, were mingled with a low moan from Mr. Cuppy.
"What am I going to tell the stockholders in my next report?" he wailed. "Do you realize, Junior, that more' than sixty million persons have actual cash invested in this corporation? Are they going to like their quarterly dividend to be cut because you want to meet a couple of tramps?"
"I'm sure you can fix it, Cuppy," Bradley said with a half smile. "You always have, for three generations of us. Now. You asked what Miss Jones would do to earn her salary. She's to make an acquaintance, develop it into friendship, and marriage if necessary."
Mr. Cuppy was so startled he could say nothing for a moment. When he did speak, the fire was gone. "A matrimonial bureau," he murmured sadly. "What next?"
Bradley covered a combination of desk studs with his fingers. When the chime sounded, he spoke into his communivox.
"Spaceport 9 immediately. Bring him here."
"Yup," said a voice.
Bradley cut the circuit, raised an eyebrow at Jennifer Jones. "You're clear on everything?"
"I believe so," she said crisply. "How soon shall I meet him?"
"Within the hour."
"Is my, apartment ready?"
"I don't know," Bradley said. "Check with my secretary on your way out."
She turned to Mr. Cuppy. "I am very happy," she said in tones which held no trace of happiness, "to be with you, Mr. Cuppy. I touch the head." She did so, and swung out on slim brown legs.
Mr. Cuppy watched her with hard, light eyes, then turned to his employer. There was no bluster in Mr. Cuppy now, He was in deadly earnest. His voice was quieter, and did not quaver any more.
"Junior, please explain this."
"Sit down, Mr. Cuppy." He waited while the little accountant did so. "It's very simple. I think I can trust Craig Marten, because Thorne Raglan vouches for him. But I can't afford to trust him. On this matter, I can't trust anybody, except perhaps Jennifer Jones. She's got to be all right, because I can lift a finger and ruin her. She knows it, and will deliver."
Some of Mr. Cuppy's crispness came back. "Deliver what, for the love of Heaven?"
"Wellman and Stopes, Mr. Cuppy. When Craig Marten finds them, she will inform me, and I'll take care of them personally."
"But Craig Marten is hired to inform you." Mr. Cuppy protested. "Why double the expense?"
I "And suppose," Bradley said, "that Marten decides to double-cross me. Suppose he is offered more than I can pay. Miss Jones will be a good investment in that event."
"But what makes you suspect him? And where will a couple of no-goods like Wellman and Stopes get that kind of money?"
"I don't suspect him, Mr. Cuppy. But I can't afford not to go through the motions. That kind of money? Mr. Cuppy, I have information which hints at a large fund, plenty large to buy Craig Marten. If that should happen, and if Wellman and Stopes should elude us, we are done for, you and I. Done for, Mr. Cuppy."
"Don't be so blasted mysterious, Junior!" Mr. Cuppy snapped. "What will they do, drop a nova on us?"
Bradley sighed. "The story is too long and complicated to tell now. I haven't time. But I tell you that the very existence of Trading Posts, Inc., depends on our finding Wellman and Stopes before it is too late."
Mr. Cuppy rose. "Very well. Do you remember what I said when this search was launched? I said to put a two-dollar want ad on telecast. But no. You wanted to do it in the grand manner. I have a word or two to say--" * * * *
Craig Marten had finished packing, ordered a bottle of Mercurian wine, and settled back to enjoy the sunny liquid when a knock on his stateroom door brought a mild oath to his lips. He pushed plastibags out of the way and answered the knock.
The long, homely handsome face of Jorg van Hooten was not quite as serious as usual. It seemed to Craig that the young diplomat must have received cheering news. He was almost smiling.
"I know you wanted to rest on this last leg of the drop," Van Hooten apologized, "but I've just had a radiograph."
"Come in, come in. Sit down. I'll get another glass."
The two young men drank their usual toast.
"Freedom," they said, and touched glasses.
"So?" Craig said. "What's new?"
"Organized unrest," Van Hooten replied. "It will help. A hundred colonists killed at Mars Port Main when they tried to capture a Trading Post spacer. Maybe Congress will listen this time. The first rumbling of revolt should bring them upright."
Craig's space-tanned face set in lines of puzzlement. He turned his glass with lean brown hands and frowned into it, eyes dark with thought.
"Aren't you jumping the gun, Van? They're not organized. One spaceship wouldn't do them much good. They need a fleet."
Young Van Hooten pushed aside this minor point. "They're not after the ships themselves. You know there arc,e hundreds in the Mars bone yard. Ships are scrapped on Mars because their metal is worth more there than on Earth. Many of them could be put into serviceable condition-if. If the Baltex formula could be duplicated."
"I still don't get it."
"Why, Craig!" Van Hooten was astonished. "Why do you think Martians are barred from approaching spacers nearer than five hundred yards? You know they can copy anything once they nose around with their mind tendrils. Let one Martian into the control room of a spacer, and Trading Post's monopoly is broken. That was the reason for the attack. It was unsuccessful, yes. But there'll be others. Some day, one will be successful."
"Well, I don't like it." Craig's long jaw slid out like a landing fender. "I've got here"-he tapped his waist, around which, under his shorts, was strapped a belt-"the answer. If I can deliver this fund to Wellman and Stopes, we won't need Baltex."
Van Hooten shrugged. "It's the better part of strategy meanwhile, Craig, to play up this revolt angle. If the World Congress will add a rider to the agreement with Trading Posts, allowing the planetary colonies to trade among themselves, we will gain time and save lives. Because how do we know you can find Wellman and Stopes?"
"Remember the Hunt Club slogan," Craig said grimly. "'Some Day We'll Find You."'
"Some day isn't good enough, Craig."
"That day isn't far. I feel it."
Craig's mouth set in a stubborn line. From the moment he had consented to deliver this fund to the vanished engineers, he had had conflicting problems. He had to hide his purpose from the Earth central office, and he didn't like it. He and Thorny had knocked around the System together.
In addition to his distaste of not playing quite fair with his boss, Craig distrusted political deals. Look where such deals had brought the System. He didn't know the details, but it was perfectly obvious that a deal had been made between Pier Duvain and Loren Bradley some generations ago when the former took off on the first spacer for Mars.
Since that time, the Bradleys had maintained a monopoly on trading. All shipping to and from the colonies cleared through Trading Posts, Inc. The colonies were held in economic bondage of a sort, their pattern of life determined by the mother planet.
One thing was clear. The colonies would break away eventually, by revolt or other means.
One means was here, in his money belt. Wellman and Stopes had a process, a new method of propelling spacers. All they needed was backing, and Craig had it-a great fund collected in driplets all over the System from colonials who wanted to cut the economic apron strings of Mother Earth.
"Sometimes," Craig said with a touch of bitterness, "I wish I'd never got into this."
"Don't you want the colonies to be self-sufficient?" Van Hooten demanded.
"Oh, sure. But my personal position is rather uncomfortable."
"Revolt," Van Hooten said, "whether economic or by violence, is never pleasant-to either side." He got to his feet. "Well, we're almost in. You'll let me know who your client is?"
"If Thorny will tell me," Craig said. "It may be confidential."
"It's rather vital that I know, Craig. If your boss has thrown in with--"
"Thorny doesn't 'throw in' with anybody, Van. He's in this business for money. He's hired to find somebody, dead beat, husband, wife, what-not, and he charges a fee. I doubt if he has any political convictions. But he does know how to keep his mouth buttoned. I'll see what I can find out, though. Shall we eat as soon as we land? I want a big, big, really big, fresh steak. I've been dreaming of one for a week."
"Right," Van Hooten said, and left.