Monday, February 2, 2009

In the Scarlet Star

As far as I'm able to tell from what research is available to me, "In the Scarlet Star" by Jack Williamson, has been reprinted only once, in the 1951 anthology, EVERY BOY'S BOOK OF SCIENCE FICTION, edited by Donald A. Wollheim. My scans of the story have been taken from its first appearance in AMAZING STORIES, March 1933.

The letter column for this issue was full of letters from readers complaining about the "new" AMAZING, which had taken on an art deco look for its covers. The stories were still very much in the old school of science fiction, and some of the readers were concerned because they weren't scientific enough. There is more of Edgar Rice Burroughs than science in this story, as a man goes through the Fourth Dimension, back to the Stone Age. But at the first of the story enough scientific gimmickry is included to squeeze in some "science" in the science fiction. It's an entertaining story; not one of Williamson's best, but firmly set in the pulp sf tradition of 75 years ago.

1 comment:

Mark Armstrong said...

If I were going to write a sequel to this story, I would have it turn out that the engineer realized the disaster that would result if he returned under the conditions by which he made the first trip. After all, if the passage of one minute in our world equals the passage of 5 years in the caveman world, then the cavemen he befriended would have all died of old age in the time it took to tell the story of what happened on his first trip. And, having the writer send him back long enough to live out the rest of his life in the caveman world would mean that when the writer finally deactivated the crystal, the engineer would return as an old corpse. The writer would then be under suspicion of committing two murders--of the unidentified corpse, and the missing young engineer.

The engineer was no dummy, and realized all that. However, during the past five years he spent in the other world, he thought up various ways of altering the current run through the crystal, and had hopes of finding a way of overcoming the time differential. So, his declaration that he would return to the other world included a plan to first act upon his mental experiments of the past five years and find a way to better control the crystal. He would first find a way of returning to about the time he left, even if it took the next several years to find that way.

At this point, the writer might demand some shared ownership of the crystal, since he did invest in it's improvement, slight though that investment was.

Also, the Mexican should show up in the sequel. The Mexican had intended to redeem the crystal from the pawnshop without delay, but was prevented. The Mexican has some idea of the crystal's true nature and value, and wants it back.

And since there is the possibility of time travel through the crystal, there's no reason why the crystal's original inventors and builders shouldn't make an appearance.

Harr Garr and his mate could make an appearance, but I would make it a mere cameo.

I would write this sequel as a tale of several people whose lives are touched by the crystal, each having a different outlook and agenda, each in some way at odds with the others over the crystal.