• Sun. Sep 24th, 2023

Generating Science Fiction Respectable: Tiger by the Tail by Alan E. Nourse


May 30, 2023
Making Science Fiction Respectable: Tiger by the Tail by Alan E. Nourse

In this bi-weekly series reviewing classic science fiction and fantasy books, Alan Brown appears at the front lines and frontiers of the field books about soldiers and spacers, scientists and engineers, explorers and adventurers. Stories complete of what Shakespeare made use of to refer to as “alarums and excursions”: battles, chases, clashes, and the stuff of excitement.

In the latter portion of the 20th century, the science fiction neighborhood started to move previous its lurid pulp origins and grow to be portion of respectable culture. The genre started to leave behind covers featuring bug-eyed monsters and scantily clad maidens and turned toward plots that depended thoughtful scientific extrapolation rather than merely creating thrills. Of course, as Alan E. Nourse shows in the collection Tiger by the Tail, these stories can nonetheless be enjoyable and compelling.

I had study Tiger by the Tail in a library edition when I was young, obtaining found the function of Alan E. Nourse since largely since of geography—his juvenile books had been shelved ideal beside these of Andre Norton in the young adult science fiction section of the nearby library. The copy I made use of for this assessment came from my father’s in depth collection of science fiction books and magazines, extended stored in our basement, which my brothers and I divided up right after my father’s death in 2002. Opening it for the re-study and smelling the musty odor of the pages promptly brought back memories of the days when we all picked our favorites from the collection, which turned out to be a surprisingly uncomplicated process. Whilst there was some overlap in our favorites, every single of us had distinct books that we remembered fondly for distinct motives. Now, choosing up these volumes normally triggers a wave of nostalgia for me. I know my father would be glad his books are getting study and loved by the subsequent generation of readers.


About the Author

Alan E. Nourse (1928-1992) was a doctor who also had a extended and productive writing profession. He wrote science fiction, mainstream fiction, non-fiction books on science and health-related challenges, and penned a column on health-related matters that appeared in Very good Housekeeping magazine. I previously reviewed his juvenile novel Raiders from the Rings right here, and there is a additional full biography contained in that assessment. Like numerous authors of his time, some of Nourse’s function is out of copyright, and obtainable for reading on the world-wide-web for absolutely free (such as a handful of stories from this collection—see right here for function obtainable on Project Gutenberg).


The Search for Respectability

As the 20th century progressed, the writers of the science fiction genre longed to throw off the reputation gained throughout the lurid pulp days, throughout which the genre had been branded as a much less severe kind of literature. One particular cause motivating this adjust was economics, as writing is a chancy organization at greatest, and all writers want monetary stability. The other cause was a longing to be taken seriously, to be respected for their craft and their accomplishments. Most observers point toward the late 1930s and 1940s as the begin of an era of enhanced respectability for the genre, the period generally referred to as the Golden Age of Science Fiction. The work was led by editors such as John W. Campbell at Astounding Science Fiction, who replaced the lurid pulp covers with additional severe illustrations. He also favored stories that contained thoughtful speculation and scientific accuracy (for the most portion, despite the fact that he also from time to time flirted with pseudo-science such as telepathic powers, reactionless space drives and perpetual motion).

Immediately after Planet War II, science fiction novels started to be published by mainstream publishers, and new, additional severe publications like The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction started to compete with Astounding. Robert Heinlein broke into the pages of The Saturday Evening Post in 1947, and went on to serve as the technical advisor for a new and greater top quality science fiction film, Location Moon. In 1950, in a break from his preceding pulp output, Ray Bradbury wrote The Martian Chronicles, the very first of his numerous books that would garner interest outdoors the science fiction neighborhood. Astounding changed its name to Analog, a much less sensational title that match the magazine’s new path. Arthur C. Clarke’s 1961 novel A Fall of Moondust was the very first science fiction novel selected as a Reader’s Digest Condensed Book. And from 1963 to 1965, Analog expanded from the pulp digest format to that of mainstream “slick” magazines.

The copy of Tiger by the Tail I study for this assessment is a book club edition from 1961, from the Science Fiction Book Club (SFBC) which had been began by Doubleday in 1953. The cover sports a sedate illustration displaying an impressionistic sun surrounded by planets in their orbit, which I am quite certain is the similar illustration made use of for the common edition of the book. The copy on the back cover tends to make it clear that the SFBC was also bidding for respectability, and wanted to expand their audience beyond the globe of established science fiction fans:

TODAY’S FICTION—TOMORROW’S Information. LIFE Magazine says there are additional than TWO MILLION science fiction fans in this nation. From all corners of the nation comes the resounding proof that science fiction has established itself as an thrilling and imaginative NEW Kind OF LITERATURE that is attracting actually tens of thousands of new readers each and every year! Why? Since no other kind of fiction can present you with such thrilling and unprecedented adventures! No other kind of fiction can take you on an eerie trip to Mars…amaze you with a journey into the year 3000 AD…or sweep you into the fabulous realms of unexplored space! Yes, it is no wonder that this thrilling new kind of imaginative literature has captivated the biggest group of fascinated new readers in the United States currently!

It is uncomplicated to see why the SFBC would use this method to promote a book by Alan E. Nourse, a writer whose function was clever and witty, but also rooted in strong scientific know-how and speculation, specifically in stories connected to the health-related field. He was the kind of writer who personified a new, nonetheless thrilling, but additional severe method to science fiction.


Tiger by the Tail

The book includes stories very first published among 1951 and 1961, in numerous of the era’s top and properly-respected magazines.

The title story, “Tiger by the Tail,” appeared in Galaxy Magazine. Nourse was fond of interdimensional tales that pitted protagonists against the unknown, and this is a robust instance. It begins with the arrest of a shoplifter filling her purse with an incredible quantity of item. The purse is promptly taken to the nearby Institute of Physics for closer examination, since it is inexplicably empty. The physicists obtain an aluminum ring inside the purse, and the lady was stealing aluminum products. The shoplifter has no recollection of what she was performing and why. The scientists suspect the purse is a portal to an additional globe. Probably the lady was beneath telepathic control…perhaps whoever is on the other side desires to construct a larger portal? Nourse is at his greatest explaining scientific possibilities in a clear, understandable way. The scientists place a hook by way of the portal, attempting to bring anything from the other dimension back into ours—then the other side starts to pull back, and they start to wonder if they’ve accomplished the ideal factor.

“Nightmare Brother,” which was published in Astounding Science Fiction, is a story of a man locked into strange dreams. Gradually but certainly, he learns to overcome the challenges he faces. Attempts to travel to other stars have all ended with the crews going insane, and this is a final-ditch try to figure out why, and overcome the dilemma. The story shows the influence of editor John Campbell, who was specifically fond of stories involving psychological challenges and mental powers.

“PRoblem,” (the capitalized PR is intentional) is from Galaxy Magazine, and is an additional tale of international hijinks. Peter Greenwood is a public relations man—one of the greatest. Members of an alien race, the Grdznth, are appearing out of nowhere, making use of Earth as a way station in their efforts to flee a dying globe. The aliens are polite and friendly, but tempers are flaring. The government desires to figure out a way to get humanity to sympathize with the Grdznth and accept their short-term presence. But just as Greenwood and his compatriots obtain a way to appeal to people’s compassion, the entire predicament comes apart at the seams.

“The Coffin Remedy,” an additional story from Galaxy, is a classic tale of unintended consequences. A group of medical doctors has created a remedy for the popular cold. Their arrogant group leader steals credit for the discovery, and in his quest for glory, pushes deployment of the vaccine a lot additional promptly than he must. But when the vaccinated start to recover the sense of smell that has been getting suppressed by cold viruses for uncounted generations, they start to wonder if perhaps colds had been such a terrible factor right after all…

“Brightside Crossing” begins from the viewpoint of James Barron, who desires to travel across the vibrant side of Mercury (the story obtaining been written in the days when Mercury was believed to be tidally locked, and normally presenting the similar face to the sun). He is insistent on performing what no other man has been capable to do (in addition to a tidally locked Mercury, these had been the days when the default for adventurers in stories was male). But then he is visited by Peter Claney, the sole survivor of the preceding failed try at a brightside crossing, and hears the tale of heroism and hubris that led to its downfall. This tale, which entirely misses the truth that orbiting ships and satellites could generate detailed maps of unexplored locations, also appeared in Galaxy.

“The Native Soil” is the sole story in the collection from the magazine Great Universe. Beneath its clouds, Venus has proved to be a planet of mud, inhabited by creatures the guests from Earth assume are clumsy and unintelligent. But in that mud are deposits of a new antibiotic, desperately necessary on an Earth exactly where bacteria are increasingly resistant to such therapies (this is a continual concern for medical doctors, which continues to this quite day). The collection efforts, nevertheless, rely on these native creatures, and are going awry. So, Piper Pharmaceuticals sends its greatest troubleshooter. (This was a popular framework for stories in these days—in my youth, primarily based on my science fiction reading, I assumed the globe was filled with clever troubleshooters.) As is generally the case, it turns out the actual predicament, when revealed, bears no resemblance to everyone’s preconceived notions.

The normally-quirky Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction was the original house for “Love Thy Vimp,” an additional tale of guests from an additional dimension. The planet is getting plagued by disgusting and irritating gibbon-like creatures that are dubbed Vimps, an acronym for Pretty Crucial Menacing Challenges. As you could possibly guess from the title, the secret to solving the dilemma does not involve providing the hateful tiny creatures the reaction they are attempting to evoke.

In “Letter of the Law,” a con man from Earth has traveled to a new globe to fleece its occupants, and then calls on Earth’s diplomats to extract him from the alien prison he ends up in. But the Earth representative expects him to stand trial on a planet exactly where lying is a way of life. It is con man versus a corrupt court in a story complete of delightful twists and turns, the final twist getting one particular that is centuries old. This story came from IF Magazine.

The final tale, “Family Resemblance,” which appeared in Astounding, is set in a hospital, a setting familiar to Nourse. There is a pompous senior physician whose preferred topic, and subsequent book, is about how man is descended from the ape. But one particular of the younger medical doctors has an alternate theory, and Nourse pulls out all stops to convince the reader he has a valid point. In the finish, the story wraps up in one particular of the most egregious puns I have ever encountered.


Final Thoughts

Alan E. Nourse was a preferred author of mine in my youth. Even now, each and every time I encounter an additional of his stories, I obtain the knowledge delightful. He is one particular of these science fiction authors, largely forgotten currently, who deserve wider recognition—after all, it was persons like Nourse who helped construct a wider and additional respectable reputation for the genre.

I would delight in hearing from any of you who have also study Nourse’s function, as properly as any ideas you might have for other lesser-identified writers who deserve to be greater remembered and additional broadly study.

Alan Brown has been a science fiction fan for more than 5 decades, specifically fiction that offers with science, military matters, exploration and adventure.

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