Showing posts with label 365 Challenge. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 365 Challenge. Show all posts

Short Story #408: The Adaptive Ultimate by Stanley G. Weinbaum

Title: The Adaptive Ultimate

Author: Stanley G. Weinbaum

Summary:

Book cover to The Best of Stanley G. Weinbaum.
Dr. Daniel Scott has a theory about evolution and adaptation and he enlists his friend, Dr. Herman Bach to help him out.  He has created a serum from fruit flies (the supposed most adaptable species) that can heal illnesses in animals.  Now he needs a human to test it on.  Initially appalled, Bach does not look to actively help him but then a terminally ill patient with no chance of survival arrives at the hospital, Kyra Zelas.  They explain to her what they are going to try to do, explaining that it’s unlikely to be successful but she chooses to be a subject.  To everyone’s surprise, it works overwhelmingly well and she recovers full in a short time.  Upon release though she commits murder, with no justification other than to obtain the man’s wallet.  In the court trial, Scott and Bach expect they will need to help her but as she is described by witnesses, her appearance changes, leaving the court incapable of prosecuting her.  The doctors bring her to Herman’s home with hopes of studying her further as they begin to realize that she can mutate and adapt at will in response to any dangers.  As the doctors realize what they have done, Zelas becomes increasingly aware and comfortable with her abilities.  She leaves them for long stretches and takes up with increasingly more powerful men and they attempt to stop her but are powerless to directly attack her.  They devise a plan to suffocate her with carbon dioxide when she visits them again.  Once asleep, they manage to kill her by destroying her pineal gland through her nose.  Once dead, her physical beauty disappears and she returns to what she had previously looked like; except for Dan, who couldn’t help but love her, still sees the beautiful version of Zelas.

Reflection

Much like his previous stories, I'm impressed with some of the scientific questions that Weinbaum is grappling with in this tale. It's clearly a Frankenstein-inspired tale that raises interesting questions about the evolutionary idea of adaptation and ideas around gene-splicing.  I'm less impressed with Weinbaum's view of women or at least Zelas.  I think it was noticeable for me because his previous two stories that I've read are devoid of women and this story has at best a dubious representation of women.  Elements of it remind me of George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion, wherein two men bet upon how a lowly impoverished girl can make it in high society, but much more nefarious.  As doctors, Bach and Scott use their authority to convince a nearly-dying girl to accept an untested drug.  They follow this with the assumption that then Zilas is their property and when she does not act as such, their only recourse is to knock her own and while she lay asleep, kill her (by penetrating her face).  Needless to say, it leaves one a bit dubious.  

Rating:  5 (out of 5 stars)


Source:  The Best of Stanley G. Weinbaum by Stanley G. Weinbaum.  Ballantine Books, 1974.  You can read the story for free on this website.

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.



Did you enjoy this read? Let me know your thoughts down below or feel free to browse around and check out some of my other posts!. You might also want to keep up to date with my blog by signing up for them via email. 

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Short Story #407: Valley of Dreams by Stanley G. Weinbaum

Title: Valley of Dreams

Author: Stanley G. Weinbaum

Summary:

Book cover to The Best of Stanley G. Weinbaum.
This story follows on the heels of Weinbaum's other story, A Martian Odyssey.  Jarvis, the protagonist along with another crew member, Leroy, a Frenchman, return from being away for a few days and look particularly haggard.  They proceed to share their tale about what has transpired.  They had traveled out to collect the films that Jarvis had left behind.  They encounter a large and mostly abandoned city, where they encounter the alien race that Jarvis met before and even stumble upon Tweel.  Tweel gives them a tour of the space, where they encounter large paintings of the aliens and what look like humans but with elongated noses.  Jarvis and Leroy realized that at some point, Tweel's race had made it to Earth and proved the inspiration for Thoth, an Egyptian god.  Later, they discover the reciprocal relationship between Tweel's people, the Thoth, and the barrelmen from the previous story.  Later, as they leave the city, Jarvis and Leroy are drawn to a valley where they are seeing things that aren't there and Tweel fiercely interferes long enough for both of them to realize that the valley is filled with dream beasts.  After the struggle to get free, they return home and speculate as to how the Martian world became what they had become through an absence of coal and oil, the use of the sun for energy and the slow loss of water over many many years.  Jarvis also reveals that he turned over atomic weaponry as gratitude for all that he did.  When the others object, he justifies the good gesture by saying Mars is inhabitable at best and that it would create a good future relationship for trading. 

Reflection

What's fascinating about this story is that while Weinbaum's first posed an interesting questions around neutral first encounters and life-forms that are non-carbon, this story delves into the questions about symbiotic alien relationships, environmental destruction, and the future of human kind.  Additionally, Weinbaum predicts solar-power and offers some considerations of what alien relations will look like in the future.  It's a fun story but also a positive forward-looking one that is surprising to see emerge from the 1930s.  Definitely worth a read!    

Rating:  5 (out of 5 stars)


Source:  The Best of Stanley G. Weinbaum by Stanley G. Weinbaum.  Ballantine Books, 1974.  You can read the story for free on this website.

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.


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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Short Story #406: The Martian Odyssey by Stanley G. Weinbaum

Title: The Martian Odyssey

Author: Stanley G. Weinbaum

Summary:

Book cover to The Best of Stanley G. Weinbaum.
Jarvis is one among four who are the first to travel to Mars in this classic science-fiction tale from 1934.  He is recounting his tale to his companions after surviving a strange and wild adventure.  While exploring Mars, his transportation fails and he's left trying to get back to his companions across a wide expanse of Mars.  Early in his travails across this unexplored world, he encounters Tweel, a birdlike bipedal who is intelligent and from an advance civilization.  Their ability to communicate is limited but the two work together to make their way across the strange landscape and creatures.  Along the way, they encounter pyramid-creating silicon beasts, semi-sentient grass, dream-beasts, and creatures ceaselessly filling their carts to feed some machine.  Together, Jarvis and Tweel mostly avoid calamity until they disturb the unnatural cavern where the machine sits that the creatures feed.  As the creatures pursue Jarvis and Tweel, they find themselves in a stand-off they are unlikely to win but are saved at the last minute by a crew member.

Reflection

On face value, the story can appear to be just a typical space adventure--the eponymous "odyssey".  But, albeit briefly, Weinbaum makes this tale more align with the epic Odyssey by Homer in that it is not only about a man trying to come home and the strange and alien beings he encounters, but it is also about befriending and working together with a complete and utter stranger.  Tweel and Jarvis are different creatures but their collaboration and willingness to trust one another results in the richer lives and endured safety.   As an alien-first-contact story, it provides an interesting alternative to confrontation and offers connection despite differences.    

Rating:  5 (out of 5 stars)


Source:  The Best of Stanley G. Weinbaum by Stanley G. Weinbaum.  Ballantine Books, 1974.  You can read the story for free on this website.

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.



Did you enjoy this read? Let me know your thoughts down below or feel free to browse around and check out some of my other posts!. You might also want to keep up to date with my blog by signing up for them via email. 

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

The Daily StickMan Adventures - December 24, 2016 at 05:01PM


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The Daily StickMan Adventures - December 23, 2016 at 06:36PM


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The Daily StickMan Adventures - December 20, 2016 at 08:59AM


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The Daily StickMan Adventures - December 15, 2016 at 05:06PM


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The Daily StickMan Adventures - December 13, 2016 at 02:57PM


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The Daily StickMan Adventures - December 12, 2016 at 08:32PM


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The Daily StickMan Adventures - December 11, 2016 at 05:05PM


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The Daily StickMan Adventures - December 10, 2016 at 05:26PM


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The Daily StickMan Adventures - November 20, 2016 at 06:49PM


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The Daily StickMan Adventures - November 19, 2016 at 06:33PM


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The Daily StickMan Adventures - November 16, 2016 at 08:44PM


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The Daily StickMan Adventures - November 15, 2016 at 05:05PM


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The Daily StickMan Adventures - November 13, 2016 at 09:00PM


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