12 WORLDS OF ALAN E. NOURSE is made up of stories published back in the fifties. They cover a wide range of topics: medicine(after all, he was a doctor by profession), parallel worlds, exploration of planets and the stars, business. Of varying lengths, some as short as four-five pages, one story takes up a quarter of the book. It is a publication of World Library Classics, an imprint of Wildside books.
My favorite story was BEAR TRAP, the longest in the book, a tale still relevant today as it was with it’s first appearance in the December, 1957 issue of Fantastic Universe, still relevant as the novel published in 1949 that may have been an influence on the story. It’s set in the far flung future of 1982.
Our hero is Tom Shandur, the “Chief Fabricator and Purveyor of Lies,” as he thinks of himself. He works for the Public Information Board and it’s his job to spin all news stories in the best possible light for public consumption. You see, the world is on the brink of another war. The one man working on solving it is David P. Ingersoll, Secretary of State, the greatest proponent of peace in the world.
Now the man has suddenly died, a victim of building pressure and a bad heart. Preliminary stories put out that he had skipped the latest summit to try to ward off war because of a slight illness. In fact, the president had stopped him from attending the conference at the last moment and it was this betrayl that had led to his death.Shandur is supposed to write the “definitive” story to ease the world into the death. Ingersoll himself had left a notation that when he died, he wanted Shandur to write the story.
Shandur, already full of disillusionment at what he was doing, suddenly decides he will write the real story of all that had went on. As he researches the story, he begins to find some disturbing things, never mind the attempt on his life.
For the longest time while reading the story, I felt it wasn’t science fiction. Right up until the twist at the end and revelations appear.
Another story I liked was MEETING OF THE BOARD, centered around the business world. I smiled quite a lot as I read. Having spent nearly forty years working in the textile manufacturing world, on both sides, I recognized quite a bit going on. In all those years, I never understood how management treated the people that did the actual work. At the same time, I couldn’t get the two sides, management and union, never recognizing that they needed each other. Management couldn’t make the product, but seemed to think the actual workers were an easily shed commodity when something cheaper came along. Their only responsibility was to maximize stockholders’ shares. And the unions never wanted to bend either.
That’s why the textile business in this country is on it’s last breath. But enough sermonizing.
The part that made me smile is that the roles were reversed in the story and things didn’t work any better. For the same reasons.
A fine collection here, the first short fiction of Nourse that I’d read.