Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Devil, a Secret, and a Giant Robot

Week 1 of Scott's attempt to keep up with Jenny:

Stories Read:
"Young Goodman Brown" (1835) by Nathaniel Hawthorne
"The Secret Place" (1966) by Richard McKenna
"Farewell to the Master" (1940) by Harry Bates

Young Goodman Brown, what are you doing walking down a well-worn path in the woods with Satan? And Nathaniel Hawthorne, why would you send this poor guy out there? This is a terrific story that's full of ambiguity and symbolism. After thinking about it, my best interpretation is that Young Goodman Brown had a dream, and through that dream realized that not everyone's a saint. And he took it hard. The realization affected the rest of his life.

Orbit 1, edited by Damon KnightIn 1966, Richard McKenna (1913-1964) won a posthumous Nebula Award for Best Short Story. The story was "The Secret Place", and it's first appearance was in Damon Knight's Orbit 1. I don't believe I've read a Richard McKenna story before, but I enjoyed this one. It was about a World War II soldier who was given the job of keeping his eye on an area of desert in Utah where a Uranium rock was found. Despite the military's efforts, no further treasures were found there. The soldier's job was to drive the property every day with a geiger counter, and to accomplish this the military gave him an office and a secretary. The secretary, though, had a strange connection with the property. When she went outside, she saw a completely different place.

Farewell to the Master by Harry Bates We're watching The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) over at Good Story, so I thought I'd read the story that inspired the script. Harry Bates published "Farewell to the Master" in the 1940 issue of Astounding Science Fiction that also contained "Slan" by A.E. van Vogt. It's a ripping good tale from the Golden Age of Science Fiction. There are plenty of differences between this and the movie, but the giant robot was there (named Gnut, not Gort). The story opens with a guy taking photographs of giant Gnut, who had appeared out of nowhere in a ship with a guy named Klaatu a while back. The robot never moves... or does it? An entertaining story with a surprise or two at the end. I listened to this one from Blackstone Audio, read by Tom Weiner.

I am keeping pace with Jenny so far. I better up my game, though - at this rate, I'll read only 182.5 stories this year and that won't do! I better cancel that walk in the woods I had planned for tomorrow morning, and read a story instead.

Next up: "Sister Emily's Lightship" by Jane Yolen

The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)


  1. When books like this were written decades ago, I am sure they never imagined how soon robots and robotics would be integrated into industry and society. The progression over the past twenty years has been amazing.

  2. Maybe you need to get some short stories on audio, so you can still take walks? Although I'm not sure you would have wanted to hear that first one alone in the woods.

  3. Ha - yeah, that was a feeble attempt at humor. Reading a story instead of talking that walk in the woods that Goodman Brown did is a good thing. :)

  4. Ari: it sure has! A lot of science fiction has been written exploring the possibilities. I enjoy a lot of it.


Thanks for visiting the Reading Envy blog and podcast. Word verification has become necessary because of spam.