Thursday, February 17, 2011

1930’s story: "A Summons from Mars" by John Russell Fearn

Thanks to Doc Mars of the amazing French-language website Mars & la Science Fiction, you can download and read British science fiction writer John Russell Fearn’s short story  "A Summons from Mars" (pdf) as it was originally published in the June 1938 issue of Amazing Stories magazine. Set on the Red Planet, the plot revolves around the aftermath of the first Earthman’s trip to Mars, whose dead body unleashes bacteria that wipes out the entire Martian race, save for one young girl. Here are the opening lines:

THE ocher sand of the Martian desert spouted towards the blue-black sky under the impact of the falling space machine. The vessel slithered a little distance and became still in the long trough it had gouged for itself.

For a long time nothing disturbed the desert’s silence. A thin, icy breeze stirred mournfully across it; the small sun moved among the faint stars . . . until at last its pale light picked out a group of four radio driven robots moving methodically across the waste on smoothly jointed legs. Flawlessly made, rather hideous, quipped with various strange instruments, they finally gained the vessel, set to work with the pincer hands and tools upon the airlocks . . .

Merci beaucoup, Doc Mars!

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