Thursday, February 24, 2011

"Oneness" – 1963 short story by James H. Schmitz about autocratic Earth and escape from penal Mars

Thanks to the industrious folks at Project Gutenberg, you can read or download "Oneness," a short story penned by American science fiction writer James H. Schmitz (1911-1981) and illustrated by artist Leo Summers (1925-1985). Originally published in the May 1963 issue of Analog Science Fact & Fiction magazine, the storyline revolves around an autocratic Earth, a penal Mars, and the escape, interrogation, and torture of a scientifically-trained specialist named Rainbolt. Here are the opening lines of the story:

MENESEE felt excitement surge like a living tide about him as he came with the other directors into the vast Tribunal Hall. Sixty years ago, inexcusable carelessness had deprived Earth of its first chance to obtain a true interstellar drive. Now, within a few hours, Earth, or more specifically, the upper echelons of that great political organization called the Machine which had controlled the affairs of Earth for the past century and a half, should learn enough of the secrets of the drive to insure that it would soon be in their possession.

Menesee entered his box between those of Directors Cornelius and Ojeda, immediately to the right of the Spokesman's Platform and with an excellent view of the prisoner. When Administrator Bradshaw and Spokesman Dorn had taken their places on the platform, Menesee seated himself, drawing the transcript of the day's proceedings towards him. However, instead of glancing over it at once, he spent some seconds in a study of the prisoner...

Thanks to Tinkoo Valia of the blog Variety SF for the tip and the summary!

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