Creator / Raymond Z Gallun
Raymond Z. Gallun (1911-1994) was a science fiction writer of the 1930's through 1980's. Dropping out of college around 1930, he became a drifter, wandering through America and Europe, writing his most famous stories in between odd jobs. His most notable works include the short stories "Old Faithful" (1934) and "Seeds of the Dusk" (1938), and the novel The Eden Cycle
Notable themes of Gallun's work include:
- Everything's Squishier with Cephalopods: An entire civilization of vaguely-octopoid dwellers in the ocean deeps features in "Davey Jones' Ambassdor" (1935).
- First Contact: One of the most famous early examples of this genre is "Old Faithful" (1934). It includes a detailed explanation of how a common code might be established through long-distance signals between humans and a very alien race (the Martians).
- Fossil Revival: What Prairie Dog scientist Loy Chuk does to Ned Vince in "The Eternal Wall" (1942). Ned's corpse had beem bathed in cold alkaline water and then buried in sediments for a million years, in the process suffering petrification and various forms of mechanical damage: Loy Chuk uses advanced Prairie Dog technology to reconstruct it at a molecular level.
- Last of His Kind: Ned Vince is the last human alive on Earth after his resurrection by Loy Chuk a million years in the future, and possibly the last homo sapiens alive anywhere (the Star Gods are implied to be post-human).
- Lotus-Eater Machines: Frequently in Gallun's work, humans are seduced by machines which offer virtual paradises at the price of turning away from reality.
- In "The Lotus-Engine" (1940) space explorers fall into the inadvertent trap of an alien machine which offers them an illusion of paradise. Since they receive neither food nor water while victims of the illusion, they must break its spell quickly if they hope to survive.
- In The Eden Cycle (1974) alien transmissions teach 21st-century humanity to build a vast supercomputer-plus-life-support-system virtual reality generator which enable its users to live immortal imaginary lives. Within a few centuries humanity disappears into its collective navel: many millennia later, the protagonists become bored with their virtual Eden and attempt to recolonize the now-fallow surface of the planet.
- Master Race: The Itorloo from "Seeds of the Dusk" (1938) who consider themselves this (despite being confined to a single dying planet), cruelly treat the numerous other sapient races inhabiting the Earth and plan to invade Venus and exterminate its inhabitants for no better reason than that they want a younger, warmer world. This story was written in 1938, when the real Nazis were already well embarked on the career of aggression which would result in global cataclysm.
- Nanomachines: In his short story "A Menace in Miniature" (1937), the main characters are menaced by microscopic aliens attacking in almost-as-microscopic space fighters. Unusually for an early nanotech story, Gallun also considers the limitations of such machines, and his protagonists are able to develop defenses against them. Also notable because this story was written 22 years before Dr. Richard Feynmann first floated the concept of nanotechnology among mainstream scientists.
- Organic Technology: The squid-people in "Davey Jones' Ambassador" (1935) cannot use fire or concentrate much heat by other means, since they live miles beneath the sea. Instead, they bio-engineer organisms to serve as everything from transportation to weapons to architectural elements, and produce whatever substances they need as secretions from these creatures.
- Precursors: Common in Gallun's fiction
- Science Marches On: Unavoidable, given that most of Gallun's work was written from around 1934 to 1954. Notably
- By modern standards he assumed that the planets and moons of the Solar System are much more habitable than we now know them to be (though some of this might be justified by Terraforming.
- In "Seeds of the Dusk" and "The Eternal Wall" he assumes that the Sun has undergone considerable passage along the main sequence in just 500 thousand to 1 million years.
- Terraforming: Several of Gallun's stories hinge on attempts to terra- (or other-) form planets.
- In "Seeds of the Dusk" (1938) the goal of the titular Seeds is to turn a (dying) far-future Earth into an (Interwar Era concept of) Mars, complete with planet-girdling canals, in which form Earth life will be able to survive much longer. The story's loose sequel "The Eternal Wall" (1942), set half a million years later, makes it obvious that the plan of the Seeds succeeded.
- In "Big Pill" (1952) rebellious Earth colonists on Titan detonate a gigantic H-bomb to elementally-transform the surface of Titan into one more capable of sustaining Earth life. Notable because this is either the first or a very early depiction in science fiction of a Genesis Effect.
- In "Comet's Burial" (1953) the protagonists strive to divert a comet to crack the crust of Earth's Moon open to release water ice buried deep under the regolith, permitting a start to be made at terraforming the Moon. The authorities are less than sympathetic to this plan for the obvious reason.
- Under the Sea: Location of the squid-folk civilization discovered in "Davey Jones' Ambassador" (1935).
- What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Very much Averted. Gallun in general considers all sapience to have value, especially against the backdrop of an often harsh Cosmos, and that what is relevant is not how humanoid is a species, but rather to what extent it behaves ethically toward other species. Races which are friendly may find friends and survive; races which are hostile often make enemies and perish.
- In "Seeds of the Dusk" (1938) the Itorloo, the dwarfish "cruel children of Man" ultimately descended from modern humans, oppress all other sapient races on Earth and needlessly attack the arriving Seeds. In consequence the Seeds wipe out the Itorloo, but seem to spare the other Earthly races, probably including the Prairie Dog people who are central to "The Eternal Wall" (1942) a half million years later. Gallun presents this as a good thing, since otherwise the Itorloo would have destroyed all other life on Earth.
- You Are Number 6: Gallun's Martian Starfish Aliens are named by numbers within their lineage. Unlike in much Interwar Era science fiction, this shows not so much Martian rationality as their extreme collectivism.