Amazing Science Fiction Stories, May 1960
A morality tale—1960 style.
Legend had it, that many thousands of years ago, right after the Great Horror, the whole continent of the west had slowly sunk beneath the West Water, and that once every century it arose during a full moon. Still, Captain Hinrik clung to the hope that the legend would not be borne out by truth. Perhaps the west continent still existed; perhaps, dare he hope, with civilization. The crew of the Semilunis thought him quite mad. After all, hadn't the east and south continents been completely annihilated from the great sky fires; and wasn't it said that they had suffered but a fraction of what the west continent had endured?
The Semilunis anchored at the mouth of a great river. The months of fear and doubt were at end. Here, at last, was the west continent. A small party of scouts was sent ashore with many cautions to be alert for luminescent areas which meant certain death for those who remained too long in its vicinity.
Armed with bow and arrow, the party made its way slowly up the great river.
Nowhere was to be seen the color green, only dull browns and greys. And no sign of life, save for an occasional patch of lichen on a rock.
After several days of rowing, the food and water supply was almost half depleted and still no evidence of either past or present habitation. It was time to turn back, to travel all the weary months across the West Water, the journey all in vain. What a small reward for such an arduous trip...just proof of the existence of a barren land mass, ugly and useless.
On the second day of the return to the Semilunis, the scouting party decided to stop and investigate a huge opening in the rocky mountainside. How suspiciously regular and even it looked, particularly in comparison to the rest of the countryside which was jagged and chaotic.
They entered the cave apprehensively, torches aflare and weapons in hand. But all was darkness and quiet. Still, the regularity of the cave walls led them on. Some creature, man or otherwise, must have planned and built this...but to what end? Now the cave divided into three forks. The torches gave only a hint of the immensity of the chambers that lay at the end of each. They selected the center chamber, approaching cautiously, breath caught in awe and excitement. The torches reflected on a dull black surface which was divided into many, many little squares. The sameness of them stretched for uncountable yards in all directions. What were these ungodly looking edifices? The black surface was cold and smooth to the touch and quite regular except for a strange little hole at the bottom of each square and a curious row of pictures along the top.
They would copy these strange pictures. Perhaps back home there would be a scholar who would understand the meaning behind these last remains of the people of the west continent. The leader took out his slate and painstakingly copied:
Safeguard your valuables at
ALLEGHANY MOUNTAIN VAULTS
A quick internet search revealed virtually nothing about this author. One of the thing that strikes me is the very small percentage of women authors in the Golden Age of Pulp Fiction. One has to assume that has something to do with the readership as much as the editorial sensibilities. While some women and girls undoubtedly read pulp science-fiction, fantasy and horror, ninety percent of readers, possibly more, were male and they had certain expectations of who could, and who could not, write good stories. Back then, a woman’s place was very much in the home, even though the two-income family was becoming a recognizable phenomenon in western culture.
I recently started a new science-fiction novel. I got so far, about 22,000 words. For some reason, I set it aside and haven’t touched it for a month. As an author, I can sort of cheerfully admit that coming up with alien names, the names of alien races, alien planets, futuristic names, is one of my weaknesses. I find it hard to do well. When I do it, I see all the limitations, the lack of originality and inspiration. Then, I see the name Semilunis. What does it mean? Semi, means half…and luni might be derived from luna, Luna, the Moon. Or lunatic. So, are the Semilunis half-crazy? Is the author having a joke?
I don’t know, but we all face the same sort of challenges when attempting to write almost any kind of genre fiction. That particular problem is not unique to science-fiction, it arises in fantasy, alternate history and alternate universe stories, any story set in a fictional world that doesn’t exist. You’ve got to call it, and them, something.
The trouble is when we’re just not very good at it—I am of course referring to myself, not the author of the present story.
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