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Great Science Fiction About Doctors by Groff…

Great Science Fiction About Doctors

by Groff Conklin (Editor), Noah Fabricant (Editor)

Other authors: Miles J. Breuer (Contributor), Arthur C. Clarke (Contributor), Clifton Dance (Contributor), Arthur Conan Doyle (Contributor), David Harold Fink (Contributor)13 more, Nathaniel Hawthorne (Contributor), David H. Keller (Contributor), Cyril M Kornbluth (Contributor), Murray Leinster (Contributor), Winston K. Marks (Contributor), William Morrison (Contributor), Alan Nelson (Contributor), Alan E. Nourse (Contributor), Edgar Allan Poe (Contributor), Arthur Porges (Contributor), JR Shango (Contributor), FL Wallace (Contributor), Joseph A. Winter (Contributor)

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This is an interesting and curious collection with stories of variable quality. Some date from the 19th century, not all are strictly science fiction, and a number show their age. It does contain one or two stories that were previously unpublished in English such as the opening story by Miles J. Breuer (who had died by the time this collection was being compiled.) The authors had originally intended to include a different and apparently more well-known story by this author, but it appeared in another collection. They approached his widow who found a story in his papers which had previously appeared in a Czech publication in 1916. If, like me, you've read many SF short story collections it's always interesting to find one that contains less well-known stories. It is apparent, however, why some of them have remained obscure.

I was also struck by the absence of anything by the most well-known author of medically-set SF, James White. But on checking publication dates I realised that White only began publishing his stories of Sector General at about the time this collection was being assembled.

The collection was apparently the result of what amounted to a challenge by another editor, Anthony Boucher, who remarked on the earlier publicaton of "A matter of ethics" that medical SF was rare enough that even Cronklin would not be able to put together a collection of medically-themed stories. Cronklin and Fabricant both wrote to Boucher saying he was wrong; he put them in touch with each other and this volume resulted. Fabricant was a doctor, as were a number of the authors in this book.

The man without an appetite - Miles J. Breuer

A story probably only available in Czech before this anthology. A now-established doctor is pleased to catch up with an old brilliant but eccentric student colleague and meet his wife. She, however, is concerned that her husband never appears to want to eat. The story involves thwarted suitors, shipwreck and the solution to Dr Volny's apparent lack of interest in food.

Out of the cradle, endlessly orbiting - Arthur C. Clarke

One of the few widely-anthologized stories in this collection. A short story of a lunar colony and a significant medical event for the colonists.

The brothers - Clifton Dance

A disturbed man is brought to hospital by the police. He says he lives in a nearby cemetery; he won't eat ordinary food and he smells terrible. His nature is immediately apparent to the reader, but that's not the whole story.

The great Keinplatz experiment - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Conan Doyle wrote what were described as 'pseudo-science' stories as well as his famed detective fiction. This is a tale of a 19th-century German medical professor and his young student, who are investigating the theory that hypnotism can cause the soul to dissociate from the body. The experiment, performed in public, succeeds but with consequences they had not anticipated.

Compound B - David Harold Fink

A dark and somewhat uncomfortable tale. Dr. Murdock is an eccentric and socially challenged scientist who develops a drug that enhances intelligence. His problem is that initially it doesn't work on everyone; it only works on black people. He thus decides to keep his discovery secret until he can find a more universal solution and this has devastating consequences. The author clearly is not in sympathy with his characters and presents this as a morality tale but the assumptions about race still make this troubling reading.

Rappaccini's daughter - Nathaniel Hawthorne

Another 19th-century tale whose style is very much of its time, and whose subject matter might better be described as fantasy. A young student in Italy travels to Padua to further his studies; he has lodgings in the upper floor of the house occupied by Rappaccini and his beautiful daughter. But there is something strange about the daughter and about the garden in which he often sees her from his upper-floor window. He discovers some, but not all, of the secret and in attempting to correct what he sees as a wrong causes a tragedy.

The psychophonic Nurse - David H. Keller

A tale from 1928 which also shows its age in its assumptions about race and gender roles, but which in other respects is forward-looking for its time. Susanne Teeple and her husband have recently become parents, but taking care of baby is preventing Mrs Teeple from pursuing her career as a business journalist. Her husband uses his ingenuity and connections to build a robot nanny to take care of the child. It doesn't turn out well.

The Little Black Bag - C.M. Kornbluth

A story involving time-travel (for objects, not people), a future society made up of de-skilled individuals and a failed alcoholic physician in the present day. Time travel, and the ignorance of those future individuals, means that he comes into possession of a medical box of tricks which allows the unskilled to carry out medicine and surgery with astonishing ease. He does well with it for a time, but you know that it has to end badly somehow.

Kornbluth was obsessed with the dumbing-down of society and was an advocate of eugenics as a result. This tale is a thinly-disguised warning from the perspective of someone with that thinking.

Ribbon in the sky - Murray Leinster

Set in a future galaxy where humans have colonised many planets but not always successfully. Our protagonist is a travelling doctor with the Interstellar Medical Service. A mavigation error results in him emerging by a world with a lost colony - or rather 3 colonies with a great fear of each other. Diagnosing and fixing this problem is what the story's about.

Mate in two moves - Winston K. Marks

A story which works hard to counter gender assumptions typical in science fiction of its time and comes close to succeeding. Sylvester Murt and Phyllis Sutton work as pathologists in a general hospital. Sutton is Murt's assistant but it is she who first notices and researches strange changes in behaviour that are symptoms of an undiagnosed epidemic. Murt is initially disbelieving; as he comes round to her way of thinking it is him who takes the credit for their discovery. As it turns out, our protagonists aren't immune to the epidemic - or are they?

Bedside Manner - William Morrison

Humans are exploring the solar system, but spaceflight is still a dangerous thing. Two are caught up in what should have been a fatal accident. However, they are found by an unimaginably advanced civilisation who do their best to reconstruct them, based only on what knowledge they can find from their destroyed ship. The story keeps you guessing but the conclusion is somewhat underwhelming.

The shopdropper - Alan Nelson

An intriguing tale mixing fantasy and psychology, on a similar theme to that explored in another Nelson story "Narapoia." In that story, someone has the opposite of paranoia - he is convinced he is following someone and that others are plotting to do him good. In this story, it's kleptomania that receives the reverse treatment. The cause is bound up with some cursed items whose properties become apparent as the tale unfolds. Amusing and well-written.

Family Resemblance - Alan E. Nourse

Facts in the case of M. Valdemar - Edgar Allan Poe

Emergency Operation - Arthur Porges

A Matter of Ethics - J.R. Shango

Bolden's pets - F.L. Wallace

Expedition Mercy - J.A. Winter ( )
  kevinashley | Jan 5, 2017 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Conklin, GroffEditorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Fabricant, NoahEditormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Breuer, Miles J.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Clarke, Arthur C.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dance, CliftonContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Doyle, Arthur ConanContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Fink, David HaroldContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hawthorne, NathanielContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Keller, David H.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kornbluth, Cyril MContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Leinster, MurrayContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Marks, Winston K.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Morrison, WilliamContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Nelson, AlanContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Nourse, Alan E.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Poe, Edgar AllanContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Porges, ArthurContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Shango, JRContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wallace, FLContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Winter, Joseph A.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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