Science Fictions Short Story Review: "The Guardians" by Irving Cox, Jr.
This is another in the series of “It Came from the Pulps!” where I review science fiction short stories that were originally published in the pulp magazines of mid-20th century. Many of these have become available in electronic form as free downloads, particularly from Project Gutenberg, or for a small price.
The reader learns in the first paragraph that Myrna Brill has not believed in the usual taboos or even in the Earth-god for a while now. After she found an astronomy textbook in the forbidden Old Village, she learned that paradise of green river valleys she and the other children grew up and have known as earth is really called Rythar. She also learned that it is not flat and fixed, but that it spins in a black void.
She would not have been exploring the old city except when she was 14, Myrna asked the Earth-god a simple question: what is above the rain mist? The Earth-god ignored her, only repeated the well-known taboos about going to the Old Village. What 14-year-old girl would not thenhead there immediately? It wasn’t as if the kids didn’t go there anyway, running by with hands shielding their eyes.
God only asked two things of the settlement: turn over pieces of heavy metal they dug from the hills send vials of soil. These were shipped by god-car. Sometimes there was no metal to send and god never complained, but he fussed mightily about the vials of soil. They had to be extracted specific places.
Myrna examined the inside of the god-cars and weighed her risks. She finally climbed inside a god-car and was shot into the void. A great many things puzzling things, but none so puzzling as what happened when she told people on the other end where she was from. They were not angry. No one sought to punish her for committing a forbidden act. They were frightened.
This is the type of story that I enjoy immensely. There is a mystery to be solved. There pieces of jigsaw puzzle to be put together. The main character, through her own hard work and planning puts the pieces together, and finds she has opened a can of worms. It’s a test of her character as to what she will do about it, and even after all her effort, will it make a difference? I really liked this story. I’ve never heard of this author before, but will look for more work from him.
Title: “The Guardians” first published in Astounding Science Fiction June 1955
Author: Irving Cox, Jr. (1917-2001)
©2015 Denise Longrie
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