The psychedelic aliens on this book cover just scream campy. Which is a shame since many of the short stories in Creatures from Beyond are wonderfully written and inducted me into the science fiction fan club. Terry Carr collected and published these nine tales in 1975. While that easily qualifies them as retro sci-fi, their original publication dates reveal them as positively vintage. The oldest was written in 1927!
Post Format: Blast from the Past…or is it?
To be sure, Mystery Science Theater 3000 would have a field day with some of these tales. But more than a few represent great storytelling.
The Mimic by Donald Wolheim, 1942: This story takes real science and puts it on steroids. (I’ll take this kind of sci-fi any day over dueling space ships and galactic intrigue.) The narrator is a young man who works in a natural history museum classifying and mounting insects. Through him, we get a fascinating science lesson on nature’s survivalist skills of camouflage and mimicry. Examples include one beetle species whose false markings and erratic speed allow it to live unnoticed and unharmed among predatory army ants. He goes on to describe man
as the “greatest killer, the greatest hunter of them all.” Could there be mimics surviving unnoticed among humans? This clever, horrific story answers that very question.
The Street that Wasn’t There by Clifford D. Simak and Carl Jacobi, 1941: An old professor takes the same walk every evening but discovers one day that a whole street has simply disappeared! This is a beautifully written, convincing story that had me wondering what is real and what isn’t.
Dear Devil by Eric Frank Russell, 1950: Okay, so the hero of this tale is a blue alien who communicates through tentacles. But you’ll fall genuinely in love with him anyway. The setting is a familiar one in sci-fi, a post-apocalyptic world with a handful of human survivors. But the ending is anything but bleak thanks in large part to this generous, intelligent Martian. Dear Devil closes out Carr’s collection and is easily my favorite.
Bonus Bit: Got a long, sit-down task ahead of you? For entertainment, play this 35-minute YouTube clip of Peter Yearsley reading The Street That Wasn’t There.
QUESTION: Do you have any great sci-fi writer/story recommendations?
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