Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Monday, September 28, 2020


 Openers:  "Of course, if they had had any sense they'd have routed us via Cairo," the engineer from Birmingham said.

This is the miracle of our age:  that one may be borne swiftly and smoothly along in winged luxury, constantly fed and reassured, while underneath one unrolls the great viridian mat of Central Africa, that territory to be flown over but never conquered, whose mysteries deepen as the rest of the world grows hallower, whose beasts and peoples breathe a secret, greener air, whose prodigality seems to make of the continent a very planet, subject to its laws and psychologies -- this, I say, is the miracle, that we may be borne over all this superbity to the tune of turbo-props and notice nothing of it because of the vacuous gossip of an engineer from Birmingham.

"I mean, Dakar just doesn't compare with Cairo in any wat," he added, "as regards to amenities or anything else."

-- Brian Aldiss, The Male Response (1961)

Thus begins a bitingly, somewhat bawdy novel exploring the White Man's Burden, the Black Man's Burden, palace intrigue, the opposition of tradition versus progress, and, of course, sex.

Soames Noyes is a manager for Unilateral Company, a leading British producer of computers.  The time is 1970, just a short hop forward from when the novel was written.  Prince Deal Limpo Lander, son of the king and president of the Republic of Goya -- a flyspeck African country few had heard of -- has ordered a computer a part of a scheme of his father's to modernize his country.  Having no idea of what the computer would be used for (or how to use it, for that matter), the prince picks the most modern, expensive computer -- the Apostle Mk II -- for Goya.  His only requirement is that the computer be painted red instead of the normal gray of the computer.  So Soames is off to Goya with three Unilateral engineers and the safely packed, albeit disassembled, Apostle Mk II in the plane's cargo hold, headed to Goya's capital of Umbalathorp.

The plane crashes and Soames, one engineer, and the prince are the only survivors.  The computer was not damaged.  Soames finds there are few white people in Goya:  two small families of rival traders and an English couple and their daughter who are ostracized for their sexual preferences.  The king and president (he claims both titles) is wily, politically astute man named M'Grassi Landor.  Because he is both king and president, he is allowed to have two families -- one for the king and one for the president.  M'Grassi's political rival is Dumayami, a witch doctor who opposes the new computer, and who predicts that Soames will never leave Goya.  There is also a Chinese family living in the palace, the father being the laundryman for the palace as well as being an accomplished spy.  Just about everyone Soames meets (save for the witch doctor) has a daughter that wants to seduce Soames as a possible way to get away from Goya, which is a country with a majority of poor people and a smattering of the rich.

Soames is a duck out of water here.  A good part of the book centers on his efforts to make sense of the place, its people, its mores, and its politics.  The remaining Unilateral engineer is killed shortly after he managed to get the computer assembled and running.  Soames discovers a plot to steal all the computer spare parts in order to resell them to the government.  Soames tries to recover the parts, only to be foiled by a runaway train.  (The train was originally designed to run to a neighboring village whose inhabitants had all died from plague before the railway could be completed.)  Soames also  saves the life of Prince Deal and finds himself being elected President of Goya in another politically savvy move by M;Grassi.  Soames is unaware of a provision in the country's constitution that makes all presidents-elect to publicly choose a First Lady and to publically copulate with her before being sworn in.  This goes against his English sense of reserve (although every other Englisher in the book has no moral scruples).

The Male Response is a sly, fast read from one of England's great authors.  Aldiss was never one to restrain himself as far as subject matter, genre, or imagination.  Like his colleague J. G. Ballard, Aldiss is sui generis, always moving to new, challenging, and literate frontiers.  Here, Aldiss is at his satiric best.

Galaxy Science Fiction Novels:  Aldiss's The Male Response was the 45th (out of 46) book published as a Galaxy Science Fiction Novel.  The line was started by H. L. Gold in 1950 as an adjunct to his Galaxy Science Fiction, magazine.  The books were presented in a paperback digest format and were sometimes abridge for space.  Most of the authors were among the top science fiction writers of the time.  In 1959 the series was sold to Beacon Books, which changed the format to a regular paperback size, and promoted them as sex-ed up novels more fitting for their main line of soft-core novels.  Titles were often changed and the stories themself edited (or added to) to increase the sex content.  The first edition of The Male Response was one such book.  I read the House of Stratus 2001 edition and have not compared this edition to the original.

 Nonetheless, there is some great reading in the 46 books in the series -- realizing, of course, that some of the gratuitous scenes can be laid to the editor and not the author.  Here's a list, in order:

  • Eric Frank Russell, Sinister Barrier
  • Jack Williamson, The Legion of Space
  • Arthur C. Clarke, Prelude to Space
  • S. Fowler Wright, The Amphibians
  • S. Fowler Wright, The World Below
  • Raymond F. Jones, The Alien
  • Clifford D. Simak, Empire
  • Olaf Stapledon, Odd John
  • William F. Temple, Four Sided Triangle
  • Jay Franklin, Rat Race
  • Wilson Tucker, The City in the Sea
  • Sam Merwin, Jr., The House of Many Worlds
  • "John Taine," Seeds of Life
  • Isaac Asimov, Pebble in the Sky
  • Leslie Mitchell, Three Go Back
  • James Blish, The Warriors of Day
  • "Lewis Padgett," Well of the Worlds
  • Edmond Hamilton, City at World's End
  • James Blish, Jack of Eagles
  • "Murray Leinster," The Black Galaxy
  • Jack Williamson, The Humanoids
  • Sam Merwin, Jr., Killer to Come
  • "David Reed," Murder in Space
  • L. Sprague de Camp, Lest Darkness Fall
  • "Murray Leinster," The Last Spaceship
  • "Lewis Padgett," Chessboard Planet
  • Malcolm Jameson, Tarnished Utopia
  • Fritz Leiber, Destiny Times Three
  • L. Ron Hubbard, Fear
  • Fletcher Pratt, Double Jeopardy
  • C. L. Moore, Shambleau
  • F. L. Wallace, Address:  Centauri
  • "Hal Clement," Mission of Gravity
  • Manly Wade Wellman, Twice in Time
  • Frank Riley & Mark Clifton, The Forever Machine (They'd Rather Be Right)
Here Come the Beacons:
  • Olaf Stapledon, Odd John (reprinted and probably sexed-up)
  • Raymond F. Jones, The Deviates (The Secret People)
  • George O. Smith, Troubled Star
  • Larry M. Harris ("Laurence Janifer") & Randall Garrett, Pagan Passions
  • Poul Anderson, Virgin Planet
  • Philip Jose Farmer, Flesh
  • Sam Merwin, Jr., The Sex War (The White Widows)
  • Philip Jose Farmer, A Woman a Day (The Day of Timestop)
  • A. E. van Vogt, The Mating Cry (The House That Stood Still)
  • Brian Aldiss, The Male Response
  • "Cyril Judd", Sin in Space (Outpost Mars by C. M. Kornbluth & Judith Merril)
For the most part, this is a great science fiction reading list.

  • Peter Haining, editor, Pulp Fictions.  Anthology of twenty hard-boiled stories covering Hardboiled Dicks, Cops and G-Men, and The Hoods.  Typical Haining anthology of the familiar, the unfamiliar, and the quirky.  Authors include Robert Leslie Bellem, W. R. Burnett, James M. Cain, Raymond Chandler, James Hadley Chase, Peter Cheney, Carroll John Daly, James Ellroy, Samuel Fuller, David Goodis, Dashiell Hammett, MacKinlay Kantor, Stephen King, Elmore Leonard, Ross Macdonald, Ed McBain, Mickey Spillane, Quentin Tarantino, Jim Thompson, and Cornell Woolrich.  A good line-up and, I'm sure, some pretty good stories.

Bad News:  Thanks to global warming -- you know, the thing that does not exist according to the right-wing concussed ward -- hurricanes are getting stronger and more frequent.  This past week there was a hurricane off Alaska and we also learned of zombie hurricanes.  I'm sure this whole thing will blow over...The Notorious RBG is about to replaced by the Inglorious ACB as the Senate vows to fast track the nomination to have her seated before the November election.  This, just in case the election results go to the Supreme Court for final judgement.  All part of a ploy from the GOP which feels they are most likely on the losing end in November...Trump refuses to say whether he will leave office if he loses, although he vowed to do so if there was a "fair" election.  Of course, in his mind, any fair election would have him winning.  He fears those pesky mail-in ballots and has done everything he could to illegitimize them.  Now he wants to have only those votes counted on election day determine the winner, because, he says, that way we will not have to worry about a transition of power because it would be a continuation...How many times has he blatantly misinterpreted the Constitution?  None, because he never read it and, because it contains words of more than one syllable, could never read it...Trump's latest appointment to the coronavirus task force -- Scott Altas -- because "Everything he says is false," according to CDC director Robert Redfield.  Atlas has consistently supported Trump's false claims about COVID-19 ...Former Trump campaign director Rick Gates has revealed that Trump wanted his daughter Ivanka to be his running mate in 2016.  He settled for Pence. There's a joke there somewhere but I'm not going to try to find it...In order to lower the bar for his upcoming debate, Trump has been touting the theory that Joe Biden has been taking performance enhancing drugs and challenging the Democrat to take a drug test.  Performance enhancing drugs may also explain how Trump was able to remember "person, man, woman, camera, TV" and to identify a drawing of a camel...The Republican investigation of Joe/Hunter Biden/Ukraine was released. showing no evidence whatsoever of any illegality.  That did not stop several Republicans from claiming that things that did not happen did happen.  Reality takes a strange twist in their world...In an absolute miscarriage of justice, no one was charged in Breonna Taylor's death.  Taylor's family is demanding the release of Grand Jury documents.  It would be very interesting to see what they were or were not told by the state's attorney...The New York Times was able to get hold of twenty years of tax records for Trump and his organization.  Which indicated that he had paid no taxes for eleven of the eighteen years that the paper had examined and that he paid only $750 in 2017.  Most of Trump's businesses are losing money.  The Trump organization has paid for most of his personal expenses.  Many of Trump's tax write-offs are questionable.  The IRS is investigating a $72.9 million tax refund that may have been illegitimate.  While president, he has received more money from foreign sources and US interest groups than previously known.  Trump may have only $853,000 in stocks and bonds remaining to sell to keep his head above water.  Trump is responsible for loans totalling $421 million -- most of which comes due within the next four years...Former Trump campaign manager Brad Pascale has been hospitalized after threatening self-harm.  Tim Murtaugh, communications director for the Trump campaign, placed the b lame on Democrats and "disgruntled RINOs."...Florida governor Rick DeSantis has lifted all Covid-19 restriction from the state.  This when Florida has had over 14,000 deaths (and counting) and before the second wave of coronavirus is expected to hit.  This move may help shore up the state's Republican base before the election (assuming that Republican base does not die of Covid before November 3)...Brain-eating amoeba has killed a 6-year-old Texas boy, sparking fears of the water supply for eight Texas cities...Over 350 long-finned pilot whales died in a mass stranding on a Tasmanian sandbank.  Rescuers manage to save 108 other whales during a five-day rescue effort...American Wesley barnes if facing a possible two-year prison sentence for writing a bad review of a Thai resort on TripAdvisor...and so it goes...

Song Titles:  What is the worst song title ever?  Could it be "I'm Selling Mom's Urine on Ebay"?  Or, perhaps, "Kill a Tree for Christ"?  Other possibilities include "Indies to the Andes in His Undies," "She Was Bitten on the Udder by an Adder," "Booger in My Beer Mug," and "Santa Claus Has got the AIDS This Year."

Your suggestions are welcomed.

Meanwhile, here's "I'd Rather Have a Bottle in Front of Me (Than a Frontal Lobotomy):

The Omaha Race Riot:  Today is the 101st anniversary of the Omaha race riot.  The Red Summer of 1919 saw more than 20 race riots in American industrial cities.  Tensions began in Omaha two years before when major meatpacking plants hired blacks as strikebreakers.  Much of the city was controlled by the Irish, who had earlier managed to drive the city's Greek population out of Omaha.  The city's criminal element then teamed up with the Omaha Business Men's Association to challenge the moralistic platform of Omaha's new mayor, Edward Parsons Smith.  With the support of the city's labor unions, Smith was able to push through a reform agenda.  Racial tensions were already high when, on September 11, two members of the Omaha police "morals squad" shot and killed a black bellhop.  Then, on September 25, 19-year-old Amy Loebeck was allegedly raped and 41-year-old Will Brown, an African-American, was arrested the following day.  The Omaha Bee, controlled by the political machine that opposed the new mayor and his reforms, had been publishing a series of sensational stories about "black criminality" to embarrass the new administration.  With the alleged rape, the Bee went to town, putting out sensational, overblown, and incriminating stories.

On September 28, a group of white youths gathered and began a march to the county courthouse.  Despite attempts to disperse the crown, the marchers reached the courthouse at 4:00.  By 5:00  the mob had grown to from 5,000 to 15,000 people.  The police (ahem) decided the mob posed no threat and the captain in charge sent fifty reserve officers home.  By 6:00 pm the courthouse was surrounded on all sides.  The crowd seized revolvers, badges and hats from policemen.  African-Americans anywhere in the area were beaten by the mob.  The mob raided local hardware stores, stealing more than a thousand revolvers and shotguns.  Police were shot at and seven officers were wounded.  By 7:00 police and sheriffs formed their last line of defense on the fourth floor of the courthouse.  By 8:00 the mob had set the courthouse on fire.  A 16-year-old leader of the mob, Louis Young, and a 34-year-old businessman, James hiykel, were shot and killed.  The mob pelted the courthouse with bullets and rocks; spectators were shot; women fell and were trampled; blacks were dragged from streetcars and beaten; some members of the mob were beaten in the confusion by other members.

At 11:00 the mayor emerged from the burning building.  He was hit on the head with a baseball bat and a noose was placed over his head and he was dragged away.  Despite attempts to rescue him, he was hung from the metal arm of a traffic signal.  Then a state agent drove a car into the throng and the three city detectives managed to free the mayor.  The mayor was taken to Ford Hospital where he lingered between life and death for several days, eventually recovering.

The fire had spread to the third floor.  Three officers and a newspaper reporter found shelter in a second floor safety vault.  They managed to hack their way out through a courthouse wall and were shot at as they squirmed through the hole they made.  Bottles of formaldehyde were thrown in the staircase; the fumes overcame two policemen.  The sheriff managed to get 121 prisoners onto the roof.  Reportedly, the prisoners vowed to throw Willy Brown off the roof to the angry mob.  The sheriff ordered the female prisoners be taken out of the building.  Several collapsed on the burning stairs.  The mob let the women -- including black women -- to safely leave.  More gasoline was thrown at the building.  the mob cut the fire hoses that were being used to quench the fire.

A note was thrown to the mob, saying that they would hand Willy Brown to them if they came to the fourth floor.  Allegedly, Brown was then thrown to the mob by black prisoners, although the leaders of the mob said they could tell who gave them Brown due to the heavy smoke.   Within a few minutes, Brown was hung from a telephone post just one block from where the mob had tried to hang the mayor.  Hundreds of revolvers and shotguns were fired into the corpse.  Brown was then cut down and his body was tied to the end of an automobile and was dragged four blocks.  The body was then set on fire and the charred corpse was then dragged through the business district for several hours.

From the time he was arrested to the moment before his death, Brown proclaimed hi innocence.

The riot ended at 3:00 on the morning of the 29th.   Peace was enforced by 1600 soldiers.  Blame was placed at the police by the army and at the army by the police.  The federal response came to late, in part because President Woodrow Wilson (who had to authorize federal action) had had a stroke.  120 rioters were arrested, most not prosecuted, and none served a term of imprisonment.

The army general in charge of the troops laid the blame on the riot with the Industrial Workers of the World.  The Wobblies were fair game at the time as part of a larger Red Scare.

Is there a lesson here for today?

Florida Man:   
  • An unidentified Florida man called the Hillsborough County sheriff's office after he heard his neighbor shouting, "Shoot!  Shoot!"  The neighbor was watching Game Three of the Stanley Cup playoffs with two friends and were yelling for the Tampa Bay Lightning's Steven Stamkos to make a goal.
  • Port Charlotte Florida Man Sean Metcalfe was charged with domestic battery after he slapped his wife with a piece of pizza when  she tried to throw the box away.  When [olic arrived she still had grease and tomato sauce on her face.  I believe the police charged him with domestic battery because it evidently is not against Florida law to waste a good slice of pizza.
  • Two Brits discuss three separate Florida Man episodes, including a ghostly three-some and a desire for hot pockets.  Probably NSFW.
  • As mentioned above, former Trump campaign chairman Brad Pascale was hospitalized after threatening to harm himself.   He had barricaded himself in his home and had multiple firearms.  What I did not mention was that he lives in Fort Lauderdale.  Figures.
  • An unnamed Miami, Florida, tow truck driver was arrested Friday night for illegally lifting an Audi with a frightened 17-year-old girl inside, but not before backing up and crashing into the car.  Police said the driver told them he was towing a different car, but the incident was caught on video and proved him to be a liar face.
  • A Tennessee woman is searching for her mother's cremated remains.  She had sent the remains by mail to her sister in Jacksonville not knowing her sister had moved.  The post office delivered the remains to the address on the package and the current resident placed the carton outside for carrier pickup but the carton and Mama's ashes went missing.  If you are in Florida and happen to spot with a bright red label saying "CREMATED REMAINS," please let Amy Redford of Oldham county, Tennessee know.  She is missing her mother.
  • Florida Man and waste of protoplasm Governor Ron DeSantis has lifted all Covid-19 restriction for the state.  I know I also mentioned this above, but it is such a Florida Man thing to do.

Good News:
  • Drug found to repair nerve cells, giving hope for future MS treatments
  • Customer raises a $12,000 tip for his favorite 89-year-old pizza deliveryman
  • Tennessee high school students collect 10,000 face masks for those in need
  • Australian scientist use seaweed as a supplement for cows, potentially reducing methane emission by 90%
  • Rallying after a North Dakota farmer has a heart attack, nhis neighbors teamed together to save his 10,000 acre harvest
  • Five great things we should remember about Ruth Bader Ginsberg (There are far many more than five, but this is a start,)

A 2020 Thought:  Next week has been exhausting.

Today's Poem:
Still I Rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod be in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset  by gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hope springing high, 
Still I'll Rise

Do you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful eyes.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' on my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Living behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream of the hope and the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

-- Maya Angelou

(posted in honor of RBG, BLM, and the memory of Breanna Taylor)

1 comment:

  1. That's unusually packed even for these exercises. They did actually lynch the mayor...he was hanged, but not killed, unlike the unfortunate Mr. Brown.