Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Monday, March 14, 2022


Openers:   Mike Powell gazed down at the Mojave Desert.  It was an actual pleasure to look at anything -- even the blank, barren, monotonous sands below -- anything at all, as long as it wasn't his pilot's back.

For, when Powell accidently looked at his pilot, a Martian Redlander with a head that resembled a battered muff, he sighed.  Two hundred years ago, the sight of a Martian would have been unbelievable to an Earthman.  But it was now many decades since the first rocket ship had reached Mars and returned, like Columbus, with native exhibits.

Powell's pilot, like all Martians, had lots of hair.  It protected him from the sandstorms of the red planet.  But why in hell this particular Redlander refused to shave, or even get a haircut, Powell could never understand.

"Hector," he said disgustingly, "you look like a weeping willow.  How about getting that rubbish at least trimmed?"

Surprisingly, the Martian turned his head completely around on what evidently was a universal-jointed vertebra.  Seen from this vantage point, his face was even less attractive.  A tangled wilderness of blue-black hair confronted Mike Powell.  The ace cameraman shuddered.

"Soon, yah," said Hector in a squeaky voice.  He bounced the plane through an air pocket and giggled with happy satisfaction.

-- "When New York Vanished" by Henry Kuttner (Startling Stories, March 1940; reprinted in 2016 in the Haffner Press edition of The Watcher at the Door:  The Early Henry Kuttner, Volume Two)

This "novel-length" story was probably written by Kuttner alone and not in collaboration with his wife, C. L. Moore.  The awkwardness of the first few paragraphs indicates the slap-dash approach Kuttner used for the "novels" he placed with Startling Stories.  (One of these so-called Kuttner novels was actually written by Moore.)  This appears to be the lesser of these novels -- all others that Kuttner published in Startling Stories have been reprinted as single books or, at least, in chapbook form.  But the story was of its time and aimed at a less than critical audience -- which brings us to the major discordant note for readers of today:  Mike Powell is a jerk.  He is sexist, unscrupulous, and racist, but all in a "that's okay, it's 1940, after all" way.  So take that as a warning if you cannot read the story as a piece of its time.

As stated above, Powell is a cameraman.  In fact, he's one of the most successful news cameramen in the solar system.  If there is an important (read spectacular) event going, Powell is often there first to record the event, sometimes through his own initiative and courage, and sometimes through chicanery and dirty tricks -- the latter approach may have flown well in the popular media of 1940 but is off-putting today.  One target of Powell's dirty tricks is red-haired Sue Clark, a competitor from a rival news agency.  (Gee, I wonder where that relationship will go in this story.)   Powell's attitude toward Sue is chauvinistic, to say the least.  More disturbing is his treatment of Hector, the Martian pilot and man-of-all-work.  Martians "were not noted for their intelligence.  They were willing enough but childish in some ways."  Powell had been in Tycho City during the big quake that leveled half of that metropolis.  His assistant cameraman had fallen to his death in a crevice and Powell needed someone to do all the scut work for him.  He saw Hector chasing a dog through the ruins and "promptly captured the Martian,"  Since then Hector had been Powell's pilot, assistant, and dogsbody -- basically a master-slave relationship.  If Powell's chicanery and chauvinism is off-putting, raise it to the power of ten for this white man's burden approach.

As I have said, this is a tale of its time.  It should be read for what it is -- a slam-bang, gosh-wow, fast-moving sci-fi (as opposed to SF) adventure.

Powell had managed to film a test run of a top-secret new type of rocket that reportedly could change the future of space flight.  While doing so he was attacked by a plane, recognizing a famous "electro-physicist on it.  With the completed film safely back in his office, he sets out to confront the scientist.  While meeting with the scientist, Powell gets word that burglars have set off a bomb at his employer's building, destroying many master tapes, the one Powell had just shot among them.  Through the use of X-ray glasses (secretly developed by Powell's employers -- go figure), he overheard a conversation between the scientist and a large robot where it was decided that a stout denial of everything Powell has accused him of would suffice.  Powell also learned that Carlin Eberle, that tycoon who had built the new rocket, was piloting it to Venus.

Venus is a water world with very little land area.  The upper waters of the planet are rife with aquatic life.  No one knows how deep the Venusian oceans are because there is a layer of dense vegetation just below these upper waters and no one has gotten past this tangle of weeds and survived.  There is, however, stories that a race of intelligent beings inhabit these unplumbed deaths.  Powell and Hector go to Venus in search of Eberle, his rocket, and a scoop.  They determine that Eberle's ship had plunged into the ocean and through the vegetation into unknown waters.  Powell is determine to follow...

That's as far as I have read so far -- about a quarter of the way through the novel; I should be finishing the story sometime tomorrow.  So far, it is an entertaining, non-PC, romp, promising grand adventure on a planetary scale.  Forget about the clunky writing and the rather disturbing characterizations -- all of a sudden, I'm a wide-eyed thirteen-year-old kid again eager to get to the next page.

And where does the vanishing New York fit into all of this?   Dunno.  But the story's original blurb promises it will happen:  "Madness rules when the world's greatest city is catapulted into another dimension -- while civilization ponders the enigma of a lost metropolis!"  There is also a nifty illustration by Alex Schomburg showing a large Forties-style in the sky, shooting a giant ray onto a panicked city.  Look like New York is going to be toast unless Powell figures out a way to save it.


  • John Bude, The Lake District Murder.  Mystery novel.  "When a body is found at an isolated garage, Inspector Meredith is drawn into a complex investigation where every clue leads to another puzzle:  was this a suicide, or something more sinister?  Why was the dead man planning to flee the country?  And how is this connected to the shady business dealings of the garage?  This classic rime novel is set amidst the stunning scenery of a small village in the Lake District."  Bude was the pseudonym of Ernest Carpenter Elmore (1901-1957), who wrote -- among other novels -- 32 books featuring Inspector William Meredith; The Lake District Murder was the first in the series.  It has been reprinted by The British Library as part of their Crime Classics series, with an introduction by writer/editor/critic Martin Edwards, who knows a bit about fictional murders in the Lake District.
  • David Drake, [editor?], Starhunters, Volume 1:  Men Hunting Things.  Science fiction anthology with eleven short stories -- all reprints -- about a "futuristic blood sport."  Authors include Drake, Russell Hayes, Henry Kuttner & C. L. Moore, Bruce McAllister, Arthur Porges, Casey J. Prescott, Eric Frank Russell, Michael Shaara, Robert Silverberg, Clifford D. Simak, and Wilson Tucker.  Some fairly neat stories here.  The cover indicates "crated by David Drake," while Drake's name is listed on the title page and in the copyright notice, sans the word "editor."
  • Martin H. Greenberg & Sarah J. Hoyt, editors, Something Magic This Way Comes.  Fantasy anthology with 21 original stories.  As with many of Greenberg's anthologies for DAW Books, this one features a number of beginning writers with stories by more established writers like Eric Flint, Esther M. Freisner, Laura Resnick, Mike Resnick, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, and Harry Turtledove.  Probably a pleasant time-waster.
  • Rich Horton, editor, The Year's Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2013.  A "Year's Best" anthology with 33 stories from 2012.  Authors are:  Nina Allen, Kate Bachus, Elizabeth Bear, Michael Blumlein, David Ira Cleary, Alette de Bodard (with two stories), K. M. Ferebee, Emily Gilman, Maria Dahvana Headley, Naomi Kritzer, Jay Lake, Ursula Le Guin, Marissa K. Lingen, Kelly Link, Megan McCarron, Sandra McDonald, Nick Mamatas, Tamsyn Muir, Linda Nagata, Joe Pitkin, Robert Reed, Leonard Richardson, Margaret Ronald, Christopher Rowe, Sofia Samatar, Gord Sellar, Lavie Tidhar, Catherynne M. Valente, Genevieve Valentine, Robert Charles Wilson, Xia Jia, and Caroline M. Yoachim.  Four stories came from Clarkesworld, three from Asimov's, and two each from Analog, Fantasy & Science Fiction, and; the remaining stories were from individual publications.  From the editor's recommended reading list ten stories were from Asimov's, eight stories from both Beneath Ceaseless Skies and Lightspeed, seven stories from Fantasy & Science Fiction, five stories from Strange Horizons, three from Analog, and two each from Eclipse Online and
  • Jesse Russell & Ronald Cohn, USS Leutze (DD-481).  Nonfiction about the Fletcher-class destroyers in the United States Navy during World War II.  (The title is a bit of a misnomer:  the book also covers another 30 Fletcher-Class vessels.)  This was a birthday gift for Kitty, whose father served on the Leutze in World War II.  In January 1945, an alarm was sounded on her sister ship, the Makin Island, a sailor on that ship who was sleeping on the deck was startled awake and immediately ran off the deck into the ocean; the Luetze was the ship that rescued the sailor and, as a result, the entire crew was treated to ice cream.  A more serious incident occurred on April 6, when she was hit by a kamikaze which exploded into the Luetze's port quarter, severing her fantail and left seven crew members missing, one dead, and 30 wounded.  Severely damaged, it was a miracle that she did not sink.  Kitty's father worked below deck in waist-high water restoring the ship's electricity, an act that earned him the Bronze Star.

Erin Go Bragh:  Thursday is St. Patrick's Day, the day when the entire world is Irish.  In typical Irish fashion, it is celebrated on March 17 -- the date St. Patrick was supposed to have died in 476 -- rather on the day he was born.  There is no record of when he was born so celebrated the one day they knew of made sense to the Irish.  St. Patrick was born in Roman Britain, was kidnapped and brought to Ireland as a slave when he was sixteen, then escaped to become a Christian missionary and returned to Ireland as the island's bishop.  He is credited with bring Christianity to Ireland.

Much of what we know and what we think we know about Patrick may not be true.  There may have been two Patricks whose deeds and myths have been conflated.  Certainly Christianity existed in Ireland before Patrick.  But the Irish sure love a good story.

According to legend, Patrick used the three-leafed clover to explain the Trinity.  He also is credited with driving the snakes out of Ireland, even though there is no evidence that snakes had ever inhabited the island.  Supposedly, snakes attacked Patrick during a 40-day (!) fast, an act that pissed Patrick off so he banished them into the sea.  He also once drove his ash walking stick into the ground where it eventually turned into a tree.  He also tried to evangelize to two pagan ancient warriors from the past, but they still gloried in their pagan ways.  There is no record that Patrick brought green beer to Ireland and, thus far, there is no support to my theory that, after driving the snakes out of Ireland, Patrick drove the potato and cabbage into the Emerald Isle.

I wish all a very happy and responsible-drinking St. Patrick's Day.

Irish Songs:   Here's a link to what Good Housekeeping claims to be the thirty best Irish songs for St. Patrick's Day.  I don't believe it.  Do you?

What?  Any list of Irish songs should have included this one from Tommy Makem:

Et Tu, Mr. Tinkles:  Since Tuesday is the Ides of March, let's take a look where Julius Caesar died.  

Largo de Torre Argentina is a small square in the middle of Rome which is believed to be the site of the Curia de Pompey and where Caesar was assassinated.  A reconstruction of this part of Rome was begun in 1909 and during the demolition of the Torre Argentina in 1927. a giant statue was found.  It was later determined to be a Republican era holy area that had boasted four temples and Pompey's Theatre.  One of the temples is most likely the Temple of Juturna (circa 241 B.C.), marking a victory over Carthage.  Another is dedicated to Fortuna Huiusce Diei ("the Fortune of the Day"), built in 101 B.C., and honored a battle that marked the end of the Germanic threat to the Republic; this was the temple that held the giant statue of the goddess herself.  A third temple dates back to the 3rd or 4th century B.C. and celebrates Feronia, the ancient Ionic goddess of fertility.  The largest temple was dedicated to Lares Permarini, the Lares who protected sailors; it dates back to the 2nd century B.C. and is now a...(drum roll, please) sanctuary, housing some 350 cats.  Since 1993 it has been run as a no-kill shelter where cats are sterilized and placed for adoption, all in accordance with a law instituted by the Italian Parliament in 1991.  Items are for sale there to help pay for shelter, food, and medication.

I hope Julius Caesar was not as allergic to cats as he was to knife thrusts.

Speaking of cats, Yo-yo, the basset hound of Selwyn College is classified as a "very large cat" in order to get around the rule that no dogs are allowed at the College.

A Sexist Holiday:  Today -- a month after Valentine's Day -- is the unofficial Steak and B***J** Day, first conceived in 2002 by Boston radio DJ Tom Birdsey.  For those with any sense of decorum, please skip over to the next section of this post.  Are they gone?  Okay.

Women are supposed to cook a steak for a man and then perform fellatio on them as a response to the flowers, candy, cards, and gifts they were given a month before.  The unofficial holiday has become an internet meme while also being decried as sexist and patriachal.  A few have used the holiday as a platform to support breast cancer research. 

Men, if you value your life as well as your manhood, do not celebrate this holiday!  A donation to breat cancer research will suffice very nicely.

Safer Holidays:  It's National Pi Day, which means it's also Bake a Pie in Solidarity Day!

It's also National Potato Chip Day!  After you eat your pie and potato chips, you might want to celebrate National Napping Day.

Today is also the International Day of Action for Rivers, National Learn About Butterflies Day (and, in fairness to caterpillars everywhere, it's also Moth-er Day), the International Day of Mathematics, Celebrate Scientists Day, Science Education Day, National Children's Craft Day, National Ask a Question Day, and National Write Your Story Day.

You can also celebrate Australia's Eight Hour Day, which commemorates the eight-hour working day.  Australia is also celebrating Canberra Day, Canada is celebrating its Commonwealth Day. and Andorra -- the sixth smallest nation in Europe -- is celebrating Constitution Day.

You can celebrate yourself because today is Genius Day, but it may not take a genius to celebrate
Dribble to Work Day.

It's also Crowdfunding Day, Legal Assistance Day, and White Day --which is a day to reciprocate gifts received on Valentine's Day, and much, much better than Steak and You Know What Day.

Although I know they are great for the environment, but I cannot celebrate Save a Spider Day.  Instead, I suggest we celebrate Take a Blow Torch to 'Em Day and fry those critters.  Hate 'em.  Hate 'em. Hate 'em.

And happy birthday to Johann Strauss, Paul Ehrlich, fabled train engineer Casey Jones, Algernon Blackwood, Albert Einstein, Weavers singer Lee Hays, Dobie Gillis creator Max Shulman, Dennis the Menace creator Hank Ketchum, astronaut Frank Borman, Michael Caine, Quincy Jones, Rita Tushingham, Billy Crystal, fantasy author Tad Williams, Prince Albert II of Monaco, and Simone Biles, as well as a whole passel of people I have never heard of.

Florida Man:
  • Florida Idiot and Governor Ron DeSantis is getting a lot of flack for the "Don't Say Gay" and its homophobic intent, despite the governor swearing that the bill doesn't contain the word "gay."  Even Disney has (relunctently) take action over the bill.  DeSantis was also slammed for bullied high school students for wearing masks.  Sadly, he remains popular with his base and is considered a top contender to the next presidential election.  😒
  • An unnamed Florida Man (or Woman) has been found inside an alligator in a gator-infested canal at the Hungryland (great name!) Wildlife and Environmental Area in Indiantown on Thursday.   No word on what had happened or who the victim was, leaving one to only say, "Goodbye, old chum."
  • Florida Man and tow truck driver John Williams III, 50, gave a customer much more than she asked for while towing her SUV from a Putnam County parking lot.  The woman alleges that Williams exposed himself and performed a sex act while talking to her.  The camera in the cab of the tow truck was not angled to show any nudity, but the woman secretly recorded the act to be used as evidence.  Williams was charged with a similar crime last year in Clay County but was not convicted.  The charge however violates his parole for a 2017 home invasion.  Williams has been in and put of Florida prisons from 1992 and 2017.
  • Florida Man Eugene Bingham, 59, thinks he is Mick Jagger.  At least, he claimed to be when police came to arrest him for disorderly conduct after getting into fights in two Collier County restaurants.  Bingham left the Ocean Prime restaurant in Naples and officers tried to detain him at a nearby park.  That's when he charged one of the officers, saying, in essence, "Don't mess with me."  He was placed in the backseat of a police cruiser where he promptly threw up.  alcohol may have been involved.  Another restaurant owner told the officers that Bingham was kicked out his restaurant three times for being disruptive and drunk.  I'm sure if he were really Mick Jagger he would have gotten some respect.
  • There's just so much Florida Man (and Woman) news lately, it's had to keep up...66-year-old Florida Woman Kyong Moulton of Palm Bay was arrested stabbed two people with a steak knife and pushed an elderly woman in a feud about leaf blowing...Florida Man James Mossetty, 33, was arrested after assaulting a school crossing guard in Orlando.  Why?  Who knows?...Florida Man George Zimmerman, who had been declared not guilty of the murder of Trevon Martin, had his defamation lawsuit against Martin's parents was tossed out by a Tallahassee judge as being without merit.  Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy...Florida Man and former Seminole Country Tax Collector Joel Greenberg once again has had his sentencing once again delayed so that Greenberg can continued to aid government investigators in building a case against fellow Florida Man and waster of protoplasm Representative Matt Gaetz...Palm Coast Florida Man Andrew Atkerson, 34, was arrested for beating his nine-year-old son for purchases the boy and his younger brother had made on their iPad; Atkerson was on probation for the felony battery of his wife and has a record of 20 different charges in California and Florida dating back to 2004...29-year-old Florida Man Brandon Shelton was arrested by Volusia County Sheriff's deputies on eleven counts of possessing child pornography and on six counts of sexual activity with his wife's dog.  The child porn involved children from the age of 2 to 9.  Shelton is currently free on $116,000 bail...29-year-old Brandon White of Pinellas county is facing a number of charges of lewd and lascivious acts with minors.  Investigators say that White used Snapchat and Instagram to contact his victims, offering them vape pens and marijuana if he could touch and smell their feet.  He also asked for sex acts...Florida Man Enben Moodley, 40, allegedly grabbed a three-year old child out of a shopping cart in a Naples parking lot, after causing a scene by yelling at store cashiers.  When confronted by the child's mother, Moodley put the tyke back in the cart and walked away.  He was arrested later...Florida Woman and wedding crasher Gloria Ines Colwell, 52, was arrested in Brevard County after she refused to leave.  Colwell evidently had filled up on food and beer before being asked to leave.  When officers arrived, she continued to resist.  I assume that was because there was still some food and beer there.
  • And that's just the tip of the Florida iceberg.

Good News:
  • Inspired by woman who could smell Parkinson's on skin, doctors have developed an "e-nose" that can do the same
  • Man finally received grandfather's Purple Heart awarded 75 years ago after stranger searches to find her second cousin
  • Denver's program to dispatch mental health teams instead of police has been so successful that it has been expanded 5-fold
  • Scientists create algorithm that uses routine eye exams to determine heart attack risk -- with an accuracy of 70-80%
  • Nigerian mom designs solar-powered crib that puts an end to baby jaundice disease
  • Key building block for life discovered on planet 444 light-years away
  • New cancer therapy complete destroys advanced ovarian and colorectal tumors in 6 days

Today's Poem:
Love in Kyev

More terrible is love in Kyev than
Magnificent Venetian passions.   Butterflies
Fly light and maculate into bright tapers --
Dead caterpillars' brilliant wings aflame!
And spring has lit the chestnuts' candles!
Cheap lipstick's tender taste,
The daring innocence of miniskirts,
And these coiffures, that are not cut quite right --
Yet image, memory, and signs still move us...
Tragically obvious, like the latest hit.
You'll die here by a scoundrel's knife,
Your blood will spill like rust inside a brand
New Audi in an alley in Tartarka.
You'll plunge here from a balcony, the sky,
Down headlong into your dirty little Paris
Dressed in a blouse of secretarial white.
You can't discern the weddings from the deaths...
For love in Kyev is more terrible than
Ideas of New Communism:  specters
Emerge in the intoxicated nights
Out of Bald Mountain, bearing in their hands
Red flags and pots of red geraniums.
You'll die here by a scoundrel's knife,
You'll plunge here from a balcony. the sky in
A brand new Audi from an alley in Tartarka
Down headlong to your dirty little Paris
Your blood will spill like rust
upon a blouse of secretarial white.

-- Natalka Bilotserkivets

(translated by Andrew Sorokowsky)


  1. Am always amazed at how much you get on Bits and Pieces. It must take you hours to find and post so much.

  2. Hey! Spiders are the good guys! Leave ‘em alone.