FORGOTTEN BOOK: DICKSON! by Gordon R. Dickson, 1984
This is the 82nd in my series of Forgotten Books.
Gordon R. Dickson was one of the first SF writers that I read. I recall quite fondly the early Dorsai books SOLDIER ASK NOT! and THE TACTICS OF MISTAKE. Somehow over the years I got away from reading his work. I attempted THE DRAGON AND THE GEORGE and for whatever reason, it just did not appeal to me. I know this puts me in the minority. And I never really returned to the Dorsai books, having lost any desire to read military fiction. And, yes, I know there is more to them than that.
At the recent Reno WorldCon I found myself over at the NESFA Press table. I tend to like their books a lot. I purchased several items, enough to get a freebie off of a small shelf. What I picked out was DICKSON! This was the volume prepared for the 1984 WorldCon where Gordon R. Dickson was the Guest of Honor. Several World Cons have worked with NESFA to produce similar volumes over the years. When the North American Science Fiction convention was held in Austin in 1985 with Jack Vance as the Guest of Honor, a similar type volume was produced then.
Anyway, I had seen this book over the years and always wanted it but somehow never felt totally compelled to purchase it, so when the opportunity presented itself this year, I got it. I am glad I did.
The volume contains an introductory essay by Dickson’s longtime friend and occasional collaborator, Poul Anderson. This is followed by an essay on the CHILDE CYCLE to date (which is pre-THE FINAL ENCYCLOPEDIA, though that volume was turned in and scheduled for publication) and five pieces of short fiction from various pulps and anthologies.
The initial essay did not do much for me because of my unfamiliarity with the CHILD CYCLE since my readings were roughly 40 years ago and mostly forgotten. But, the stories … they were fun.
The first one is “The Law Twister Shorty” which is a study in alien civilization, of the type Dickson is pretty good at. Imagine contrary ten foot tall giant hillbillies wanting to fight rather than negotiate but who have to at least attempt to respect some aspects of civilization. “Shorty” is a term used to describe a non-member of the Dilbian race (they are the contrary giant hillbillies). A Dilbian woman has kidnapped three off-world tourists and adopted them, against their will. It is up to Malcolm O’Keefe to become the Law Bender and settle thee case which seems impossible without getting his head torn off, which does seem highly possible and probable. It’s a nice good twisty story.
The next story “Steel Brother” deals with a young military man who has taken over a small landing station in the outer frontiers of space and now must protect it and himself from various raiders. To assist him, he has a net cap which is wired into his brain which allows him to access the memories of all the previous commandants before him. He is worried, however, that they might take over his brain. Then the raiders show up.
Next up is “The Hard Way” in which a feline race finds relics of Earth and set out to find, evaluate and conquer the human race. They are ruthless, ambitious, and deadly among themselves so you can imagine what they are like with humans. This was the source story for the novel THE ALIEN WAY.
The next story “Out of the Darkness” is a non-SF story, originally appearing in ELLERY QUEEN’S MYSTERY MAGAZINE. It features a light house keeper being forcibly retired who finds himself being hijacked on his last night of work. He has to protect himself, the lighthouse and a millionaire sailor from the plans of a small group of hoods. I did not see the ending coming.
The final story is “Perfectly Adjusted”. Feliz Gebrod is a knowledge trader who has unexpectedly vaporized his hat while on the way to Congerman. The residents there will not negotiate with anyone who does not have a hat and Feliz finds himself diverting to the planet Dunroamin, where he meets up with a pretty young lady who is starving and, as she informs him, has been disintegrated. He soon finds himself in a weird situation with people dressed in black who want to kill him, people dressed in colors who do not see the men in black or the disintegrated girl. The men in black do not see the disintegrated girl or the people in colors. The colored people want him to build a fountain in the city square. Crazy stuff that eventually became the novel DELUSIONAL WORLD. I may have to find that book.
Obviously I have missed a lot by not reading Dickson over the years. I knew I should and I will probably even given THE DRAGON AND THE GEORGE another try.
I really like the Kelly Freas cover. The book is available from online dealers but just go ahead and order it from NESFA themselves. They put it together and they should be supported. The link is http://www.nesfa.org/press/NPCatalogFeb2009-web.pdf .
Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.