Sunday, April 11, 2010

January 31, 1950


On this Tuesday in Isaac Asimov history, the Morning Herald of Hagerstown Michigan, mentions Isaac Asimov's book, Pebble in the Sky, on its page 7, which appears to be the start of the Variety section.

An Advice to the Lovelorn, by Beatrix Fairfax, "famous authority on love and marriage" is given pride of place in the top left-hand corner.

Below that, Washington County Library: Books for the Week
"Many new books of fiction have been added this week to the shelves of Washington County Free Library. Among them are:
A Few Flowers for Shiner, by Richard Llewelyn.
A Search for the King, by Gore Vidal
Frances, by Katherine Hubbell
Swiftwater, by Paul Annixter
Mary O'Grady, by Mary Lavin
Pebble in the Sky, by Isaac Asimov.

Each title is then given a very, very brief description. For Pebble in the Sky: "An ingenious tale of the far-distant future.

Other books listed, after Asimov, and with no description given, are:
Cordella, by Winston Graham
White King, by Samuel B. Harrison
Flying SAucer, by Bernard Newman
Weep for My Brother, by Clifford Dowdey
Faraway Heaven, by Lida Larrimore
Slay Ride, by Frank Kane
Melody Unheard, by Frances Shelley Wees
The Unrelenting, by Constance W. Dodge

The article also mentions the new non-fiction offerings. The first three are given descriptions, the rest, just their titles.

My Three Years in Moscow, by Walter Bedell Smith (ambassador to Russia from 1946 to 1949)
The Ironing Board, by Christopher Morley (essays)
Renewing the Mind, by Roger Hazelton. "An important and interesting study of the relation between faith and reason."
Giant Brains, by Edmund Callis Berkley (no description given, which is too bad!)
Successful Hostess, by by Elizabeth Stuart Hedgecock
Government and Business, by Ford P. Hall
Quality Control Methods, by Clifford W. Kennedy
Meat and Meat Foods, by Lloyd B. Jensen
What Everyone Should Know About the Law, by Milton Ben Franklin

Other news of interest on the page:
"Nations first congresswoman seeks secret of world peace"
Jeanette Rankin, the nation's first Congresswoman, who voted against America entering both World Wars, is now in India seeking a plan for world peace.

What is the plot of Pebble in the Sky? Here's what Wikipedia has to say(SPOILERS BELOW)

While walking down the street in Chicago, Joseph Schwartz, a retired tailor, is the unwitting victim of a nearby nuclear laboratory accident, by means of which he is instantaneously transported tens of thousands of years into the future (50,000 years, by one character's estimate, a figure later retconned by future Asimov works as a "mistake"). He finds himself in a place he does not recognize, and due to apparent changes in the spoken language that far into the future, he is unable to communicate with anyone. He wanders into a farm, and is taken in by the couple that lives there. They mistake him for a mentally deficient person, and they secretly offer him as a subject for an experimental procedure to increase his mental abilities. The procedure, which has killed several subjects, works in his case, and he finds that he can quickly learn to speak the current lingua franca. He also slowly realizes that the procedure has given him strong telepathic abilities, including the ability to project his thoughts to the point of killing or injuring a person.

The Earth, at this time, is seen by the rest of the Galactic Empire as a rebellious planet — it has, in fact, rebelled three times in the past — and the inhabitants are widely frowned upon and discriminated against. Earth also has several large radioactive areas, although the cause is never really described. Because the radioactivity makes large areas of Earth uninhabitable, it is a very poor planet, and anyone who is unable to work is legally required to be euthanized. The people of the Earth must also be executed when they reach the age of just sixty, a procedure known as "The Sixty," with a very few exceptions; mainly for people who have made significant contributions to society. That is a problem for Schwartz, who is now sixty-two years old.

The Earth is part of the Galactic Empire, with a resident Procurator, who lives in a domed town in the high Himalayas and a Galactic military garrison, but in practice it is ruled by a group of Earth-centered "religious fanatics" who believe in the ultimate superiorty of Earthlings. They have created a new, deadly supervirus that they plan to use to kill or subjugate the rest of the Empire, and to avenge themselves for the way their planet has been treated by the galaxy at large. Among other things, this virus has the ability to kill by radiation poisoning.

Joseph Schwartz, along with Affret Shekt, the scientist who developed the new device that boosted Schwartz's mental powers, his daughter Pola Shekt, and a visiting archaeologist Bel Arvardan, are captured by the rebels, but they escape with the help of Schwartz's new mental abilities, and they are narrowly able to stop the plan to release the virus. Schwartz uses his mental abilities to provoke a pilot from the Imperial garrison into bombing the site where the arsenal of the super-virus exists.

The book ends on a hopeful note — perhaps the Empire can be persuaded to restore the Earth, and to bring in huge amounts of uncontaminated soil.

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