Inside Man & Other Science Fictions
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by H. L. Gold
Category: Science Fiction/Fantasy Hugo Award Winner, Nebula Award(R) Nominee
Description: Hugo Winning Writer-Editor/Nebula Nominee Story. Fabulous collection of classic humorous and satirical science fiction by legendary writer-editor H. L. Gold. Exclusively in eBook, this don't-miss volume rounds up Gold's uncollected work, including his Nebula Nominee story, "Inside Man." Readers will find fresh, new, delightfully fey wrinkles on ESP (as in "Inside Man" and "The Riches of Embarrassment); the tale of the wife of a pigmy chief whose subtle manipulations of colonial visitors inadvertently saves the world from itself ("The Transmogrification of Wamba's Revenge"); a man unlucky enough to achieve one of humankind's oldest dreams (He that Hath Wings")," two spacelanes con men who manage only fleece themselves ("Grifter's Asteroid") and the extraordinary short novel, "Some to Watch Over Me," a dark and haunting serio-comic inversion that stands traditional notions of hyperspace, monstrous aliens, true love, ambition, revenge, and human values on their heads. "There's nothing machine-made about the short stories and novelets of H. L. Gold. They're individual tales of odd notions, often proving once again that Mr. Gold is almost the only s.f. writer capable of creating lower and lower-middle class backgrounds (a relief, after all of s.f.'s potentates, plutocrats and technological elite)."--The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Gold's SF offers "witty entertainment" from a "sharp and perceptive intelligence."--The Science Fiction Source Book
eBook Publisher: Renaissance E Books/PageTurner, 2004
eBookwise Release Date: September 2004
14 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [243 KB]
Reading time: 149-209 min.
THE TRANSMOGRIFICATION OF WAMBA'S REVENGE
As I sit here, writing this, in a deluxe suite of the famous but resounding Waldorf-Astoria, I can look out the fourth-floor window and see the people below resembling the scurrying warrior ants of my native Africa. It was a Monday because the other married women were down at the river, beating their laundry on flat rocks, when Mr. Lundeen, the local White Hunter, came into our compound with a two-truck safari.
"What cheer, Wamba?" he said to me in pidgin Pigmy. "Why you not at river wash clothes?"
I nodded hello, ignoring his, deliberate insult. He knew perfectly well that I spoke English, having graduated from Bennington College for Women, and that as daughter of the Super Chief of All the Pigmies and No. 1 Wife of the Head Witch Doctor, I was exempt from menial tasks.
"Me worry on you, Wamba," he continued with his atrocious accent and the vocabulary of a retarded three-year-old, while climbing out of his Land Rover. "Me think you grow one or two inch since last time."
Oh, he was an expert needler! And he touched me at my proudest spot. The women of all our tribes didn't envy me my status, which they and I had grown up with, but there wasn't one of them that wouldn't maim herself to be my height--a good three inches shorter than any other full-grown Pigmy adult! It was difficult, but I kept silent. The tribe's whole cash crop came from Lundeen's safaris, and I mustn't jeopardize it, no matter what.
My father, the Super Chief, came out of the council hut, followed by my husband, the Head Witch Doctor, just as an oldish young man clambered down from the other vehicle and handed out a woman in jodhpurs.
"Welcome! Welcome!" cried my father in English I had taught him with no little pain; he was a terrible linguist. "Great honor! Very great! Welcome!"
My husband, the Head Witch Doctor, stood waiting for the introductions, and Lundeen obliged, using all the appropriate titles, including mine. The oldish young man was a Professor Todd, and the woman in jodhpurs was his wife. We shook hands all around, ours being small and dry, theirs being large and moist.
"You come to hunt?" asked my father politely, using up the last of his English.
"In a way," said the Professor. "You've heard of penicillin, quinine, digitalis?"
"Yes," said my husband. "We use them all the time."
"Really?" Mrs. Todd said disinterestedly. "No masks or dances to drive away evil spirits?"
My husband's eyes did not waver an inch. "Of course. Faith is part of the healing process."
"Well," the Professor said briskly, "I am here to look for more such species--in the soil, the barks, the berries, leaves--everything. I have a laboratory on wheels, and I do hope you people will help me in my search."
"What did he say?" the Super Chief asked. I translated and he said, "What's in it for us?"
"Honor," said the Witch Doctor, and, "Whatever squeezes through my fingers," said Lundeen, both in Pigmy. Then, in pseudo-British/English, Lundeen said, "I say, Professor, why don't you show our royal hosts your laboratory while I show Mrs. Todd the compound?"
"Splendid," said Prof. Todd. "This way, please."
I followed the three men, but kept looking back over my shoulder. Just as I expected, the White Hunter was charming the Professor's wife, a scene I had witnessed every time there was a giddy female in a safari. This time, however, he was bold to the point of contempt, a fact that was not lost on the Professor, who stopped at the steps of the traveling laboratory and looked after the pair. She was holding Lundeen's upper arm in both her hands and smiling dizzily up at him. I saw pain cross the Professor's face before he turned and ushered us into the air-conditioned laboratory.
"Bless me!" said my husband in awe, while my father whistled. As for myself, I had seen labs of one sort or another, but nothing so marvelously compact and complete as this.
I said so, and Prof. Todd's face lit up with pride. "Thank you," he said. "Mr. Lundeen told me of your American education, Princess, and your work, Doctor, at the hospital in Mbuti, and he assured me that you both would be invaluable to our mission."
"We are yours to command," quoted the Head Witch Doctor.
"Good, good. Then you can help me organize your people in to work parties, each group to collect whatever it's assigned to--ferns, soils, barks, and so forth. And you, Princess, wir had been following all this with great difficulty. Now he asked me what the arrangements were. I told him.
"You mean that you, the Princess, are to be a housemaid?" he all but roared in Pigmy. "I forbid it!"
"What seems to be the difficulty?" asked Prof. Todd, bewildered.
"He's a stickler for protocols I answered. "We'll straighten it out with Mr. Lundeen."
"Good, good. We don't want any hure wasn't typical of anything but a greedy, selfish, overbearing opportunist, a phony who loved to humiliate us because we couldn't hit back. And we couldn't hit back because no other White Hunter bothered with us. They used to, but that was before Lundeen arrived.
I don't know what to add about Prof. Todd. He was the average dedicated scientist who, for no discernible reason, happened to be married to a vain, stupid woman, younger than himself.
I see tgmies were primitive nomads, but I've never encountered anyone who knew that the central tribe, ours, was not. The satellite tribes all visited us in turn, for whatever meager trading we could do, but mainly for treatment of their and our sick and aged. The White Hunter was essential to this because he brought us medicines, for which he extorted every last penny he allowed us to make from his safaris.
* * * *
"Things are going just beautifully, Princess!" Prof. Todd said enthusiastically three days later. "The work parties would have overwhelmed me if not for your help with the tagging and classifying. I've never seen anyone pick up details as fast as you unless it's your husband!"
A lot he knew! Between that fathead Lundeen and that insipid idiot Mrs. Todd, the tribe was on the verge of mutiny, medicines or no medicines. With her hanging adoringly onto his arm, he would needle theng in his own guest hut all night. I thought I knew what it was, so I let my shoulders and face slump and mumbled something about duty and honor.
"I know how you feel; I feel the same way about saving lives." Prof. Todd said, leading me firmly out of the laboratory. "But one has one's duty to oneself too, you know. I want you to take the day off and sleep!"
"Yes, Professor," I said obediently. "I could sleep for days."
"Then take tomorrow off as well," he said, taking me to my hut, and he wouldn't leave until I pretended to doze off. "Night-night, sleep tight," he whispered, leaving on tippy toes.
Take my word for it, it was almost more than I could do not to fall asleep. But I had to stay awake! What a nice guy, I thought--how could he have stayed married to this queen of the stag line? Did she, to quote Mad Ave, know where the body was buried? I didn't know, but I intended to