Mar 25, 2017

Don Martin

Back in the late 1970's I read The Stochastic Man by Robert Silverberg. As a math and science nerd, I had hoped that this novel might have something interesting to say about mathematics, but it did not. After that experience, I was not in a hurry to read other fiction by Silverberg.

1959, cover art by Wallace Wood
After 40 years, I decided I should try reading some other Silverberg story, so today I read his short story "Mugwump Four" which is available via the Internet Archive (in the August 1959 issue of Galaxy magazine).

One of the great things about downloading old Sci Fi magazines from the Internet Archive is discovering little surprises in those old magazines. In this case, I was surprised to see that Don Martin had drawn the interior artwork for "Mugwump Four".

Growing up in the 1960s, I knew Don Martin for his cartoon illustrations in Mad magazine. Here is one that I remember from my youth:
One of the "signature" features of Don Martin cartoon characters are the flat feet.

click image to enlarge
"Mugwump Four" is a silly time travel story, so silly that the goofy illustrations by Martin do not seem too far out of place.

communications malfunction
The story is "about" short bald mutant humans who, in 1959, are conspiring in secret and trying to take over Earth. A hapless "normal" human (named 'Al') discovers the mutant conspiracy and is sent into the future by the mutants.

In the image to the left, two of the mutants try to figure out how it was possible for Al's phone to tap into the secret communications network that is used by the conspirators.

flat feet in the future
Poor Al ends up in the far future where, in addition to time travel, there is a technology that allows people to jump between parallel universes. In one universe the mutants have taken control of Earth while in the other parallel universe the "normals" long ago defeated the mutants.

bubble Al
As shown to the left, when Al arrives in the future, he is put inside a bubble so that his disease causing germs from the past will not infect anyone.

According to the ISFDB, Martin illustrated just a few speculative fiction stories from 1957 to 1961. In order to see the earliest available Don Martin Sci Fi drawings, I took a look at "Lulu" from the June 1957 Galaxy (download from the Internet Archive).

"Lulu" is another goofy story that seems well suited to Don Martin illustrations. "Lulu" is an artificial life spaceship that is sent out from Earth to explore new planets. Lulu's three human crew members are really only along for the ride, since Lulu can do all of the exploration work without human assistance.

1957: Lulu and her three boys. Click image to enlarge.
After visiting an exoplanet where there are apparently some rather sexually enthusiastic aliens (that sadly, could not be described or illustrated in 1957) were discovered, Lulu decides that she is in love with her three male crew members.

fingers of the future
Lulu sets course for deep space, knowing that she would be scrapped because of her emotional malfunction if she returned to Earth. Lulu's three "boys" will have nothing to do with the amorous Lulu. They "go on strike", doing even less than they usually do. Lulu is pissed off by their sulking and she plans to maroon them on an exoplanet. However, she discovers that her programming includes a safety feature that prevents her from moving through outer space without any humans on board.

The boys encounter an alien artificial lifeform.
The three "boys" soon discover that they are on a planet that was once inhabited by a human-like alien species. That extinct species left behind an artificial lifeform, a kind of robotic tank that moves around on wheels. When the alien robot attacks her "boys", Lulu defends them, but then Lulu and the alien device "fall in love".

Lulu's "face".
In the end, one of the "boys" writes a romantic poem for Lulu and she realizes that she made an error when she turned away from her "boys". She gets rid of the alien artificial lifeform and takes her three "boys" back into space.

from "Citizen Jell"
Don Martin was always crossing over into the realm of the bizarre and the disturbing. The sentient spaceship "Lulu" is able to sprout appendages and a face, when needed. Martin's depiction of Lulu's "face" is weird enough to give me nightmares.

Another Surprise
The August 1959 Galaxy also contains a short story called "Citizen Jell" by Michael Shaara, which contains a nice statement of an alien "Prime Directive".

In the Ekcolir Reality. Original artwork by Don Martin (1957).
For my stories that are set in the Exodemic Fictional Universe, I imagine ancient aliens who are constrained by their Rules of Intervention.

The tryp'At Overseers not only act so as to prevent Interventionist agents from providing Earthlings with dangerous technologies that might harm we primitive humans, they also try to prevent us from developing technologies of our own that we could misuse.

In the Ekcolir Reality. Image credits.
In the Ekcolir Reality, Earthlings were given access to hierion technology when the Fru'wu arrived on Earth. Ariel Davidson wrote stories about hierions in advance of the arrival of the Fru'wu.

Apparently the tryp'At existed in the Ekcolir Reality, but their role was quite different from the role that they have adopted here in the Final Reality. In the Ekcolir Reality, the tryp'At helped Earthlings develop and apply some hierion-based technologies.

Next: to Mars for Grendel Time
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