Birthday Reviews: Fletcher Pratt’s “Hormones”

Birthday Reviews: Fletcher Pratt’s “Hormones”

Cover by Richard Powers
Cover by Richard Powers

Fletcher Pratt was born on April 25, 1897 and died on June 11, 1956.

Pratt was nominated for an International Fantasy Award in 1952 for his nonfiction book Rockets, Jets, Guided Missiles and Space Ships co-written with Jack Coggins. In 2016, Pratt was nominated for two Retro Hugo Awards for the novellas “The Roaring Trumpet” and “The Mathematics of Magic,” both co-written with L. Sprague de Camp and part of their Harold Shea series.

“Hormones” was published in the second volume of Frederik Pohl’s Star Science Fiction series in 1953. Although that book has been issued in multiple editions, the story has never appeared elsewhere.

Reading science fiction published over the span of the twentieth century, much of it can be seen to be representative of its time, culturally, technologically, and literarily. In “Hormones,” Pratt attempts to update the disappearing shop story and the love potion story, with limited success. His shop doesn’t actually disappear, but the individual Herbert Schofield needs to deal with does vanish before Schofield can return.

Schofield’s character is stuck in a lower position at work than he would like, which not only impacts his career, but also his chances of marrying the girl he is dating. When a clerk at an all-night pharmacy offers him hormonal potions that can resolve both of his issues, he jumps at the chance. Pratt’s decision to update the magic potion with a veneer of chemistry is a nice change of pace.

Naturally, things don’t turn out the way Schofield expected and while the use of a love potion can be seen as akin to a date rape drug, Schofield has the tables turned on him. “Hormones” is an example of a story which was very much of its time, but doesn’t stand up well to the changing societal mores, which make it more creepy than was intended by the author or tone.

Reviewed in its only publication the anthology Star Science Fiction No. 2, edited by Frederik Pohl, Ballantine Books, 1953.

Steven H Silver-largeSteven H Silver is a sixteen-time Hugo Award nominee and was the publisher of the Hugo-nominated fanzine Argentus as well as the editor and publisher of ISFiC Press for 8 years. He has also edited books for DAW and NESFA Press. He began publishing short fiction in 2008 and his most recently published story is “Doing Busines at Hodputt’s Emporium” in Galaxy’s Edge. Steven has chaired the first Midwest Construction, Windycon three times, and the SFWA Nebula Conference 5 times, as well as serving as the Event Coordinator for SFWA. He was programming chair for Chicon 2000 and Vice Chair of Chicon 7. He has been the news editor for SF Site since 2002.

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