Birthday Reviews: Joe Patrouch’s “The Attenuated Man”

Birthday Reviews: Joe Patrouch’s “The Attenuated Man”

Cover by Barclay Shaw
Cover by Barclay Shaw

Joseph F. Patrouch, Jr. was born on May 23, 1935.

Patrouch was a teacher in Ohio who had a brief career writing science fiction. In the early 1970s, he wrote several essays about Asimov’s fiction and published his first short story, “One Little Room an Everywhere” in the February 1974 issue of Vertex. Most of his fiction has never been reprinted, with the exceptions “The Man Who Murdered Television” and “Legal Rights for Germs.” He also published The Science Fiction of Isaac Asimov in 1974.

“The Attenuated Man” was published by Edward L. Ferman in the March 1979 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. It has never been reprinted.

Ken Hamilton sneaks into his father’s company to use the Transmat machine to become the first man on Mars, in an attempt to prove to his father than he isn’t completely worthless. Unfortunately, things go wrong for him almost immediately as he starts bleeding from his eyes, ears, and mouth. Back on Earth, Ken’s excursion has been discovered and his father’s staff is trying to figure out how to get him back, especially once they realize something has gone wrong and they can’t send someone after him without the same problems occurring.

Patrouch has an interesting look at some of the dangers of teleportation, although the impact seems to be different when transmatting people to different places, a discrepancy which he discusses in the story. Furthermore, although he indicates that Hamilton has a very low opinion of his son’s intelligence and abilities, the son figures out part of the solution that will allow him to return to Earth safely, and understands what has happened to him.

The story gives the feeling that it was written in a much simpler time. The functioning of both Hamilton’s company and the US Government seems to occur without bureaucracy or red tape. This serves to weaken a story which has a few interesting ideas, but overall doesn’t follow through on them.

Reviewed in its original publication in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, edited by Edward L. Ferman, March 1979.

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 Business 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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Rich Horton

I hadn’t realized Patrouch had written fiction! (Even though I have that issue of F&SF (which has a beautiful cover).) I did read Patrouch’s book on Asimov.

I think it’s fair to say that his “One Little Room an Everywhere” has not ended up being the best SF story with that title!

Rich Horton

I was going to see who else was born today, but the ISFDB seems to be down.


I no longer remember all of the particulars, but I was working for B. Dalton Bookseller in Springfield, OH in the late ’70s when a friend and I were invited to attend a meeting of an SF group whose focal member was Joe Patrouch, who at the time taught at the University of Dayton. I bought and read a copy of his book on Asimov, and he graciously signed it for me. It’s still part of my collection. I think the group met once a month, and I know I was at Joe’s house at least twice. The group also convened in Springfield at the home of a group member who worked for Chakeres Theater. Joe invited John Jakes to his home for one of the group’s meetings, and a few of us in the group attended a small regional con at Kent State in the fall of 1977. Frederik Pohl was the guest of honor there, if I recall correctly, and Harlan Ellison was there as well. But for some of us, the highlight of the weekend came when Joe Haldeman invited us up to his hotel room and told us stories about his Vietnam experiences. A few members of the group attempted to attend another regional con in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in January 1978, but were turned away at the Ohio/Michigan border by the highway patrol because of the ’78 blizzard. I lost contact with the group not long after that, and I always wondered what happened to Joe. My God… that’s been over 40 years ago. Time slips away so quickly…

Rich Horton

Thanks, Steven!

It seems possible I might post something about James Blish this evening! 🙂

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