Birthday Reviews: Robert Moore Williams’s “Quest on Io”

Birthday Reviews: Robert Moore Williams’s “Quest on Io”

Cover by Albert Drake
Cover by Albert Drake

Robert Moore Williams was born on June 19, 1907 and died on May 12, 1977. He published under his own name as well as the pseudonyms Robert Moore, John S. Browning, H.H. Harmon, Russel Storm, and the house name E.K. Jarvis. He may have been best known for his Jongor series.

Moore’s story “Quest on Io” appeared in the Fall 1940 issue of Planet Stories, edited by Malcolm Reiss. The story was never picked up for publication elsewhere, but in 2011, that issue of Planet Stories was reprinted as a trade paperback anthology.

Despite the title of Williams’s “Quest on Io,” there isn’t really a quest. Andy Horn is a navigator who is spending some downtime while his spaceship is being repaired prospecting on Io with his talking Ganymedian honey bear companion, Oscar. The two come under attack from another prospector who believes they are claimjumpers and when Andy confronts the other prospector, he discovers it is a woman, Frieda Dahlem. While the two of them quickly straighten out their differences, it becomes apparent that there are three claimjumpers who are out to kill both of them (plus Oscar) in order to keep their activities secret.

The story is essentially a western, although the action has been moved to Io. It feels written for an audience of young boys who know women exist, but think there are gross, only around to get in the way. Andy’s relationship with Frieda is very basic. Frieda appears to be a competent woman until a man is around, whether Andy, who becomes her hero, or the three claimjumpers, who turn her into a puddle of incompetence. Oscar seems to exist in the story purely for comic relief, although the humor misfires repeatedly.

“Quest on Io” hits many of the stereotypical buttons for boys science fiction adventure. It has an exotic setting, a female character who is little more than a stock figure and needs to be rescued by the strong male, although Andy isn’t particularly strong. The villains are so poorly drawn they have absolutely no distinguishing characteristics and never actually interact on a personal level with the protagonist.

Reviewed in its only publication in the magazine Planet Stories, edited by Malcolm Reiss, Fall 1940.


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 6 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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Thomas Parker

If you look up the term “slapdash” in the dictionary, you’ll see a picture of Robert Moore Williams.

John ONeill

I don’t know if it’s the talking honey bear, the planet where women are gross, or the fact that this is a straight-up western set on a moon of Jupiter. But I desperately want to read this story.

smitty59

I had to go back to the entry for May 29 to find that cover from Planet Stories because I knew I’d seen it before. What are the odds of that happening?

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