Birthday Reviews: Cleve Cartmill’s “Huge Beast”

Birthday Reviews: Cleve Cartmill’s “Huge Beast”

Cover by George Salter
Cover by George Salter

Cleve Cartmill was born on June 21, 1908 and died on February 11, 1964. Cartmill also used the name Michael Corbin, when he had two stories appearing in the same issue of Unknown Worlds in 1943.

He is perhaps best known for his story “Deadline,” which appeared in the March 1944 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. The story was discussed at Los Alamos, where Edward Teller noted that Cartmill had described aspects of their research in detail. The discussion led to an FBI investigation into Cartmill, Campbell, and some other science fiction authors. Cartmill is said to have had a low opinion of the story, himself.

“Huge Beast” was originally published in the Summer 1950 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, edited by Anthony Boucher and J. Francis McComas. They included the story in The Best of Fantasy and Science Fiction in 1952, when the magazine was only three years old. In 1953, the story was translated and published in the first issue of the French magazine Fiction.

Loren Prater is working in his lab when a small creature suddenly materializes in front of him. At first taken for an animal, the alien quickly announces that he is a golen from a distant planet who has sought out Prater as the only person who can help his race avoid extinction.

The golen is an adorable creature and Prater can’t but help to reach out and scratch the creature’s ears. The golen, in return, is not only able to teleport (wirtle), but it can also share almost holographic imagery with Prater, showing the scientist the golen home world as the golen explains their ecological disaster. The golen’s story of the invading Hugh Beasts doesn’t quite add up and Prater realizes that the golen is trying to gain Prater’s assistance to annihilate mankind. The story then comes down to whether Prater can outwit the golen or if the golen can trick Prater into helping it.

The golen is an interesting creation, but the story is pretty straightforward, not really offering any major twists or saying anything new. The world in which they live, from the brief glimpse Cartmill provides, could have been the setting for an interesting story (or series of stories) had Cartmill shifted his focus a little more.

Reviewed in its original publication in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, edited by Anthony Boucher and J. Francis McComas, Summer 1950.

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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Rich Horton

I thought you might to Cartmill, and wondered if you’d pick “Deadline”. Too obvious, I guess.

Too bad for William Tuning and Maria Dahvana Headley!

Also Ian McEwan, a wonderful writer, who had a fine early story (“Solid Geometry”) in an issue of Ted White’s FANTASTIC.

[…] GOLDEN AGE. Steven H Silver celebrates an author’s natal day in “Birthday Reviews: Cleve Cartmill’s ‘Huge Beast’” at Black […]

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