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Birthday Reviews: Charles Sheffield’s “Marconi, Mattin, Maxwell”

Birthday Reviews: Charles Sheffield’s “Marconi, Mattin, Maxwell”

Galaxy May 1977-small Galaxy May 1977-back-small

Cover by Bonnie Dalzell

Charles Sheffield was born on June 25, 1935 and died on November 2, 2002. On two occasions, he published fiction under the name James Kirkwood when he had multiple stories appearing in a single issue of a magazine.

In 1979 Sheffield was a nominee for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. He went on to win the Hugo and Nebula Award for his novelette “Georgia on My Mind.” His novel Brother to Dragons won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award and his novel The McAndrew Chronicles received the Seiun Award. In 1998 Sheffield served as Toastmaster at Bucconeer, the Worldcon in Baltimore. From 1998 until his death, Sheffield was married to author Nancy Kress.

“Marconi, Mattin, Maxwell” was first published in the May 1977 issue of Galaxy, edited by James Baen. Sheffield included it in his 1979 collection Vectors. The story kicked off a series of ten short stories featuring Henry Carver and Waldo Burmeister, two lawyers in the future. In 2001, Sheffield collected all of the stories in Space Suits: Being the Selected Legal Papers of Waldo Burmeister and Henry Carver, Attorneys-at-Law, as Transcribed and Edited by Henry Carver, LL.B., and With a Special Introduction by Waldo P. Burmeister, LL.B. The story was also translated into German in 1980 for an appearance in Science-Fiction-Stories 80, edited by Walter Spiegl.

In “Marconi, Mattin, Maxwell,” Henry Carver is relating his relationship with the great inventor Gerald Mattin. The story is set up as a letter to an editor who is including a chapter about Mattin in a book about great scientists. Carver indicates that the letter provides the editor with the true story of Mattin rather than the sanitized version that Carver wrote for the book.

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