Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Martian Way and Other Stories (1955)

The Martian Way and Other Stories, by Isaac Asimov (1955)

At left: Paperback (New York: Signet Books / New American Library, 1957), #S1433, 159 p., 35¢. Cover art by Richard Powers.

Originally published in a hardcover edition by Doubleday and Co. in 1955 and later reprinted several times in paperback, this collection contains four works by Grand Master Isaac Asimov: “The Martian Way,” “Youth,” “The Deep,” and “Sucker Bait.”

Only one work, the title novelette “The Martian Way,” pertains to Mars. An anti-McCarthyism piece, the story is about a ruthless Earth politician who threatens the pioneers on Mars by cutting off their water supply, spurring a daring spaceman to make a desperate journey to ice-ringed Saturn. Asimov’s autobiography, In Memory Yet Green: the Autobiography of Isaac Asimov, 1920-1954 (1979), describes the origin of the story:
The year 1952 saw McCarthyism at its peak in the United States. At no time did it affect me directly in any way, but the spectacle sickened me. ...

So I set about giving my opinion of McCarthyism in a science-fiction story. I called it
“A Piece of Ocean” at first, then changed the name to “The Martian Way.” It dealt with Martian colonists with a problem, who were victimized out of a solution by a McCarthy-style politician and who were in this way forced to find a still better solution. I finished it on June 10. I did the 18,000 words in four weeks. ...

The November 1952 Galaxy included “The Martian Way,” which got the cover – with my name misspelled.

Somehow I thought that the story would elicit a mass of mail denouncing my own portrayal of McCarthyism, or supporting it, but I got nothing either one way or the other. It may be that my satire of McCarthy was so subtle that everyone missed it
If readers did not appreciate the satire, they likely enjoyed the story, as “The Martian Way” later appeared in the collections Worlds to Come (1967), The Best of Isaac Asimov (1973), The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume Two (1973), and Prisoners of the Stars (1979).

The Martian Way and Other Stories was reviewed briefly in both the July 20, 1955, and November 13, 1955, issues of The New York Times. Online reviews of the book and the title novelette are at John H. Jenkins’ website and Dale Mellor’s Book Blog.

No comments: