Saturday, November 17, 2007

Outpost Mars, a novel by Cyril Judd

Outpost Mars: a Science-Fiction Novel, by Cyril Judd (1952), a joint pseudonym used by Cyril M. Kornbluth and Judith Merril.

At left: Paperback (New York: Dell Publishing, 1952), #760, 223 p., 25¢. Cover art by Richard Powers. Here's the blurb from the back cover:

Mars was no paradise. But to Dr. Tony Hellman, it meant a second chance for man -– and to Hugo Brenner it meant a world to plunder. Tony was the leading member of Sun Lake Colony, a band of frontier-extending Earth people -– intrepid space pioneers. Brenner was the planet's most powerful magnate, an operator whose vast wealth was based on Earthmen's tragic addiction to the vicious drug, marcaine. When Brenner accused the Sun Lakers of stealing a hundred kilograms of the Martian drug, the colony was threatened with extermination unless the thief was found and the marcaine returned. Tony and his fellow colonists saw their second chance fading. Brenner's success would mean the end of their better world. Could the struggling colony survive the assaults of entrenched greed and persecution?”

Originally appearing as a serial, Mars Child, in Galaxy Science Fiction magazine in 1951, the first edition of Outpost Mars was published in hardcover by Abelard Press in 1952. The same year Dell Publishing released the first paperback edition, as pictured above. Later, in 1961, the story was revised and republished as the racier Sin in Space: an Expose of the Scarlet Planet by Beacon Books as part of the Galaxy Science Fiction Novel series.

Below is a lengthy but fascinating piece about marcaine, the "vicious drug" in Outpost Mars, from the September 2003 issue of Anaesthesia News, the newsletter of the Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland.
Dr. Ruxton Ruminates ... A literary curiosity. I have a secret sin, that of reading Science Fiction. Not the modern, fantasy,
“swords & sorcerers” style, but from the Golden Age of SF, the 1950s & 60s. That kind of novel is no longer published and so I scour second hand bookshops for my favourite reading. I was rather pleased recently to score a double, of buying a copy of a book that I read long ago and had lost, and another by the same author that I had not read. My old favourite was titled
'Gunner Cade' and dealt with a hierarchical, authoritarian world state on Earth and how the freedom loving people of Mars threw off their chains –- a strange mixture of Cold War anticommunism and Left antiauthority, almost anarchist sympathies.

The second, new to me, book is called 'Outpost Mars', and is almost a Western, of prairie homesteaders battling not against fire, flood and 'injuns', but against a hostile planet. There is even an honest and forthright community leader, a doctor as it happens, who carries the Day and wins the Girl. To be honest, the novel is not very good, either as SF or as a Western. What fascinated me was the major sub-plot, of conniving capitalists and politicians, who conspire in illicit traffic in an addictive drug, that can only be produced on Mars. That drug is called marcaine.

The author was Cyril Judd, and these are the only books to be written together by two American authors, Judith Merrill and Cyril Kornbluth. They were clearly fond of conflating names and words, from their own names for their 'nom de plume', so guessing why they chose 'marcaine' for their drug is not difficult. The first syllable, “Mar-“ must be for the planet where they set their story. Addiction to cocaine and the beginnings of a criminal drug culture were of much concern to the USA of the ‘50s, so the “-caine” is for cocaine as an archetype addictive drug.

Unfortunately for parallel world or conspiracy theorists, in this “Cyril Judd” Mars, marcaine is clearly an opiate, rather than a local anaesthetic. Equally unfortunately, Kornbluth died in 1958 only a few years after co-writing these stories, while Judith Merrill survived only to die last year. So we can’t ask them. But we can ask the originators of the real Marcaine. The drug was synthesized in the ‘60s, so “Judd” cannot have been inspired by its name, and would not have chosen the name of a real compound anyway. Could it be that the influence was the other way, that this obscure novel from an obscure branch of literature influenced the Swedish chemists in their choice of name?

Ms. J. McKenna of the AstraZeneca Customer Information Department kindly contacted her counterpart in their Swedish offices, who passed my question to Dr.Bertil Widman. Dr. Widman was one of the first experimenters with and clinical users of Marcaine at its introduction in 1963. He replied, “I knew most of the people at Nobel Bofors-Pharma in Mölndal, Sweden who were involved in the development of Marcaine (project name LAC-43). Back then I asked the Bofors people the same question, about naming Marcaine, and they told me that the “Mar-“ prefix had no special meaning or relation to any person. Together with the marketing people the researchers tested several suggested names for one that would be easy to use in several languages, and finally found that “Marcaine” seemed to be the best, and of course all local anaesthetics should end in "-caine".”

Of course this could be another manifestation of
“The Endochronic Properties of Resublimated Thiotimoline” but that is another story, by Isaac Asimov this time.

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