Friday, 14 March 2014

Sorry: Wrong Dimension by Ross Rocklynne, 1954

Patti Abbott is the generous host of Friday’s Forgotten Books at her wonderful blog Pattinase.

So the baby had a pet monster. And so nobody but baby could see it. And so a couple of men dropped out of thin air to check and see if the monster was licensed or not. So what's strange about that?

Last month, I reviewed two sf stories, The Father-Thing by Philip K. Dick and Rain, Rain, Go Away by Isaac Asimov, which centered on families and exposed their vulnerability. This week, I read another sf story, Sorry: Wrong Dimension by Ross Rocklynne, which had a similar theme.

Families appear to be a pet topic among many science fiction writers, as evident from these and a few other sf stories I've read, including the very entertaining The Million-Year Picnic by Ray Bradbury. Each of these stories has a twist; some of them are scary, others chilling. No one likes to see, or read about, bad things happening to good people, especially to families, to women and children. It’s only fiction, still what if...

Ross Rocklynne, the assumed name of American sf writer Ross Louis Rocklin (1913- 1988), once again demolishes the notion of the happy family, or so it would seem, in his short story Sorry: Wrong Dimension published in Amazing Stories, March 1954. 

Stella Weaver is a lovely housewife who is having tea with her neighbour, Mabel Aspectia, also a housewife. They are bored but contented with life. They are talking about what housewives often talk about: what to cook for their husbands that evening. When Stella realises that her baby hasn't been crying for a while, she goes into his room to investigate and finds the little tot gurgling with joy, as if playing with someone—or something. She reaches out for the baby in the crib and, instead, touches an invisible furry monster that is, in fact, playing with her child. Stella is stricken with horror and screams out instinctively. That is when she discovers they are in another dimension, possibly not of our planet, our solar system or our galaxy.

Unlike The Father-Thing, this was a funny and delightful story. Stella doesn’t faint or anything like that. When she realises that the pet monster is harmless, she takes things in her stride and decides to call her husband to tell him about it. Except, each time she does, she gets the wrong dimension! The story ends on a happy note with friendly “people” from the other dimension coming to pick up the little wayward monster and Stella and Mabel carrying on where they had left off—what to cook for their husbands.

Sorry: Wrong Dimension is an excellent example of the immense and unimaginable possibilities that lie in sf.


Note: You can read more about Ross Rocklynne and his work here.

17 comments:

  1. Rocklynne was an interesting figure in sf...he wrote a fair amount of routine adventure fiction, but would turn around and produce an impressive or particularly insightful story when he could, throughout his career...he continued writing in the 1970s, more than the WIKIPEDIA article suggests:
    http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/ea.cgi?450

    John Clute and Peter Nichols might be just a bit too hard on him here: http://www.sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/rocklynne_ross

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  2. Sorry, that's Peter Nicholls.

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    1. Todd, thanks for the links. Wikipedia is usually my first source for basic information on everything. I had no idea who Rocklynne was until I chanced upon his short story. The twist in the story was interesting particularly since the aliens with scarce description turn out to be a rather friendly lot in the end. The writer does build up the suspense, though.

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  3. I'm not sure I prefer bad things happening to men to having bad things happening to women...more or less equal in my book...

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    1. Todd, you have a point but that's how I feel about it—"Women and children first!"

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  4. I've read several of his works. Pretty decent stuff.

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    1. Charles, I hope to read some of his other short stories as I liked this one.

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  5. Thanks Prashant this is a completely new story to me - is the story online by the way? Thanks.

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    1. Sergio, you're welcome. Todd has provided the link to the story below though I read it at ManyBooks.net where this was the only entry by the author.

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  6. This sounds like a very interesting story. I wish I had time to read all the stories and books I am interested in.

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    1. Tracy, sf stories are interesting in so many different ways although I'll admit I don't always understand them. A short story every now and then breaks the monotony of reading long fiction.

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  7. Interesting story, not sure its for me though.

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    1. Col, it was a quick and easy read, and enjoyable too.

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  8. For the online Project Gutenberg text of this Rocklynne story:
    http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/29620

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    1. Todd, thanks for the link. I read this story over at ManyBooks.net which has a fairly decent collection of sf short stories and novels. The site is also linked to Gutenberg.

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  9. I love full reviews of short stories (I've done a few myself), and I think there ought to be more of them. This sounds like a fun one.

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    1. Kelly, this one was definitely fun. I agree about full reviews of short stories. They can be interpreted in some many ways by different readers. I try to keep my reviews of short stories short, well under 500 words. I've read more shorts this year than at any time in the past.

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