LOU SAHADI, Editor – An Argosy Special: Science Fiction. One-shot reprint magazine. Popular Publications, 1977.

#4. JOHN W. JAKES “Half Past Fear.” Short story. First appeared in Super Science Stories, August 1951. Otherwise never reprinted.

   Before John Jakes hit it rich with his Kent Family Chronicles, he was generally regarded as an all-around hack, and rightly so. He wrote a couple dozen sci-fi novels, maybe a dozen more mystery and spy novels, of which his PI Johnny Havoc books may be the best remembered today, and even a half dozen “Man from UNCLE” stories for the magazine of the same name in the mid-60s.

   Of his fantasy and science fiction, his Brak the Barbarian pastiches of Robert E. Howard’s Conan tales are collectable now; the rest are safely forgotten. And the same can be said of “Half Past Fear,” his third to be published short story. In it a family of three takes in a strange traveler as a boarder, only to discover that he came from the past and that he is being pursued.

   Time travel tales are almost always fun to read — they make up one of my favorite subgenres in all SF — but this one is clunky and confusing, with one of the lead characters, unable to explain how things turn out, simply shrugs and calls upon the unexplainable “paradoxes of time travel” to bail out both the author and the story, and not at all succeding.

   One might be forgiven in thinking that this story was chosen for Jakes’ name only, to help sell the magazine, but if you take a look at the image at the upper left, you’ll see that none of the authors are mentioned, only the titles of the stories. A strange marketing device, indeed.


Previously from this Lou Sahadi anthology: LEIGH BRACKETT “Child of the Green Light.”