Tuesday, September 1, 2009

"The Golden Girl of Munan" by Harl Vincent, part 1

Harl Vincent was the pen name of Harold Vincent Schoepflin (1893 - 1968), a mechanical engineer from Buffalo, New York who wrote science fiction as a hobby. His very first published work was "The Golden Girl of Munan", which appeared in the June 1928 issue of Amazing Stories magazine, the first (and at the time, only) science fiction magazine in the world.

For some would-be writers, finally getting into print scratches the writing itch, and they are never heard from again. For Vincent, though, getting published seemed to open the floodgates. He went on to publish over seventy science fiction stories over the course of the next fourteen years, making him one of the most prolific writers of the time. He stopped writing around the time America entered World War II, and didn't resume until a couple of years before his death in 1968. Because of this, almost none of his work has appeared outside of the pulp science fiction magazines where it was originally published.

"The Golden Girl of Munan" is a rare exception. The story was reprinted for the first and only time in a 2001 anthology called Rainbow Fantasia, edited by none other than Forrest J. Ackerman. Thus, its appearance here on the Johnny Pez blog will mark the second time this story has been reprinted. As an extra added bonus, "The Golden Girl of Munan" will be followed by Vincent's sequel (and third published story), "The War of the Planets", from the January 1929 issue of Amazing. As always, the story will be appearing in a blog-friendly multi-part format. And now, without further ado, the Johnny Pez blog presents:

The Golden Girl of Munan
by Harl Vincent


Had you been present in a certain studio apartment in New York City at ten o’clock in the evening of January 16th, in the year 2406, you would have witnessed a surprising series of events. As it happened, Roy Hamilton was alone in his studio when the thing occurred which altered his entire life and led up to the historic destruction of Munan.

An unusually handsome man in artist’s smock, his hair a tousled dark mass, his jaw set, and his black eyes snapping with determination, Roy alternately sat at his writing desk for a few minutes at a time, then paced the floor in impatient annoyance. This procedure was repeated again and again, him impatience rapidly increasing.

On his desk there reposed an instrument comprising a disc of silvery gray metal, framed in darker gray, and mounted vertically upon a base of similar material. This instrument was Roy’s private videophone, and it was the calls from it of a voice repeating, “NY-19-635,” that occasioned his numerous returns to it. As he returned and answered his number, a face would appear in the disc and inform him in a monotonous voice that no success could as yet be reported on his call. Each time this was a signal for his renewal of the nervous pacing and muttering, accompanied by further rumpling of his hair.

It was preposterous! Here he had been trying for two hours to get a connection with one of his patrons in Paris. Constant reports there had been that something was wrong with the continental video. Pity that the Terrestrial Videophone Company couldn’t keep their confounded voice and vision ether waves working, he thought angrily. Or whatever kind of waves they were! Roy was no scientist.

His number was repeated again. This time, not in the accustomed voice of the operator; but in a low, sweet and compelling feminine one. A voice of gold, thought Roy, as he dashed to the instrument. Surprised, he did not view the usual clear-cut image in the disc; but, as through a dense veil, an extremely indistinct vision met his gaze. The features of the girl could not be discerned. Possibly she was beautiful; possibly not. At any rate, the voice, though far away, was clear, and it certainly was beautiful. The most beautiful voice he had ever heard, it seemed.

“Mr. Hamilton, I must speak rapidly. We have probably upset the entire video system in thus attempting to get you. No doubt the connection will not remain for long,” she spoke.

“You know me?” Roy replied, astonished. “I am sure that I have never had the pleasure of hearing your voice before.”

“Please, please listen,” begged the voice. “There is no time for explanations. What I have to say is of world importance and it may never again be possible to establish this contact.”

“All right, lady. Go ahead,” said Roy, though he had not the slightest idea as to what was coming.

“Remember your history, the consolidation of the Powers in 1950?” asked the golden voice. “Remember the two thousand undesirables, sent away on the steamship Gigantean? The Gigantean which never returned, and from which no word ever came back to the world?

“The Terrestrial Government and the world at large thought they were well rid of a bad lot. But the Gigantean was not lost. Neither were the two thousand reactionaries; men and women from all walks of life. The ship eventually reached one of the uncharted islands of the Pacific, where the passengers landed and took up their abodes.

“With materials from the ship, they established their homes. With the machinery from the vessel, one of the scientists of their number did wonderful things. Soon he discovered means of producing a wall of neutralizing vibrations completely surrounding the island. This wall prevented and still prevents the approach of any visitors from the outside world, since under its influence all electrical and mechanical vibrations are entirely stopped. Thus no aeros have ever been able to reach the island, which they called Munan, and the secret has been preserved for four centuries and a half.

“Four hundred and fifty years they have multiplied and now number over a million persons. Many deadly secrets are in the hands of those, whom I must call my people, much as I hate to do so. The lust for revenge has been handed down from generation to generation and now they are prepared. The date has been set when a hundred thousand men will set forth to devastate and conquer the entire outside world, where peace and happiness have reigned these hundreds of years. With them will be carried the deadliest of weapons ever conceived by man, and these are of such nature that it is utterly impossible for your unprepared billions to combat them.

“I cannot dwell on the miseries of Munan. But a pitifully small group of us, mostly women, are against this move and we must prevent it. We have selected you, partly because of your own vitality and athletic prowess, partly because of your close friendship with Professor Nilsson. He, your greatest scientist, we believe will be able to avert this catastrophe, if anyone can.

“But you must both come to Munan. We are sure you will do this, as we have learned of the characters of both through the one spy we have been able to get through to the outside. Think of the utter destruction of probably three-quarters of your inhabitants, which you may be able to prevent.

“We have set a date for your arrival and at the appropriate time we will contrive an accident which will temporarily remove the neutralizing wall and permit you to land on Munan. Convince Professor Nilsson of the extreme necessity of this and come in a fast aero. Win, and your reward will be the everlasting gratitude of the world. Fail, and your fate will be no worse than if you had refused.”

Here followed minute directions as to the exact location of Munan. Busy with pencil and paper, Roy barely had time to set down the latitude and longitude; also other necessary information, including the time and date when they would be expected. No sooner had he finished than the dim features and the golden voice faded from his video completely. He was left cold and trembling.

The soft pleading voice lingered in his mind to the exclusion of all else. He tried to picture the girl. Her vision had been terribly blurred, sometimes fading almost entirely from view. The voice, though! That told him she must be young, lovely, tender. Ever a sentimentalist, he envisioned more his meeting with this girl than he did the seriousness of the mission. Instantly, he decided that he would go.

“NY-19-635,” spoke the humdrum voice of his videophone operator, “something has been wrong with the video for two hours and a half. The past half-hour it has been absolutely dead all through the terrestrial system; something never before experienced. However, all is well now and you may have your Paris connection.”

“Oh, hang the Paris connection!” was Roy’s reply. “Give me NY-20-325 right away.”

“Hello, Roy,” almost instantly responded the deep masculine voice of his friend, as the face of Professor Nilsson appeared in the disc, “what in the world are you calling about at this hour, and what are you so pale and mussed up over? Have you seen a ghost?”

“Maybe I have, Prof, but if I did, it was a ghost with a wonderful voice and such a story to tell as has never been heard before. This is serious. Can you come right over?”

“Well, seeing that it is you, my boy, and seeing that you look so ill, I will do it. But you know that I cannot remain for long.”

“You may stay longer than you think, when you hear what I have to tell you.”

“Maybe so; maybe not. At any rate, expect me in ten minutes. I am worried about you.”

The voice and face of his dearest friend and advisor vanished, and Roy proceeded to remove his paint-bedaubed smock and brush his hair, so as to present a somewhat better appearance when the professor arrived. Observing his reflection in the glass over his dresser, he saw that he did indeed look shaky.

(continue to part 2)

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