Short Reviews – S.O.S. Aphrodite, by Stanley Mullen

Friday , 16, September 2016 2 Comments

S.O.S. Aphrodite by Stanley Mullen appeared in the Summer 1949 issue of Planet Stories. It can be found here at Stories Logo

Okay, now this was a cool story. It may have been a little bit by the numbers, but that doesn’t change the fact that it was a neat little sci-fi romp.

This is also the story where it really clicked with me “Cowboy Bebop is a love-letter to the Planet Stories-style pulps” (or at least the kind of SF stories you’d find there). I’m ashamed that it took me so long to make the connection. But the cool bounty-hunters, the dangerous dames, the seedy smoke-filled dives, the organized crime rackets, the tough-as-nails grizzled space cop who’s on his third strike – it’s all there, and Bebop did justice to the kind of SF stories Television and Cinema largely forgot. S.O.S. Aphrodite could have easily been dropped into Cowboy Bebop’s setting, even used as a flashback for Jet Black or one of his partners.

Steve Coran is a space cop and a bit of a trouble-maker. He’s got, you guessed it, two strikes against him, but the Ministry of Transport has recommended him for a dangerous mission. He’s been pulled from the Mars-Jupiter sector to work a job in the inner system investigating a rash of barratry, but there’s a catch—for this job, Coran will be a kite, working out of uniform with no official support or backing from the ISP. The ISP doesn’t like his frontier methods, and critical as this mission is, they’re ready to throw Coran to the wind and deny involvement.  He’ll do the job, but when he’s done, they can have his badge!

One of the pirates has escaped custody with the help of a female accomplice; the pirate’s in possession of top secret documents and knowledge of a classified shipment of plutonium on board a transport ship from Earth to Venus. Coran’s orders are get on board the transport ship, the Aphrodite, and make sure the pair don’t reach Venus alive. Unfortunately, the Aphrodite is an emigrant ship; only married couples will be allowed boarding passes—Coran’s gotta get hitched, and fast!  He convinces Gerda, a surly and impatient dame desperate to reach Venus, that the only way either of them are getting on to hit the marriage bureau (“I’m on my way out now to look up a floozy. I’ll even marry her, if she’s dope enough to want it that way. I don’t like the idea any better than you do, but I’d hock grandma’s false teeth to get to Venus. Forget I mentioned it. If I’m to be stuck with a dame for four months, it might as well be a flamethrower as an icicle.”)

After some arguing in their cabin, Gerda gets pretty discombobulated during the high G of take-off, and despite her (understandably) cross attitude, Coran takes care of her and makes sure she’s able to make it to the bed. While she’s passed out, Coran does some digging through her things and finds a blaster pistol and a picture of the man he’s meant to kill. Coran seeks out the captain to ask for a copy of the passenger manifest only to find him dead, half his head blown off by blaster. Needless to say, he’s been set-up!

Really, I don’t want to spoil things, so I won’t, but this story was great fun, with some hammy dialogue and a great, cheesy romantic twist. I doubt it exists, but I really hope that Stanley Mullen wrote a sequel to this one.

  • Spencer Hart says:

    Mullen did write quite a few more stories as per
    some appeared in later Planet Stories and some in Super Science Stories.

    • Alex says:

      Cool. I’ll probably come across more of him at some point, then.

      The worst is when there’s a great story, I check ISFDB, and there’s next to nothing else by the person out there.

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