Short Reviews – Special Jobbery, by H. B. Fyfe

Friday , 6, April 2018 7 Comments

Special Jobbery by H. B. Fyfe appeared in the September 1949 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. You can read it here at Archive.org, but only if you feel you must.

Alien or Marital-Aid? You be the judge!

What if Sturgeon’s Law is right, but it’s only Campbell-era Astounding that skews it true?!* I’m not quite ready to go that far, but the September 1949 issue has hardly been promising, and Special Jobbery was certainly not the palate cleanser I needed after Poul Anderson’s The Double-Dyed Villains.

This novella by H. B. Fyfe was so boring I couldn’t even. I made it about ten pages in before I gave up and ended up rewatching 13 Going On 30 with my girlfriend, cuz it was legit more interesting and exciting than Special Jobbery.

The main character of Special Jobbery is an egghead asshole who is so self-assuredly smart but disagreeable and ugly that he’s the perfect man to meet a race of weird tentacle aliens who want to sell something to the humans.

I get that the point of Waterfield’s character is that he’s an unlikable and unlikely protagonist, but I see too many of these whiny douchebags every day who complain that they can’t get ahead cuz they’re just too smart and they have to pretend to have lower IQ than they really do to hold a job and they’re just surrounded by idiots all the time… that the last thing I wanted was to read about a guy like that in my sci-fi.

I’ll give Fyfe this: he does have an interesting monster race in the Chotzek—they’re something like big pink sea-anemones. Maybe something cool and exciting happens with them later—I don’t know, because after several pages of back and forth between Waterfield and the Trade bureaucrat who’d picked him for the job, I just really didn’t care and no amount of cool aliens with their… umm… fertilizer technology that was going to help galactic agricultural developments through…

Y’know what? This story was terrible. I’ve linked it at the top so you can read it, but you’re probably wasting your time.

I’ll note that Fyfe had a rather unimpressive entry in an early 50s Planet Stories I reviewed, though its brevity may have saved it from my current ire.

*Technically Astounding was no longer a pulp at this point, so it has no bearing on whether or not Sturgeon’s Law applies to the pulps, so nyeh!

7 Comments
  • Mark McSherry says:

    H. B. Fyfe will always get a pass from me because of his November 1952 SPACE SCIENCE FICTION novelette, “Moonwalk”.

    A lunar tractor accident on the Plato ringwall forces a man to walk back to the home base at Archimedes- a 350 mile jaunt across the Mare Imbrium.

    • Alex says:

      From what I’ve read from him so far, I see that he has potential as a writer, he just hasn’t really used it to tell interesting or exciting stories in the examples I’ve seen.

    • Jon Mollison says:

      Is that one where he has to race the sunrise or risk being cooked?

      • Mark McSherry says:

        No race against the sun, the moon is just past “new”. He must try to conserve his oxygen and stamina on his dash south in the earthlight.

        The story is available in the Kindle 15TH GOLDEN AGE OF SCIENCE FICTION MEGAPACK: H. B. FYFE (99 cents). I first read the story in grade school, purchased the 1952 magazine issue years later. For many of us, it may be as close as we’ll get to walking on the moon.

  • Jon Mollison says:

    Gotchya. I’m probably thinking of that Niven story about the guy on Mercury, or maybe it was a Cirsova tale.

  • J. Manfred Weichsel says:

    Sounds terrible. If you want to read something good from Campbell from that era, check out The Humanoids by Jack Williamson, which I recently read and tweeted about, which was serialized in Astounding in March, April, and May 1948 under the title “…And Searching Mind.”

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