Short Reviews – The Happy Castaway, by Robert E. McDowell

Friday , 20, October 2017 Leave a comment

The Happy Castaway by Robert E. McDowell* appeared in the Spring 1945 issue of Planet Stories. It can be read here at Archive.org.

Jonathan Fawkes wakes to a beautiful woman standing over him. He’s crashed on an asteroid while hauling seeds from Mars to Jupiter. Turns out he’s crashed on the same rock where over two-dozen women being sent to the outer system to be wives for colonists have been stranded. Fawkes risks being torn apart by the twenty seven women who haven’t seen a man in three years or by the alien centaurs that roam the flat-lands.

I’m tempted to write this off as “a typical example of the man stranded on a world of women” subgenre, but is it? I don’t really know, because after thinking about it for a bit, I realize that while I’m aware of several examples, haven’t really read many(any?).

It’s a kind of story that can provide some interesting tidbits that contrast with what one might expect from notional harem comedy.

The women are tough cookies:

[Ann and Jonathan] flushed a small furry creature from behind a bush. As it sped away, it resembled a cottontail of Earth. The girl whipped back her arm, flung the spear. It transfixed the rodent. She picked it up, tied it to her waist. Jonathan gaped. Such strength and accuracy astounded him.

The women have done pretty well for themselves despite the absence of men, having stayed alive, learned to hunt and gather and defend themselves from the centaurs, though they have survived in a state of near-savagery.

Dying for a smoke, Fawkes makes a daring escape back to his spaceship, whereupon he foregoes his chance at being rescued by a surveying expedition in favor of staying and planting a massive tobacco crop with seeds he’d been hauling.

The Happy Castaway is an unremarkable but droll piece. Probably not bad as the sort of thing to cleanse the palate after a Brackett story, but not so poor as to be completely blown away by it as has been the case for other stories that have had to follow hers.

*I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that this was probably Emmett McDowell writing under a pseud.

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