The Callistan Menace
|"The Callistan Menace"|
|Genre(s)||Science fiction short story|
|Published in||Astonishing Stories|
|Media type||Print (Magazine, Hardback & Paperback)|
|Publication date||April 1940|
"The Callistan Menace" is a science fiction short story by Isaac Asimov. It first appeared in the April 1940 issue of Astonishing Stories and was reprinted in the 1972 collection The Early Asimov. It was the second story written by Asimov, and the oldest story of his still in existence.
Writing and publication
Asimov came up with the idea for the story, which he called "Stowaway", after his first meeting with John W. Campbell on June 21, 1938. When his first story, "Cosmic Corkscrew," was rejected by Campbell on the 23rd, Asimov started writing "Stowaway". He finished the first draft on the 28th, and the final draft on July 10. He submitted "Stowaway" to Campbell in person during another visit on the 18th. Suspecting that Campbell would reject it, Asimov spent the subway ride home coming up with the plot for a third story, "Marooned Off Vesta".
Campbell did indeed reject "Stowaway", based on the story's "general air of amateurishness, constraint, forcing". On 3 August Asimov submitted the story to Thrilling Wonder Stories. When Thrilling Wonder rejected it, Asimov mailed the story to the offices of Amazing Stories in Chicago, which also rejected it. In the summer of 1939, following the sale of some later stories, Asimov revised "Stowaway", retitled it "Magnetic Death", and again submitted it to Thrilling Wonder and Amazing, and again it was rejected. Later that year, Asimov's friend Frederik Pohl became editor of two new magazines, Astonishing Stories and Super Science Stories. He accepted "Magnetic Death" on November 16, 1939, and it finally appeared in the April 1940 issue of Astonishing under the title "The Callistan Menace". (Asimov once described Pohl as "an inveterate title-changer".)
The scoutship Ceres is assigned to explore the Jovian moon Callisto, outermost of the four Galilean moons. Seven previous ships had landed there over a 25-year period, and never been heard from again. Two crewmen discover a stowaway in the supply room, a thirteen-year-old boy named Stanley Fields. The crew adopts the stowaway as a mascot, even fixing him up with an antiquated rubber space suit.
When the Ceres lands on Callisto, the crew find a previous scoutship, the Phobos, still intact. An inspection of the Phobos reveals it to be covered with dried slime, and the bodies of its crew are discovered. Soon a horde of four-foot-long slugs emerges from a nearby lake and approaches the Phobos. Two of the Ceres crewmen are overcome by a mysterious affliction, and a third barely makes it back to the ship. The captain of the Ceres realizes that the slugs are using magnetic fields to stun the crewmen, amplified by their steel space suits. Fields volunteers to retrieve the unconscious crewmen in his rubber space suit. He brings the first back, but while retrieving the second he falls victim to an air leak and barely makes it back to the ship. Fields and the unconscious crewmen all survive, and Ceres safely departs Callisto.
- The character Stanley Fields was named after Asimov's younger brother, Stanley Asimov.
- The Callistan Menace is the first Asimov story to mention a drink called Martian Jabra Water.
- "The Callistan Menace". Jenkins’ Spoiler-Laden Guide to Isaac Asimov. 1940. Retrieved 3 October 2014.
- Asimov, Isaac, "The Callistan Menace" in The Early Asimov ISBN 0-385-03979-4.