Survival Problem

By Colin Kapp

Years and years ago Irina and I chanced upon a large collection of fifties and sixties sf magazines. Asimov’s, Astounding, New Worlds Science Fiction — the works. And sometimes I pick one of them from the shelves to re-calibrate, as it were.

A quick google shows that Colin Kapp is still alive, has written quite a few things since this story — his second short for New Worlds, according to to the authors profile. He was apparently born in 1929 and not able to type. And smoked a pipe:

But could he write? Well, usually when I try one of these ancient shorts I don’t read past the first page. They tend to be utterly devoid of characterisation, filled to the brim with gratuitous sexism and the speculation tends to be cheap.

Perhaps because Kapp was a lab assistant, his science is quite believable, if you close one eye and switch the brain off. The idea of a designated philopsopher is curious too. For the rest it’s a fairly standard he-man story in which an unbelievably competent person is the master of his environment.

A bit of hinting of concentration camps brings some tension, and yonks before Charlie Stross even was aware of Kashmir, Kapp lets a nuclear war break out in that locale.

On the balance, some nice ideas, especially for the time, but too many words, too many hints, too much beating about the bush, for too unsurprising a pay-off.

Nice extra: this story doesn’t appear in any of the online bibliographies I’ve found.