Brigands of the Moon
 by Ray Cummings

 

 

 

Brigands of the Moon by Ray Cummings
"Brigands of the Moon" by Ray Cummings

After last weeks brief breather from some of these lost generation of sci fi authors, I decided to bring it back.  I came across someone who I found particularly interested because of his specific contributions to the genre.  Ray Cummings, like many I talk about here, has had a very storied and illustrious career.  Certainly Cummings was prolific, with more than 750 short stories and novels.  But that is not what got me excited about him.  Admittedly, discovering that he was once an assistant and technical writer for Thomas Edison was a bit of a turn off (yes I took sides in the war of alternating vs. direct current), but there were some facts that I found so interesting that I could overlook that.  Cummings is responsible for the origination of several terms and even early adoption of several others.  As an example he is responsible for the first use of the term "anti-gravity" and the implemenation of that technology using "anti-gravity plates".  Entire generations of space operas would eventually adopt similar concepts.  The term "gravity assist" was possibly first used by Cummings but certainly one of the earliest uses of that term came from him and it is still in use at NASA today.  That is an excellent example of science fiction having a tangible impact on science.
In another work, Cummings would eventually make use of a technology called an "eavesdropping ray".  I found this particularly interesting because it has such a modern relevance.  With electronic intrusions into individual private lives and 4th amendment implications, the idea of a ray that could overhear people's conversations is quite interesting.  If you can put the low tech nature of the description aside and focus on its intended purpose, you can see that it isn't that dissimilar from satellites  and listening stations.  A truly original concept when you consider it was conceived of during the early 20th century.
Finally, I found the fact that he spent the 40s contributing to early "Captain America" comics.  He was one of the earlies contributors to Timely Comics, a forerunner to todays Marvel Comics.  At various times he contributed to "The Human Torch" and "Prince Namor: The Submariner" comics as well.

The book we have today is "Brigands of the Moon", I have to start off by warning everyone that as far as white, cis male space opera, it doesn't get any more antiquated than this.  There are no gratuitous slaps on the ass and women being called "toots" or "dames", but it doesn't fall very short.  In truth this is rather like "Die Hard" in space.  The protagonist learns that a shuttle returning from Mars and heading to Earth must stop on the Moon to retrieve some ore that was mined in secret.  Some brigands decide that they are going to hijack the shipment and the main character must defend the ship and the *cough* women.  Having said that, it is a nice and short space romp not overly complex though terribly dated (written in 1922 and published in 1931).  The women are relegated to defenseless people whose sole purpose it is to shower the protagonist with unrelenting adoration.  If this sort of this is going to annoy you I would suggest skipping this one.  However I think there is something to be learned from these older books, and I find the peak into a quaint era of science fictions uncomplicated days relaxing.  Though I do find the generic and unnuanced characters to be a little annoying myself.  You can download the book below. Enjoy!

 

Brigands of the Moon