Thursday, March 29, 2012

What? ANOTHER Sargasso in Space?

A few years back, I wrote about Edmond Hamilton's short story "Sargasso of Space," a 1931 story about a location in our solar system where the gravity draws hundreds of derelict space ships together into a giant graveyard. The heroes in that tale end up there after their ship develops a fuel leak. While searching other ships for fuel, they run into trouble in the form of other stranded astronauts who have a violent agenda of their own.

But the idea of a Sargasso Sea in space is too cool an idea and its not surprising that it would be revisited. There's an episode of 1973's Star Trek: The Animated Series that played with the idea, though the Sargasso there was a pocket dimension rather than a gravity node.

But a couple of decades after Hamilton's story and a couple of decades before Star Trek: TAS, writer Milton Lesser (writing under his pen name Stephen Marlowe) also used this idea. His short story--"Graveyard of Space"--appeared in the April 1956 issue of Imagination.

Hamilton used the space Sargasso concept for a straightforward adventure with lots of action. Marlowe, on the other hand, goes for more of a horror story vibe.

A married couple, returning from an unsuccessful venture as asteroid miners, gets lost in the asteroid field and ends up in a space Sargasso. Like the characters in Hamilton's yarn, they have to scavenge for parts on the other ships. But unlike Hamilton's Sargasso, these two seem to be the only living humans. The crews of previously stranded ships have died from lack of food or oxygen.

Or have they?  They discover that there just might be one other survivor. But that's not necessarily a good thing.

Marlowe hits just the right creepy vibe, essentially turning the space Sargasso concept into a Haunted House story.

It's interesting to read Hamliton and Marlowe's stories one after the other. It's a nice little example of just how much mileage different writers can get out of similar ideas.

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