Thursday, August 14, 2014

Evil Robots and Dimensional Portals

Hal K. Wells was yet another of the many  Pulp Era writers who made a living churning out entertaining and imaginative stories. Wells specialized largely in science fiction. He's not well-remembered today and to an extant this is understandable. For every truly great writer that came out of the pulps such as Asimov and Heinlein, there are dozens who were merely good--or not very good at all. I'm a huge fan of early science fiction, but it's undeniable that some of it doesn't age well.

But even the stuff that not classic or ground-breaking can still make entertaining stories. One example of this
is Wells' story "The Gate to Xoran," published in the January 1931 issue of Astounding Stories of Super-Science.

Blair Gordon is at a night club in Hollywood, mooning over the fact that his girl friend--famous actress Leah Keith--has broken up with him.

But nothing re-kindles romance faster than having your girl friend kidnapped by a killer robot from the planet Xoran. Try it sometimes--it works better than flowers or boxes of chocolate.

Actually, at first, it appears that Leah has just been kidnapped by an incredibly strong human, but after Gordon pursues them to a remote location, he throws a punch and discovers the crook is a robot in a human suit.

Gordon and Leah are soon tied up. In an undeniably awkward sequence, the robot then falls into the cliche of explaining his plans in detail, even throwing in a brief summary of the science involved. The mechanical menace is a scout from the planet Xoran, which is apparently populated by killer robots. He's arrived on Earth after a 450 year journey at the speed of light to scout out Earth for invasion. Now he's putting the finishing touches on a dimensional portal that will bring invading armies to Earth in an instance. Gordon and Leah are prisoners, by the way, because the robot always grabs a couple of local specimens for detailed study in the laboratories back on Xoran.

One escape attempt goes awry when the robot turns out to be immune to bullets. But if Gordon and Leah can work together, they can get loose a second time and maybe come up with a way to destroy the robot before it opens the portal.

Like other pulp stories I've written about in the past, "The Gate to Xoran" does its job by telling an entertaining story. And that's really not surprising. Toss a killer robot into a story and you really can't go wrong.

"The Gate to Xoran" is available to read online HERE.

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