Friday, August 28, 2015

Worldcon and Vacation Report, Sasquan 2015, Part I

Convention and Vacation Report, Sasquan 2015

Part I: Seattle, and the drive to Spokane


(This part of the report will perhaps be of less interest to those who want to hear about Worldcon.)

I decided some time ago to attend Sasquan in Spokane, WA, the 2015 World Science Fiction Convention. As a convention-goer, I'm a bit of a homebody: I regularly go Conquest, Archon, and Windycon, which are, respectively, about 250 miles, 30 miles, and 275 miles from my home in Webster Groves, MO. The only Worldcon I've been to was Chicon III in 2012, also less than 300 miles away. I absolutely loved my time at Chicon, and I really wanted to make it to LoneStarCon in 2013 in San Antonio, but between my work schedule and the fact that a drive to San Antonio would have taken two days (even with a stopover in my brother's house in Dallas), I just couldn't make it. And Loncon in 2014 was simply not workable economically -- a great shame as we at Lightspeed won our first Hugo there. So I figured no matter what, I'd make the trip to Spokane work (helped, to be sure, by frequent flyer miles increased by that previously mentioned work schedule). This became even more urgent when Lightspeed was again nominated for a Hugo.

This trip was better than the one to Chicago because my wife Mary Ann came along. (Of course it was also better because I've been to Chicago a million or so times, considering I was born in the suburbs.) We decided to fly to Seattle first, for some pure quill tourism. We ended up flying in on Southwest fairly late on Saturday, arriving, well, early on Sunday, at 2:30 AM. This was partly due to Southwest: our first leg out of St. Louis was delayed for a couple of reason, finally because the plane was overweight and 16(!) passengers had to get off (in exchange for a dinner, night at a hotel, replacement ticket, and $300). We almost missed our connection in Denver -- fortunately the gate was only a couple down from our arriving flight, and even then we might have been late except the Denver to Seattle leg was late as well. We were staying in a Hampton in Tukwila, pretty near the airport (much cheaper than staying in the city).


The next day we got up (a bit late perhaps) and drove into the city, with the object of visiting Pike's Place Market. We had to park a bit of a walk from the Market, but we made it ... it's an enjoyable place to visit. They have a Left Bank Books (unrelated to the institution in the Central West End of St. Louis I assume) ... walked into that (a bit on the "crazy left" side if you ask me, and not a terribly impressive SF section, but there you are!). We ate at an OK restaurant in the Market, Pike's Place ... We were getting a bit tired, and the car was a bit of a hike, so I walked back to it and, after negotiating some slightly insane traffic, picked Mary Ann up on the waterfront and we headed back to the hotel, to veg out and watch the PGA.



Then we figured Tacoma, about 30 miles south, would be a nice change, so we wandered that way, and decided Point Defiance would be a nice place to visit. This is a peninsula jutting into the Puget Sound, just NW of Tacoma, all a park, with a zoo. We drove around the Point, stopping at several pullover places, with good views of the Sound and Vashon Island, and even at some points a view of the famous Tacoma Narrows Bridge (or, that is, its replacement). We ate at a restaurant just prior to Point Defiance, Duke's Chowder House. Very good.



On Monday we first went to the EMP museum, which was founded by Paul Allen, originally as a Science Fiction museum. It is now devoted to Entertainment, Music, and Pop Culture, but SF is a big chunk of the Pop Culture aspect. There was an exhibit of costumes from the Star Wars movies, sections devoted to SF and to Fantasy and to Horror, a small wall for the SF Hall of Fame. It was a bit too media-oriented, and too shallow for my taste. There were also exhibits on a couple of Rock music icons from Seattle: Jimi Hendrix and Nirvana, and a fairly interesting guitar display. The Space Needle is right next door ... we contented ourselves with pictures. Then decided to visit Pike Place Market again, this time to do some slightly more devoted shopping. At a used book store I bought an omnibus of John Barth's first two novels, The Floating Opera and The End of the Road. We had lunch at Steelhead Diner, a place highly recommended by a couple who came to our church who had just moved to St. Louis from Seattle. It was very good. Then we took a ride on the Ferris Wheel on the waterfront, nice views of both the city and the sound.

Finally we took a sailboat ride into the Sound. It was a great deal of fun. The Seattle area is really pretty. I did also get a view of a restaurant I'd eaten at on a previous (business) trip, Salty's, which is across from the port part of the city. After that we were tired and ready to go back to the hotel, though first we drove to West Seattle just to see it.


I should mention parking perhaps ... only to say that it's pretty expensive. Not a surprise in a big city, of course.

So the next day was "drive to Spokane day", but we had plenty of time, so we decided to make a stop on the way for a good view of Mt. Rainier. (We'd already seen the mountain quite clearly from Seattle, to be sure.) We went to a ski resort (off season of course), Crystal Mountain. They let you ride up their gondola lift (for a price of course), to the top of one of their mountains (perhaps 7000 feet?), which gives an excellent view of Mt. Rainier and of many of the other Cascade volcanoes such as Mt. Adams. There's a restaurant at the top, a bit pricy for only OK quality, though I did rather like the wrap I had. Lots of ladybugs up there too.



We continued towards Spokane, taking the scenic route as a result of the diversion to Crystal Mountain. We went through Yakima (which is a larger town than I had imagined), before turning up to I90 then East to Spokane. The foliage in Eastern Washington is much different than in the west -- much much drier. And of course there have been fires in the area, though we didn't see anything on the drive (but later in Spokane the presence of fires became atmospherically clear!) Checked in at the hotel (Red Lion River Inn, right on the Spokane River, quite near to Gonzaga University). The hotel staff were effusive in their delight at having the Convention in town -- that's one thing in being in a middlish-sized city, you get a lot more attention from the locals.By then it was after 730, so we just went out to get dinner (Mexican food at a very loud place called Borracho -- not my favorite place, really), and so to bed.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Ace Double Reviews: Message From the Eocene, by Margaret St. Clair/Three Worlds of Futurity, by Margaret St. Clair

Ace Double Reviews, 88: Message From the Eocene, by Margaret St. Clair/Three Worlds of Futurity, by Margaret St. Clair (#M-105, 1964, 45 cents)

a review by Rich Horton




I guess I'll make it official ... I've gotten into reading Ace Doubles again ... a number of years ago I did over 80 Ace Double reviews, first at the great Usenet newsgroup rec.arts.sf.written (how I miss it -- I know it still exists, but the magic of the Golden Age (late '90s to early '00s) is gone), then posted at my webpage (www.sff.net/people/richard.horton). I'll still be doing reviews of Old Bestsellers here, but I don't have a backlog anymore, so I'll post them when I finish new (old) books, and interleave them with some more Ace Double reviews.

Margaret St. Clair (1911-1995) was one of the more noticeable early women writers of SF, but somehow her profile was a bit lower than those of C. L. Moore, Leigh Brackett, and Andre Norton. Perhaps it was simply that those writers did just a bit more, and were just a bit better (taken as a whole) than her, but it does seem that she's not quite as well remembered as perhaps she deserves. One contributing factor is that she published many of her stories pseudonymously, as "Idris Seabright". 20 or so of her 50+ short stories were as by Seabright, including some of the very best (such as "Short in the Chest" and "An Egg a Month from All Over"). She also wrote 8 novels (four of them published as Ace Double halves). Her career in SF stretched from 1946 to 1981. Her husband, Eric St. Clair, was also a writer (of children's books), and the two became Wiccans more or less when the Wiccan movement started.

This Ace Double appeared in 1964. I read the novel half, Message from the Eocene (which is about 43,000 words long), several years ago, planning all along to add it to my Ace Double Reviews page, but somehow I never got around to the story collection half. That leaves me in the slightly embarrassing position of not remembering the novel at all well. I remember a slow start, and fascinating middle, and a disappointing end. The start concerns a creature named, of all things, Tharg, struggling to protect a significant booklike object from evil rival aliens, on a planet we deduce is Earth of long ago. Tharg, having saved the book by throwing it in a volcano (or something), is killed but survives as a disembodied being until humans have evolved and reached a sufficient level of intelligence to benefit from the knowledge in the "book". The second section, which I recall being the best part of the book, is set in the near past, as Tharg "haunts" a house that becomes suspected of being a witch's abode (or something). One of the women ends up urging discovery of a mysterious object ... which of course is Tharg's "book". But its knowledge remains opaque. The resolution occurs in the future, as a spaceship is launched, Tharg is reembodied, and the humans realize that inimical aliens (Tharg's enemies) on Pluto must be destroyed, after which the "book" can be "read" ... and the novel ends more or less at this climax, which hints at coming transcendence but doesn't get there. Apologies for the vagueness!

I finally read the short story collection, Three Worlds of Futurity, on the plane heading to the 2015 World Science Fiction Convention, Sasquan. It comprises 5 shorter works:

"The Everlasting Food" (Thrilling Wonder Stories, December 1950, 12900 words)
"Idris' Pig" (first published as "The Sacred Martian Pig", Startling Stories, July 1949, 14300 words)
"The Rages" (first published as "The Rations of Tantalus", Fantastic Universe, July 1954, 14600 words)
"Roberta" (Galaxy, October 1962, 2500 words)
"The Island of the Hands" (Weird Tales, September 1952, 8600 words)

(The covers, by the way, and the interiors for the collection, are by Jack Gaughan.)

The title refers to the fact that the first three novelettes appear on, respectively, Venus, Mars, and Earth, I assume. As a whole the collection is pretty worthwhile work. Here's a look at each of the stories:

"The Everlasting Food" opens with Earthman Richard Dekker at the hospital where his Venusian wife Issa has been taken after an accident. It seems that she will die unless she has a brain operation, but that operation will remove her ability to "See" -- a special ability she has because she is one of the ancient "Sanedrin" (I don't know if the echo with "Sanhedrin" was intended). Dekker decides to insist on the operation. Issa at first is devastated by her loss of "Seeing", but somehow she has gained something else: the ability to be nourished by only energy. It seems that she has gained an ability perhaps held by the original (possibly non-Solar System based?) Sanedrin. She becomes remote, and after going to an ancient Sanedrin city she steals a Key and heads to a mysterious mid Ocean locale. Dekker follows her, with a pretty Earthwoman named Megan who is something of an expert in Venusian anthropology ... it turns out this Key, in the wrong hands, can lead to disaster, and Issa must face down her temptation to become as a god -- or perhaps yield? It's a decent story, not ever quite believable but interesting, with the Dekker/Megan dynamic serving as a perhaps convenient counterpoint to Dekker's loss of his wife ... By no means a great story, but entertaining.

"Idris' Pig" was my favorite story here. (I wonder if the title is a reference to her pseudonym?) George Baker, a spaceman on the Earth-Mars run, is inveigled into delivering a small object to a man on Mars. But as soon as he hits Mars, he is attacked, knocked out, and rescued by a pretty Martian girl. They end up on a wild adventure, involving Martian religion (and whether or not is should be taken seriously), the title pig, and some pretty bad drugs. And of course a pretty Martian girl! It's purely a romp, and really good fun.

"The Rages" is perhaps the most seriously intended story in the book. It's set in the fairly near future on Earth. Harvey is married to a beautiful woman, Mara, but they never have sex. And Harvey is addicted to the drugs everyone seems to take, which moderate burst of anger ("the Rages") and cause "Euphoria". He is running out, but has a friend who knows how to get more on the black market. Then that friend is taken to a hospital -- he seems to have gone made. Encounters with an older man whose research seems to suggest that the effect of the drugs over time might be deleterious, and an odd young woman who doesn't take the drugs, begin to make Harvey doubt his craving for more drugs ... the message is fairly obvious, and the story really never surprises, but it's nicely executed (St. Clair really was a skillful writer), and it's almost surprising H. L. Gold didn't buy it for Galaxy (not that I know he was offered it, mind you).

"Roberta" is short and effective SF horror, about a man named Robert and an alien named Mr. Dlaga, and a person named Roberta who keeps bothering Robert ... I don't know how well it really plays in today's world, though, because it's pretty drastically transphobic, enough to bother me even while I found its creepy execution entertaining.

Finally, "The Island of the Hands" concerns a man whose wife dies in a plane crash. Unable to accept his loss, he keeps searching for her, finally commissionaing an airplane to take him to the mid-Ocean area she crashed in ... where he and the pilots he hired also crash, becoming marooned on the title island, where he meets a woman who seems a perfected version of his lost wife. I thought the story and its resolution intriguing, and a good try, but somehow it never quite convinced me.

All in all, this is a fine collection of pretty obscure stories. Margaret St. Clair is a name that SF veterans still recall, but for all that her fiction is not well-remembered (except for a few "Idris Seabright" stories) -- and this is evidence that she is worthy of some rediscovery.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Old Bestsellers: The Vanishing Point, by Coningsby Dawson

The Vanishing Point, by Coningsby Dawson

a review by Rich Horton


I suppose this is another example of Canlit. Like a number of Canadian writers, Coningsby Dawson was born in England (in 1883) and moved to the United States. He began writing in the US, at first reports on Canadian subjects for English newspapers. He also published poetry and novels. When World War I broke out, he went to Canada and offered his service to that nation. He was commissioned as an officer after a period at a military college, and went to France in 1916. He served in the trenches, and was wounded twice.

After the war he wrote a memoir of his experiences, apparently intended in part as a reaction to the many very disillusioned memoirs of soldiers. Even so, his reaction did not slight on description of terrible conditions and events.

The Vanishing Point was published in 1922. Rather a strange novel, this one. Published just after the First World War, its subject is indeed the aftermath of the war. My edition is from Cosmopolitan Book Corporation, a venture associated with the magazine. It's probably a first. It is illustrated by James Montgomery Flagg.

The book opens with the American Philip Hindwood on a liner bound for England. He has been dallying with an exotic woman named Santa Gorlof, but he has a rival, Prince Rogovich of Poland. At the end she seems to choose the Prince, but when they disembark, the Prince is nowhere to be found. He and Santa soon find themselves on the run, for she at least is suspected of having murdered the Prince. Hindwood himself is still fascinated, but convinced as well that she may have done it.

He is engaged on a plan to sell food to the starving states of Central Europe in exchange for control of their railways. But soon he encounters Santa's husband, an Englishman who rescued her from dancing in an Indian temple, where she was raised as a half-caste orphan. He is forced to abandon her after she murders the man who kills their baby son, and in revenge of a sort, she has pursued a career as an exotic dancer, meanwhile killing the men she believes are responsible for the deaths of children, expecially those who promote war. The Prince, a monarchist displaced by the results of the War, is one such. Santa's husband reveals that he intends to bring her to justice, despite that he still loves her.

In a fool's errand trying to protect Santa, Hindwood ends up meeting another beautiful woman, Anna Varensky, the English wife of a saintly Russian fanatic. Her husband has disappeared, in another of his Quixotic attempts at martyrdom, always trying to prevent war and violence, this time in Bolshevik Russia. Soon Anna and Hindwood are in love, but both are too honorable to take action while Varensky lives. And indeed, Varensky returns, and Anna accompanies him back to famine-ridden Central Europe, which is on the brink of another war, provoked by monarchists, and the flames fanned by those fleeing the ruin of the Bolshevik dream. (The book seems to diverge a bit from history here ... perhaps it was actually set in the very near future to its writing?)

Hindwood and Santa also make their way to Austria then Hungary, with Hindwood's food trains to follow. He intends to complete his plans for control of Europe's railroads, but Santa urges him to act morally, and give the food away, and the sight of the starving masses begins to work on him. In Budapest things come to a climax, with people in pursuit of Santa arriving, with the monarchists plotting, the refugees and hungry swarming, and the Varenskys in the mix as well. The resolution is on the one hand heroic, on the other hand quite odd.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Old Bestsellers: The Maid of Maiden Lane, by Amelia E. Barr

The Maid of Maiden Lane, by Amelia E. Barr

a review by Rich Horton




Back to the heart and soul of this blog ... a very obscure book from the first half of the 20th Century (well, technically, from the very last year of the 19th Century) that was fairly popular in its day. This book, like many other such books, isn't tremendously rewarding (in my opinion) to a 21st Century reader, but it's well enough done on its terms, and one can see why the author had a bit of a reputation in her day.

Amelia Edith Huddleston was born in Lancashire, England, in 1831. She married William Barr at the age of 19, and four years later they moved to Texas. By 1867 the couple had 6 (or 7, or 9) children, but in that year her husband and three of the children died of yellow fever. Mrs. Barr and the three (or perhaps four) remaining children moved to New Jersey. She soon began to publish short fiction and religious works, and by the mid-80s was publishing well-received and strong-selling novels like Jan Vedder's Wife and Remember the Alamo. Her primary focus was historical romance. She died in 1919, having written by one count 63 novels, by another count (her Publishers' Weekly obituary) 80 novels. She was well enough known to rate a New York Times obituary as well as the PW obit.

The book at hand is The Maid of Maiden Lane, from 1900. It is apparently the sequel to a well-received earlier novel, A Bow of Orange Ribbon (1886). My edition of the book is part of something called "The People's Library", issued by the American News Company, and it is called "A Special Edition Limited", so I suspect it's not a first edition, but its appearance and wear suggest it dates to more or less the original time of publication. This book is illustrated. The artist is not credited -- the name might be Hedges. My copy was evidently a Christmas present -- it is signed "Bruce Lee Hutcheson from Ione Marie Williams, Dec. 25, 1901" in a rather nice hand.

It is set in 1791 in New York. The titular "Maid" is Cornelia Moran, the beautiful daughter of a man of French descent and a woman of Dutch descent. The hero is a somewhat cocksure but mostly fairly nice young man, Lieutenant George Hyde, of mixed English and Dutch descent. (The ancestry of these people turns out to be of much importance! Indeed George's Dutch mother calls him Joris.) They encounter each other and quickly fall in love, but their fathers, the respected Dr. Moran and the also respected General Hyde, are bitter enemies, partly because they are French and English, also because Moran feels Hyde disrepected him while both were serving under now President Washington during the Revolution.

The main political issue in the United States is whether the Capitol will be in New York or Philadelphia, but the more important poltical issue for this book is the French Revolution. Some (Thomas Jefferson, the Morans) support it, others (John Adams, General Hyde) oppose it, especially as news of atrocities reaches the US. Cornelia's close friend is Arenta van Ariens, a pretty but somewhat vain Dutch girl, about to be married to a French Marquis. Arenta's brother Rem (as in Rembrandt) is in love with Cornelia. There is a fair amount of leadup to Arenta's marriage (she's a bit of a Bridezilla), along with the rivalry of Rem van Ariens and George Hyde. Arenta marries and moves to France, and soon finds herself in terrible danger. Meanwhile Rem and George both plan to propose to Cornelia, while George's father desires him to marry his cousin, the saintly Annie. This becomes more critical when Annie's father dies, meaning the George's father is the heir to an Earldom.

The critical turn comes when Cornelia's responses to Rem's and George's respective letters of proposal are misaddressed. George gets a rejection, and quickly heads to England. Rem's letter is clearly for George, but the cad does not send it on to him. This leads to agony for George -- and no good result for Rem either.

The rest of the book turns on the events that lead to the discovery of Rem's bad behavior, in which Annie plays a critical role. There is also business revolving around Arenta's dramatic fate in France, and side plots such as Cornelia's Aunt Angelica and her long lost husband. It's a pure romance novel, a bit silly, with main characters who really don't convince and have little chemistry, but with enough going on and effectively enough written that it passes the time. There is a lot of guff about ethnic differences, never really becoming offensive -- indeed, the characters' attitudes are viewed as mildly reprehensible. (The black characters, I should perhaps add, are all slaves, but portrayed with respect (though with little notice) -- one certainly might argue that this was a fairly accurate portrayal of contemporary attitudes and situations.) The attention paid to details of clothing (for both the men and women) is fairly noticeable -- to me this marked the novel as distinctly a piece of "women's fiction". Ann Leckie noted, in an unrelated discussion when the book came up, that women of the time (1900, as well as 1791) were often making their own wardrobes, and these details were possibly not only of general interest to them but of some practical use.

As with so many of the books I've covered, this is a book whose contemporary popularity, in retrospect, is not surprising -- but which doesn't really seem likely to ever again attract any wide readership.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

A Forgotten Ace Double: Wandl the Invader, by Ray Cummings/I Speak for Earth, by Keith Woodcott (John Brunner)

Ace Double Reviews, 87: Wandl the Invader, by Ray Cummings/I Speak for Earth, by Keith Woodcott (John Brunner) (#D-497, 1961, 35 cents)



a review by Rich Horton


I've featured Ace Double reviews in this space before, but those were reposts of reviews I did some years ago. This is my first new Ace Double review in several years -- it features two novels that, I think, really are mostly forgotten by now.

This is yet another Ace Double featuring a pretty good early John Brunner novel (under his most usual pseudonym), this time paired with an early piece of scientifiction from one of the more respected writers of Gernsback era stuff.

We'll begin with the Ray Cummings book. Cummings was born in 1887 and died in 1957. He worked for Thomas Edison from 1914 until 1919 as a technical writer, which gave him a certain cachet in writing about scientific subjects. By far his most famous work, still slightly remembered, is the novel The Girl in the Golden Atom, which was serialized in All-Story Weekly in 1922, as an expansion of a short story of the same name that appeared in All-Story in 1919. The short version of this piece seems to have been Cummings' first fiction, and he continued writing stories in that vein, mostly in All-Story and in Argosy, which eventually absorbed All-Story, but also in other magazines of the era such as Astounding and also Hugo Gernsback's Science and Invention, one of the magazines he published before starting Amazing Stories. Cummings continued to publish even after John Campbell's revolution mostly superseded the sort of fiction he wrote, though he stopped publishing serials. He did write any number of short stories for the SF pulps like Astonishing and Thrilling Wonder until his death.

Wandl the Invader was serialized in Astounding in 1932. It was a sequel to Brigands of the Moon, which began its serialization in the third issue of Astounding, in 1930. It is set in a future in which space travel is well-established within the Solar System, and essentially human civilizations have been discovered on both Venus and Mars. (Interbreeding is possible, for instance.) A small planet called Wandl has appeared in the Solar System, and Gregg Haljan (hero of Brigands of the Moon) is recruited to captain a spaceship to resist the evil intentions of the planet's inhabitants.

The opening sections have some interesting ideas an images, such as a roofed New York. Haljan and his buddy Snap, along with their girlfriends, Anita and the Venusian Venza, first investigate the appearance of a Martian pirate and his sister, Molo and Meka. It turns out the Martians are in league with the invaders from Wandl, who turn out to comprise controlling all-brain creatures, who are carried around by huge humanoid entities. Wandl, it turns out, has a sort of massive tractor beam technology, and they are planning to grab Earth, Mars, and Venus and tow them back to the Wandl home system.

The girls are kidnapped by the Martians (Molo seems to fancy them), and Snap seems to be killed. Haljan joins his ship and blasts off to fight the Wandl ships, but they are too powerful, and he ends up captured as well. Naturally they end up on Wandl, where they learn something of the Wandlian social organization, and the Great Intelligence ruling everything, and they end up finding their way to the single point of failure of Wandl ...

Well, you see where this is going. It's really stupid stuff. You can see that Cummings had talent -- his ideas were silly but sometimes intriguing, and his prose was effective pulp work, not at all nice but fast moving, with occasional interesting images -- much better than the run of Gernsback era writers. The plot, however, is just routine, never believable. This story and a fewer other early Cummings pieces were resurrected by Don Wollheim at Ace shortly after Cummings' death. One suspects, uncharitably, that Wollheim got a good deal from the estate. I'd say the stories really deserve to be forgotten, by and large.

I'm on record as being very fond of John Brunner's early work. It was by and large efficiently executed, with interesting central ideas, usually pretty thoughtful, marred mostly by a certain hurriedness, especially in coming to a conclusion. I Speak for Earth fits those parameters, maybe biased a little more towards the thoughtful end of things. As noted, it was published as by "Keith Woodcott", a pseudonym he used quite often, for short fiction and novels, in his early career.

This novel isn't entirely forgotten, by the way: Mike Resnick praises it in his book Resnick at Large, where he confesses that he didn't much like Brunner's writing, but he did like this short novel by one Keith Woodcott, and was gobsmacked to learn that Woodcott was a Brunner psedonym.

I Speak for Earth revolves in one way around a very familiar idea: the alien Federation of Worlds has discovered Earth. They are quite perturbed by humanity's history of violence, but improvements are being made. Still, before they allow the first human starship to be completed, they want to evaluate humanity's worthiness to join the Federation. To that end, they have asked us to choose one representative to travel to a Federation world and spend a month there -- after which that person's behavior will serve as a benchmark for the decision on whether humans can travel to the stars, or whether we will be penned up in the Solar System. Obviously, this isn't a new idea -- it had been used, pretty much, in for example Robert Heinlein's Have Space Suit, Will Travel, only three years before.

The neat wiggle Brunner introduces is this: humanity's leadership (the UN) decides that it is ridiculous to send just one human as a representative. So they choose six people, very accomplished people from a variety of cultures, who represent a variety of high achievement, and use a newly developed technology to allow one man's mind to host five additional minds. The viewpoint character is Joe Marea, a very talented engineer, one of the leading workers on the starship project. He is to be the physical host for the other five minds, two women and three men (the women from India and China, the men from Russia, Africa, and Germany via the US). Joe is also newly in love, with a beautiful and brilliant woman, who he doesn't realize has been deputized to evaluate his fitness for the project.

The bulk of the story covers the time the six people spend together, learning about each other, then (by surprise) being integrated into one mind. This is pretty interesting stuff, and well done. The integrated individual is then produced as the Earth's representative to the Federation of Worlds (while in the background some rather disquieting reaction of extremists on Earth is portrayed). Joe-etcetera goes to the Federation world, and the last few chapters depict their experience there, where they are treated quite unfairly ... but of course prevail. I thought this concluding bit came off maybe a somewhat too pat, but it's still a pretty decent story.