terça-feira, 9 de setembro de 2014

Galeria de Capas — James H. Schmitz


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Schmitz, James H.

(1911–1981)

James Schmitz published his first short story in 1943, and several years later began a series of space adventures, collected as Agent of Vega (1960), that included such classics as the title story and “The Second Night of Summer.” He would continue to write impressive short fiction throughout the 1960s, although much of his later work began to fall into a formula. Some of his other noteworthy short stories include “The Big Terrarium” and “The Summer Guests.”


Most of his fiction from the 1960s onward concerns the Hub, an interstellar civilization in which humans are prominent but do not have an exclusive hold on the seats of power. Many of the stories fall into one of two very similar series, each following the adventures of a young female protagonist, either Telzey Amberdon or Trigger Argee. Telzey, the more popular of the two among readers, is a talented telepath in addition to being a seasoned space traveler. A Tale of Two Clocks (1962, also published as Legacy) was the first novel using this setting, relating the adventure of Trigger Argee as she travels to Earth to solve an ancient secret that could destabilize the entire galaxy. Telzey Amberdon’s unique telepathic talent is that she can read the minds of aliens as well as humans, an ability that allows her to eavesdrop on plans to launch an interstellar war. Unfortunately, her secret is out, and she is hunted across the stars by various parties determined that she not repeat what she learned. Neither of Schmitz’s heroines shrinks from a fight; and both characters could have been portrayed as males without much alteration of the plots.


The same is not true of The Witches of Karres (1966), easily Schmitz’s best novel. This time there are three teenaged girls, each of whom possesses psi talents for which they have been forced into slavery. They are subsequently rescued by a hardboiled space captain who becomes enraged by, and finally reconciled to, their impish sense of humor. The chemistry among the characters is superb, but unfortunately Schmitz never managed to achieve this level of characterization again. A recent sequel, The Wizard of Karres (2004) by Mercedes Lackey, Eric Flint, and Dave Freer, fails to measure up to the original. The Demon Breed (1968) is also set in the Hub universe, but it was more reminiscent of Andre NORTON’s otherworld adventures. Aliens invade and conquer a remote human colony, but the protagonist manages to avoid capture, escaping into the wilderness with three mutated otters. With their help, she eventually manages to signal for help.

Telzey returned for another full-length adventure in Lion Game (1973). After escaping death at the hands of a psi-talented assassin, Telzey investigates a new alien race with territorial ambitions and publicizes their plot in time to avert an interstellar war. Schmitz’s final novel was not part of the Hub universe. The Eternal Frontiers (1973) is set on another colony planet whose inhabitants have split into two hostile factions. They are forced to put aside their differences when a third party, consisting of belligerent aliens, enters the fray. Despite an interesting opening, the novel quickly bogs down into predictable melodramatic paths.

Schmitz’s short fiction has been collected and cross-collected several times. The most recent volumes, which include virtually all of his short work and some of his novels, consist of Telzey Amberdon (2000), TnT: Telzey & Trigger (2000), The Hub: Dangerous Territory (2001), Trigger & Friends (2001), Agent of Vega & Other Stories (2001), and Eternal Frontier (2002). A smaller but higher-quality sampling can be found in The Best of James H. Schmitz (1991). Among his more interesting stories are “Balanced Ecology,” in which an entire forest composes a single creature, and “The Machmen,” an unusual look at cyborgs. Schmitz was one of the most popular writers for Astounding Magazine (later Analog), and among the first science fiction writers to employ a competent female character as a series protagonist.

DON D’AMMASSA, Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, 2005

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