At least a contributing factor to the current cycle of science fiction
movies being made in Hollywood is the touchiness of minorities having
their nationals being portrayed as villains. Cinema-makers are now trying
to avoid further boycotts by using space aliens for villains. But
suppose some of our Extraterrestrial neighbors are also a bit touchy?
by ... Jacques Jean Ferrat
Pity the poor purveyor of mere entertainment in today's world.
He can't afford to offend a soul, yet must have a villain.
Twenty-five years ago Cyril
Bezdek and E. Carter Dorwin
would have met in a private railway
car belonging to one of them.
They might even have met in a
private train. At any rate they
would have met in absolute privacy.
But it being the present,
they had to be content with a
series of adjoining rooms taking
up less than one half of a car on
the Super-Sachem, fastest coast-to-coast
train in the country.
Their meeting in private was
very important. Upon its results
hinged the future of Gigantic
Studios, one of Hollywood's big
three production companies.
Dorwin was the powerful
plenipotentiary of the Consolidated
Trust Company of Manhattan
and backer of Gigantic's
He was on his way West to make
sure that the interests of his bank
were being adequately served by
Bezdek was Gigantic's supreme
production boss. Former office
boy, writer, prop man, assistant-director,
director, producer, and
story editor, he was the works—unless
Dorwin decided otherwise
during this meeting and pulled the
props out from under him. He
had thought Dorwin's trip sufficiently
important to fly to Kansas
City and get aboard the Super-Sachem
to be with the banker
during the remainder of his trip.
They had dined in the privacy
of Dorwin's suite—Bezdek as befitted
his tortured duodenum on
yogurt and Melba toast—Dorwin
on caviar, consommé, a thick
steak with full trimmings, and a
golden baked Alaska accompanied
"How do you manage to keep
thin?" Bezdek asked him, honestly
envious. "Polo, tennis? Golf
would never do it."
"I haven't exercised in ten
years," said the banker, biting off
the end of a Havana Perfecto. He
studied the little movie-maker
over the flame of his lighter. Outside,
the flat expanse of Kansas
rushed past through the night at
close to a hundred miles an hour.
"Some people are lucky," said
Bezdek, adjusting the broad knot
of his hand-painted Windsor tie.
He was remarshaling his thoughts
and ideas. It was very important
that he and Dorwin be in perfect
accord before they reached Hollywood.
The banker, who was new to
the movie-making branch of his
business, spoke first. "I presume,"
he said finally, "that you're aware
of the current feeling in our New
The movie magnate gestured
carelessly with a Saxony gun-club
sleeve, revealing a platinum
wristwatch strap. "We hear rumors
now and again," he said.
"It's about our science fiction
films." Bezdek avoided making it
a question. He was far too shrewd
The banker, finding himself
thus at a disadvantage, said amicably,
"It's not that the fantasy
series isn't making money, understand."
He paused, looking faintly
distressed. "It's just that, frankly,
we feel they're getting too far
away from reality. Trips to Mars
and Venus—strange creatures....
It's not real—it's not dignified.
Frankly, we question whether an
institution like ours can afford to
be connected with anything so—so
ephemeral. After all ..."
He paused as sounds of a
scuffle in the corridor penetrated
the room and something or somebody
was banged hard against the
door. Bezdek, frowning, jumped
up nervously and went to the
door, opened it, looked out.
"What's going on out there?"
he inquired tartly. "Ty!"
"Sorry, Mr. Bezdek," said Ty
Falter, the mogul's private secretary,
bodyguard and constant
companion. He was leaning
against the far wall of the corridor,
mopping a cut lower lip
with a bloody handkerchief. He
was a tall, deceptively sleepy-looking
young man who virtually
At the end of the corridor two
lesser aides were half-dragging a
tall figure between them. Bezdek
frowned as he caught a glimpse of
a nodding head in half profile—a
near-perfect profile which showed
no sign of a bruise.
"How did that creep get in
here?" he snapped. "That's the
same character who tried to nail
me at the K.C. airport."
"Yes, sir," said Ty Falter
apologetically. He glanced at his
skinned knuckles. "It was like
hitting a brick," he said. He shook
his head, added, "Sorry, Mr.
Bezdek. I don't know how he
got in here."
"Your job is to keep crackpots
like that away from me," said the
mogul. He turned and went back
inside the compartment. Dorwin
was still sitting as before.
"Eavesdroppers?" the banker
inquired with unruffled poise.
"Not likely," said Bezdek,
dropping into his seat. "Probably
a movie-crazy kid trying to chisel
a screen test."
The incident had brought back
his heartburn. He wanted to take
a couple of his pills but not in
front of Dorwin. The banker
might think he was cracking up.
These damned New Yorkers had
no idea of the pressure under
which he labored. He sipped a
glass of flat soda water.
"Where were we?" Dorwin said
quietly. Somehow to Bezdek he
gave the impression of remorseless
rationality. "Oh, yes, these
fantasy movies—we're a little
worried about them."
"I thought you might be," said
Bezdek, leaning forward and
using the full magnetism of his
personality. Now that the issue
was out in the open his discomfort
was eased. "Actually we don't
think of our interplanetary cycle
as fantasy, Dorwin. We think of
them as forecasts of the future,
"They're still a far cry from
reality, or even the usual escapism,"
said the banker. "Confidentially,
I happen to know that
it will be years—perhaps decades—before
we make any live contact
with the other planets. Our national
interests demand that we
prevent atomic power from superseding
older methods before investments
have realized on their
holdings to the fullest extent. And
it is upon development of atomic
power that space-flight hinges at
"Certainly I understand that—sound
business," said Bezdek with
his one-sided smile. "I hope they
wait for many years."
Dorwin looked faintly astonished.
"From these pictures of
yours I must confess I had derived
a totally different impression of
your theories," he said slowly,
flicking two inches of pale grey
ash into the silver tray at his
"Listen to me," said the movie-maker,
again leaning toward his
vis-à-vis. "We're making these
pictures now because when the
first man or men come back from
other planets our science fiction
cycle is finished. It will cease to
be escape. We will then be faced
with the reality of what they really
find—and that's bound to be a
great deal different from the sort
of thing we're feeding them now."
"It's a point I hadn't considered,"
said the banker, reaching
for the brandy. He nodded to
himself as he poured it, then
looked up at Bezdek and asked,
"But why this—space opera is the
colloquial term, I believe? Why
not stick closer to real life?"
Bezdek sat back and the slanting
smile creased his features
again. "Minorities," he said.
"That's why. Crackpot minorities
object loudly at being portrayed
in films they don't like. We don't
want to tread on anybody's toes—there's
trouble enough in the
world as it is. People want villains.
But unless we make our
villains—even minor villains—people
from nowhere we get boycotted
somewhere by somebody.
And that costs us money."
"Yes, of course," said the
banker, "but I fail to see—"
"It's simple." Bezdek was in
full cry now and interrupted
openly. "People like conflict in
their movies. If it's a Western
they want their heroes to fight
Indians or Mexicans or rustlers.
The Indians and Mexicans object
to being the villains and they've
got big sympathetic followings.
Okay, so we use rustlers or renegade
white men and we still make
Westerns—but not many. No plot
He sipped more soda water.
"It's the same with everything else.
Unless we're in a war with a
legitimate enemy to hate we can't
use villains. It's almost enough to
make a man wish—"
"Not with the H-bomb, Bezdek,"
said Dorwin frigidly.
"Of course not—I was only
speaking figuratively," said the
movie-maker hastily. "I'm as
much against war as anyone. But
that's what makes these interplanetary
movies great stuff. We
can run in all the villains we want—make
them just as bad as we
want. Audiences really like to
have someone they can hate."
"I see," said Dorwin. He permitted
himself to look faintly
pleased. "After all, a Martian can
hardly protest what we do with
him. I see your point now."
"You've got it," said Bezdek,
beaming now. He leaned forward
and added, "Furthermore, we've
got four new pictures in the works
for the space cycle that are really
He broke off, interrupted by a
knock at the door. He stared at
the banker, seeking someone to
share his annoyance, found Dorwin
staring out the window,
"The train seems to have
stopped," said the banker.
Bezdek turned to the window.
It was true. The night was
clouded and dark but he could
make out a single tree in faint
silhouette and it was not moving.
The knock on the stateroom door
"I'd better see who it is," said
Bezdek, rising. "Maybe something
He opened the door quickly—all
but fell back into his seat. The
tall young man with the too-perfect
features—the man who
had tried in vain to speak to him
at the Kansas City airport, who
had been forcibly evicted earlier
from the car—stood there!
The young man smiled and it
was much too cold to be ingratiating
if that was its intent. He said,
looking down on both men, "I
think you will wish to talk to me
The sheer effrontery of it
rendered Cyril Bezdek speechless
for the first time in years. Looking
past the intruder through the
angle of the open door he could
see Ty Falter sitting on the corridor
floor, leaning against the
wall. His eyes were closed, his
head canted at an odd angle.
It was Dorwin who first found
words. "Who are you?" he inquired.
"What do you want?"
"I am from Mars," said the
stranger. "I have come here to
enter a protest against the manner
in which Mr. Bezdek's motion
pictures are portraying my
The movie-maker's mouth
dropped open. He closed it
quickly, glanced across at the
banker, saw equal bewilderment
on that usually poker-face. On
impulse, Bezdek reached for the
buzzer that would summon aid
and pressed it firmly several
"No one will answer," said the
intruder in a voice remarkable
not for its accent but for its lack
of any. "We have been forced to—to
immobilize this train in order
to see you. It has been very difficult
to reach you, Mr. Bezdek,
I am sure through no fault of
your own. But the people of my
planet feel very strongly about
this matter and I must get some
satisfaction for them."
"So help me," said the mogul,
his thin face purple with anger,
"if this is a gag I'll see you jailed
for it! And before you're jailed
you're going to have a very unpleas—"
"No, Mr. Bezdek—Mr. Dorwin—this
is not a joke. We of Mars
are proud of our culture, our
civilization. We do not like being
portrayed as evil and ridiculous
creatures. We're not like those
filthy Venerians. We Martians
have a great self-respect."
"Ostrich feathers!" Bezdek
roared at the dead-panned intruder.
"You may not be aware
of it but there are severe penalties
for holding up a train on this—in
this country. You can't go
around slugging people either.
Look at Ty out there."
"Your servant will be all right,"
said the intruder, "as will the
others aboard this train. I can
release them whenever you agree
that my mission is to be taken
"All right," said Bezdek, whose
mind was nothing if not acrobatic.
"Suppose you are from Mars.
Tell me why your people object
to our movies. Surely they aren't
seeing them on Mars?"
"No. But your Earthmen will
reach our planet soon and your
opinion of us will be shaped in
some degree by these movies they
have seen. And since the relationships
of the near-future are
of vital import to us now we must
not be represented as other than
we are. Such misconceptions
could breed interplanetary war."
"I think you're crazy!" said
Bezdek. He turned to the banker,
who was again staring out the
"There's something out there—look,"
"That is our ship," the intruder
told them blandly. "That is why
we stopped the train here. It is
the only flat area sufficiently unsettled
for our landing and departure
without detection. We
must return at once or lose
"Let me see," said Bezdek. He
peered through the window. There
was something out there—something
black and vague and shaped
like an immense turtle with jagged
projections. He tried to tell himself
he was seeing things, failed.
"Amazing!" said E. Carter Dorwin.
"It's utterly amazing!"
"Incredible is the word for it,"
Bezdek said wearily. He faced
the intruder, said bluntly, "Very
well, you say you're from Mars.
And I say to your face that you
"You seem remarkably sure,
"And why not?" The movie-maker
was in his element now,
delivering the clincher in an argument.
"Our scientists have proved
conclusively that Earthmen cannot
exist on Mars without space-suits.
You say you're a Martian.
Yet you look like one of us. So
if you can live on Mars, how can
you live in our atmosphere without
a space-suit of some sort?
There's one for you to answer!"
"But I am wearing protection—a
protective suit arranged to
give the impression that I am an
Earthman." A flicker of something
akin to distaste passed over
his singularly immobile face.
"I'd like to see what you do
look like," said Dorwin, suddenly
entering into the eerie conversation.
Something like a sigh escaped
the intruder. Then he said, "Very
well. It is important that you believe
me, so—" His hands went
to the top of his scalp and deliberately
he peeled the life-like
mask slowly from the hidden
features of his thoroughly Martian
It was a very odd face—not at
all human. It reminded Bezdek
a little of an immutably sad Bassett Hound
he kept in his Hollywood
kennel. It made Dorwin
think of his mother-in-law. It
was not a frightening face and
the single eye in the center of
the forehead held them with its
mournful regard, held them, held
When they were thoroughly
under its hypnotic spell the Martian
began to speak softly ...
Ty Falter was slow in waking
up. But when he realized that he
was lying there in the corridor he
came to with a start. If Bezdek
ever found out about this he'd be
cooked as far as Hollywood went!
He got to his feet, his unsteadiness
helped not at all by the fact
that the train chose that moment
to start with a jerk. He grabbed
at the wall as a meteor flashed
through the dark of the Kansas
night outside the window.
Funny, he thought, the damned
thing was going up, not down.
But he forgot about the meteor
as he heard the voices coming
from the stateroom he was being
paid to guard. He reeled over to
the partly opened door and
Bezdek was talking volubly,
enthusiastically as he did when he
spoke of the actual making of a
picture. "... so we'll only have
to reshoot a few sequences, Dorwin.
The cost will be nothing compared
to the returns. Think of it!
Our space-pilot hero crashes on
Venus. He has to fight horrible
slimy swamp creatures—we can
make them look like crocodiles
with six or eight legs—to reach
the mountaintop where the girl is
He paused and Dorwin said
gravely, "I'm glad, since these
space operas seem to be necessary,
that you have decided to locate
them on a real planet like Venus
rather than a fictitious one like
Mars. If minority pressure groups
force us to use fantasy then it is
as well to stay as credible as possible."
"Right, Dorwin! Right on the
nose!" cried Bezdek. "And we
can make real villains out of these
Venerians, real bang-up nasty
The banker's voice came
through the door again. He said
doubtfully, "But how can we be
sure about the Venerians ..."
"Because I can feel it here!"
cried the movie-maker. The
thump that accompanied his final
word told Ty that his boss had
smote himself dramatically over
the heart as he delivered the
This etext was produced from Fantastic Universe May 1954.
Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S.
copyright on this publication was renewed. Minor spelling and
typographical errors have been corrected without note.