An especially heavy work schedule these past few months has limited my writing time and caused me to exhaust my “backstock” of essays for The Trap of Solid Gold. Things may be a bit sporadic here for the next couple of months as I try and meet my own personal deadline of a weekly Monday morning posting. In the meantime, I offer this brief “discovery.”
I’m currently going through the McGee canon for the umpteenth time, and for the first time in this most enjoyable of endeavors, I’m not reading the books one after the other, but reading other things between the novels. I always enjoy all of the McGee titles, but mixing them up with other works by other authors seems to make each subsequent McGee fresher and more original. As many times as I’ve gone through the titles from Blue to Silver in one gulp, I doubt if I’ll ever tackle the works that way again.
Anyway… I’m currently rereading A Deadly Shade of Gold and came upon a passage which was made a lot more interesting to me after reading and writing about a short story published years earlier.
As I drove back to Bahia Mar I wanted to hold fast to all the small speculations about her, the forlorn erotic fancies, because I knew that as she slipped out of my mind, Sam Taggart would take her place.
And he did, before I was home. I found a slot and then I shoved my hands into my pockets and walked across to the public beach. I walked slowly where the outgoing tide had left the sand damp and hard. The sea and the night sky can make death a small thing. Waves can wash away the most stubborn stains, and the stars do not care one way or the other.
It was a cheap and dirty little death, a dingy way to die. When dawn came, there would be a hundred thousand more souls alive in the world than on the previous day, three quarters of a million more every week. This is the virus theory of mankind. The pretentious virus, never knowing that it is a disease.
Imagine the great ship from a far galaxy which inspects a thousand green planets and then comes to ours and, from on high, looks down at all the scabs, the buzzings, the electronic jabberings, the poisoned air and water, the fetid night glow. A little cave-dwelling virus mutated, slew the things which balanced the ecology, and turned the fair planet sick. An overnight disease, racing and explosive compared with geological time. I think they would be concerned. They would be glad to have caught it in time. By the time of their next inspection, a hundred thousand years hence, this scabrous growth might have infected this whole region of an unimportant galaxy. They would push the button. Too bad. This happens every once in a while. Make a note to re-seed it the next time around, after it has cooled down.
Lofty McGee, shoulders hunched against the cold of the small hours, trying to diminish
the impact of the death of a friend.
This is a remarkably similar thought behind a short story Travis must have read when he was in college, titled “Virus H,” published in the June 1955 issue of Bluebook, and written by a guy named John D MacDonald.