James Nicoll Reviews

Home > Reviews > Post

Lost Voices 12: And Having Writ… by Donald R. Bensen

And Having Writ…

By Donald R. Bensen 

2 May, 2000

Lost Voices


Support me with a Patreon monthly subscription!

And Having Writ…

Donald R. Bensen

Ace [1978]

250 pages

Synopsis: Four interstellar explorers crash land on Earth. In our timeline, their craft exploded over Tunguska, Russia. In AHW, one of the crew members uses a device which creates a universe in which the crew don’t die and they survive with only minor philosophical damage to Valmis, the crewman responsible.

Making their way to shore in the USA of the early 20th century, they soon overcome the language difficulties and present themselves falsely as representative of a non-existent Galactic Empire. Sadly, they soon realise that the natives of Earth do not have the ability to repair their ship. On a happier note, Valmis realises that a great general war will soon break out, increasing the rate of improvement of knowledge on Earth. To speed the process, they escape the custody President Edison has placed them in [Edison’ election being the first obvious symptom of the divergence from our history] and undertake a whirlwind tour of Europe, hoping to persuade the crowned heads of Europe to start WWI as soon as possible. Knowing that monarchs are trained from birth to rule, they expect that logic will sway King Edward VII of England, Kaiser Wilhelm and Czar Nicholas of Russia.

Despite their logic and the various favours they do the rulers [curing Edward’s heart condition, fixing Wilhelm’s arm and curing the Czar’s son’s leukemia], the expected war never breaks out. Disappointed, the alien astronauts put themselves into stasis to await the no-doubt centuries distant day when Earth will be able to repair the ship.

They are quite surprised to be awoken in 1933. Earth’s progress has been much faster than they expected and their ship has been repaired. It’s explained to them their description of the probable horror of WWI caused the Great Powers to act to forestall it and the existence of the abilities of the alien technology was enough to inspire humans to duplicate those abilities from scratch. The aliens are happy to leave, the humans even more happy to see them go and the four return home, with Valmis sadly wondering how advanced the humans might have been had the aliens not accidentally prevented WWI.

This was mildly entertaining light fluff. The plot depends in large part on the aliens having less collective intelligence out- side their particular technological fields than Bertie Wooster. It also depends on certain classic SF clichés: unification in the face of aliens [as very few cultures confronted with Europeans after the 1400s managed to do but one example], the deduction of the optimum pathways to alien super-high tech and so on. The book never stoops to actual plausibility but is entertaining and short.

Donald R. Bensen has actually at least a dozen books to his credit but most of them were under pseudonyms. He also edited the Quasar line for Dial back in the 1970s. Poking around Amazon [Clute was bugger-all useful for Bensen’s career post-“Writ”], I note a D.R. Bensen appears as the editor of a P.G. Wodehouse collection. I hope this is the same D.R. Bensen as I liked his editorial choices for Dial Press. Certainly, given the characters in _And Having Writ…_, it is entirely plausible that Bensen would be a Wodehouse fan or at least familiar with his work. 

Next: Nightwatch , Andrew M. Stephenson