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Space Girl

The Trouble with You Earth People

By Katherine MacLean 

8 Sep, 2019

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You


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Katherine MacLean’s 1980 The Trouble with You Earth People is a collection of SF stories. This Starblaze Graphics edition featured interior illustrations by Frank Kelly Freas. 

The Trouble with You Earth People • (1968) • novelette

A pair of visiting aliens wrestle with the tricky problem of first contact with humans. Fortunately they have human television to guide them. 


Alas, not only is this story not very good but it’s also far too long. It might have been funnier had it been much much shorter. I would have been willing to bet money this was a late-Campbell Analog piece but nope, it was sold to Harrison’s Amazing Stories.

Unhuman Sacrifice • (1958) • novelette

A well-meaning human religious fanatic decides to force his help on a native, with tragic results. 


Huh. When I read this in Rediscovery, I had no memory of ever having read it before. 

The Gambling Hell and the Sinful Girl” • (1975) • short story

A single mother raising her kids in the Asteroid Belt reluctantly allows her oldest son to work in a space complex that the religious woman sees as a den of sin. She is aghast when her son returns with a scantily clad dancing girl in tow. But it’s the people determined to drag the girl back to the strip club who get the mother’s full ire. 


You can tell this is science fiction because the pious mother immediately reconsiders her uncharitable reaction to the dancing girl when her son points out how unchristian the mother is being. She doesn’t double down on her condemnation, which, I am afraid, would be more likely. 

This is a pretty light-hearted story given that it’s about sex trafficking. Helps that It’s told by a tween who does not quite understand what’s going on. 

Syndrome Johnny” • (1951) • short story

A recurring series of deadly plagues reduces the human population by two thirds, defusing the population bomb while forging the survivors into something better. It turns out that the mastermind behind the plagues isn’t finished with his grand scheme. 


Murdering a fuckton of people to improve the breed is a pretty common trope in SF. MacLean’s twist is to tell the story from the perspective of one of the unfit slated for removal in the name of a better humanity. It turns out people don’t particularly care to be the victims of genocide. 

Trouble with Treaties • (1959) • novelette by Tom Condit and Katherine MacLean

The crew of a human ship struggle to bluff their way past an alien warship determined to add humanity to the alien empire. The humans have two assets: telepathy and the ability to lie through their teeth. 


Huh. I wonder if Niven had this in the back of his mind when he wrote 1966’s The Warriors”? But MacLean and Condit’s tale itself has more than a little resemblance to Garrett’s 1957 The Best Policy”… 

The Origin of the Species” • (1953) • short story

Faced with the next step in human evolution, a doctor makes a terrible choice. 


MacLean’s protagonists are oddly resistant to being replaced by possible superhumans. 

Collision Orbit” • (1954) • short story

Hardened space criminals decide that a harmless-seeming space merchant’s astro-store is the perfect place to hide out until the authorities stop looking for them. The criminals learn valuable lessons about the social dynamics of the asteroid belt. 

The Fittest” • (1951) • short story

A do-gooder visits Venus to make sure no native lifeforms exist to be wiped out by a proposed Terraforming project. He finds nothing he cares to report. 


Huh. Years before Mariner updated our knowledge of Venus, MacLean set her story on a Venus that is a hot world with a CO2 atmosphere. This was also published years before Carl Sagan made an optimistic proposal to terraform Venus, 

Doctor Crofts believed that microorganisms and plants alone had changed Earth, and he was ready to prove his belief by sending a missile to Venus and spraying it with a collection of molds and slimes and lichens specially bred to the old conditions. If his test worked, then some day, when space liners were available for inexpensive migration to Venus, that dry poisonous place would be green and moist with plants, and the air sweet and fit to breathe.

These Truths” • (1958) • short story

Human envoys manipulate alien cultures to set them on the path to democracy. 

Contagion” • (1950) • novelette

Would-be colonists struggle with plague on an alien world. There’s a previous wave of colonists to help them adapt. 

Brain Wipe” • (1973) • short story

The State is unable or unwilling to care about an abused boy. However, when he acts out, they’re prompt to bring him to heel. 


You know those stories where a protagonist is abused throughout the entire story, but it all pays off at the end when he somehow defeats his abusers? This is not one of those stories. 

The Missing Man • [Rescue Squad] • (1971) • novella

A dim but empathically talented man searches for a bright, troubled technician. The technician knows enough to be an active threat to the peoples of New York. 


This was the basis for the novel of the same name, reviewed here.

The Carnivore” • (1953) • short story

The aliens could have saved humanity from itself, but horrified by human nature, they hesitated until after nuclear war left all but a handful of humans dead. The aliens, relenting, retrieved the remnants from certain death. There was, however, a catch. 


And this would be the flip side of the recurring idea that humans would of course exterminate anything that might be a threat: so will other species. 

General comments

MacLean gives characters the surname St. Clair a number of times in this collection. I wonder if that was a reference to Margaret St. Clair, AKA Idris Seabright? 

Although a number of the stories included in this collection date from the 1960s and 1970s, they have a very 1950s sensibility about them. It’s rather disturbing that so many of these stories feature humans committing murder or worse out of fear they might be doomed by the rise of a superior species. This may be MacLean’s reaction to all those old-time SF stories in which average joes are consigned to mass graves so the truly superior can take their place. Turns out Homo Superior is oddly vulnerable to a brick to the head. 

On the whole, not as diverting as The Diploids. Pity.

The Trouble With You Earth People is available from Amazon, Amazon.ca, and Chapters-Indigo.