放射性球Review by Mike Glyer:Marty Cantor greatly admires Dave Langford’s satirical novel,The Leaky Establishment. It’s a story spun from Dave’s experiences working at a British nuclear research establishment in the 1970s, although his fictionalized coworkers are so comically exaggerated and the things they do are so improbable that only their lawyers will recognize them.

Marty bought a remaindered copy from Dave in 1987 at the Brighton Worldcon and enjoyed the story so much he wanted to help it gain a wider fannish readership. But Marty didn’t want that so desperately that he immediately started publishingNo Awardand wrote the review himself. No, Marty’s a patient man, willing to wait, like those Tralfamadorians who started the human race in order to get a spare part to fix their spaceship. First, Marty waited ten years to startNo Award. Then he assigned me to write the review. And I made sure he waited a lot more.

我承认的原因是,我很羡慕。每次我坐下来在键盘上我会问自己,“毕竟,是大卫在那里写了一篇文章长度的治疗我的pro sale?” And I’d work instead on something I found little less emotionally-charged, like another editorial about TAFF, or an obituary.


* * *

Dave’s novel,The Leaky Establishment, is a locked-room mystery in reverse. His character, Roy Tappen, borrows a filing cabinet from work to use at home and unknowingly also takes home a plutonium warhead. He spends the rest of the book trying to infiltrate the warhead back where it belongs without Security or his boss discovering it ever left the facility. The problem assumes such epic proportions that everyone becomes entangled, even the Queen.

It begins innocently. “‘Hi, Roy,’ said young Llewellyn, making yo-yo motions with the string bag dangling from one hand. Inside was a dull metal sphere, not as big as a football.” Roy’s not bothered when Llewellyn leaves this 200-kiloton maguffin in his wastebasket as he dashes to the loo: “When dull metal spheres not as big as footballs were forever passing across one’s desk, in and out of labs, or being stowed under canteen tables during lunch, it was difficult to take them as seriously as some would prefer.”

科学家对钚的目的随便冷漠的一瞥这种震荡我们在一个幽默的方式。它违背了我们所知道的核安全的一切 - 假设一样,是大多数球迷真的,我们都知道科学是来自海因莱因的故事。谁也不会忘记约翰Dahlquist的以斯拉从长期看回家的铅棺材的形象呢?或者Rhysling,取得了spaceways的盲诗人,同时在飞船应急倾销核燃料?

For example, we know from Heinlein’s “The Long Watch” that the fissionable material used in bombs is housed inside a casing made from a type of metal able to contain the most dangerous particles. The flow of neutrons that does pass through is theoretically only dangerous after prolonged exposure, which technicians avoid by monitoring a telltale strip of film worn on their wrist.

Well, if your knowledge of nuclear weapons hasn’t progressed past whatever Manhattan Project research was declassified by the Truman administration you’re likely to come away fromThe Leaky Establishment忿忿不平不相信戴夫兰福德能逗约像钚中毒严重的健康风险。幸运的是,我们得到窃听作为主角罗伊塔彭解释学对他的怀疑妻子:

Tappen took the wheel and delivered a short, husbandly lecture on nuclear nasties as he drove: how the hollow plutonium core was safe as houses… and how the aluminium jacket kept the naughty parts as securely locked away as a nun’s, the whole thing unable to do anything antisocial unless one inadvertently surrounded it with plastic explosive to collapse it and make it go, er, supercritical…

等待 - 铝护套?他们包裹钚金“的长时间观看。”诚然,兰福德的序言提醒我们他是故意模糊的技术,我们都知道,海军上将海因莱因,在冷战的高度,写作不会有什么blabbed重要。也许他们都fibbed有关的金属外壳。我们都知道的弹头蘸巧克力。

Once the serious scientific premise is established — that Tappen’s warhead is no more dangerous than a lot of household items — Langford is free to treat the plutonium core like any of the other humorous icons whose appearance at the right moment in the story is good for a chuckle.

The scientists also seem harmless, preoccupied by everything but research. Joseph Nicholas may very well curse Langford’s satire for dealing a cruel blow to world disarmament by convincing the readers that the nuke establishment is hopelessly incompetent and in no danger of enabling Britain to wage nuclear war. Yet Langford’s inept scientists still shine like geniuses alongside anyone else: the characters from other professions are even sillier.

For example, Tuckerized journalist Steve Green makes the mistake of publishing the story he gets from Tappen and a coworker at the local pub in return for a round of drinks. Tappen and Llewellyn down their pints and send him on his way with this perjury:


塔彭就可以品尝到优势的几个这样的时刻。大多数的他更像是伍斯特没有占道时间救他,The Leaky Establishment原来的核研究中心为笑的金矿。笑话是建立和灵巧的兰福德风格触发,和,而不是像Ansible, the pace runs a joke per paragraph. There is a risk of squandering the effect unless you force yourself to set the book down after a chapter. If you wouldn’t devour aFar SideorDilbertcollection in one sitting, neither will you want to speed-read this novel.

Tappen is constantly revising his schemes for smuggling the warhead back into the research center, and a parade of distractions keeps him from accomplishing any of them. Security and clerical staffers interrupt him daily to account for equipment, documents and supplies. They disapprove of his laxness and offer stern advice, such as, “[That] bond paper with theConfidentialheading should be treated as confidential and kept securely locked away even though it hadn’t yet been written on.”

该建议时存放空白纸张只是说“机密”值得塔彭的蔑视。当然,还有我的奶奶给了我一些空白纸在美国特拉华州1964年我们暑假期间绘制​​的时间 - 至少,它是空白的一面:陆军部的标志被印在其它。(它曾属于我已故的叔叔,在二战期间一位土木工程师。)我高兴地使出了一台打字机,开始将目光转向了正式信函,通知我的阿姨,叔叔和表兄弟在美国特拉华州,他们的草坪即将被挖去,让通道的战舰爱荷华州费城海军船厂,或成为射击范围。我的祖母抬头我想要的地址和邮寄信件给我。我的大部分亲戚都太精明应采取的,认识到陆军部已改名为国防部,当艾森豪威尔总统,都没有受到近期任何时候,即使在当时。

The Leaky Establishment投资与愉快的特点s found in Dave’s humorous fanwriting. He has the same flair for lucid prose found in a lot of UK writers, from Bob Shaw to C.S. Lewis; maybe it’s the educational system. As a stylist, Dave ruthlessly trims away scaffolding words. (That leaves more for me, and I’ve tried to use them all in this article.) As a humorist, he engages in lots of sophisticated wordplay, and moves freely between the high-brow and low-brow.

At one point his description of “guard dogs of amazing ferocity and incontinence” fashions a parallel structure from two high-sounding but incompatible words, while providing something for the groundlings. Actually, there’s surprisingly much for the groundlings in this book. Excreta, bad smells, farting, drunkenness are oft-revisited sources of humor. It’s a little odd to find him, shall we say, applying a variety of off-colors not usually found on theAnsiblepalette.

Should we worry how closely the Tappen character resembles the author? No. We know better than to become snared in the naive, fannish trap of automatically identifying the creator with his protagonist. For one thing, we can clearly tell Dave apart from his protagonist based on this early description of Roy Tappen’s lab security pass, “…with a photo labeled R TAPPEN, SSO, but in fact showing an unshaven homicidal maniac with a crippling hangover and at least one glass eye, photographed after forty-eight hours of strenuous axe-murdering.”

Dave also assures us in an Author’s Note —

There is of course barely a grain of truth in this book. All the characters are quite fictitious, as are the Civil Service eccentricities and peccancies inserted for the sake of the plot… I state the obvious because it’s been suggested to me that my fantasy research establishment could be taken as a portrait of the real one where I chased neutrons in my carefree youth. Perish the thought.

和我说了一个眼色一样好,因为点头盲人。我们可以依赖的是The Leaky Establishmentcontains no autobiographical bits. We should not be disturbed that Marty’s copy of the book is autographed, “Best wishes from the seaside at Chernobyl. Wish you were here.” It’s purely coincidental how faithful Dave’s completely made-up situations are to what we at the IRS laughingly refer to as our real lives.

关于电视喜剧一位评论员说,幽默的两个主要来源流向:笑话,思想和图像的有趣的配角戏,和性格,人的行为和互动的探索。这条公理后我读完浮现在脑海The Leaky Establishmentand was trying to understand why I was able to read the last several chapters in one sitting and found them equally funny as the rest of the book which I’d read a chapter at a time.

The first 80% ofThe Leaky Establishmentfocuses on jokes. The last 20% is driven by character development. The early text is dense with clever wordplay, and the main plotline advances slowly as Dave digresses into a number of situations that can be mined for more humor. This early narrative is warped by the extra gravity required to force the story to set up punchlines.

The last few chapters pick up the narrative pace. And as the story winds up, Dave widens his focus and gives us a really good look at someone besides his point-of-view character, Tappen. Dr. Roger Pell finally gets to breathe and wave his arms onstage as a character who matters. Until then, he’s simply identified as a source of eccentric, jerry-rigged household gadgets. He ultimately turns into the book’s most developed and lifelike character, a warped Dickensian type of scientist who towers over the landscape of other satirical caricatures.

Neither Tappen nor Pell have the personality we expect in scientists. What kind of personality is that? The answer is in yet another Heinlein short story, “It’s Great to Be Back!”, about a husband and wife who couldn’t wait to get off the Moon discover they can’t wait to move back. One of the things they realize is that Loonies are so much更好。Why? Father Heinlein prods, “You know the answer: Intelligence. It costs a lot to send a man to the Moon and more to keep him there. To pay off, he has to be worth a lot. High I.Q., good compatibility index, superior education — everything that makes a person pleasant and easy and interesting to be around.”


Instead, Dave’s portrayals of his old co-workers atThe Leaky Establishment警告我们不要相信海因莱因有关科学家的和蔼可亲的个性。他们都赚不到的物理学家海因莱因知道了的那种。如果有的话,这是一个有利于社会,今天的技术官僚(谁是简单地在原有意义上的疯子)的执笔一起预约 - 在工作时间最少。

1 thought on “发光在这黑暗的喜剧

  1. I found this site when I googled Jim Goldfrank (message there). Then I started to read on…great site even though I’m not a fan, well not that well read in science fiction. I do enjoy a good book though,so I will just have to get this one if I can. Great review.

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