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October/November 2009
 
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Curiosities

The Troglodytes, by Nal Rafcam (1961)

WAS HIS real name Macfarlane? His sole sf venture introduces midget aliens lurking under Antarctica, who cause global mayhem before they accidentally self-destruct. Routine hackwork, mainly—but as the story grinds on, its increasing density of malapropisms betrays an obsessive stalker of the wild Thesaurus.

Puissance, dichotomy, etiolation, percussory, avulsion, fatidical, detrusion, nigritude, pendulate, terrigenous, abditory, insolation, fulgurating…words sometimes used almost correctly. People "transcend" down into holes, are rendered "effete" by explosive shock, and get stupefied by will-power "more omnipotent than their own." Dense rock is "hard as carbon." The sensitively named character Kurt Semen is jailed for "inciting unnecessary pathos." Another perishes: "Death had supined."

Here's the first, devastating troglodyte attack: "Everything was cinerated. Every living person was killed the moment the deadly emissions from the tribe's machinery pierced through the camp's superficial structure. So instantaneous and final were these lethal rays that the destructive act was over in but a few minutes."

Their skyscraper-toppling weapon is more humane. "The atomic structural reaction of this shower of concentrated rays was harmful only to materials. Hence, persons working in and about the buildings were unaffected."

Further golden phrases: "Many answers he gave were tautologous as he and his colleagues had had to guess at them." Those alien "minnows" must "wear camouflage against the strong daylight." Even with the menace over, "The period of strife and universal privation was malingering."

The Troglodytes is regrettably popular at British convention turkey-readings. It seems unlikely that the original Digit Books paperback—"Dwarf-like Killers from a By-gone Era!"—will ever be reprinted.

—David Langford

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