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Language-Master of Space!

Second in a series of, oh, four posts, I suppose, about the excellent comic book From Beyond the Unknown #23. The first concerned the “Secret of the Man-Ape!” This post, as you have no doubt deduced from its title, concerns the “Language-Master of Space!” Story by Gardner Fox, art by Sid Greene. I know the mystery of the literatus gorilla has been the primary topic of interest w/r/t From Beyond the Unknown, but stick around for more sf comics craziness of yesteryear!

Gideon Karr had mastered a hundred different planet-languages—but he wouldn’t be satisfied till he had increased that number ten times as much! Then one day on the planet Klyara he was forced to do some “straight talking” with the strangest weapon in the galaxy—to save his own life!

“The name is Gideon Karr, folks—star wanderer, planetary adventurer, and master linguist! A man with an itch to roam the spaceways—ready to tell my story in any of a hundred languages, if you “savvy” them…

“Maybe you’ve never stopped to realize how many different ways intelligent beings communicate with one another! For instance, on Gran they use radiant light beams—on Proganus, they vibrate their four antennae…

“The Sporrans of Arcturus-4 talk with colored bubbles of vocal energy…

“On Dellagro, the four-armed natives use a sign language…

“The green beings of Slistilyssa communicate by making clicking sounds with their long fingernails…” [In the panel, a smooth green ladies man clicks away, as an editor’s note helpfully translates: “How about a date tonight, honey?”]

Gideon Karr, Peripatetic Space Linguist, finds his “fiddlefoot” itching again, which he takes to mean that it’s time for him to continue his endless wandering in quest of learning 1,000 languages (Gideon is nothing if not ambitious). As he heads for the spaceport, however, he’s caught in the crossfire as two Sfarrans and a Callistan battle it out with blast-guns! Gideon, a lifelong advocate of the underdog, leaps into the fray and soundly trounces the Sfarrans—too late to save the life of the Callistan! Nevertheless, the friendly Callistan offers Gideon a reward of information: the location of some fire gems! Fire gems, “a legend in the stars! Fantastically beautiful, they are absolutely priceless! The only fire gem ever known to exist had been destroyed in the catastrophe which destroyed Solonar…” But there’s a whole stash of them in the Lake of White Water on the planet Klyara. If Gideon can get his paws on a fire gem, he’ll never have to work again—he’ll have the rest of his life free to study study study those languages! Now he knows just how he can scratch his “fiddlefoot.”

Arriving on Klyara, Gideon finds it inhabited entirely by life-like statues. A normal man would certainly, upon such a discovery, say, “Why is this planet covered with cities inhabited by statues? That’s really weird.” But Gideon is a man of singular purpose! He cares about only two things in the universe:

  1. languages and
  2. fire gems.

Gideon dives to the bottom of the Lake of White Water and finds a fire gem inside a mollusk (just as pearls are found inside oysters on Earth, Gideon educationally points out). After cutting and polishing the gem on his spaceship (he’s also an amateur jeweler!), he strolls over the library to read about Klyara’s language. (Why does a city of inanimate statues have a library stocked with books? Who’s supposed to read them? Gideon has no time for such insignificant questions!) He sees another spaceship land, and it soons comes to light that Klyara is under invasion! The Klyarans are not inanimate statues, but living people slowed almost to the point of absolute stillness by a delayogas bomb released by the invading Skrann aliens (that’s “delay-o-gas,” by the way, it took me several seconds to figure out how to parse that word). At first Gideon, unarmed and unable to make use of the Klyaran’s sophisticated arsenal (which seems rather insecure, or maybe Gideon is also a master of infiltration), decides that discretion is the better part of valor. He changes his mind, though, after a bolt of energy zaps from the fire gem (which he made into a ring) and melts his spaceship.

“Hardly believing my eyes, I tested the ring again! In some mysterious manner the fire gem had transformed the noonday sunlight into a deadly disintigrating ray…

“For ages, man has made light from electricity! The fire gem—like a photo-electric cell—reverses the process, turning light into electricity! Actually, the fire gem turns light into a discharge of raw, destructive fury!”

Got it? It’s the opposite of a light bulb!

Gideon boldy threatens to melt the Skranns’ spaceship, but then the sun goes down and the ring stops working! He waits till next sunrise, melts the spaceship, and then the Skranns apparently stand around discussing the possible ramifications on their invasion plan of having their spaceship melted, and they take so long deciding what to do about this that the sun goes down again. (Gideon, courteous to the end, kindly doesn’t take the opportunity to just get on with it and melt the Skranns.) Luckily for Gideon, they decide to surrender. After the effect of the delayogas wears off, the Klyarans are happy to reward Gideon by teaching him their ear-wiggling language. Seriously, Klyarans have mouths and everything (maybe they don’t have vocal cords?), but they communicate by wiggling their huge donkey-like ears.

You’ll note that the “master linguist of space” concept exists mostly to give Gideon a motivation and to set up the “straight talking” joke on the opening splash page of the story. Too bad! Just imagine the possibilities of linguistics-centered pulp sf… “Gideon Karr and the Language Virus from Space!”


  1. Bruce Baugh says:

    Wow. :)

    — 31 March 2004 at 5:59 am (Permalink)

  2. Rose says:

    Hmmm, so was it the real Arcturus, do you think?

    And several seconds to understand “delayogas?” You aren’t going to be a Language-Master of Space anytime soon, I fear. Comprehension time costs lives!

    I can’t wait to read this!

    — 31 March 2004 at 12:05 pm (Permalink)