Tuesday, February 7, 2012

recent read; Robots Have No Tails

Robots Have No Tails by Henry Kuttner

These stories were fun.  A breezy blend of whimsy and The Twilight Zone.  (I have to believe Rod Serling read one or two of these.)  This book collects the five tales of Gallegher, the drunken inventor whose brilliant work is created when he is blotto.  The sober, hungover Gallegher is formulaically stuck with problems, a hangover, creditors and mysteries left by his alcoholic alter ego.

The book opens with a foreword from F. Paul Wilson reminding us to leave our political correctness at the door.  Not that there is anything racist or sexist, but the character of Gallegher is a drunk and his drinking problem is played for laughs. These stories were possibly influenced by the Nick & Nora Charles Thin Man movies, where the main characters - while not outright drunks - were hardly ever seen without a drink in hand.

Kuttner was a wildly prolific pulp writer.  He adopted many pen-names.  He also co-wrote many stories with his wife, the author C. L. Moore.  A re-run forward from Moore explains that she believed the Gallegher stories were pure Kuttner.  She didn't recognize any line as one she had written.

"Time Locker" - Gallegher creates a strange locker that uses time as a means of condensed storage.  Bonus quote, "Bigger on the inside than the outside." (for all you Doctor Who TARDIS fans.)  A very ironic Twilight Zone style ending on this one.

"The World is Mine" - Gallegher must reason out why his own (future) corpse keeps popping up in his backyard, while keeping three Martians from conquering the world.  Another Twilight Zone ending.

"The Proud Robot" - This was my favorite.  Gallegher must, as usual, figure what he promised to deliver while he is constantly heckled and perturbed by Joe, the narcissistic robot he also created in a drunken madness.  The nature of Joe's reason for creation made me chuckle aloud.  No irony - just downright funny.

"Gallegher Plus" - Everyone wants a piece of Gallegher - and/or their money back - while he tries to figure out what his latest machine does - besides dig dirt.

"Ex Machina" - Gallegher awakens to find two people missing and a strange creature moving around his lab.  The brown "animal" is quicker than the eye, and consumes Gallegher's liquor before it can reach his mouth.  Even if Gallegher wanted to get drunk to solve his current problem, he can't.

These stories are a fun, quick read.  If you like "old-fashioned" scifi (not space opera, not hard scifi, just goofy inventors and robots) with a good dose of humor, these are worth reading.


  1. My only complaint about these is that there aren't more of them. When Kuttner was doing humor, his work was just as good as his darker stories, such as "Mimsy Were the Borogoves" or "We Kill People".

  2. Thanks for the heads up on these. I've read and enjoyed a fair amount of Kuttner but wasn't aware of these.