Tuesday, July 6, 2010

"Birth of a Monster" by Richard Stark

I found a small collection of old digest-sized science fiction magazines in a thrift shop last summer and I finally seriously looked them over this past weekend. The first is a magazine titled Super-Science Fiction. It is the August, 1959 issue and it is filled with a decent collection of science fiction and horror. There are eight stories, and four are by Robert Silverberg, under various pseudonyms.

The story I want to talk about today however is by Donald E. Westlake, written as by Richard Stark. It’s title: “Birth of a Monster”. It is the story of a doctor who gets a late night call from a man whose wife is in labor and, even though the soon-to-be mother isn’t a patient, he agrees to rush to the couple’s home and deliver the baby. Once there the doctor discovers something a little unusual.

“Birth of a Monster” is a decent little pulp story. It is straight up horror, but Mr Westlake played with the tropes just a bit; to tell how would ruin the tale. The language is stilted and sharp and adds to the slight unease that the story creates in its reader—
“He hung up, hurried back to the bedroom and dressed. He knew the estate, at the end of Larchmont Road. Empty for years.”
It is told quickly, which keeps the reader from jumping ahead to the final twist before it arrives. It reminded me just a little of an early Richard Matheson story, although not quite as vibrant and polished. And while it is not as mature and solid as Mr Westlake’s later work (he was only 26 when it was published) it is a story that will bring a smile. At least it did for me.

And as for those Robert Silverberg stories. I'm reading them, or at least savoring the thought of reading them, as I type. 

1 comment:

  1. I have all those "Special Monster Issues." Silverberg was doing tons of work for Super SF. Westlake, not so much, maybe just that one story.