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de Camp, L. Sprague – “Summer Wear” (1950)

07/10/2012

Another story concerned with capitalism in the future, and I have to say I’m surprised not to see more knee-jerk Rand-ish attitudes here (thus far). “Summer Wear” is a human-alien interaction story, but more in the mode of Star Wars than of, say, The Day the Earth Stood Still, by which I mean that we have an interstellar community of different species instead of first contact or the dreaded (by me) humans-everywhere-we-go model. I think last year’s “Five Years in the Marmalade” is the only prior example we’ve been given, and this is a much better example of a kind of interplanet, mercantile and lived-in cosmopolitanism, full of cultural and physical clashes between various species. This is in addition to the more terrestrial human element, which revolves around a California trader taking off from the Mohave Spaceport in a “Brazilo-Portuguese” ship, wherein he shares a room with a British man of African descent who spends much of his time playing cards with aliens (“On a spaceship there were always some individualists who preferred not to keep to the arbitrary waking-and-sleeping schedule of the majority.”).

Said trader is taking the titular summer wear from Earth to a planet of faux-velociraptor-aliens who have decided, as a bit of a lark, to adopt the human custom of clothing themselves. Relativity dictates that this sales trip will take 22 years, but the payoff seems worth it – until he finds, on his return, that in the interim humans have taken to Osirian body paint, clothes are a thing of the past, and his business is a thing of the past. The main body of the narrative is taken up by conflict and espionage between the protagonist and a rival trader, which is, sadly, a stale disservice to the setting.

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