Date: Oct 2nd, 2012 12:27:05 pm - Subscribe
Mood: sublime

It looks like I'm not all wet with my current preoccupation with underwater sf. While my interest is largely a result of watching cheesy old episodes of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (most awkward title ever), there's a new sub show making waves. Last Resort caught the eye of Esquire's resident political wit, Charlie Pierce. While the show is a political thriller with no sf content, one of Charlie's nominations for best sub movie does reference a familiar franchise.

1) The Enemy Below: Cat-and-mouse with an American destroyer and a German submarine, seen from both points of view, with first-rate performances by Robert Mitchum and Curt Jurgens. Extra points for being the template for the great Star Trek episode, "Balance of Terror," in which we see the Romulans for the first time.

Trek also popularized another sub related trope in the form of subspace. When sf authors were devising clever ways to get around the speed of light limit, they not only came up with the idea of hyperspace, they also hit on the corollary, subspace. In Star Trek this was limited largely to a means of FTL communication, but some authors extended the idea to having spaceships travel like submarines through the depths of subspace. A few of good examples are available in the public domain.

Legacy (1962, aka A Tale of Two Clocks) by James H. Schmitz. In this and other of Schmitz's stories set in his Federation of the Hub venue it's subspace ships that ply the spaceways. This novel takes the idea to it's logical extreme as -- spoiler alert! -- a small ship travels through subspace to get inside a much bigger spaceship.

Subspace Survivors (1960) by E. E. "Doc" Smith. This late novelette by one of the architects of the space opera genre takes explorers into the unknown. John W. Campbell, Jr. introduced it thus, "There has always been, and will always be, the problem of surviving the experience that any trained expert can handle ... when there hasn't been any first survivor to be an expert! When no one has ever gotten back to explain what happened...."

A Question of Courage by J. F. Bone. This 1960 novelette makes military use of subspace. Spaceships prowl around like submarines, then pop into normal space to blast the enemy. This tale glorifying military virtues delivers a stridently imperialist moral, and also reveals the conspiratorial thinking that often characterizes the military mind.

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