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May 13, 2013 1:34 PM   Subscribe

A Logic Named Joe is a short science-fiction story by Murray Leinster. Published in 1946, the story depicts data-mining, massively networked computers, search engines, privacy/censorship filters and internet porn. Read it here.
posted by The Whelk (35 comments total) 58 users marked this as a favorite

 
"Whadda you know?" he says when he comes back. He tells us about the flash. "We shoulda been warned about that. There's gonna be a lotta complaints. Suppose a fella asks how to get ridda his wife an' the censor circuits block the question?"

So, even in 1946 Flash was the bane of the internet, and people were asking how to get rid of dead bodies.
posted by chavenet at 1:43 PM on May 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


Oh! This was also transcribed into an X Minus One broadcast. It's a fantastic listen.
posted by boo_radley at 1:43 PM on May 13, 2013 [9 favorites]


Previous Murray Leinster.
posted by dragoon at 1:45 PM on May 13, 2013


The way Laurine fits in is that she makes cold shivers run up an' down my spine when I think about her. You see, I've got a wife which I acquired after I had parted from Laurine with much romantic despair. She is a reasonable good wife...

Note to wife: DTMFA
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 2:02 PM on May 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


And if you don't like reading unformatted walls of text, use the Instapaper Text bookmarklet
posted by slater at 2:11 PM on May 13, 2013


Some say this is the first science fiction story featuring something resembling the internet.
posted by Nyrath at 2:27 PM on May 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Like most SciFi it has to explain a world where everyone would already know the explanation. It's like starting a modern short story with a detailed essay on what a cellphone or television or ATM is.
posted by Repack Rider at 2:31 PM on May 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


As you know Bob, these robot bank tellers are much more convent than going to a human teller.

And they're so common, why I can see three on this block alone, thank goodness they're all networked together so mistakes are rare.
posted by The Whelk at 2:34 PM on May 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I almost didn't read this because I thought, why bother, this is going to be sexistactular beyond the suspension of disbelief and that's why I haven't read Golden Age science fiction since I went through menarche. And sure as a by-God -- ! He didn't even name his "reasonable good wife," did he?

But I'm glad I stuck with it, because it really is a quite remarkable foretelling of how we use Google. I was amused particularly by this :

And there's another group of serious thinkers who are sure the human race would be a lot better off if everybody went back to nature an' lived in the woods with the ants an' poison ivy. They start askin' questions about how to cause humanity to abandon cities and artificial conditions of living . . .

It's true, I wouldn't know much about anarcho-primitivism if it weren't for the internet.
posted by Countess Elena at 2:40 PM on May 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


For those thrown off by the "reasonable good wife" line, if you continue to read the story you may find, as I did, that the narrator's habit is to make light of his attachment, interest, and investment in that which is near-and-dear to him, which includes his hopes, desires, and family.

It does not include his fears, which he seems very comfortable expressing, in a relative way.

Try not to be too hard on the guy for not being comfortable with his emotions. He's just a simple logic maintenance main from an alternate universe who doesn't like hard ending consonants.
posted by Poppa Bear at 2:57 PM on May 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


You can also get the radio play from X Minus One here, courtesy of archive.org.
posted by lkc at 3:07 PM on May 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


!!! Awesome. Thanks for this post. I've never read this story by him.

Leinster is one of my favorite scifi authors. If you can find it, definitely read his MedShip series. The main character is an itinerant physician who travels from planet to planet solving medical crises. He's in a one-man ship with a pet that he experiments on to create vaccines. They're fun read for folks who like a some honest-to-goodness science in their scifi.

The books include forward-looking ideas like hyperdrive, spaceports and landing grids. But every time the doctor's ship comes out of hyperdrive, he has to calculate his current position and trajectories with a pencil, paper and slide rule, because personal computers didn't exist when the stories were written.
posted by zarq at 3:24 PM on May 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


The first time I heard this story on OTR, I couldn't stop smiling because it was so wonderful and prescient. Thanks for sharing it.
posted by Calzephyr at 3:25 PM on May 13, 2013


I blogged a while back about things A Logic Named Joe anticipated -- nanny filters, online porn, the potential for loss of privacy. I auto-linked to that before; radwolf76 noted that Leinster was probably influenced by Vannevar Bush's article As We May Think.
posted by Zed at 3:38 PM on May 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


Reasonable Goodwife sounds like a great name for a Puritan.
posted by ShutterBun at 4:07 PM on May 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


Slight, but related, derail

At last! For years I've been telling my kids about what I refer to as "THE WORST BOOK EVER." I'd forgotten what it was, and often wondered.

As I describe it to them, it reads like this:
He was a doctor.
he was in space.
He was a space doctor. Traveling in space. As a doctor.
Being an MD, he flew. Through space. Doctoring.
Between planets.
As a doctor.
In space.
As a space doctor.....

They know me as a guy who finishes all books. Except this one. And now I think I know what what that book was.
posted by cccorlew at 4:25 PM on May 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Like most SciFi it has to explain a world where everyone would already know the explanation. It's like starting a modern short story with a detailed essay on what a cellphone or television or ATM is.

That is called an expository lump.
posted by larrybob at 4:35 PM on May 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you think the space doctor was cringeworthy, check out "Prostho Plus" by Piers Anthony (NOT a Xanth book) about "an earth prosthodontist who is picked up by aliens who are in need of dental work". Funny (in a not-as-punny-as-usual-for-Piers way), and containing lots of random info about dental procedures that was good to know at a later place in my life (yeah, all the background research was provided in 'expository lumps' - and see your dentist immediately if you find an expository lump in your mouth).
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:43 PM on May 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Cringeworthy? Prostho Plus is hilarious. It's the Hitchhiker's Guide to Dental Anatomy.
posted by drdanger at 4:53 PM on May 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


what was the story that had people living in underground bunkers basically hooked up to the Internet, but way before Internet or computers?
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 4:55 PM on May 13, 2013


"The Machine Stops" by E. M. Forster. Written in 1909 and still worth reading.
posted by drdanger at 5:03 PM on May 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


Them guys: Seems like I remember Anthony writing that he'd decided to write stories that couldn't be written -- hence the Space Dentist -- I think he did a bunch of them, but my memory fails me. The Hive-Mind perhaps is aware of "It Came From Schenectady" in which he discusses writing, editing, and the wonderful fellowship between publishers and writers. I think that's where I read that little factoid, anyhow.

Murray Leinster's one of my faves.
posted by mule98J at 5:33 PM on May 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thanks, drdanger - I'd forgotten the title of that. The accuracy of it is chill-inducing. Here's an online copy.
posted by 23 at 5:42 PM on May 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


Oh, wait, everyone knows H. G. Wells invented Twitter, right?
"You will be expected to say something," said Ostrog. "Not what you used to call a Speech, but what our people call a Word—just one sentence, six or seven words. Something formal. If I might suggest—I have awakened and my heart is with you. That is the sort of thing they want."

"What was that?" asked Graham.

"'I am awakened and my heart is with you.' And bow—bow royally. But first we must get you black robes—for black is your colour. Do you mind? And then they will disperse to their homes."

Graham hesitated. "I am in your hands," he said.
posted by 23 at 5:48 PM on May 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also, the excellent "Blobs" from Mad #1, shows a futuristic society where computers take care of all our problems.
posted by lkc at 6:08 PM on May 13, 2013


Also, the excellent "Blobs" from Mad #1, shows a futuristic society where computers take care of all our problems.

I'm pretty certain that Wall-E was a conscious borrowing from / reference to that.
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:36 PM on May 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


It doesn't have to be borrowing from Mad. It has become a recurring motif in science fiction where over-reliance on technological assistance allows us to atrophy in some way.

There's Ray Bradbury's The Veldt, where the parents want to turn off their mechanical house because they worry their children aren't learning to do things for themselves.
"That sounds dreadful! Would I have to tie my own shoes instead of letting the shoe tier do it? And brush my own teeth and comb my hair and give myself a bath?"

There's Asimov's The Feeling of Power where someone re-invents basic mathematics, because everyone's forgotten how to do it when they could just punch it into the computer.
Aub continued, his hand trembling a little. Finally he said in a low voice, "The answer is three hundred and ninety-one."

Congressman Brant took out his computer a second time and flicked it, "By Godfrey, so it is. How did he guess?"
In H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds the martians look like big brains, eyes, and tentacles, and he speculates this may come from them having technology long enough that they needed nothing else.
... the perfection of mechanical appliances must ultimately supersede limbs; the perfection of chemical devices, digestion; that such organs as hair, external nose, teeth, ears, and chin were no longer essential parts of the human being, and that the tendency of natural selection would lie in the direction of their steady diminution through the coming ages. The brain alone remained a cardinal necessity.

... To me it is quite credible that the Martians may be descended from beings not unlike ourselves, by a gradual development of brain and hands (the latter giving rise to the two bunches of delicate tentacles at last) at the expense of the rest of the body. ...
posted by RobotHero at 9:39 PM on May 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


This one isn't really playing with the over-reliance element, other than the reason why they don't dare turn off the Logics.

Where it doesn't quite really reflect the real-life internet is the assumption that all the data available on it would be 100% accurate.
posted by RobotHero at 9:43 PM on May 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I love Murray Leinster. I love his affectless protagonists, the complete inability to show rather than tell, his style of exposition which is peculiar even for the genre, his plots that are so mechanical you can hear the gears whirring as they grimly advance, and his failure to characterize women at all.

They crack me up without fail.

Also,
He was a doctor.
he was in space.
He was a space doctor. Traveling in space. As a doctor.
Being an MD, he flew. Through space. Doctoring.
Between planets.
As a doctor.
In space.
As a space doctor.....
might be the MEDSHIP books, but the true glory of Leinster is that there are so many of his works it could describe. And looking that up I see it's now on kindle, so hot dog ima buy it right now. It can nestle next to my Tom Corbett, Space Cadet! Anthology which is almost but not quite as awesome, because the Space Cadets occasionally have emotions and don't relentlessly describe their world like robots set on 'verbose'.
posted by winna at 10:03 PM on May 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Great comment robothero (and eponysterical). I agree with you that it was far from original to Mad conceptually, but both the execution of the inhabitants of the Axiom and the fact that the Pixar creatives are massively pop-culture literate persuades me that it's a conscious influence and probably a deliberate wink to the like-minded.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:15 PM on May 14, 2013


larrybob: "That is called an expository lump."

AKA info dumping or (as The Whelk alluded), "As you know, Bob."

winna: "I love Murray Leinster. I love his affectless protagonists, the complete inability to show rather than tell, his style of exposition which is peculiar even for the genre, his plots that are so mechanical you can hear the gears whirring as they grimly advance, and his failure to characterize women at all."

Yeah, he drives me nuts. I recognize the importance of "A Logic Named Joe" and "A Martian Odyssey" but they are SO clunky. I just have trouble relating to them at all.
posted by Chrysostom at 2:22 PM on May 14, 2013


I can't relate to them, that is why they are majestic!
Calhoun regarded the communicator with something like exasperation as his taped voice repeated a standard approach-call for the twentieth time. But no answer came, which had become irritating a long time ago. This was a new Med Service sector for Calhoun. He'd been assigned to another man's tour of duty because the other man had been taken down with romance. He'd gotten married, which ruled him out for Med Ship duty. So now Calhoun listened to his own voice endlessly repeating a call that should have been answered immediately.

Murgatroyd the tormal watched with beady, interested eyes. The planet Maya lay off to port of the Med Ship Aesclipus Twenty. Its almost-circular disk showed full-size on a vision-screen beside the ship's control-board. There was an ice-cap in view. There were continents. There were seas. The cloud-system of a considerable cyclonic disturbance could be noted off at one side, and the continents looked reasonably as they should, and the seas were of that muddy, indescribable tint which indicates deep water.
I mean, if the first two paragraphs from Med Ship don't make you immediately rush out and buy every word the man ever wrote you just have a dead soul and are probably a robot-computer-drone. 'There was an ice-cap in view. There were continents. There were seas.' It's POETRY.
posted by winna at 6:03 PM on May 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Like most SciFi it has to explain a world where everyone would already know the explanation. It's like starting a modern short story with a detailed essay on what a cellphone or television or ATM is.

... which would probably be super interesting to read about for earlier people. I suspect that if you gave a modern short story to someone in 1770 AD, the bits on X's ennui over his job or Y's boredom with her husband would be somewhat relatable, but the throwaway lines about that cell phone or television would be the parts that really blow their minds. I think Ben Franklin probably would have wanted modern short stories to start with detailed essays on what a cell phone or television is.
posted by Amanojaku at 7:36 AM on May 15, 2013


also known as the popular mental game "explain objects in my house to Mark Twain."
posted by The Whelk at 7:42 AM on May 15, 2013


Stuff like this is why I love the Baen Free Library.

Also, DRM-free well priced sci-fi.
posted by lysdexic at 10:25 AM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


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