Science Fiction Story Review

Once Around Arcturus

by Joseph Green
Reviewed date: 2023 Jan 4
21 pages
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cover art
cover art

Once Around Arcturus was published in the September 1962 issue of If magazine. And hey, this is the same Joseph Green who wrote Conscience Interplanetary. I loved Conscience Interplanetary.

I didn't enjoy Once Around Arcturus nearly as much.

Mike Combs arrives on Arcturus IV and sees Niki, a beautiful young Loyios woman. He immediately grabs her, kisses her, and declares they'll be married within a year. Thus the title of the story, Once Around Arcturus.

Surprisingly—or maybe not given that this was written in 1962—Mike isn't arrested and thrown in jail. The only thing he gets is a conversation with Dr. Carnacki, the local Earth sociologist who is studying the Loyios of Arcturus IV. The conversation isn't a dressing-down or lecture about keeping his hands off young women he just met. No, Dr. Carnacki and Mike have a friendly chat over coffee, and Carnacki asks Mike to keep him informed about how Niki and her family respond to his advances. You know, so Carnacki can write it up in a sociology report to send back to Earth.

As it happens, even though Niki is considered a bit too young to marry by Loyios standards, Niki's family agrees to entertain his proposal. (Later we learn that they'd purposely put Niki out there to tempt an Earthman in order to gain some insight into human social customs. The Loyios are studying humans and have apparently not invented ethical guidelines for conducting sociology experiments.)

The Loyios custom is that a potential suitor must be tested in a variety of games in order to win the family's approval, although the final decision will be up to Niki. Mike competes in tests that stretch his athletic and mental abilities. He passes some tests, fails in others. He impresses Niki's family immensely. However they reject him: the differences between Earthmen and Loyios are too great. Niki will never be happy with him.

But Niki disagrees and marries him anyway. The end.

Green has real talent, but perhaps its best this story be left to history.

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