This is a guest post by Timothy Darling.
"Lulungomeena" by Gordon R. Dickson
Page Count: 24
The setting is Frontier Station 563 just beyond Sirius. But the title is named after another place: Lulungomeena on the planet Tarsus, the native home of Clay Harbank. The conflict is between Clay and The Kid. Clay is a reformed gambler; and The Kid, an active gambler, wants his considerable savings. The story is from the perspective of Mort, a Dorsai warrior on an odd assignment who observes The Kid’s relentless needling of Clay. All the characters are aboard Frontier Station for a contract of 10 years, working and living together on the back side of, literally, nowhere. The story develops in the presence of a Hixabrod, an unerringly truthful species, settling a bet on a question of sentiment … with all-or-nothing stakes.
I felt a slight and not unpleasant shiver run down between my shoulder blades and my eyes began to grow hot. It was my Dorsai blood again. It must have showed on my face, for the Kid, who had been sitting negligently on one edge of the galley table, got up in a hurry.
“Hold on, Mort,” he said. “Nothing personal.”
I fought the old feeling down and said as calmly as I could …”
I find this story deeply moving, illustrating as it does the bond of male friendship and the casual confidence that comes with age. Certainly Mort is a born warrior and Clay is a recovering gambler, but they both have their impulses under control and out of that strength emerges a mutual respect and a mutual disdain of youthful arrogance and impetuosity. This story could have happened on any outpost, not only in space, but on Earth, in some remote place where people are thrown together and forced to play out their relational skills in a pressure cooker. Anyone who has ever worked in such an environment recognizes the dynamic immediately.
This story introduced Dickson’s Dorsai culture, predating the Hugo nominated book Dorsai! by years. It does not fit neatly into the Childe Cycle he developed in conjunction with the writing of Dorsai!, but it maintains, for the most part, a consistency with the philosophy of the framework. Mort comes across as the kind of warrior one expects from the Dorsai: big, strong, controlled, experienced, with an inexplicable aura of unconquerable command. The only sharp contrast I can find between the story and the books is in the universal assumptions of life. Where “Lulungomeena” presents us with alien races, especially the Hixabrod, the rest of the Childe Cycle seems to ignore the possibility of alien life.
Read Lululomeenga for the relative gentility of the story. It lacks overt violence, though the possibility lies just below the surface and bubbles up a couple of times. I love it when strength can be demonstrated in character and without a bloodbath. Also, the feeling (I am told) of “home” is universal. Most people will be able to identify with Clay and even, in this way, with the alien Hixabrod.
The Bad … ish:
Ok, not so bad, but the characters do have a strong resemblance to some classic wild-western stereotypes. That’s ok when you remember when the story was written and the type of audience forming the story’s primary readership. It’s also ok, because those characters can be fun.
Hunt for the Story
This story is relatively hard to find. It was originally published in Galaxy Science Fiction, January 1954. It was anthologized by Robert Silverberg in Deep Space (1973); paperback 1977.
Luckily, for posterity, it was dramatized for the 1950s radio drama X minus One and is available for free download. The dramatization is reasonably faithful to the original. You will note that X minus One spelled the title of the story differently than Dickson.
If you like this story…
…you’ll love the Dickson story “Warrior” which is much more readily available in Lost Dorsai. Also “Brothers” is available in The Spirit of Dorsai. Both can be found in The Dorsai Companion. The Award winning and nominated books Tactics of Mistake and, of course, Dorsai! are both part of the same SF framework.
Thanks to Tim for this providing this article. You can read more of Tim’s stuff on his blog: The Darling Virtual Mind.