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There's a story that's tickling my mind about a lawyer newly arrived in the asteroid belt.

From what I remember of the style, it must have been written in the 1940s or 1950s, and I probably found it in an old magazine. I remember yellowing, crumbly pages. That means it's likely that I read it in the mid to late sixties, perhaps filched from my father's shelves. It was longer than a typical short story, perhaps a novella in length.

Even at my tender age back then, I was aware that I was really reading a western transplanted to outer space. The lawyer was a greenhorn, new to western ways, oops, I mean Belter ways. People made fun of him at first, until he proved he could handle himself. He might not have understood how a spaceship worked, but he knew people, especially their dark side.

He also liked to fish.

The story had a lot of western cliches—in the plot, the characters, and their vocal mannerisms. It was as if the characters were saying "Ah shucks, ma'am" and the spittoon was ringing out on every page. I don't remember the actual cliches used now, but, back then, I filed each occurrence away.

There was a murder and subsequent trial that formed the centerpiece of the story, but I don't recall the details very well now.

I've been thinking about it quite a bit, and I'm fairly sure that the trial had something to do with mining claims.

There was also a young woman to woo. She was linked to the trial in some fashion. I don't think she was a schoolmarm, but she might have been. She cried a bit.

It probably wasn't a very good story. In fact, I'm sure it wasn't all that good. You may be asking why I need to know its name. Because I want to remember everything.

Oh, and one more thing—there was an exploding fish. That I remember.

  • You remember whether that old magazine with crumbly pages was a regular pulp size zine (about the same page size as The National Geographic but of course on much cheaper paper) or digest size (like The Reader's Digest or Asimov's)? – user14111 Mar 11 '17 at 5:54
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Still looking for details, but it might be Nat Schachner's Space Lawyer stories. It fits the space lawyer theme and it was published in the 1940s in Astounding Science Fiction. Still looking for plot details on the two stories including, "Old Fireball" and "Jurisdiction" to see if there was an exploding fish.

Here's a small summary:

The cliche of besting the boss and getting his daughter takes care of the exploits of Kerry Dale and Old Fireball Kenton's girl, Sally. Fired by Kenton, Dale works up from a space roustabout to a direct threat to Kenton's Space Enterprises as fast deals and legal eagling keep him from knuckling under. Asteroids for adenoids.

Some other mentions I've run into discuss a source of free energy and some meditations on how, if everyone's needs are met, they will become indolent (I think that view is of the villain, not the protagonist).

I have since acquired a book that collects the stories, and there is no exploding fish in it and no murder. Lastly, it's not really Western-themed either, so it seems that I missed on all counts.

  • Thanks! I'll wait to see what you come up with. The one thing I'm sure of is the exploding fish. That's what brought it back to my mind. – rosesunhill Mar 25 '16 at 12:32
  • Whether or not they end up a match, they seem like a lot of fun to read. – rosesunhill Mar 25 '16 at 12:35
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    I've had a great deal of trouble finding a plot summary for this one, or copies of those issues of Astounding Science Fiction, but I do have an ILL request in for the book. – FuzzyBoots Mar 25 '16 at 14:50
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    Here, from the website of Jamie Todd Rubin, are synopses of Nat Schachner's "Old Fireball" and "Jurisdiction". – user14111 Mar 26 '16 at 2:30
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    OK, I skimmed the Nat Schachner "space lawyer" stories in the June and August 1941 issues of Astounding. The legal matters involve asteroid claims, salvage rights, contract law. No murder trials, no murders, and worst of all, no fish of any kind. Schachner's Kerry Dale is the most famous space lawyer from the Golden Age of SF, but he's not the one we want; looks like we're looking for a much more obscure story & author. V. E. Thiessen's "Asteroid Justice" (Planet Stories Fall 1947) is pretty obscure but that doesn't fit the description either. – user14111 Apr 3 '16 at 3:43

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