“I’m in Marsport Without Hilda” by Isaac Asimov
Card picked: Eight of Clubs
From: Asimov’s Mysteries
Thoughts: In the introduction to “I’m in Marsport…”, Asimov relates being called out by an editor for never including love scenes (or “naughty motifs”) in his stories because the editor believed that Asimov couldn’t write them. Asimov took this as a challenge and wrote this “science-fiction love story.” Asimov was pleased with it and considered it a success. I can’t tell if he’s serious…
Max, a James Bond type (Asimov’s words in the intro), finds himself on a layover in Marsport…for once without his wife Hilda. He wastes no time setting up a date with Flora.
Flora and a body that had been made up out out of heaping handfuls of all that as soft and fragrant and firm; Flora and a low-gravity room and a way about her that made it seem like free fall through a warm, breathable ocean of champagne-flavored meringue—
Uh, yeah. Other than these qualities Flora seems to be an air-headed money-grubber.
Max’s “date” is interrupted before it begins by a matter of galactic significance. Three planetary bigwigs are landing at Marsport. One of them is smuggling a shipment of altered Spaceoline. Spaceoline is a drug that makes space travel possible by countering the space sickness that affects many travelers. While non-addictive, it does leave its users in a relaxed, brain-addled state. The altered form is highly addictive. Of course, one cannot go around accusing planetary bigwigs of wrong-doing. Max needs proof before he can search any of them. He deduces that the smuggler would not risk being impaired by regular Spaceoline. This isn’t as helpful as Max hopes because the smuggler is instead going to pretend to be impaired.
How can Max suss the true smuggler? The solution revolves around a bawdy story about Flora, which thankfully is not related. But can he do it before Flora makes another “date” for the evening? And will his wife find out about Flora (because making up for the delay will be pricey)?
If I could go back in time, I’d advise Asimov to not worry about…ahem…romance. “Stick to robots, Isaac,” I’d say. “They’re your forte.”