Difference between revisions of "The Day the Icicle Works Closed"

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(Created page with "'''Pohl, Frederik. "The Day the Icicle Works Closed."''' ''Galaxy'' Feb 1960 (© 1959). Collected ''The Best Of Frederik Pohl''. New York: Doubleday, 1976. ''The Frederik Pohl...")
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Revision as of 15:04, 14 August 2019

Pohl, Frederik. "The Day the Icicle Works Closed." Galaxy Feb 1960 (© 1959). Collected The Best Of Frederik Pohl. New York: Doubleday, 1976. The Frederik Pohl Omnibus. London: Gollancz, 1966. The Man Who Ate The World. New York: Ballantine Books, 1960. Platinum Pohl. New York: Tor, 2005.

An important story.

In the Aristotelian Middle of the story is the idea that "The pattern of the mind is electronic in nature. It can be taped, and it can be broadcast on an electromagnetic frequency. What was more, like any electromagnetic signal, it could be used to modulate an ultra-wave carrier." With "ultra-wave" an instantaneous transmission, "The result: Instantaneous transmission of personality, anywhere in the civilized Galaxy" (Platinum Pohl 311). Transmitted personalities can be put into rented bodies (cf. Pohl's "We Purchased People", 1974[1] and, more generally, the motif of uploaded/transferred consciousness). After the Icicle Works closed — antibiotic production, but the point is a one-industry planet now suffers severe unemployment — residents of Altair Nine can earn money renting out their bodies. However, "While a person's body was rented out there was the problem of what to do with his own mind and personality. It couldn't stay in the body. It had to go somewhere else. 'The tank' was a storage device, […]; the displaced mind was held in a sort of prickling vat of transistors and cells until its own body could be returned to it."

The protagonist, Milo Pulcher, is an attorney who had a client who emerged from the tank to commit a murder, so he is interested in alternatives; the alternative jobs remaining in the economy are sailing and rocketing — requiring experience the protagonist doesn't have — driving cab, and mining. Live cab drivers "don't like seeing the machines running cabs" and occasionally engage in taxi-tipping. "Naturally, if there's any damage to the host machine it's risky" for the human tele-operator (314). Pulcher opts for mining and finds himself mostly stripped — the tourist will choose apparel — and put into a scanning machine. He's not handcuffed since he's a volunteer, but there are "viselike wheels that moved molded forms down upon him. It was like a sectional sarcophagus […]." Pulcher flashes onto a childhood recollection of a story of a trapped victim "inexorably squeezed to death" by inexorably closing-in walls. That doesn't happen, but he's held fast while scanned (314-15). Pulcher comes to consciousness underwater, confronted by "A giant steel bug" who turns out to be his supervisor, and he is, for his time as a rental — which is longer than he planned (even a lawyer will miss some fine print in a contract) — the consciousness of a mining machine. The work is mostly boring, and painful: pain indicates the machine might be at risk of injury (315-16).

"Icicle Works" is a multi-level political story, deep down — the underwater location for the mining is suggestive — deepest down, perhaps, on the economic level, a story of exploited labor, where bodies can be appropriated and labor very thoroughly mechanized, trapped in a literal or figurative machine.

Cf. and contrast such works as Richard K. Morgan's Altered Carbon series.

3. FICTION, RDE, 09/X/12; RDE, Title, 14Aug19