“A Visitor from Outer Space” (short story) by Alexander Kazantsev
English Publication History: A Visitor From Outer Space (Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1961), Soviet Science Fiction (Collier Books, 1962)
Original: Russian (Гость из космоса), 1951
Translated by Violet L. Dutt, 1961
Synopsis: The ship Georgy Sedov stops in the arctic to pick up three unusual passengers who are on an expedition. The crew are curious to learn that the nature of the expedition is an astronomical one, yet it doesn’t concern the stars; rather, they are there to verify life of Mars. Yevgeny Alexeich Krymov, the lead astronomer, then outlines his theory of life on Mars with its causeways of life and how it relates to the Tunguska event of 1908 and his involvement in its scientific study. His series of facts entice and persuade the crew.
Propaganda: Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union for the 60th Anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution, propaganda slogan #50:
Fraternal greeting to the peoples of the socialist nations! Let develop and strengthen the peaceful system of socialism–the deciding force of the anti-imperialist struggle, the bulwark of peace, democracy, and social progress!
Analysis: Conjecture upon conjecture, the so-called astronomer posits life on Mars with the bare minimum of fact compounded with the unshakable mindset of a zealot; as a result, the tainted inferences begin to stack into a scaffolding of the brittle twigs.
The impoverished Martian landscape naturally produces a socialist people who fly to Earth in order to seek its bounty of resources, yet understands the native people’s own needs for the same resources. Here, the presumed invaders are only benevolent victims of their natural environment wanting to understand and take what they need—no more, no surplus, no capital. In reality, Russia once unofficially founded a colony in Africa. Within a month, that colony was disbanded… and is it any wonder that it happens to be in the ever so displaced location of Djibouti, Somalia? Because we all know how well colonization affected its native peoples as there are so many shining examples of benevolence among them.
Also their sloppy landing—the result being the Tunguska explosion of 1908—comes only one decade before the October Revolution of 1917… which may or may not be a coincidence.
Review: As the analysis implies, the story really isn’t one that emits the character and culture of the Russian people; rather, it’s a cheaply woven fictional narrative infused with the author’s own exaggerated speculation on Mars and the Tunguska event. That said, at least it’s an entertaining string of speculation; it’s not enough to convince the reader to subscribe to Kazantsev’s/ Krymov’s ideas, but it’s enough to beguile the ship’s crew. There are, however, still people who want to believe in the fantastic, minute possibilities on the steep sides of Occum’s Razor: naturally, an exploding UFO caused the Tunguska event—a conspiracy theory that’s been alive for 65 years.