I resume again my Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fiction treatment of Johnny Pez’s Isaac Asimov fanfiction “Safety First”. The story so far: Robot troubleshooters Mike Donovan and Greg Powell are on the floating Venusian terraforming station. Arthur, the station’s chief Robot is trying to get the humans to leave already before they get killed. But how to get the terraforming done if there aren’t any humans around to supervise?
The cry of The Year 2018! references James Blish’s novel They Shall Have Stars, which had an alternate publication title of Year 2018!. The story has humans building a bridge on Jupiter for obscure reasons, which explains Crow’s follow-up riff. You know, if I had a nickel for every science fiction novel from before 1980 that I’ve read that’s specifically and explicitly set in the year 2018, I would have only two nickels, which isn’t a lot, but it’s weird that it happened twice.
The talk about the “Environmental Control” panel and the Monolith tool are references to SimEarth. The “offog came apart in warp” references Eric Frank Russell’s classic sf shaggy-dog story Allamagoosa.
> When he was done, Powell said, "Mike, the creativity of your
> profanity never ceases to amaze me."
TOM: Now if your profoundity could do half as well we’d be somewhere.
> "I’ve got an endless source of inspiration here," said
> Donovan in frustration,
CROW: "I’m a Red Sox fan."
> indicating the dormant robot. "For Pete’s
> sake, Greg,
TOM: Wait, Pete’s not here.
> what’s it going to take to convince these metal morons
CROW: I’m starting to take his attitude personally.
> that the station’s not going to crash into the surface of Venus in
> the next ten minutes?"
TOM: We could crash it in the next five minutes. That’d show him.
> "If we figure *that* out," said Powell, "we’ll have the
> Reluctance Problem licked."
JOEL: Wait, I’ve got it! Quick, get me an aquarium, five gallons of talcum powder, two eggs, and a bathing suit!
> It was a major embarassment for U. S. Robots. Two years
TOM: The year 2018!
> the Earth’s Regional governments had agreed to embark on the
> Aphrodite Project,
CROW: As soon as they were finished with that bridge on Jupiter.
> an ambitious attempt to terraform Venus.
JOEL: There are halfhearted attempts to terraform Venus?
> It would
> take decades of effort before Venus’s greenhouse climate would change
> enough to allow human settlement.
TOM: It’d go faster if humans got over their hangup about rivers of molten lead.
> Dozens of "bubble buoys" were
> floating through the hot, dense atmosphere of Venus, each with a
CROW: John Travolta of their own…
> cargo of genetically engineered algae that fixed the gases into solid
> particles that drifted down to become part of the planet’s soil.
TOM: Then, they’ll go to the "Environment Control" panel, turn down the greenhouse effect, and use the Monolith Tool to drop some multicellular life forms.
> Eventually there would be hundreds, then thousands,
JOEL: Then dozens, then they’d go back to trying thousands again.
> of buoys floating
> throught the atmosphere, all launched from Aphrodite Station.
TOM: Except one for good luck.
> Everything had been going on schedule until
CROW: Day two.
> sixteen days
> before, when an explosion had rocked the station,
JOEL: Just one of those explosions you get now and then.
> causing a sudden
> loss of buoyancy that had sent it plunging several kilometers down
> into the atmosphere.
TOM: And shaking the camera viciously.
> The explosion had been caused by an unlikely
> series of equipment failures,
CROW: Starting when their offog came apart in warp.
> and steps had indeed been taken to
> prevent anything like it from happening again.
TOM: By installing a gigantic space hammock under them.
> But the hundreds of
> robots that carried out most of the station’s routine work had been
> traumatized by the event,
JOEL: They shouldn’t have hired robopsychologist Gilligan to help.
> and they had all decided that the station
> was too dangerous for human occupancy.
CROW: A vicious crackdown by the Robo-Home Owners Association.
> Until they were shut down,
[ TOM, CROW boo. ]
> they had been intent on gently forcing the station’s eighteen human
TOM: To wear frillier garments.
> to board the docked space shuttle and leave.
JOEL: Just… head off somewhere.
CROW: Yeah, most humans are fine left to themselves like that.
> "It’s impossible," Donovan continued. "How can we prove to
> them that we’ve thought of everything that could go wrong?
TOM: You could challenge them to prove they haven’t thought of nothing that could go right and work backwards.
> can think of *everything* that could go wrong!
CROW: Just wander around saying, "At least nothing else can go wrong," and then you’ll find out.
> And if we can’t get
> the robots to go back to work,
JOEL: We’ll have to get the work to go back to the robots!
TOM: Now I’m just confused.
> they’ll have to abandon the whole
> Aphrodite Project!"
CROW: They shouldn’t abandon it. They should return the unused part for a full refund.
> "It’s a pity the robots can’t run the station by themselves,"
TOM: They could if they’d hire Uniblab.
> said Powell. "That would solve the problem quickly enough."
> "If only," said Donovan ruefully. A fully roboticized
> station had been one of the possibilities floated by the Project
TOM: Name withheld to protect our sources.
> but U. S. Robot’s Director of Research, Dr. Alfred Lanning,
JOEL: Ph.D., J.D., M.Sc., L.L.C., RSTLNE.
CROW: And the fabulous Dancing Lannette Girls!
> had vetoed the idea. There would be too many complex decisions
> involved in running Aphrodite Station for robots to cope with it.
CROW: For example, guiding the robots in case the algae stampede.
> The station required a human presence,
TOM: And a woman’s touch.
> and would for the foreseeable
JOEL: The forseeable future of this forseen future?
> On the other hand, staffing the station entirely with humans
> would cause the Project’s costs to quadruple at least,
CROW: It’d take a small fortune just to transport their Pokemon cards.
> and the
> Regional governments were unwilling to maintain such an expense.
JOEL: What if they just tuck it in under "petty cash"?
> had to be a mixed crew of humans and robots.
TOM: And puppies.
> "I don’t suppose we could replace all the current crew of
CROW: Depends with what. With other robots, fine. With race-winning hamsters, no go.
> with new ones that don’t know about the accident," said
CROW: Ooooh. Them.
JOEL: The way robots gossip? You’ll never find any that haven’t heard.
> Powell shook his head. "That would cost as much as replacing
> them with humans. The budget people would never go for it."
CROW: What if we replace the budget people with robots?
> "There must be something we can do. What if they just didn’t
> remember the accident?"
TOM: Then they’d have to remember it on purpose!
> Powell thought it over,
JOEL: Hummmmmmmmmmmmmmm… ding!
> then reached forward and switched on
> the robot’s power supply.
CROW: Non-system disk or robot error.
> Arthur’s photocells lit up,
TOM: Artoo! Where are we? Oh, my!
> and he said, "I must evacuate all
> the humans from this station. Please reactivate my motor controls."
TOM: He needs his wheels, man.
> "Arthur," said Powell. "This is a direct order.
JOEL: Listen very carefully now. Flubbityblubblediflufflubbeeblubble!
> You must
> erase everything from your memory between this moment and a period
> exactly seventeen days ago."
CROW: Oh, except for — oh, drat it.
[ to continue … ]