Podcaster:  Pamela Quevillon

Title: Space Stories presents   Henry Kuttner’s “The truth about Goldfish”

Organization: Speak Easy Narration


Description: This week we bring you Henry Kuttner’s the truth about goldfish, publish on 1939 in Future Fantasia, a constant battle between science and science fiction

Bio: Pamela Quevillon is a voice actress who most often lends her voice to science and science fiction content. You can find her work on the “Escape Pod” and “365 Days of Astronomy”, as well as on her site

Today’s sponsor: This episode of the 365 Days of Astronomy podcast is sponsored by David Wallace Whitmore and is dedicated to Sharon Whitmore in commemoration of her birthday, August 16th


Hello and Welcome to 365 Days of Astronomy for June 2. In today’s episode, we bring you another segment in our Space Stories series.

This week we take a fictional look at the constant battle between science and science fiction. Published in 1939 in Futuria Fantasia, Henry Kuttner’s “The Truth about Goldfish” considers how The need to create fiction that truly connects and the desire to stay true to science sometimes tear authors apart. There are times when a scientific flaw will take a reader right out of a story, but at the same time, perfect adherence to science as we know it means no faster than light travel and no cool human super powers.

In choosing the stories for this series, we face a regular struggle to find stories that you’ll find interesting, and that will also get you thinking science. With this story we ask, which is more important, accurate science, or a captivating story.


The truth about goldfish—


For some time I have been wondering what the world is coming to. More than once I have got up in the middle of the nite, padded toward the bureau, and, peering into the mirror, exclaimed, “Stinky, what is the world coming to?” The responses I have thus obtained I am not at liberty to reveal; but I am coming to believe that either I have a most mysterious mirror or something is wrong somewhere. I am intrigued by my mirror.

It came into my possession under extraordinary and eerie circumstances, being borne into my bedroom one Midsummer’s Eve by a procession of cats dressed oddly in bright-colored sunsuits and carrying parasols. I was asleep at the time, but awoke just as the last tail whisked out the door, and immediately I sprang out of bed and cut my left big toe rather badly on the edge of the mirror. I remember that as I first looked into the fathomless, glassy depths, a curious thot came into my mind. “What,” I said to myself, “is the world coming to? And what is science-fiction coming to?”

It is quite evident that a logical and critical analysis of science-fictional trends is a desideratum today. The whole trouble, I feel, can be laid to velleity. (I have wanted to use that word for years. Unfortunately I have now forgotten exactly what it means, but one can safely attribute trouble to it. Where was I?)

Today science-fiction is split by schisms and impaled on the trylon of bad thots. The fans, I mean, not the writers. The writers have been split and impaled for years, but nothing can be done about that. In a way, it’s a good thing. Look at Jules Verne, Victor Hugo, and, for that matter, the late unfortunate Tobias J. Koot.

I put flowers on his grave only yesterday. He lies at rest, tho his ghastly fate pursued him even to the grave. And I attribute Mr. Koot’s fate to nothing less than the schisms of fandom. For Koot was a hard working young man, serious, earnest, with promise of becoming a first-class writer. He took life very solemnly—almost grimly. “My job,” he told me once, “is to give people what they want.”

“I want a drink,” I said to him. “Give me one.”

But Koot couldn’t be turned from his rash course. He began to write science-fiction. That was where the trouble started. “Is it science?” he pondered. “Or is it fiction?” Already the cleavage—the split—had begun.

It was a matter of logical progression toward ultimate division. Koot got in the habit of typing the science into his stories with his left hand, and the fiction with his right. He began to twitch and worry. He got up nites. He was troubled, uneasy. “I have one thing left to cling to,” he muttered desperately, “Fandom! I can point to that and say: It is real. It exists. It is dependable.”

When fandom had its schism, Koot immediately developed a split personality. It was rather horrible. His left side—the scientific side—grew cold and hard and keen. He grew a Van Dyke on the left side of his face and his left hand was stained with acids and chemicals. But the right side of his face became dissipated and disreputable, with a leer in the eye end a scornful, sneering curve to the lip. He grew a tiny moustache on the right side, waxed it, and twirled it continually. It was rather horrid, but worse was yet to come.

One day the inevitable happened. Tobias J. Koot split in half, with a faint ripping sound and a despairing wail. He was, of course, buried in two coffins and in two graves, the wretched man’s fate pursuing him even beyond death.

Well, you can understand how I feel, what with the mirror, the cats in sunsuits and the weasel. Or haven’t I mentioned the weasel? I mean the brown one, of course, and he is, perhaps, worst of all. It isn’t what he says so much as his sneering, ironic tone. The other weasels, who live in the spare bedroom with the colt, were happy enuf till HE arrived, but now THEY are arranging a schism. As you will readily see, something must be done about it before science-fiction collapses and the standard falls trailing into the dust.

I suggest that we mobilize, and, to avoid dissension, give everybody the rank of general. Then, first of all, we can march to my house and get rid of that weasel.

The Brown One, of course. The others are welcome to stay as long as they like. I feel that they are weak rather than wicked, and need only a good excuse, or should I say example, in order to brace themselves up.

Contributions to the fund for the mobilization of science-fiction and the extermination of brown weasels may be sent to me in care of this magazine. Do not delay. Each moment you wait brings us closer to doom, and, besides, I need a new piano.


This has been “The truth about goldfish by Henry Kuttner.

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