5 Stories by Theodore L Thomas

I was thumbing thru the old Nicholl's SF Encyclopedia a few weeks ago and noticed in the section about weather control a story called "The Weather Man" by Theodore L Thomas. It sounded interesting, so I jumped to isfdb to see if I had it any anthologies and it was in Asimov's The Great SF Stories #24 which sported this introduction:

Theodore L. Thomas is a chemical engineer and attorney from my wife's hometown of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, who over the last 35 years or so has produced over 50 short stories of generally excellent quality and two good novels (both with Kate Wilhelm) -- The Clone and The Year of the Cloud (both 1968). Among his best short fiction is "December 28th", "The Doctor", "Early Bird" (with Ted Cogswell), "The Far Look" and "Satellite Passage". Around 10 stories, all featuring a Patent attorney, and all very funny, were written as by "Leonard Lockhard". He richly deserves a collection.

I read "The Weather Man" and checked ISFDB for any other stories I might have and ended up with just these:

"The Far Look" is a hyper-realistic moon story. Putting aside the plot for the moment, he has most everything worked out correctly: wealth of stars in a black sky, the earth hanging large, gravity, isolation of pressurized suits. The story concerns two man teams who inhabit a domed moon-base for 28 days when the next team lands to relieve them bringing fresh supplies including the thousand pounds of potassium tetraoxide each man needs for his 28 day stay.

The main source for oxygen was potassium tetraoxide, a wonderful compound that gave up oxygen when exposed to moisture and then combined with carbon dioxide and removed it from the atmosphere.
Hadn't heard of this technique before. There are lots of nice touches, like the previous crew having hot tea ready for their relief and just the thrill of walking around on the moon. The plot turns on funding difficulties and psychology. Nice story.

"Satellite Passage" is mainly a game of cold war chicken which I didn't think worked very well.

What to say about "Day of Succession" without spoiling? Well, it's a first contact tale with the military taking charge. And really stood out from these previous stories which were largely meditative, sense of wonder kind of things. Not a classic but an interesting twist.

"The Lagging Profession" is a light-hearted affair starring Arthur C Clarke attempting to get a patent for TV satellites. Helping him negotiate US law are patent attorneys Helix Spardleton and the first person narrator. Don't know much about patent law, so I wonder if this is still the case but Clarke comes in from Ceylon to find his previous publications have left him in a catch-22 as far as getting this patent registered. Neat story with a great ending.

"The Weather Man" Excellent, excellent. A real jewel. The highest political body on earth decides what weather each region will get (including punishments), orders are passed to the scientific minds (armed with distributed computing!) who try to figure out how it can be done and pass their formulas to the grunts orbiting the sun who actually make it happen. The story follows this path with an unusual request that a Weather Councilman puts his weight behind as a political last-gasp. Wonderful novella. Highly recommended.


Found this interesting little essay he wrote for April 1965's Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction:
The Science Springboard: The Ice Ages

The deep-sea bottom has now supplied the means for identifying the Pleistocene epoch when the great glasciers moved down over the land. The invention of the piston coring tube made it possible to take from the bottom a cylindrical sample almost 50 feet long. Examination of the sample showed changes in the shells of the one-celled marine protozoa known as foraminifera. The changes were apparently due to climatic changes in the oceans, so the shells could be used to estimate the climate in existence over the ocean at the time each animal lived. Here was a fine way to date the major ice ages.

Before starting, though, it was necessary to find out how fast the sediments on the deep-sea bottom were laid down. Only by knowing the deposition rate was it possible to tell how long ago a particular segment of the core was deposited. Radiocarbon dating did the trick. The shells of the foraminifera contained calcium carbonate, so the chemists could determin the age of the carbon in the carbonate radical. Radiocarbon dating is good only for specimens no older than 35,000 years, but 35,000 years probably tells the whole story. There are variations in deposition rates, but the average rate of accumulation of bottom sediment turns out to be about one inch per 1,000 years.

Study of the core samples soon produced results. As the scientists went down the core, the spacing of the warm-water and cold-water organisms in the core made it possible to graph the climatic changes the oceans had gone through. there were four major ice ages and three interglacial periods in the last 1,500,000 years, all nicely indeicated by the organisms.

For the future, it seems desirable right now to do a little research on existing species of foraminifera. Most of them are rapidly evolving species, which is why they have been useful in the past as index fossils. Deliberate mutations could easily be produced. We need a species -- call it an indicator organism -- that will tell us water temperature at a glance, maybe by having one shell coild for every five degrees of temperature above freezing. We could go further. Coil width could show nutrient content of the oceans. Shell thickness could indicate slainity, and so on. With such a true-breeding species in the oceans, all we'd have to do is haul up a seinfull, take a look at the tiny shell, and jot down all the data.

Wow, so he suggests we genetically engineer living, environment measuring critters.

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