I have to say that this is one of those stories with a great start and then… Mack installs some Mack truck-sized plot holes toward the end. The ending requires touching faith in legalities and a total disregard of how economics works, as well as convenient weakness and strength on the part of certain characters. (Frankly, there’s absolutely no reason why you can’t disappear a guy who’s been drunk off his butt for a good six months, and every reason why villains would have made contingency plans.) I think the basic problem is that Reynolds created novel-sized problems in a short story, so he chose to end it by authorial fiat; and the magazine editors decided they were fine with that. But hey, it’s entertainment. You’re happy to see a happy ending, and the editors are happy to have a story of no more than the required length.
Mack Reynolds was an extremely prolific author who was very popular back in the fifties, sixties and early seventies. (He apparently was a member of the Socialist Labor Party, which surprises me. I always thought he was an early libertarian or something. Well, I’m no pundit.) Anyway, he always struck me as a very Western-ornery sort of writer, and he wrote a lot of military and political sf. It was fairly obvious that he loved throwing what-ifs into the speculation blender. Today he’s almost totally forgotten by younger sf readers, except for his 1968 Star Trek kids’ novel, which was recently reprinted at John Ordover’s behest. (A very nice behest.) I don’t think any of his books were precisely great, but they were all pretty good reads.
“Shipwreck in the Sky” is a fun little near-future story of a pioneering Air Force space test pilot. Originally published in March 1954 in Fantastic Universe, you’ll find that it did a pretty good job of predicting how space would be. But then, it throws in a little twist…. 🙂
I’m not sure Binder captures the military on a mission/flight control mindset quite as well as he could have (unless you imagine the Colonel as being actually extremely stoic in his replies, in which case it does make sense). I’m afraid I didn’t quite capture the pilot voice correctly, though, so we’re even. (Maybe I need to rewatch The Right Stuff, to get in touch with my inner Chuck Yeager.)
“Morale” continues, as Sergeant Walpole comes up with a plan, and Murray Leinster anticipates the feelings of many television viewers. (Really, an impressive act of extrapolation, in a story published in December 1931.)