(urth) Short Story 27: Thou Spark of Blood

David Stockhoff dstockhoff at verizon.net
Mon May 21 16:15:38 PDT 2012

On 5/21/2012 5:49 PM, Marc Aramini wrote:
> Thou Spark of Blood
> This was first published in If in 1970.
> SUMMARY:Gibson, Cappio, and Lorenz are ostensibly in flight to Mars 
> from Moonbase, and Gibson awakes to find Cappio dead, his throat 
> cut.“It was the easiest murder mystery in the universe to solve”.
> He thinks of killing Lorenz, but Lorenz awakes and they accuse each 
> other.They have all come to hate each other, and Lorenz says that 
> Gibson “stinks” – morally.They both have clean knives. Lorenz asserts 
> that Gibson has been cracking up.The radio has not been working, and 
> the deodorizer has gone out.They resolve to get rid of the body.Gibson 
> asks if Mars made Lorenz kill because it breeds strife and quotes 
> “Thou spark of blood, thou eye of death look’d down, thou wanderer 
> image of a burning town” (which, despite the common rumors on the 
> internet, I sure can’t find anywhere!)
> They try to throw Cappio’s body out but the hatch is stuck.Gibson 
> instructs Lorenz to cut apart the body and put it in the disposer.As 
> Lorenz starts, Gibson kills him with a knife in the neck.The disposer 
> breaks from Cappio’s femur.He puts the bodies in the suits, but they 
> wind up leaking anyway, and the stench begins.He discovers that 
> Lorenz’ and his suits had been punctured by Cappio, and finds the 
> knife Cappio used to kill himself – he would have taken everyone with 
> him.He lands on Mars (according to his view port) without detecting 
> any change in gravity and gets out in Cappio’s suit.
> The moonbase psychologist Dr. Mann approaches him. “ ‘When I clap you 
> will remember that this is only a simulation.’ Then he smelled Gibson”
> COMMENTARY: A lonely man will become full of hate.This is the flip 
> side of the rat overpopulation experiments – too many people in a 
> closed space and man becomes murderous … trapped in isolation with a 
> small sample group, it seems that man will also become 
> unhinged.Isolation and static stimuli are going to have a deleterious 
> effect whether it is simulated or real, and this inability to 
> distinguish imitation from reality is pretty much all we need to say 
> about this work.
> All three men were coming unhinged, though perhaps Lorenz displayed a 
> bit more sanity than Gibson.The story speaks for itself in its brutal 
> detail and the nasty scents of decomposition.The fact that it is only 
> a simulation does not change the psychological strain and animosity 
> these men develop for each other.There is very little to say about 
> this, save a pretty negative view of mankind, and I do have a desire 
> to clear up the oft said but hard for me to verify idea that the quote 
> describing Mars is actually from Macbeth.
> NAMES: A Cappio is a noose, so this fits in with the murder/suicide 
> aspect. Lorenz is derived from a laurel, Gibson is indeterminately the 
> son of Gilbert. I think only the Cappio name is telling.
> ALLUSIONS: Well, the clearest allusion is actually to one of the first 
> Twilight Zone episodes, in which a test astronaut cracks up in 
> solitary and hallucinates that he is alone in the world “where is 
> everybody?Where is everybody?” only to be in a small test ship alone 
> in practice for a manned mission in space.This is the same set up here.
> As far as Mars goes, Lorenz quotes that it causes blood lust: “Thou 
> spark of blood, thou eye of death look’d down, thou wanderer image of 
> a burning town.” Here’s my problem – everybody says this is from 
> Macbeth.I’ll be darned if I can find that quote, summoning the 
> destruction of Mars, the influence of War in the sky.Blood is a huge 
> symbol in Macbeth from honor to betrayal throughout, butI can’t find 
> that particular quote, and it seems like everyone just says this 
> references Macbeth, but I can’t find it.
> FUTURE ECHOES:Lots of lonely and isolated crazy people in Wolfe.The 
> Island stories confront this, often in tandem with mental illness.This 
> is probably Wolfe’s most graphic story besides The Hero as Werewolf 
> and some of the torture descriptions or cannibalism in New Sun.Once 
> again, imitation can have the same result as reality.
> Next up is Slaves of Silver in Stories from the Old Hotel.

Definitely not Macbeth. Not even anything in English, I think, or we 
could find it on the Interwebs. Greek, possibly.

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