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the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

The Seventh Order -- Jerry Sohl

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Jerry Sohl (1913-2002) entered the SF field with his story "The Seventh Order" (Galaxy, March, 1952). This X Minus One adaptation aired May 8, 1956. The theme of Man vs. Machine is an old one in science-fiction, takes many forms, and even goes beyond into the world at large, witness Stephen Vincent Benet's adapted for radio 1935 poem "The Revolt of the Machines" (a.k.a. "Nightmare") which you can also listen to at Tangent Online. While Benet's machines are of Earthly design and origin, and consciously malfunction and murder, the seventh generation (or "order") telepathic robots in Sohl's story come from another world and seek to dominate--and kill if necessary--any humans who threaten their existence (much as they have destroyed the humans who created them on their own home planet).

Sandwiched between the Benet (1935) and the Sohl (1952) is Jack Williamson's classic "With Folded Hands" (Astounding Science Fiction, July, 1947) which also has robots arriving from another planet, but with the ostensible benign mandate of taking care of mankind, their humanoid pledge being: To Serve and Obey, And to Guard Men From Harm. Rather than murdering or conquering mankind as in the Benet and Sohl, Williamson's humanoids end up unintentionally enslaving mankind when their directive is taken to its (internal to the story) logical conclusion, when men have relinquished their individual rights and turned them over to machines. Not so with "The Seventh Order," where, as you will see, humanity fights back.

1956 saw another year of peace and prosperity for America, and while SF readers listened to telepathic robots from another world attempt to conquer Earth, they were also reading such grand fare as Margaret St. Clair's "Horror Howce" (Galaxy, July), and Theodore Sturgeon's "And Now The News..." from the December issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.

1956 was an interesting year in other ways. There were 7,000 drive-in theaters in America. A few misguided folk tried to ban rock and roll. Bela Lugosi, the greatest Dracula of them all, died. And in science, we saw the first successful picture of the DNA molecule.

Herewith, the X Minus One dramatization of Jerry Sohl's "The Seventh Order."

Play Time: 29:59