Skulking Permit -- X Minus One

Saturday, 17 September 2011 18:03 Dave Truesdale

Robert Sheckley's "Skulking Permit" first appeared in the December 1954 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction. X Minus One's adaptation aired on February 15, 1956 and is Sheckley at his satirical best. It's been 200 years since the colony world of New Delaware has heard from Imperial Earth. It is a peaceful world of farmers and has found a way to eliminate crime. Imperial Earth, on the other hand, has continued its warlike ways, and seeks to put down any and all rebellion from those colonies seeking to break away from its authoritarian, vice-like grip.

When representatives from Imperial Earth come to visit New Delaware the inhabitants are afraid their peaceful ways will disappoint and thus incur the displeasure of Earth. To avoid this situation they convince one of their citizens to become an "official" criminal--a person who must commit thievery and murder in order to impress Earth's investigators. This is where Sheckley's scathing indictment of contemporary Earth and its practices is in full flower, for the authorities on New Delaware must consult a manual on crime and teach their appointed "criminal" just how to commit a crime. Never mind that they bungle the apprehension of said criminal and attempt to arrest him before he has committed any of his crimes. They just don't get it.

But all this is just the beginning of one of the funnier (yet deadly serious) of Sheckley's stories we've run--at last count at least three--for he has sharpened his knives with "Skulking Permit" and cleanly skewers contemporary society's dark underbelly to the core. Sheckley even throws in a reference to the Shadow, so listen closely Shadow fans

Play Time: 28:57