In one of his earliest published works, Philip K. Dick brought up an important question for space explorers: faced with the need to take on fresh supplies, including livestock, what if one of the “animals” turns out to be an intelligent species?
I first read this story in a collection titled First Voyages, published in 1981 by Avon books. It’s a wonderful grouping, including L. Sprague de Camp, Edgar Pangborn, Ursula K. Le Guin, Arthur C. Clarke, Judith Merril, and Robert Heinlein to name just a few.
I saw it again in The Best of Philip K. Dick, published in 2013. So when the chance to put in my review for it as a stand-alone came up, I pounced.
The summary: owing to a food spoilage onboard his ship, captain Franco takes on supplies, including local livestock, from Mars. This includes a “wub”, a large, pig-like creature. Only it turns out the wub would be more appropriate at the table than on it. While his men become fascinated by the wub – his ability to speak in English and discuss, say, the mythology of Odysseus – Franco is simply insistent on eating him.
“It is interesting,” the wub said, “that you are obsessed with the idea of eating me. I wonder why.”
In the end, the captain does eat the wub, with great enthusiasm. His crew does not share his gusto. But the results of eating the tender flesh are surprising…
The illustration to the right is the original that accompanied the story in the July, 1952 issue of Planet Stories, where Beyond Lies the Wub was first published. It was drawn by Herman Vestal, who illustrated everything from Sci-Fi magazines, to Western Frontier adventures, to a collection of Kipling’s Just-So Stories.
Dick can do a lot in a limited space. Even in this short amount of time, he’s able to get to your emotions, your empathy. Knowing this was his first time makes it all the more impressive, really. There’s none of the hesitancy you might expect, and you aren’t disappointed at the end. You kind of want another.
|Plus, he loved his kitty!|
Now, if you want more Dick, here’s where to go:
Feedbooks has you covered with Beyond Lies the Wub. If you’d like to listen, there are several versions recorded over at Librivox.
For more Dick, check out his Author Page on Feedbooks, which features several titles including The Gun, The Skull, Mr. Spaceship, and more.
You can also see a short Dick video interview with him (from 1977) at the Internet Archive over here, and listen to a much longer Dick interview from 1979 here.
We like Dick here; you can see that if you check out this post by Dileas about Piper in the Woods, and his post about Beyond the Door. Havilah even discusses Dick in this article about Starlog Magazine!