In this excerpt from The Astounding, The Amazing, and the Unknown, by Paul Malmont, we plunge into a Golden Age scifi adventure . . . starring the masters of Golden Age scifi!
Here's the backstory you need to read this excerpt:
On the hunt for information about Nikola Tesla's abandoned Wardenclyffe Project, Robert Heinlein and his Kamikaze Group, the writers Isaac Asimov, L. Sprague de Camp, L. Ron Hubbard, and Walter Gibson, find themselves trapped in cavern below the Empire State Building. Their only escape is to carry their clue, a Tesla invention, through the frigid underground waters of the Minetta Stream hoping they can find a way out.
"Hey, Ike," Sprague said, in a bright, conversational tone that wouldn't have been out of place over a cup of coffee.
"Stop calling me that," Isaac said, forgetting, for a moment, about drowning, which might have been Sprague's intent.
"I've been meaning to ask you. What was that thing that Gernsback was asking about? GhuGhuism"
The water was now over Isaac's belt. He could no longer ignore the fact that the stream was growing deeper. "It's a religion that my friends Johnny Michel and Donald Wollheim started. A religion for fans of science fiction."
Ron grunted behind him.
Isaac didn't care if the writer was making fun of him or not. Not really.
"It was a joke," he explained. "Sort of. Michel had an idea, a belief, that science fiction could really, ultimately, become a political movement. Almost that the people who most wanted to imagine the future should bring about the future. He was very serious about it. Wollheim suggested that maybe Michelism, as he called it, was receiving such a poor reception was because fandom actually had more in common with a religion than a political movement. Christ, it's really getting deep isn't it?" His feet had momentarily left the bottom and he had halfbobbed, half-floated for several yards.
"Go on about the religion thing." Ron sounded out of breath.
"GhuGhuism, Wollheim called it. GhuGhu was a giant beetle that lived on the side of a mountain on a planet called Vulcan and controlled Wollheim through mental manipulation-using him to spread the gospel. But I was never Ghuish."
"Hey," Hubbard asked, "did your GhuGhu answer prayers?"
"Too bad. We could use the ear of a not too busy god about now."
The gray-green glow suffused from what appeared to be the tunnel's end, but it could by no means be misconstrued for daylight. The distant, seemingly round opening was bisected neatly in two-the upper part illuminated, the lower dark with water. He could see the bobbing heads of his friends as they struggled to navigate the case. Isaac tried to find a hold on the right-hand wall of the tunnel, his fingertips scraping against a rough surface as they successfully slowed him down a bit. Typing was
going to hurt for a few days. In spite of his situation, he had to smile a little. Some part of him actually thought he might yet survive. An instant later, the impact of Ron's body colliding with his knocked the
last bit of good humor from him. Together they tumbled back into the stream, toward its termination point.
As Isaac surfaced, he heard voices shouting, unsure of the direction. There was water in his eyes, in his ears. A hand clutched at the collar of his jacket, pulling him to the wall. The water foamed and leaped around him. His grasping hands, alive and on their own at the ends of his numb
arms, found something solid-metal-and closed around it tightly, almost involuntarily. His feet sailed along behind him, pulled by the current flow, but his grip held.
"I've got you, Ike." Bob's voice. Calm. Reassuring. Close.
Isaac opened his eyes. Mere feet from the craggy gap, he was holding on to a metal pipe. Iron or copper, it was held in place by rungs of great brackets which rose up through a wide hole cut into the ceiling. He looked up and could see Walter and Sprague managing to make their way up the pipe and disappearing into the darkness. Bob clung to the first rung above the water, holding on to the pipe with one hand, and Isaac with the other. "You hold on to the pipe," Bob said. "I've got to let go."
He nodded. Bob suddenly extended himself as far as he could, splashing into the water, simultaneously tackling and snagging Ron. Behind him, a repetitive heavy thud. Isaac turned from watching Bob reel in Hubbard to see the Tesla trunk knocking perilously at the stream's terminus,
trapped against the lip of the opening caught in a swirling vortex only about three feet away from him.
"The trunk," he shouted.
"Forget it," Sprague hollered back from somewhere above.
He could reach it.
Bob had just pulled Ron to the pipe as Isaac launched himself toward the case. He heard both men calling his name, but the water flung him toward the opening with a speed that made him feel as if he were flying, hurtling into orbit around an alien planet. Both arms flung out in a reflex motion, feeling the narrow wall on either side. His forward momentum was frightening. With a heavy thud, his chest, unprotected by his arms, struck the trunk with full force, knocking an ugly, desperate
grunt from his throat. Jarred loose, the trunk tottered for a second. He reached for it, his
fingers touching the leather, before it shot suddenly through the opening like a piece of spaghetti being sucked into a person's lips. One second it was there, and the next it was gone. Like the proverbial cork out of a bottle, the water surged forward, drawing Isaac along. Spread-eagled, he braced himself against the opening as his head was forced through.
Beyond the gap he watched in horror as their prize, pinwheeling end over end, dropped through a curtain of water and air far beyond his reach until it finally crashed onto the rocks poking through the small churning pool of white foam dozens of yards below. Wires, glass, and gears scattered every which way. What was left of the case itself then floated halfheartedly into the stream that flowed away toward the far side of a great cavern (for that's what he was peering into) before submerging once and for all beneath the dark waters. For a long moment Isaac remained suspended against the opening, peering into the vast subterranean chamber, the walls and ceiling coated with some kind of phosphorescent luminescent glow. Here were stalactites and stalagmites, great growths of colored crystals and spatterings of glittering ore woven through fields of oversized fungi.
This is an excerpt from The Astounding, The Amazing, and the Unknown, by Paul Malmont (Simon & Schuster). It comes out July 5.