Contagion by Katherine MacLean

This may be the first story I’ve ever read by McLean. Published in 1950, the story feels remarkably current. I’m not sure how accurate the science is for our time, but it feels right. There are one or two dated things; I didn’t mind. I thought I had this story figured out, but I did not. I knew what was actually happening exactly when McLean wanted me to.

In short, this is a story about colonists who want to settle on a planet. They arrive only to discover that other colonists already live there. Human colonists, of which there is no record.

The caution that these new settlers use before they settle on this planet is something I value in science fiction but have rarely seen. Just like I don’t recall ever reading this particular twist in a science fiction story; no one built on it, and no one changed it.

I have two more MacLean collections and some anthologized stories ahead. I’m looking forward to them now.

Collected in Women of Wonder edited by Pamela Sargent, Vintage Books, 1974.

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