Reviews of Mark Elf (1957)
I love this short story, which sets the stage for the Instrumentality of Mankind universe. It is a post-apocalyptic story unlike any other I have ever read.
There is something deliciously strange and almost naïve about “Mark Elf.” I love Smith's ability to deliver very weird ideas in a very matter of fact voice (something I find very consistently in his stories).
Our heroine is a sixteen year old daughter of Nazi Germany, a young woman who has been sleeping in orbit in suspended animation for 16,000 years (I'm not sure why Pierce dates this story to 4,000 AD; there are two clear references within the story to 16,000 years having passed).
She is met by a decorated, uniformed “Moron,” who is chased away by a Menshenjagger Model Eleven a German war machine (of the “Sixth Reich”) which hasn't heard German spoken for thousands of years. Then she is aided by a telepathic bear (a Middle-Size Bear, to be precise), who is a clear precursor for the underpeople. And then a telepath arrives (the one who had given her rocket a nudge in the first place, initiating her return to Earth). He is one of the “true men,” and he sees in her the chance to revitalize the remnants of humanity. Oh, and make her happy at the same time.
All delivered in 15 pages. What fun!