Eric Frank Russell. Allamagoosa. (Astounding May 1955)

Read in The Hugo Winners, ed Isaac Asimov, Doubleday 1962)

Winner of the Hugo for Best Short Story in 1955. There are no details I can find of the other nominees for the award, but you could take a look at Judith Merril’s The Years Greatest Science Fiction and Fantasy and find the other stories published in the first half of 1955 before the 1955 Convention took place to see what else was published at the same time.

I mention this as, having just read the Merril book, this comes across as a fairly weak story compared to several stories in that volume. It’s a funny short, and is sort of a shaggy dog story, and it’s a story that is SF because it is set on a spaceship in the future, but it would not take much to set it on a WWII destroyer, one of Nelson’s ships of the line, a greek trireme. In a nutshell : in advance of an imminent stock-take, one item on the ship’s manifest can not only not be found, but nobody has a clue what it is. (Rather sadly the crew can’t infer what it is by other items adjacent to it in the manifest, which the reader is invited so to do). The ship’s captain thinks he can pull a fast one on those doing the inventory, but his plan backfires….

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