Rick Raphael was born in 1919 and died in 1994. He wrote only a small amount of work but it’s quality and much of it is both clever and amusing. It’s surprising to note just how many older SF writers had a very wide spread of occupations – either that or unusual ones. They may turn to writing because these occupations allow them the time, or because in some way they spark interest in genre fiction. Raphael was a journalist, photographer, columnist and TV writer, as well as producing a small select amount of SF.
A lot of his stories are technologically oriented, The Thirst Quenchers is one of those and in the first two sections of that book he foresaw the problems that a growing megapolis could have with inadequate water available. It features the DivAg Hydrology section, a department that collects, conserves, and allocates precipitant water, (rain, hail, snow) and how the staff handles emergencies. The first section, the title piece, deals with an earthquake that cracks three main reservoirs where the loss of water will be catastrophic for the urban areas that reply on them. The second section (Guttersnipe) deals with the work of the sanitation water reclamation section, commonly known as guttersnipes. That section, while moderately graphic in places as to the work and how and why it is done, is also a very solid forerunner of work that is done now more than fifty years after Raphael wrote this book.
(The first section, the collection and use of precipitant moisture is already starting to be truth in a number of countries as well. Another instance where an SF writer has produced suggestions that have come true many years later.)
After those book sections Raphael moved on to postmen in space with The Mailman Cometh, a very funny space opera tale of man versus technology, the mail must go through, and the unexpected arrival of a Galactic Postal Service Inspector. And the last section is a provoking, biting, and poignant story about the Park Service in a massively overcrowded world – with several terrific one-liners.
All (but the final story) are based strongly on future technology and in a very effective and believable way. By the time that Raphael began selling his SF he would have been almost forty and between life experience and what he’d learned as a journalist, he clearly hadn’t wasted his time. I suspect that part of his journalism career he spent in writing stories on new technology and from these he extrapolated both future technology and increasing urbanization. But despite the solid technological backgrounds, people are still the focus of his work, the question being of how they deal with the technology around them, in what ways it impacts their lives, and if it is possible at times to make an end run around the technology or bureaucracy that can be stifling people’s lives. I particularly recommend The Third Quenchers.
The Thirst Quenchers 1965 (Collection)
Code Three 1966 (possible collection)
The Defector 1980
The President Must Die 1981
Short Stories –
1959. A Filbert Is a Nut
1960. Make Mine… Homogenized
1963. Code Three
1963. The Thirst Quenchers
1964. Identity Mistaken
1964. Once a Cop
1965. Odd Man In
1965. The Mailman Cometh
1981. False Scent
His short story, Code Three was a Hugo Nominee in 1964, and Once a Cop was a Hugo nominee in 1965.
Many of the short stories listed ultimately became a ‘book’ and are listed as that although in effect they are collections. A fair amount of Raphael’s work is now available as free downloads from Gutenberg Press and other works from various free download sites.