Marty Worrel

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Hard-living loser who somehow manages to compose an interplanetary hit, "Homing Song," from the science fiction story "Orphans of the Void," first published as "The Man Who Wasn't Home" in Fantastic Science Fiction Stories vol. 9, no 9 (September 1960). The song affects people so deeply, the protagonist Sandler (an orphan raised on Earth) ends up risking life and limb to find his own origins, and uncovers a decades-old evil government policy of forced adoption of off-world children by Earth parents.

He'd run into Marty on a dozen worlds, or fifty, or a hundred. It seemed that everywhere he went he met Marty Worrel— if he happened into a dive that was cheap enough, and dirty enough, and illegal enough. Worrel was a man Sandler's age, with a wrinkled, ageless face and an insatiable thirst for alcohol. Inveterate wanderer of the galaxy, man of superb, hopelessly squandered talents, brilliant exponent of disillusionment, disgustingly enslaved alcoholic — that was little Marty. He could have been a genius at almost anything he chose to work at, but all he ever worked at was a bottle.

Sandler had last encountered Worrel on Kranil, and the shabby little fellow had managed to stay sober long enough to write a song. Or perhaps he'd tossed it off in a state of exhilarated intoxication. The facts of Worrel's activities were always hard to come by.

But he had written the song, and Sandler had met Worrel in a tough spacers' hangout near the Kranil City port and heard a slatternly bar girl give the song its first public performance. "Homing Song," Worrel had called it, and like most of Worrel's conversation the words were sometimes immortal poetry and sometimes nonsense, but the melody was a haunting, soaring masterpiece of poignant emotion. It entwined itself into Sandler's consciousness and defied eviction. Even if it had not he couldn't have forgotten it, because it swept across the galaxy on hyperdrive, and everywhere Sandler went he heard it. Even on Earth— he'd heard it the night before, in the hotel's Martian Room, sung with enticing gestures by a tall, sedate-looking blonde.

It was the song that brought Sandler to Earth. Its words had pounded away at him, home . . . home . . . home, and its melody had tormented him, and finally he had signed on a run across half the galaxy to Earth. To home. And he had arrived only to learn that he had no home, and the bitter realization pained and frustrated him.


Home is that place
in deepest space
Where memories burn.
Home is a sigh
For a color of sky,
And a will to return.

Home is a light
across the night
of love enshrined.
Home is the smart
of tears and a heart
of faith left behind

A moonlet drear
With atmosphere
Is sacred ground.
The barren loam
Of any home
Is flower-crowned.

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