on Tales of Time and Space
Tales of Time and Space, edited by Ross R. Olney consists of a number of simply plotted little stories by some of science fiction's best. They are simply plotted yet enthralling. Don't know what passes for young adult fiction these days, but these stories fit the bill for me in days gone buy.
10 • Yesterday's Fantasy, Today's Fact-an Introduction • essay by Ross R. Olney
No one has read much science fiction without having been told how imaginative/speculative/science fiction/fantasy foretold most common place advances long before they were made. This may have been the first book in which I read the idea.
15 • All the Time in the World • (1952) • shortstory by Arthur C. Clarke Sir Author C. Clarke is best known for "2001: A Space Odyssey", "Childhood's End", and "Rendevous with Rama".
Any offer that sounds too good probably has a catch, and so it is in this story. Say you're a thief by trade and someone offers a million pounds to hire you to clean out a national museum. They offer to lend you a bracelet that accelerates time around you so that you can be in and out in a flash. or a blink of an eye. You'd be a fool not to, right?
A tight little story about the thief's moral qualms. The ending was not surprising. Would have made a good Twilight Zone. It was an episode in the TV series Tales of Tomorrow. It was Clarke's first story adapted to TV.
34 • Puppet Show • (1962) • shortstory by Fredric Brown
Fredric Brown also wrote "Arena", the story the Star Trek (TOS) episode of the same name was/wasn't based on. First contacts can be dicey. Say you're assigned by a vast Galactic Federation to evaluate Earth in general and the United States in particular. What questions would you ask and what assurances would you make? And what sort of tests would you perform? And what is a "master race" anyway? A pointy little story about ethnocentrism. It's one of Brown's last stories and one of several First Contact stories. Brown does a wonderful job of setting up the reader for the ending.
50 • Birds of a Feather is a1958 novelette by Robert Silverberg
Robert Silverberg sold his first stories in 1953 and 1954. He still writes a column for Asimov's Science Fiction. The first story of his I remember reading is Nightwings in The Hugo Winners.
Birds are ruthless competitors. They are the surviving dinosaurs, and their survival instincts are hard-wired into their old reptile cortices. How fitting an analogy to describe the protagonist and antagonist in this story. Say you run a special sort of show. Non-humans line up to get in. You have to turn away most. But what if a con artist puts one over you and horns in under false pretenses? Now you've got an employee sharp enough to squeeze you out of a sweet deal. But he can't out-con a con, when you've got the goods on him.
This is a fun and imaginative read. The variety of xenophonts reminds me of Poul Anderson's stories.
82 • Clutch of Morpheus is a 1946 a short story by William Campbell Gault [as by Larry Sternig ]
Say you were born with a mutation. Not an obvious-to-the-eye mutation, but you don't sleep, haven't slept, can't sleep. Say you've been poked and prodded and examined by scientists and physicians and the public to the point of taking an assumed name to avoid further publicity. But you're curious-- what's it like? you wonder. What's it like to sleep? So you look up the leading anesthesiologist in the country and discuss it with him over dinner. Meanwhile, there's a comet in the sky, and Earth is situated in its tale, and will be for some time. Long story short, it has a soporific effect on everyone else. You get to figure out the solution to their problem, which happens to be the solution to your own, through an incredible string of co-incidences.
The story stretches the ability to suspend disbelief, which wasn't a problem when I first read the story, and which does not seem an insurmountable problem in most readers of science fiction. Mumblety-mumble years of reading this stuff means seldom being surprised by an ending, but I enjoyed it just the same.
105 • The Last Command is a Bolo 1967 short story by Keith Laumer
Dave Drake tells in his preface to Hammer's Slammers that he was heavily influenced by Laumer's Bolo's. The professionalism and dedication to duty that Drake describes in his own unit, the Viet Nam era Blackhorse , is seen also in Laumer's , "Unit LNE of the Dinochrome Brigade!" a Mark XXVIII Bolo and his former commander, Lieutenant Sanders. Unit LNE of the Dinochrome Brigade."
Say you awaken buried and crippled, the blasting at a construction site 70 years after your burial has jarred you awake and triggered your Battle Mode Reflex. On escaping your tomb and finding yourself not only crippled but alone, you conclude that your unit has been annihilated by a counter attack. You do not realize 70 years have past and that the city ahead of you is a civilian city and not the enemy's stronghold. Your duty is clear. Whatever the cost, duty demands that you charge the ramparts and inflict as much harm on the enemy as you can before you succumb. Nothing now on planet can stop a BOLO Mark XXVIII. (The artillery and air strikes they lay on you just knock some of the debris off.) Your old commander, Lieutenant Sanders, is 90 years old and still has his old uniform. He sees your return on TV and knows that he will need to talk to you to stop this rampage. Communication from a distance proves not to be efficacious, and Sanders must climb aboard your hull to make contact. The problem with this is you are still incredibly radioactive from the hits taken during the late battle. (You don't know you and the others had been buried under 200 yards of rock because clean-up would have been too costly.) Sanders receives a far greater than lethal dose in making contact, but you recognize him despite time's ravages; you break-off and retire ten miles to the desert. Together you roll into the past of a world that no longer needs nor can appreciate your service.
136 • Fog is a 1951 a short story by William Campbell Gault
This is a somber tale that is hard to grip. Perhaps it would fit in today's idiom in which understanding of the goals and motives of the antagonist isn't important. It isn't important to understand how the protagonist got into this mess. The important thing is the courage and self abnegation of the protagonist. More subtly and appalling is the extremes to which the U.S. is willing to go to win. Russia lies a desolate, radioactive wasteland. So the means used to end the Veneran threat is a logical extension of a successful solution. I thought the story a little cheesy and the emotion rending (or not) ending reminded me of the ending of "A Question of Courage" by J. F. Bone.
Say you're an orphan. The only father you've known is the head of the Science Department, your boss, The Old Man. So The Old Man calls you to his office to send you to investigate a killer fog in San Francisco. Fog in San Francisco is not troubling. The dramatic increase in suicides associated with this fog is troubling, and it is accelerating. Unbeknownst to The Old Man is that you are secretly working for the Venereans, the inhabitants of the planet Venus. Of course, the Venereans are behind the fog. After allowing sufficient time for the significance of the escalating suicide rate to sink in, the Venereans issue an ultimatum-- surrender or else. Your job becomes to carry the response to Venus.
161 • The Martian Crown Jewels is a 1958 a short story by Poul Anderson
Poul Anderson is best known for his Technic Civilization and Time Patrol stories.
Say you're a Martian private detective who admires Sherlock Holmes. Say the Crown Jewels have been loaned to Earth and stolen during the journey home. The diplomatic situation that would result from knowledge of the loss of the jewels becoming public would be unfortunate. Through application of some physics, clear thinking, and deduction, you solve the mystery and expose the culprits.
189 • Of Missing Persons is a short story by Jack Finney
Say you work at a mediocre little job and live a desperate little life. The meanness of your existence eats away at you a little more each and every day. Each and every day you yearn for something better. At last, the way out, the way home, the way to a better life is there for you to take. If you don't funk at the crucial moment.
Jack Finney's best known work is "The Invasion of the Body Snatchers". This poignant tale touches the reader because the protagonist's feelings of quiet desperation in this story written sixty years ago are the feelings many of us have today.