Science Fiction
by various authors

This page:
Thomas Berger: Professor Hyde
Anthony Boucher: The Quest for Saint Aquin
Marion Zimmer Bradley: The Climbing Wave
Leigh Brackett: The Last Days of Shandakor
Miles J. Breuer, M.D.: The Gostak and the Doshes
John W. Campbell: Twilight
Ralph S. Cooper: The Neutrino Bomb
Alfred Coppel: The Peacemaker
E. M. Forster: The Machine Stops
Tom Godwin: The Cold Equations


Science Fiction

index pages:

Thomas Berger
Professor Hyde

Copyright © 1961, 1971 by Playboy

Naturally, Hyde was frustrated in his plan to drown in the tub; they had only one bathroom, and by the time all five predecessors had used it and gone off to bed, there was no hot water left. One might wish to perish in agony but never in discomfort, which would obscure the moral.



text checked (see note) Dec 2006

top of page
Anthony Boucher
The Quest for Saint Aquin

Copyright © 1951 by Henry Holt & Co.

“In some respects, Thomas,” he smiled, “we are stronger now than when we flourished in the liberty and exaltation for which we still pray after Mass. We know, as they knew in the catacombs, that those who are of our flock are indeed truly of it; that they belong to Holy Mother the Church because they believe in the brotherhood of man under the fatherhood of God—not because they can further their political aspirations, their social ambitions, their business contacts.”



“I do not mind. I never mind. I only obey. Which is to say that I do mind. This is very confusing language which has been fed into me.”



“No human being is infallible.”

“Then imperfection,” asked Thomas, suddenly feeling a little of the spirit of the aged Jesuit who had taught him philosophy, “has been able to create perfection?”

“Do not quibble,” said the robass. “That is no more absurd than your own belief that God who is perfection created man who is imperfection.”

Thomas wished that his old teacher were here to answer that one.




text checked (see note) Feb 2005

top of page
Marion Zimmer Bradley
The Climbing Wave

I read this in If This Goes On, an anthology by Charles Nuetzel.
Nuetzel merely acknowledges that the story is printed “by permission of Scott Meredith, author’s agent.”
Mr. Contento’s index (see the science fiction category page) lists one other publication, in the Feb. 1955 F&SF.
One may therefore guess this story to be copyright © 1955 or 1965 (perhaps both), by Mercury Press, Inc. or by Marion Zimmer Bradley (again, perhaps both).

IV “Probably the overpopulation reached such extremes—the solar system as a whole, of course, since Earth had to feed Mars and Venus too—that for one or two whole generations, every able-bodied man and woman had to put all his efforts into food-making instead of theoretical astronomy or whatever they called it. And by the time they had that problem solved, people were thinking of science in terms of human benefits, and probably realized that their resources could be handled more efficiently here on Earth. That—I mean thinking in terms of cost and human benefits—did away with war, too. It doesn’t take long for attitudes to grow up.”
V “Do you think the great apes have any ambition to be human? Unfortunately, I’ve come too far to be happy in a treetop or a cave. But it seems to me that it’s important, for any individual human, to find the absolute minimum with which he can recover that state of effortless happiness he lost when he left the treetops.”
VI “Well, a wood fire imparts a fine flavor to food,” he remarked. “Most people prefer it. And a cook must take pride in what she cooks, or why cook at all? And, although food culture units may be easier, if one is lazy, for those who use them, no one wants to take the time to manufacture them. One man can build a fireplace in a day, with a neighbor to help, and cook with it for the rest of his life. For a food culture unit, a man would have to spend years in learning to build it, and dozens of skilled and unskilled workers take months to build it; and, in order to make them cheaply enough for one man to buy, millions of them must be made, which means hundreds and thousands of people crowded together, just making them, having no time to grow or cook their own food, or live their own lives. The cost is too high. It’s more trouble than it’s worth.”



“Collectively, people are nothing but statistics, which are no good to anyone. People are individuals.”



VIII “Stupid, primitive Barbarians, living huddled in cities like big mechanical caves, never seeing the world they lived in, hidden away behind glass and steel and seeing their world on television screens and through airplane windows! And to make all those things they had to live huddled in their caves and do dirty smelly jobs with metal nuts and bolts, and never see what they were doing, never have any pride or skill—they lived like dirty animals! And what for? Mass men for mass production—to produce things they didn’t need, to have money to buy other things they didn’t need!”
“Man’s a small animal, and has to have a small horizon. There’s a definite limit to his horizon, which is why a village breaks down and starts having internal trouble when it gets too big. But groups of people, as a whole, have to have some idea of the world over the horizon, if they’re going to avoid the development of false ideas, superstitions and fears of strangers. So every man leads a secure, balanced life in the small horizon of his village, where he is responsible for himself, and responsible to every person he knows—and also, if he is capable, he lives a larger life beyond the village, working for others—but still and always for individuals, not for ideals.”

text checked (see note) Feb 2005

top of page
Leigh Brackett
The Last Days of Shandakor

Copyright © 1952 by Better Publications, Inc.


“I do not know of Earth,” he answered courteously. “But on Mars man has always said, ‘I reason, I am above the beasts because I reason.’ And he has been very proud of himself because he could reason. It is the mark of his humanity. Being convinced that reason operates automatically within him, he orders his life and his government upon emotion and superstition.

“He hates and fears and believes, not with reason but because he is told to by other men or by tradition. He does one thing and says another and his reason teaches him no difference between fact and falsehood. His bloodiest wars are fought for the merest whim—and that is why we did not give him weapons. His greatest follies appear to him the highest wisdom, his basest betrayals become noble acts—and that is why we could not teach him justice. We learned to reason. Man only learned to talk.”

Note (Hal’s):
As I saved this quote, newspapers carried reports of research at Emory University, in which subjects selected for political partisanship were exposed to material challenging the consistency of various politicians. Almost all the brain activity detected (using MRI equipment) while they processed the material was in areas connected with emotion rather than analysis.

— end note

top of page
Miles J. Breuer, M.D.
The Gostak and the Doshes

Copyright © 1930 by Ziff-Davis Publishing Company

“Which do you think will drive me insane more quickly—if you show me what you mean, or if you keep on talking without showing me?“

I stood a while in stupefied silence. That an entire great nation should become fired up over a meaningless piece of nonsense! Yet the astonishing thing was that I had to admit there was plenty of precedent for it in the history of my own z-dimensional world. A nation exterminating itself in civil wars to decide which of two profligate royal families should be privileged to waste the people’s substance from the throne; a hundred thousand crusaders marching to death for an idea that to me means nothing; a meaningless, untrue advertising slogan that sells millions of dollars’ worth of cigarettes to a nation, to the latter’s own detriment—haven’t we seen it over and over again?



“The gostak distims the doshes,” he pronounced impressively. “Is it not comforting to know that there is a gostak; do we not glow with pride because the doshes are distimmed? In the entire universe there is no more profoundly significant fact: the gostak distims the doshes. Could anything be more complete yet more tersely emphatic!”

Compare to:

George Orwell

Stevie Smith

I was inexperienced in listening to popular speeches, lectures, and sermons. I had spent most of my life in the study of physics and its accessory sciences. I could not help trying to figure out the meaning of whatever I heard.

text checked (see note) Feb 2005

top of page
John W. Campbell

Copyright © 1934 by Street & Smith Publications, Inc.

First published under the pseudonym “Don A. Stuart”

Savages make music too simple to be beautiful, but it is stirring. Semisavages write music beautifully simple, and simply beautiful. Your Negro music was your best. They knew music when they heard it and sang it as they felt it. Semicivilized peoples write great music. They are proud of their music, and make sure it is known for great music. They make it so great it is top-heavy.

I had always thought our music good. But that which came through the air was the song of triumph, sung by a mature race, the race of man in its full triumph!



text checked (see note) Feb 2005

top of page
Ralph S. Cooper
The Neutrino Bomb

Copyright © 1962 by the Crowell-Collier Publishing Company

Before discounting this as a significant weapon, two things should be considered. First the absence of any physical damage is directly in line with the so-called peaceful motives avowed by the Soviets, who are privately calling this a “peace bomb.” Secondly, that the detonation is not completely without observable effects since the disappearance of the hydrogen leaves a temporary vacuum into which the surrounding air rushes with a loud bang, informing the victims in the target area that they have been had.



text checked (see note) Feb 2005

top of page
Alfred Coppel
The Peacemaker

Copyright © 1952 by Quinn Publishing Company

We humans are a strange breed, unique in the universe. Of all the races met among the stars, only homo sapiens thrives on deliberate self-delusion. Perhaps this is the secret of our greatness, for we are great. In power, if not in supernal wisdom.

Legends, I think, are our strength. If one day a man stands on the rim of the galaxy and looks out across the gulfs toward the seetee suns of Andromeda, it will be legends that drove him there.

They are odd things, these legends, peopled with unreal creatures, magnificent heroes, and despicable villains. We stand for no nonsense where our mythology is concerned. A man becoming part of our folklore becomes a fey, one-dimensional, shadow-image of reality.

text checked (see note) Feb 2006

top of page
E. M. Forster
The Machine Stops

Copyright © 1928 by Harcourt, Brace & Co., Inc.

“First-hand ideas do not really exist. They are but the physical impressions produced by love and fear, and on this gross foundation who could erect a philosophy? Let your ideas be second-hand, and if possible tenth-hand, for then they will be far removed from the disturbing element—direct observation. Do not learn anything about this subject of mine—the French Revolution. Learn instead what I think that Enicharmon thought Urizen thought Gutch though Ho-Yung thought Chi-Bo-Sing thought Lafcadio Hearn thought Carlyle thought Mirabeau said about the French Revolution. Through the medium of these eight great minds, the blood that was shed at Paris and the windows that were broken at Versailles will be clarified to an idea which you may employ most profitably in your daily lives. But be sure that the intermediates are many and varied, for in history one authority exists to counteract another.”



text checked (see note) Feb 2005

top of page
Tom Godwin
The Cold Equations

Copyright © 1954 by Street & Smith Publications, Inc.

Existence required Order and there was order; the laws of nature, irrevocable and immutable. Men could learn to use them but men could not change them. The circumference of a circle was always pi times the diameter and no science of Man would ever make it otherwise. The combination of chemical A with chemical B under condition C invariably produced reaction D. The law of gravitation was a rigid equation and it made no distinction between the fall of a leaf and the ponderous circling of a binary star system. The nuclear conversion process powered the cruisers that carried men to the stars; the same process in the form of a nova would destroy a world with equal efficiency. The laws were, and the universe moved in obedience to them. Along the frontier were arrayed all the forces of nature and sometimes they destroyed those who were fighting their way outward from Earth. The men of the frontier had long ago learned the bitter futility of cursing the forces that would destroy them for the forces were blind and deaf; the futility of looking to the heavens for mercy, for the stars of the galaxy swung in their long, long sweep of two hundred million years, as inexorably controlled as they by the laws that knew neither hatred nor compassion.

The men of the frontier knew—but how was a girl from Earth to fully understand? H amount of fuel will not power an EDS with a mass of m plus x safely to its destination. To himself and her brother and parents she was a sweet-faced girl in her teens; to the laws of nature she was x, the unwanted factor in a cold equation.

Regret was illogical—and yet, could knowing it to be illogical ever keep it away?

“The terrible thing about dying like this is not that I’ll be gone but that I’ll never see them again; never be able to tell them that I didn’t take them for granted; never be able to tell them I knew of the sacrifices they made to make my life happier, that I knew all the things they did for me and that I loved them so much more than I ever told them. I’ve never told them any of those things. You don’t tell them such things when you’re young and your life is all before you—you’re afraid of sounding sentimental and silly.

“But it’s so different when you have to die—you wish you had told them while you could and you wish you could tell them you’re sorry for all the little mean things you ever did or said to them. You wish you could tell them that you didn’t really mean to ever hurt their feelings and for them to only remember that you always loved them far more than you ever let them know.”



text checked (see note) Feb 2005

top of page

Background graphic copyright © 2003 by Hal Keen