Dangerous Visions by Ellison, Harlan, 1967

Dangerous Visions by Ellison, Harlan

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fact that it generally takes much more than this to shock us these days.

Evensong, by Lester del Rey: A being comes to an abandoned planet ahead of its pursuers, whom it calls "The Usurpers." The being is concerned that the Usurpers have left traps for it here, and searches for them. While searching it encounters a beautiful, lush walled garden. Inside the garden are forest creatures, such as bunnies and fawns, but no intelligent beings. But before the being can get comfortable the Usurpers show up and yank it out of the garden. The being pleads for freedom and says that it is God, and the Usurpers acknowledge that they are men. This story was very predictable, though it was pretty good to read. It is an allegory, probably more for the cyclical nature of the universe than for mankind's ability to evolve and grow.

Flies, by Robert Silverberg: Cassidy is involved in a horrible wreck above Iapetus, a moon of Saturn. Only a few of his body parts are left, but he is regrown by a race of beings called the Golden Ones. The Golden Ones are curious about mankind, so they modify Cassidy to be receptive to others emotions, and equip him to transmit the raw emotions back to the Golden Ones for study. As a result of the manipulations he is no longer able to empathize with other humans, so when he gets back to Earth and among his own kind he has no desire to be mindful of others feelings. He decides to visit his three ex-wives. The first, Beryl is an addict of a drug called Triline, which has the side effect of eating ones skeleton from the inside. She has kicked her habit and is preparing to go through plastic surgery to rebuild her lost bones. She is very hopeful about the future. When she sees Cassidy she begs him to love her again. He agrees, leaves and goes to get Triline. To her horror he gives her an overdose and dies. Next is Muribel, who has become enormously obese. She hates her current husband, but loves her small lap pet. He grabs the beast and wrings the life out of it in front of her eyes. Last he visits Lureen who has, after years of trying with artificial insemination, become pregnant. She is in her seventh month when Cassidy visits, and she is happy and wishes to be alone. Cassidy kicks the fetus from her belly. When he contacts the Golden Ones they realize that they have made a mistake. He has been collecting the most intense emotions he can find, sorrow and desolation. They call him back and fix him, then send him to Earth to wallow in self-hatred over the things he has done. I think that this one is about the emotional disconnect that naturally exists between different people. It is examined in the extreme (as SF is best at doing), through the eyes of someone who just does not care at all about the horror he causes. But even though the protagonist has been changed by the Golden Ones, he still feels the emotional impact of what he has done after he has committed his acts, just like we all do in real life. So it is also a lament about the way we treat others, and act without thinking.

The Day After the Day the Martians Came: Mandela runs a cheap hotel near Cape Kennedy (a.k.a., Cape Canaveral) in Florida. The hotel is filled past capacity because a mission to Mars has returned to Earth with a few creatures indigenous to Mars. They are long wiener-dog looking creatures, but NASA thinks that they speak to each other with a distinct language. The news media has flooded the Cape, and NASA chases everyone away. The reporters are now holed up in local hotels and have congregated in the lobby to watch the only TV in the place and compare notes. A bunch of the reporters are playing cards, and they are all talking, and oddly, telling insulting jokes and riddles about the Martians. Actually, what they are doing is taking old Catholic and Polish and Jew jokes and putting "Martian" in for whatever other ethnicity or religion the joke was originally told about. This is maybe the most important day in their history, and for them all its business as usual: Us vs. them.

Riders of the Purple Wage, by Philip José Farmer (Hugo Award for best novella): For those of you who did not enjoy James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake, this one may not be for you. Big parts of it are told in a stream of consciousness style that is straight out of the id of the author. However Farmer does switch over to a more traditional style in parts of the book that are not as obscure, but are nevertheless practically swaddled in puns, double entendre and crypto-linguistics. As usual with stories of this type the reader's job is not only to relate it to his or her own experiences, but also to penetrate the extremely dense, almost poetic prose and divine the author's meaning as well. In particular this story is about a future where most people are recipients of government assistance, mostly from an N.E.A. type bureaucracy that funds artistic expression. The story is a bit dated in that Farmer seeks to shock the reader with references to government sponsored abortion, birth control, drug usage, casual sex, homosexuality, and all the other risqué topics from the 1960's, but the effect really is muted by the passage of time. This one is nevertheless full of interesting imagery, so I'm going to give you a lot to consider here.

Farmer breaks his novella into several different smaller stories. Most are about Chibiabos Elgreco Winnegan, or "Chib" to his friends. Chib wakes up in the very first part of the story, called The Cock that Crowed Backwards, and I think has sex. Not casual and gentle morning sex either. This is the kind of sex that requires a nap afterward. Farmer was well known - infamous some would say - for exploring many different aspects of sexuality in his SF tales. Farmer got his start in the Golden Age era, and this differentiated him greatly from all of his contemporaries who treated bedroom activities in a somewhat Victorian manner, at least literally speaking. Though it did set him up as a shining light for the New Wave era of SF that in the U.S.A. at least sprung forth like Minerva from her father's head on the day that Ellison's Dangerous Visions - where this work was first published - hit the shelves. Anyway, if I am reading this right, this is where Chib wakes up with a morning erection:

Dunghill and cock's egg: up rises the cockatrice and gives first crow, two more to come, in the flushrush of blood of dawn of I-am-the-erection-and-the-strife.

Then gives as good as he gets:

Up around her kitten-ear-soft leg, around and around, and sliding across the dale of groin. Nuzzling the tender corkscrewed hairs and then, self-Tantalus, detouring up the convex of belly, saying hello to the bellybutton, pressing on it to right upstairs, around and around the narrow waist and shyly and quickling snatching a kiss from each nipple. Then back down to form an expedition for climbing the mons veneris and planting the flag thereon.

And then finishes:

The woman strolls on. Wait for me! Out of the flood roars, crashes into the knot roars back, ebb clashing with flood. Too much and only one way to go. He jerkspurts, the firmament of waters falling, no Noah's ark or arc; he novas, a shatter of millions of glowing wriggling meteors, flashes in the pan of existence. Thigh kingdom come. Groin and belly encased in musty armor, and he cold, wet and trembling.

But sex is not all the story is about. Chib is a talented young artist who is trying to get his first government grant to live on. He is being pushed by his mother, who is a waste of flesh and wants the comfort that the government dole will bring. Chib lives with his mother, but unbeknownst to Chib's mother, his grandfather also lives in the house that they share. In this world, which is a SF setting, the elder Winnegan was a business man twenty five years ago. The government at that time had already started guaranteeing basic necessities, such as housing, food, medical care and others, and had absorbed every single business as a way to meet its obligations. Winnegan bribed senators and judges and was alone allowed to keep his business, a massive construction company. But it was not to last, and people too high up to bribe eventually came after Winnegan. When it became obvious to him that he was going to lose his business, he somehow managed to steal $20 billion from the L.A. bank and fake his death (referred to as "Winnegan's Fake). Ever since then a man named Accipter with the Internal Revenue Bureau had been chasing him. However, currency had fallen out of use because the government eventually came to provide everything that was needed, so having large stashes of it became nothing more than a status symbol. Even still, Accipter never gave up. Ultimately he discovered that Winnegan was living in Chib's house, and broke in and killed the old man. Chib sued Accipter for the death, and Accipter charged Chib and his mother as accomplices after the fact.

Running concurrently with that plot also was Chib's efforts to become an accomplished artist. Chib's grandfather saw a lot of potential in the boy, but realized something that Chib did not, and that is that talent alone was not enough to get by in this world.

There he goes, my beautiful grandson, bearing gifts to the Greeks. So far, that Hercules has failed to clean up his psychic Augean stable. Yet, he may succeed, that stumblebum Apollo, that Edipus Wrecked. He's luckier than most of his contemporaries. He's had a permanent father, even if a secret one, a zany old man hiding from so-called justice. He has gotten love, discipline, and a superb education in this starred chamber. He's also fortunate in having a profession.

But Mama spends far too much and is also addicted to gambling, a vice which deprives her of her full guaranteed income. I'm supposed to be dead, so I don't get the purple wage. Chib has to make up for all this by selling or trading his paintings. Luscus has helped him by publicizing him, but at any moment Luscus may turn against him. The money from the paintings is still not enough. After all, money is not the basic of our economy' it’s a scarce auxiliary. Chib needs the grant but won't get it unless he lets Luscus make love to him.

And after all of those rich plots, Farmer also gives the reader a pretty interesting and changed world. The U.S.A. that Chib lives in is certainly a dystopic one, and as usual, it has failed utopic ambitions. Within the society the purple wage is available to all, but it must be earned. Only 10% or so of the citizens are capable of producing something artistic that warrants that particular dole, with leaves only sustenance level for the other 90%, unless they can figure some other way to earn a dole. As it happen three different options have developed. The inartistic may become civil servants, they may become addicts to fido (TV/communication/handheld computer devices), or they may leave. Most choose to become addled addicts, of course, and there are probably billions of them in the U.S. alone. For the government this is a win, because with the fido they can achieve control, and quiet. But for the talented 10%, things can get interesting. Many of them join gangs in their youths, and Chib was no exception. The government was so interested in Chib's talent that they kept an eye on him in his youth and tracked his movements, I suppose to make sure he was safe. Chib was a member of a gang called the Young Radishes:

A radish is not necessarily reddish," he says into the recorder. "The Young Radishes so named their group because a radish is a racicle, hence, radical. Also, there's a play on roots and on red-ass, a slang term for anger, and possibly on ruttish and rattish. And undoubtedly on ride-ickle, Beverly Hills dialectical term for a repulsive, unruly and socially ungraceful person.

Yet the Young Radishes are not what I would call Left Wing; they represent the current resentment against Life-In-General and advocate no radical policy of reconstruction. They howl against Things As The Are, like monkeys in a tree, but never give constructive criticism. They want to destroy without any though of what to do after the destruction.

Though this was the primary characteristic of the gang, this was not one of Chib's defining character traits. Chib was more Bohemian and not so much beatnik or radical in his outlook, and was also too young really to think that way anyhow. And for that reason I tend to think more of this story as a coming of age tale. Chib's only real serious interest in riding the purple wage is to appease his mother, and not because he needs it. He probably will be more than capable of supporting himself with his art alone, and contemplates going to Egypt to satisfy his curiosity and expand his influences, and his grandfather supports him in this. From a note handed to Chib at his grandfathers second, and final funeral:

Final advice from the Wise Old Man In The Cave. Tear loose. Leave L.A. Leave the country. Go to Egypt. Let your mother ride the purple wage on her own. She can do it if she practices thrift and self-denial. If she can't, that's not your fault.

You are fortunate enough to have been born with talent, if not genius, and to be strong enough to want to rip out the umbilical cord. So do it. Go to Egypt. Steep yourself in the ancient culture. Stand before the Sphinx. Ask her (actually, its a he) the Question.

* * * * * *

You've been painting with your penis, which I'm afraid was more stiffened with bile than with passion for life. Learn to paint with your heart. Only thus will you become great and true.

There is of course much, much more in this novella to think about. Ellison has praised this one as his favorite pieces in the entire Dangerous Visions series time and time again. Farmer has accomplished something phenomenal here; something to be respected and admired. I cannot say in any way that he failed to accomplish what he set out to do. This thing is technically and literally superb, and deserves much more attention that it gets today.

The Malley System, by Miriam Allen deFord: This is an interesting tale about society's interest in curbing recidivism through rehabilitative measures, rather than retributive. A prison has begun taking its most serious felons, those who commit murder, rape a child or commit mayhem, and plugging them into a computer that makes them experience their darkest desired again and again and again. While they are not under treatment they are allowed to live ordinary lives. They can see their spouses, or take a job, and they are not in lockdown or solitary confinement ever. The theory behind the Malley System is this:

(Malley's) idea came originally from a very minor and banal bit of folk history. Back in the old days, when they had privately owned stores and people were paid wages to work in them, it used to be the custom, in shops that sold pastries and confectionary and such delicacies, which the young particularly crave - and also, I believe, in breweries and wineries - to allow new employees to eat or drink their fill. It was found that soon them became satiated, and then actually averse to the very thing they has so much craved - which of course saved a good deal of money in the long run.

The program works, and there is no recidivism among the prisoners who have undergone the treatment. The problem is that once they are "cured," they go insane from the memories of what they have done, so the story is also about the nature of punishment, and what makes it "cruel and unusual."

A Toy for Juliette, by Robert Bloch: The idea for this story and the next one, by Ellison, sprang from a short story Bloch wrote in the 1940's about Jack the Ripper in which Jack made a deal with the Dark Gods to stay alive forever if he gave them the blood of women every month. According to Bloch and Ellison that wound up being his most famous short story ever, and informed them both in the writing of these two takes. The Ellison piece serves as a sequel to Bloch's. Bloch's story is post apocalyptic. There are only 3,000 people living on the Earth under one domed city. Juliette is a young lady who lives in a mirror lined room in her grandfather's home. Her grandfather has the only working time machine on Earth, and frequently goes back in time to bring Juliette "toys." Some of the toys are ancient implements of torture, and others are people from the past, whom Juliette uses the implements on. Sometimes grandfather brings Juliette someone famous, such as Amelia Earhart or the crew of the Mary Celeste. Juliette plays perverse sex games with her victims, then kills them in horrible ways. One day grandfather announces over Juliette's intercom that he "has a surprise for her." That was his way of telling her that he was about to send a new Christian into her lioness' den. In strolled a man dressed as a Victorian, with a doctor's bag. Juliette prepares to spring her trap, but her "victim" picks out her knife from under the covers and uses it on her. Grandfather has brought Jack the Ripper to Juliette, and she was just no match for him.

The Prowler in the City at the Edge of the World, by Harlan Ellison: Ellison's story picks up where Bloch's left off. The grandfather, Hanlon, befriends Jack and congratulates him on living through Juliette's trap. Jack is confused, but Hanlon allows him to bathe, then takes him to his friends. Hanlon's friends are human, but they are living their lives as flowers in a garden. People in this very advanced culture are able to trade for whatever body they want at any time. They send Jack back in time and watch as he murders a whore in Whitechapel named Emily Matthewes. Jack has convinced himself that he is killing the women to bring attention to the plight of the poor and destitute in the East End of London, but when he comes back the flowers accuse him of killing out of a perverse psycho-sexual motivation. Jack loses his cool and knifes and kills Hanlon, and a few others. Jack goes on a killing spree, and starts collecting his victim's hearts and brains, and soon has a collection of over 100 organs. He thinks he has the entire city in a grip of fear, when the residents show him their true power and kill him with the wave of a hand. The citizens had been fooling Jack all along and always had the power to stop him. This is pretty typical Ellison, in that its a "weird" tale that is well written and interesting. Ellison has a knack for touching nerves in the reader that have never really been touched before. This feels like a horror piece, but more to the point it is about power and cultural differences that make Jack look to the humans of the future as a mouse looks to a cat. The cat can play with the mouse as much as they want, and the mouse may even feel like it is winning at some point, but then the cat just ends things, consumes the mouse and moves on.

The Night That All Time Broke Out, by Brian W. Aldiss: I really cannot stand anything that this author writes. I keep hearing from others how good he is, but everything I read, I hate. This one may be the worst story I have ever read. In it a couple who lives in the country have just had a "time gas main" run out to their house. Now they can sniff the naturally occurring time gas any time they like. The gas allows people to re-experience any time in their life, so an old woman can make herself into a twelve year old with just a thought. After the couple gets the line installed they begin having trouble with their service, and discover that the miners who extract the gas from the Earth have struck a pocket that has escaped and engulfed the village they live in (because, of course, the gas goes immediately from the underground pockets directly to the lines, without being stored like, say, every other gas known to man). I could not be bothered to find out how the thing ends, though I was disgusted by the author-written introduction where he claims that he is "the best science fiction writer in the world," because "his books sell like hotcakes." Hmmmm. The UK's very own Kevin J. Anderson? I grow increasingly unlikely to ever purchase anything by Mr. Aldiss again, but then I am reminded of his masterful Billion and Trillion Year Spree books.

The Man Who Went to the Moon — Twice, by Howard Rodman: This story is a farce, but a good one told in the tradition of Clifford Simak. A young boy in a rural community tells a reporter that he made a trip to the moon on an escaped balloon on the eve of a county fair. The reporter prints the story and the boy becomes a local celebrity. He is loved by all and recounts his story for everyone. Eighty-one years later, as a 90 year old man, the boy wakes up and realizes that everyone he knows is dead, and he is very lonely. He decides to stay away from town for a month to see if anyone comes to visit him or find out if he is OK. Nobody does. When the old man goes back to town he tries to rekindle the community's excitement and love for him by telling them that he has again gone to the moon. Everyone just lets the tale slide off as if he is just a crazy old man. He finally finds a boy and tells him that he has been to the moon. The young boy is incredibly excited and wants to go get his little friend. When the two return to the old man's house, they find his cooling corpse in an easy chair. The big joke at the end is that sometime in the 81 year gap the world has started making regular trips to the moon, and apparently the old man had forgotten that. The people that he told about his second moon trip probably though he was telling the truth, but were not impressed with an everyday occurrence. This one is a slow paced and bittersweet pastoral that deals with issues related to age and loneliness, and its a great if somewhat bare bones tale.

Faith of our Fathers, by Philip K. Dick: Ellison said in his introduction that he wanted Dick to write him a story, if possible, while he was under the influence of LSD. You can read this and see if he did it. The main character is a low level bureaucrat in Vietnam. In this world Vietnam is a vassal state of China, and Chinese communism rules. The Communists keep control of the people by giving them a constant supply of drugs. The main character accidentally goes off his drugs one day, and sees a non-tweaker vision of the party boss. The story is about what else he learns after he comes down. Did I even need to tell you Dick wrote this one?

The Jigsaw Man, by Larry Niven: This is the first of Niven's "organ bank" stories. As a way of prolonging life organ transplant technology has made leaps and bounds. The rich ultimately realize that they can add hundreds of years of life by purchasing the organs of the dead. The problem is that the economy is doing so well, and there are so many rich, that the organs start to become scarce. So the law "catches up" with society, and legislators start making minor crimes punishable by death, so that the organ banks can harvest the organs of the condemned. In this story a condemned man manages to break out of prison as he is awaiting trial. He is ultimately recaptured and the reader learns in the end that he is being sentenced to death for a series of traffic violations.

Gonna Roll the Bones, by Fritz Leiber (Hugo and Nebula awards for Best Novelette): Joe Slattermill, a drunk and a wife beater, decided to go out one night to a new casino in town called The Boneyard. Joe is not a nice guy, but not much around him is nice either.

(Joe's wife) was thin as death and disease in her violet wrapper. Without looking, she reached out a yard-long skinny arm for the nearest gin bottle and downed a warm slug and smiled again. And without work spoken, Joe knew she'd said, "You're going out and gamble and get drunk and lay a floozy and come home and beat me and go to jail for it," and he had a flash of the last time he'd been in the dark gritty cell and she'd come by moonlight, which showed the green and yellow lumps on her narrow skull where he'd hit her, to whisper to him through the tiny window in back and slip him a half pint through the bars.

Joe goes to The Boneyard and goes to a craps table where he finds a bunch of high rollers, and a man in black that would probably just as soon look at Joe as kill him. But Joe, an expert craps roller, makes his mark by building a few dollars into a few thousand, and more. He was scorned by opening with one buck, but earned respect as he continued to roll well, and knew when to stop and pull his money off the table. Most of the others at the table were rubes and dolts, but the Man in Black, the Big Gambler, cleared the table and took everyone's money save Joe's. But Joe botched a roll at the end of the night and lost it all to the Big Gambler.

Seeing the cubes sitting on the black rim in front of him almost gave Joe apoplexy. All the feelings racking him, including his curiosity, rose to an almost unbelievable pitch of intensity, and when he'd said "Rolling my pile," and the Big Gambler had replied, "You're faded," he yielded to an uncontrollable impulse and cast the two dice straight at the Big Gambler's ungleaming, midnight eyes.

They went right through into the Big Gambler's skull and bounced around inside there, rattling like big seeds in a big gourd not quite yet dry.

Throwing a hand, palm back, to either side, to indicate that none of his boys or girls or anyone must make a reprisal on Joe, the Big Gambler dryly gargled the two cubical bones, then spat them out so that they landed in the center of the table, the one die flat, the other leaning against.

"Cocked dice, sir," he whispered as graciously as if no indignity whatever had been done him. "Roll again."

Joe shook the dice reflectively, getting over the shock. After a little bit he decided that through he could now guess the Big Gambler's real name, he'd still give him a run for his money.

This story leaves a lot to the imagination of the reader, but its exact enough to tell a cohesive story, and be creepy enough to make you want to read it twice.

Lord Randy, My Son, by Joe L. Hensley: Sam lives in a large house with his pre-teen aged retarded son Randy. Sam does not love Randy very much, and blames him for his wife's suicide by pills a few years after it became obvious that Randy was retarded. Sam is also four months along on a six month death-sentence from fully metastasized cancer. Randy knows nothing of his father's disease, and is an aloof boy. He has strange abilities, such as telekinesis, and has used them in the past to kill others who harmed his friends, or merely annoyed Randy. Randy is a good kid, if simple, and tried his whole life to make friends or at least a connection with other people. All rejected him, but he does have a way with animals, and can turn even the mangiest cur into a lap dog. Sam has no idea of his son's gifts, but would like to see him placed in a school for the retarded. Sam and Randy have had a lot of similar experiences in life, as Sam is an attorney and has seen the worst in many of his clients. One evening Sam comes home with severe body pain from the cancer which has finally spread to his spine. He goes to sleep, and when he awakes he finds Randy laying hands on him. Randy seems to have cured the cancer, then for the first time ever has a real discussion with his father, though they still don't understand a lot of what the other says. Randy is not a Christ figure here; he is probably Christ returned, though in the end it seems like some sort of alien plan to save humanity from itself. Unfortunately the aliens, or God, or whatever, seems to want us to meet halfway. Randy realizes that is not going to happen.

Eutopia, by Poul Anderson: Iason Philippou has angered a local resident of a backwater planet. Instead of facing the man, Otto Thorkelsson, in combat, Philippou stole a car and escaped. The local cops pull Philippou over and try to force him to meet Thorkelsson in combat, but Philippou gets to an enemy of Thorkelsson first who helps him deal with his problems. If you like Anderson, you should like this one. I personally found it as boring as everything else he has ever written, but what do I know?

Incident in Moderan and The Escaping, by David R. Bunch: This actually is two separate very brief stories by the same author. In Incident in Moderan a war between cyborg factions is in an unsteady truce while one of the factions fixes its war making machines. A man approaches the leader of the cyborgs of the other side to thank them for the respite which allowed them to bury their dead son. The man breaks down in tears when he realizes that the cyborgs did not stop fighting for him, and is killed in the crossfire when the battle resumes.

Could he talk? He could. Blue soft lips parted and a yellow-pink piece of gristly mean jigged up and down in wet slop in his mouth that was raw-flesh red. When this somewhat vulgar performance of mean and air was through, I realized he had said, "We had a little funeral for Son a while ago. We hacked away at the plastic with our poor makeshift grave kits and put him under the crust on time. We hurried. We knew you couldn’t guarantee much truce. I came to thank you for what you did."

The story is told from the point of view of the cyborg who really could not give a whit about the human. Of course its about the inability of man to control machines once they start to take over all our jobs.

In The Escaping a slave is treated like a grinder's monkey. He dreams of freedom in a very unintelligible way. Bunch gets a 50% for these two stories from me.

The Doll-House, by James Cross: Jim's family is in financial trouble because they are over-extended with credit, and are trying to live the good life on too little income. Jim drives to his wife's uncle, who he hates. The uncle doesn't like Jim much either, but takes pity on him and gives him a doll-house with an ancient oracle in it. He warns Jim never to anger the oracle, and never to look at her. He also warns him that the predictions the oracle makes will be obscure and will require some patience and research to figure out. Jim takes the doll-house home and has some success interpreting her messages, but then he gets frustrated because she is so obscure and takes so long. He stops feeding her and threatens her with his cat. The oracle is terrorized, but gets her revenge in the end. This is more of a horror story with formulaic rules than a SF story, and I though it odd that it was included.

Sex and/or Mr. Morrison, by Carol Emshwiller: A very thin and tiny little girl lives in a flop house in the unit below an enormously fat insurance adjuster. The girl, a virgin, falls in love with the fat man and breaks into his apartment while he is at work one day. She hides in his laundry pile and watches him bathe, eat and go to bed when he gets home. She falls deeper in love with him and flees to her apartment when she is caught, waiting for him to come and make love to her.

He squints his oriental eyes towards the ceiling light and takes off the shorts, lets them fall loosely to the floor. I see Alleghenies of thigh and buttock. How does a man like that stand naked even before a small-sized mirror? I lose myself, hypnotized. Impossible to tell the color of his skin, just as it is with blue-gray eyes or the ocean. How tan, pink, olive and red and sometimes a bruised elephant-grey. His eyes must be used to multiplicities like this, and to plethoras, conglomerations, to an opulence of self, to an intemperate exuberance, to the universal, the astronomical.

I find myself completely tamed. I lie in my cocoon of shirts not even shivering. My eyes do not take in what they see. He is utterly beyond my comprehension. Can you imagine how thin my wrists must seem to him? He is thinking (if he thinks of me at all), he thinks: She might be from another world. How alien her ankles and leg bones. How her eyes do stand out. How green her complexion in the shadows t the edges of her face. (For I admit that perhaps I may be as far along the scale at my end of humanity as he is at his).

This one really is a wonderful celebration of alienness, and it works even if both of them are humans, which is something the author never really gives up.

Shall the Dust Praise Thee?, by Damon Knight: God and seven of his angels bring about the end of times, and he walks down to an empty and destroyed Earth. God goes to England, where a war was waging when he ended Earth, to call the British to be judged, and he is greeted by a sign that says "We were here, where were you?" Nobody comes to heed is call.

If All Men Were Brothers, Would You Let One Marry Your Sister?, by Theodore Sturgeon: Novella length tale about a man who finds a planet that is Eden-like and goes native. I liked this one a lot, but the writing did not stand out, and the story is old and stale now. It is worth reading, but not commenting on too much.

What Happened to Auguste Clarot?, by Larry Eisenberg: A French journalist has been assigned the job of finding the titular character. He finds Clarot and learns that the brilliant inventor has constructed a device that drives dogs insane with rage. He has made a ton of money walking up to the rich on the street (but only the ones with tiny dogs) and tripping the machine which enrages the dogs that then bite him, then settling with the rich owners. Clarot has left his annoying wife, so the journalist turns in his story and marries Clarot's wife. The story is cliché ridden and the journalist is modeled partly on Inspector Clouseau, only with a more self-serving intent. I don't think its very flattering to the French either, but I suspect it would be the kind of thing that they would love. The whole thing is told in this voice:

In the morning, when I awoke, she had fled with my wallet containing, among other things, five hundred new francs and a list of aphrodisiacs which I had purchased from a gypsy. I had the very devil of a time with the concierge, who did not entertain the truth of my story for a single moment. He broke into violent abuse as I delineated what had occurred and began to belabor me about the neck and arms with a Chianti bottle from which, hélas, he had removed the straw covering.

I sat on the curb, black and blue, penniless and at my wit's end as to how I might proceed. I could not go back to Emile so humiliating a course. but Fate in the guise of an American tourist's lost credit card intervened. Within hours I had winded and dined sumptuously, having outfitted myself to the nines at Manchoulette's exclusive haberdashery.

Ersatz, by Henry Slesar: A sergeant in the American army patrols a nuked-out Four Corners region in a battle suit, fighting battles as he encounters the enemy. He eventually finds the U.S. Army R&R station far from where he thought it was. He enters and is treated very well by aid workers who practically worshipped him for the hard job he was doing, but is given ersatz items as comforts. The station has little provisions, but they do have "wood fiber" beef, and "wool" tobacco, which he gladly accepts because he has been in the war zone for so long. The soldier was helped out of his battle suit by a beautiful woman who went to visit him later. The sergeant was shocked when he saw the woman, because the enemy had at the beginning of the war targeted all of the civilian cities, and women were very scarce. Unfortunately, the station's comfort girls were ersatz as well:

He watched her slither out of her clothing. The blonde hair slipped as she pulled the dress over her head, and the curls hung at a crazy angle over he brow. She giggled, and put her wig back into position. Then she reached behind her and unhooked the brassiere; it dropped to the floor, revealing the flat slope of the hairy chest. She was about to remove the rest of her undergarments when the sergeant started to scream and run for the door; she reached out and held his arm and crooned words of love and pleading. He struck the creature with all the strength in his fist, and it fell to the floor, weeping bitterly, its skirt hoisted high on the muscular, hairy legs. The sergeant didn't pause to retrieve his armor or his weapons; he went out of the Peace Station into the smoky wasteland, where death awaited the unarmed and despairing.

Go, Go, Go, Said the Bird, by Sonya Dorman: Odd story about inter-clan cannibalism. When a boy was young he participated in the consumption of his new-born brother who was born lame. As he grew up he killed and ate the rest of his family and eventually became the clan leader. He took his mother as a wife also. Not fun.

The Happy Breed, by John Sladek: Excellent story that tells a missing part of James Gunn's The Joy Makers, though Sladek went in a different direction than Gunn did. Gunn's story was about humans willingly going into capsules where they lived their lives out in computer regimented happiness. Sladek's story is about a group of people who hate that they cannot experience the full range of feelings that nature intended for them to feel. In the story seven or eight persons meet at the office of a former psychiatrist who is depressed because machines take care of all human needs. The group members are also depressed because they are given medications to keep them happy when sad things occur, and are not allowed to experience things such as loss. One man wished to be a farmer, so the machines that run the country set him up as a farmer. Every day at seven in the morning he is allowed to touch the udder of a tied and drugged cow. One morning he put his tongue to the pail of milk to taste it and was immediately drugged and quarantined less he catch a disease or give it to someone else. Another was not allowed to mourn the loss of her neighbor who was turned into a "mussulman," which means that he was put into suspended animation in a coffin because he would not stop struggling against the dictates of the machines.

As time went by the members realized that the drugs were seriously affecting their ability to function and they decided to stage a revolt before it was too late. But the purpose of the machines was to regress humans that were still awake, still not mussulmen, back to a childhood like state, then build them up to fully functioning adults. Sladek left his conclusion unwritten, but if this is intended to fit between the second and third novella of Gunn's fix-up novel, then we all know what happened next (because I've already told you in another review!)

Encounter with a Hick, by Jonathan Brand: Irreverent story about a company that has developed the ability to terraform any planet that is a suitable distance away from its sun in six days. The "hick" of the title is God, who has registered a complaint with the company's ombudsman, and who is blown off.

From the Government Printing Office, by Kris Neville: Weird story where parents try to educate their children through abject fear. "I suppose all parents have tried this," Neville says in the postscript, but to me the story was a little far-fetched

Land of the Great Horses, by R. A. Lafferty: Two engineers in a desert in Northern India are looking for mineral deposits. One of them suddenly starts speaking in the local language as if he were born there. Then all across the world people of different nationalities and races are compelled to drop what they are doing and migrate to India. It turns out that 1,000 years ago aliens stole a "sliver" of the Earth, approximately 10,000 square miles, from this desert. They took it to their planet and analyzed the sliver as if it were a lab specimen. Now they returned it, and all the descendents of the original tribe that lived there, who incidentally became the Romany, want to go home. The spaceship puts the Earth back, then drives all the people out of Los Angeles and steals it.

The Recognition, by J. G. Ballard: Typical depressing story from Ballard about some strange carneys that kidnap and imprison those who do them wrong. I think.

Judas, by John Brunner: Twenty years ago a man made an android that became the Christian God to people. Now the creator is revered as the child of the God, but the creator wants to destroy the God and set the people free. He starts off by attracting the God's attention by killing one of his bishops, then sneaks a weapon into the chamber that he uses to terminate him. However, he is captured and as he is led away he hears one technician say to another that it will take about three days to repair. The creator is shocked when he realizes that it is a Friday in Spring. This is a very short tale that twists the relationships of God, Jesus and Judas Iscariot all over the place. I loved it.

Test to Destruction, by Keith Laumer: Mallory has just been defeated in a rigged election for World Premier by Koslo. Koslo decides to wipe out Mallory before the opposition can figure out what happened, so he sends his jackbooted thugs after him. Mallory is captured and tortured with a machine that will make him reveal his collaborators, then wipe his mind blank. As he is being interrogated a warship from a hostile alien hive-mind race discovers Earth. The captain reaches out with his mind to contact a human, because the Ree do not destroy races that are equal to or stronger than them. The captain finds Mallory's mind and brings it to the Ree ship. Malloy's mind destroys the captain's, and he takes control of the ship and ends Koslo's torture. Mallory becomes the premier of a Federation of Planets, then loses his mind with the power he has acquired and begins plotting against his family. Despite the description I have given you, this story is not a mess, and its one of the only hard-ish stories in the book.

Carcinoma Angels, by Norman Spinrad: As per usual for Spinrad, drugs and altered sensibilities play a big role in this story. It is, in short, excellent, right up until the very last sentence when it takes a sharp right hand turn into predict-o-ville. A young boy with a shining intelligence and a relentless drive succeeds as he goes through life. He makes himself a millionaire, beds all the cheerleaders, and becomes a wealthy philanthropist. When he turns 40 he is told he has one year to live as he has cancer. The millionaire builds a fortress of solitude in the desert and dedicates his life to finding the cure for cancer. The man manufactures a cocktail that will deaden every sense he has and send him tripping the lights fantastic. Once the cocktail does its work he is able to focus all of his considerable mental energy inside his body. He rides his veins and arteries and notices cancer cells on Harleys with jackets that read "Carcinoma Angels." He hunts them all down, then others that he finds elsewhere, until he gets to his own guts and meets Cancer, a crab shaped deliverer of death (whom he smites). The problem is the cocktail was so strong he is permanently locked in his own body. The end.

Auto-da-Fé, by Roger Zelazny: An android matador does battle with 70's muscle cars in a ring.

Aye, and Gomorrah, by Samuel R. Delany (Nebula Award for best short story, 1967): World governments have been taking deformed children for years and neutering them and hardening their bodies for work in space. The Spacers even have the ability to launch on their own and experience hard vacuum without a suit. A group of Spacers on leave go to Earth and descend in places where normal humans are having sex, such as bathrooms in parks in London, and a port when the fishing fleet comes in in Mexico, looking for "Frelks," who are humans who worship the Spacers. The Spacers sell themselves for a short time to the Frelks like a prostitute sells herself to a John. Delaney is nothing but vague about what goes on during these transactions, but that makes the story all the better. The story is a masterful depiction of sublimated and unobtainable desires driving individuals to do stupid and pointless things. In this story the Frelk wants to be a Spacer so she can go to space, and the Spacer has a child-like fascination with human sexuality. It is not possible for either of them to realize their goals, but they are compelled to interact and fantasize anyway. This one reminds me of Cordwainer Smith's Scanners Live in Vain, and is equally as good. This one is worth the price of admission on its own.

Reviewed by GTT · Rating Rating of 4 star(s)


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