Saturday, August 26, 2006
Old Beginnings 9
Science Fiction Today. Intrigued by these beginnings, or moving on? Sources posted at the bottom.
1. Let's set the existence-of-God issues aside for a later volume, and just stipulate that in some way, self-replicating organisms came into existence on this planet and immediately began trying to get rid of each other, either by spamming their environments with rough copies of themselves, or by more direct means which hardly need to be belabored. Most of them failed, and their genetic legacy was erased from the universe forever, but a few found some way to survive and to propagate. After about three billion years of this sometimes zany, frequently tedious fugue of carnality and carnage, Godfrey Waterhouse IV was born, in Murdo, South Dakota, to Blanche, the wife of a Congregational preacher named Bunyan Waterhouse. Like every other creature on the face of the earth, Godfrey was, by birthright, a stupendous badass, albeit in the somewhat narrow technical sense that he could trace his ancestry back up a long line of slightly less highly evolved stupendous badasses to that first self-replicating gizmo-which, given the number and variety of its descendants, might justifiably be described as the most stupendous badass of all time. Everyone and everything that wasn't a stupendous badass was dead.
2. "Tonight we're going to show you eight silent ways to kill a man." The guy who said that was a sergeant who didn't look five years older than me. So if he'd ever killed a man in combat, silently or otherwise, he'd done it as an infant.
I already knew eighty ways to kill people, but most of them were pretty noisy. I sat up straight in my chair and assumed a look of polite attention and fell asleep with my eyes open. So did most everybody else. We'd learned that they never scheduled anything important for these after-chop classes.
The projector woke me up and I sat through a short tape showing the "eight silent ways." Some of the actors must have been brainwipes, since they were actually killed.
3. As he glided by the extremely small, out-of-the-way cemetery in his airborne prowl car, late at night, Officer Joseph Tinbane heard unfortunate and familiar sounds. A voice. At once he sent his prowl car up over the spiked iron poles of the badly maintained cemetery fence, descended on the far side, listened.
The voice said, muffled and faint, "My name is Mrs. Tilly M. Benton, and I want to get out. Can anybody hear me?"Officer Tinbane flashed his light. The voice came from beneath the grass. As he had expected: Mrs. Tilly M. Benton was underground.
Snapping on the microphone of his car radio Tinbane said, "I'm at Forest Knolls Cemetery--I think it's called--and I have a 1206, here. Better send an ambulance out with a digging crew; from the sound of her voice it's urgent."
"Chang," the radio said in answer. "Our digging crew will be out before morning. Can you sink a temporary emergency shaft to give her adequate air? Until our crew gets there--say nine or ten a.m."
4. Doro discovered the woman by accident when he went to see what was left of one of his seed villages. The village was a comfortable mud-walled place surrounded by grasslands and scattered trees. But Doro realized even before he reached it that its people were gone. Slavers had been to it before him. With their guns and their greed, they had undone in a few hours the work of a thousand years. Those villagers they had not herded away, they had slaughtered. Doro found human bones, hair, bits of desiccated flesh missed by scavengers. He stood over a very small skeleton-the bones of a child-and wondered where the survivors had been taken. Which country or New World colony? How far would he have to travel to find the remnants of what had been a healthy, vigorous people?
5. The Time Traveller (for so it will be convenient to speak of him) was expounding a recondite matter to us. His grey eyes shone and twinkled, and his usually pale face was flushed and animated. The fire burned brightly, and the soft radiance of the incandescent lights in the lilies of silver caught the bubbles that flashed and passed in our glasses. Our chairs, being his patents, embraced and caressed us rather than submitted to be sat upon, and there was that luxurious after-dinner atmosphere, when thought runs gracefully free of the trammels of precision. And he put it to us in this way - marking the points with a lean forefinger - as we sat and lazily admired his earnestness over this new paradox (as we thought it) and his fecundity.
"You must follow me carefully. I shall have to controvert one or two ideas that are almost universally accepted. The geometry, for instance, they taught you at school is founded on a misconception."
Old Beginnings 9
1. Cryptonomicon....Neal Stephenson
2. The Forever War....Joe Haldeman
3. Counter-Clock World....Philip K. Dick
4. Wild Seed....Octavia Butler
5. The Time Machine....H.G. Wells