Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Short Story Wednesday


 (Thanks to Steve O. for the loan of the collection Perchance to Dream)

 "Father, Dear Father," Charles Beaumont

Time is the only thing that really interests Mr. Pollet and not so much what happened in the past or what will happen in the future but how alteration of time will affect  him. He builds a time machine and after many attempts gets it to work and he travels back in time to the days before his conception. His father died when he was four and he is curious to see what would happen if he'd never been born. So he walks the streets of the town of his birth, finds the house he grew up in, and murders his father and nothing changes. Can you guess why? 

This is a bit of a gimmick, but at its short length and nice writing, I think it worked reasonably well. It's all too familiar though to read about a guy whose only interest is in how time affects him. He could travel to any time and witness historic events but he is satisfied with only traveling to a small town in Ohio and murdering a man whose only sin (supposedly) lay in conceiving a son who is a narcissist and a murderer. 

I will be tied up most of the day with various appointments so forgive me if I don't get to look at your choices until tomorrow.

 Jerry House

Kevin Tipple
Steve Lewis


George Kelley 

Richard Robinson


Margot Kinberg said...

Gimmicky or not, it sounds like an enjoyable story, Patti. And I think we've all been curious now and then about what would happen if we could move back and forth through time, or at least revisit a particular time.

Jeff Meyerson said...

I did read this Beaumont collection fairly recently - just checked, it was almost 5 years ago, September 2016.

After finishing the Jim Shepard collection, I am reading the second St. Mary's collection by Jodi Taylor, LONG STORY SHORT (I read the first in 2018). They are long stories about time travel and mostly light fare. The novels are better as a rule.

Also reading Howard Fast's THE LAST SUPPER & Other Stories. I can't say I love it as they seem pretty dated - they are from the 1950s - but they are certainly of historical interest. As you probably know, Fast was a Communist and blacklisted throughout most of the 1950s, though he got work done under pseudonyms mostly. More than one of these stories are about the blacklist, "naming names" and Hollywood writers' first shock when they spend their first moments in prison. (Fast served a three month sentence for lying to Congress.) I think I might try one of his science fiction collections at some point.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Yeah, Phil always had an interest in Howard Fast, especially during his research on a book he did about a Communist, V.F. Calverton. I wonder if science fiction stories are most easily dated. Although I guess style can also date one.
What saved it, Margot, was its short length.

Jerry House said...

This was not one of Beaumont's best stories -- far from it. He was an amazingly talented writer who died, horribly, much too young.

Jeff, a number of Howard Fast's SF short stories were published in F&SF from the late 50s through the 60s, so that may give you an idea of the type of SF story he wrote. He published four SF collections -- most, if not all of which, can be found in his TIME AND THE RIDDLE: THIRTY-ONE ZEN STORIES (1975)

Roger Allen said...

When was the story first published? It looks as if it might be a variation on Alfred Bester's The Men Who Murdered Mohammed and I'm wondering which inspired which.

Jeff Meyerson said...

Roger, it was January 1957.

The Bester was published in 1958.

Rick Robinson said...

I still haven't finished the two other anthologies I'm gnawing away at, but have the new one up this week, as you note. Hope your tied up day goes okay.

TracyK said...

Patti, I remembered that you were borrowing a copy of PERCHANCE TO DREAM from Steve, but I never imagined that we would both do a post on it on the same day.

My favorite that I have read so far in the book was "Father, Dear Father". Have you read other stories in the collection yet and did you like them?

pattinase (abbott) said...

A couple others but I liked this one more than those.

Todd Mason said...

Both Beaumont and Fast published a number of fairly notional (and not much more) stories, but usually dug a little deeper, Beaumont in short fiction perhaps more often than Fast, who was much more comfortable (I'd suggest) as a novelist.

Todd Mason said...

And this easy sort of time-travel non-paradox has certainly been beaten to death (when not assassinated in different ways) not only in other notional stories but in the dramatic media. And comics. (Though I suspect you hadn't seen it done repeatedly in that medium, Patti.)

Robert Heinlein did two of his more effective stories about someone who was his own progenitor, in "By His Bootstraps" and "'All You Zombies--'", as one of the many Next Steps beyond this kind of thing over the decades.

Todd Mason said...

Steve Lewis's link was "colonized"...

Todd Mason said...

SF stories based on old observations (or lack of same) of sites beyond Earth or in olden times, or describing the Wonders of 1998, can be a bit quaint, but are only outdated in the most notional sense, such as stories such as Asimov's joke vignette "Everest" which saw print a few days after the summiting of the mountain and depended for its punch and punchline that no one had done so yet. Stories such as Alan Nourse's "Brightside Crossing". which depended on Mercury not rotating (as it once appeared not to do--the slightly more notional "The Coldest Place" by Larry Niven was rather more weakened, but only as realism) were somewhat less affected, much less the science-fantasy Mars stories of the likes of Leigh Brackett, Ray Bradbury or Edgar Rice Burroughs. Cyril Kornbluth's notable bit of bitter satire, "The Rocket of 1955", was only lessened in the eyes of those looking for day and date prophecy in their sf.