I’ve been tweeting short excerpts from early science fiction (before 1950) since Saturday. Here are the answers so far:

Saturday: “Do nothing that can harm your host! is the mantra of the Hunter in Needle, by Hal Clement. Originally copyrighted in 1949-50. An old classic.

Sunday: Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem is on his grave in Samoa:

“Under the wide and starry sky
Dig the grave and let me lie
Glad did I live and gladly die
And I laid me down with a will!

“This be the verse you grave for me:
‘Here he lies where he longed to be,
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill! ’ ”

Heinlein repeated it in his short story, Requiem, imagining the poem pinned to the lunar ground next to the body of a man to whom getting to the moon was everything. This is very early Heinlein; the original copyright is 1939, the year he published his first story. Republished as part of his future history series. Dated, but with space tourism in the news, maybe not all that much.

Monday: “You’ll have your chance,” he said into the far future. “And by Heaven you’d better make good.” Sturgeon, but what story? This is the end of Thunder and Roses, one of my favorite Sturgeon  short stories, published in 1947. At that time the world was trying to come to terms with the reality of the atomic bomb.

Tuesday: “If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore …” Emerson. The Asimov story?
The story is Asimov’s Nightfall, published in 1941 as a short story. Campbell’s take on Emerson’s quote was, “I think men would go mad,” and when Asimov wrote the story Campbell published it in Astounding Science Fiction. In 1968 the Science Fiction Writers of America voted Nightfall the best science fiction short story written prior to the establishment of the Nebula Awards, and it has been anthologized repeatedly. Asimov and Silverberg expanded it to book length in 1990.

Wednesday: “Intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own …” H. G. Wells. Which book? This is from the opening sentence of War of the Worlds, 1898: “No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water.” Writing styles have changed since then! I suspect the famous radio program is better known today than the original book, but it’s available in ebook format.

Next week it’ll be fantasy.

Advertisements