NESFA Members' Reviews


edited by Harry Harrison

Berkley, ISBN 0-425-02117-3, 1970, 254pp, US$0.95

A book review by Evelyn C. Leeper

Copyright 2000 Evelyn C. Leeper

In 1970, Harry Harrison had thirteen authors write stories set thirty years in the future, in the year 2000. Well, having arrived there, I thought this might be a good time to see how close or far these stories are from reality.

The beginning of the first story, Fritz Leiber's "America the Beautiful," gives you a feel for what these stories are like: "I am returning to England. I am shorthanding this, July 5, 2000, aboard the Dallas-London rocket as it arches silently out of the diffused violet daylight of the stratosphere into the eternally star-spangled purple night of the ionosphere." The story itself deals with both the rising tensions between America and "the Communist League," and the generally self-satisfied feeling that Americans have with themselves. If the former has turned out to be false, there is still some truth in the latter.

The second story ("Prometheus Rebound" by Daniel F. Galouye) reads like something out of the 1930s, making me wonder what *he* was thinking the year 2000 would be like.

Before there was Mike Resnick, there was Chad Oliver, and before there was "Kirinyaga" there was "Far from This Earth," Oliver's story of progress, if progress it be, in Kenya. It's surprising, in fact, that this was not one of the inspirations for Resnick's series, but it wasn't.

Naomi Mitchison's "After the Accident" is a rather straight- forward genetic engineering story. And "Utopian" by Mack Reynolds reads like one of those stilted Utopian stories from decades ago, right down to people saying things like "If we were still using the somewhat inefficient calendar of your period, this would be approximately the year 2000."

Like Reynolds's story, "Sea Change" by A. Bertram Chandler deals with someone who has "time-traveled" (via deep sleep) from 1970 to 2000. And similarly, Chandler also has a theme of "the old best are sometimes the best," though in a different sense than Reynolds.

Robert Silverberg is one of the two authors who thought the race issue would be critical over the next thirty years. Though his racially separated society of "Black Is Beautiful" did not arise, his story does raise issues that are relevant today, not least of which is when does autonomy become just segregation under a different name. (The paperback edition has an unfortunate typo at the beginning, with "1933" instead of "1983.")

The other story of race relations is "American Dead" by Harry Harrison, and it paints an even gloomier view of the conflict between black and white. What is of interest is that neither Silverberg nor Harrison has any other racial influences in his story. Missing are the Asians and the Hispanics who certainly have an impact in the racial politics of the United States in the year 2000.

"The Lawgiver" by Keith Laumer is still very topical today with its theme of "right-to-life" issues, though a bit heavy-handed, I thought.

Though in real life J. J. Coupling was involved in communications technology (under his real name, John R. Pierce, he was an executive director in Bell Labs when he wrote his story), "To Be a Man" is more about bioengineering. However, it has some very "modern" ideas, in particular more of the concepts that Greg Egan is using these days. (I was particularly reminded of Egan's "Reasons to be Cheerful.")

One note: of the thirteen authors, only Aldiss, Coupling, Harrison, Masson, and Silverberg are still alive to see how it really turned out. And the used bookstore where Mark or I bought this went out of business a few years ago as well, after being in existence more than a hundred years.

%B      The Year 2000
%E      Harry Harrison
%T      "America the Beautiful"
%A      Fritz Leiber
%T      "Prometheus Rebound"
%A      Daniel F. Galouye
%T      "Far from This Earth"
%A      Chad Oliver
%T      "After the Accident"
%A      Naomi Mitchison
%T      "Utopian"
%A      Mack Reynolds
%T      "Orgy of the Living and the Dying"
%A      Brian W. Aldiss
%T      "Sea Change"
%A      A. Bertram Chandler
%T      "Black Is Beautiful"
%A      Robert Silverberg
%T      "Take It Or Leave It"
%A      David I. Masson
%T      "The Lawgiver"
%A      Keith Laumer
%T      "To Be a Man"
%A      J. J. Coupling
%T      "Judas Fish"
%A      Thomas N. Scortia
%T      "American Dead"
%A      Harry Harrison
%C      New York
%D      1970
%I      Berkley
%O      paperback, US$0.95
%G      ISBN 0-425-02117-3
%P      254pp

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