A Science Fiction triad
Introduction by GORDON R. DICKSON
The Dobbs-Merrill Company, Inc. Indianapolis/New York
Copyright ? 1977 by Roger Elwood
All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form Published by the Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc. Indianapolis New York
Manufactured in the United States of America
THE GREATEST LOVE
page 1 by Anne McCaffrey
page 70 by Joan Hunter Holly
page 157 by Jeffrey A. Carver
Everybody wants to write, it seems. Few, however, actually do so; and in turn only a few of these end up getting their work published. Indeed, ever since the early storytellers first stood up before the cave fires of stone-age hunters, a dream has persisted of some method which could turn story-making from a mysterious and individual art to something anyone with determination could do.
In the heyday of the pulps, the nineteen-twenties through the nineteen-forties, a number of systems tried to do just this, mainly by reducing a story to something called "plot," and then by further breaking down this business of plot into component parts which could then be reassembled to form the basis of a story anyone could write. It was not, of course, really necessary to learn a system to do this. Anyone could reduce a plot to its components of character, situation, problem and resolution:
CHARACTER: A young man, SITUATION: Sure that his father has been murdered by his mother and the man she afterwards married,
PROBLEM: Is determined to make the murderers admit what they have done.
SOLUTION: He hits on the mechanism of having the murderers watch a reenactment of their crime so that, while seeing what they have done being performed, they betray themselves.
An excellent narrative plan, at base. The only problem is that it requires someone who is already a skillful writer to make the emerging story both memorable and effective, as William Shakespeare did with Hamlet.
The truth of the matter has always been that the genius of story-making lies in the individual writer and in his or her special use of the material chosen, not in the material itself. The same idea becomes two different stories when filtered through the minds of two different writers. Within the covers of this book are stories by three writers, all dealing with the theme of human love. But the fact that their theme is the same only emphasizes the diversity of creativity and invention of the writers themselves--which is the important element.
Anne McCaffrey, who is probably well known to most readers of this book, examines in her story a mother love that goes beyond the physical, in a new and different sense of that phrase; a sense, in fact, not possible until present-day medical technology gave us the means of realizing it. The particular gift of Anne McCaffrey is that she can infuse such an intense human light and warmth into a hitherto-unknown, laboratory-cold subject that it takes on the familiar, common quality of our everyday readerly lives.
Joan Holly, who has also been writing SF successfully for years, deals with a different kind of parent-child pattern. Again there is a love situation emerging out of a relationship which would have been impossible before present-day science gave it to us as something that could happen. But here again, through Joan Holly's creativity, we have an intense, swift-running story, like a landslide channeled between canyon walls so deep they almost shut out the light.
Jeffrey Carver goes one step beyond the interaction of ordinary human love. He plunges the reader into a small whirlpool of individual lives, carried along with the rushing current of power, plunging ever more swiftly toward the brink of a waterfall. Here, the love is not between human and human, but between human and something else--a love that in the end betrays.
The fabric of these three stories is part of the time in which they were written. As with stories written in any period, however, their threads stretch back to the very earliest patterns of storytelling. Science fiction, which started out with the conventions of nineteenth-century fantasy, has in less than a century developed techniques peculiar to itself--techniques, however, which are now being borrowed by the mainstream of fiction.
Many mainstream writers do not realize whom they have to thank for these techniques. This is not surprising, however, since even many SF writers have no idea where the roots of their special techniques lie. Besides the old tradition of fantasy out of which it developed, science fiction itself owes a particular debt of gratitude to the nineteenth-century storytellers--not only to recognized earlier writers of the genre, such
as H. G. Wells and Jules Verne, but to many of the other people then writing in Western literature, who wrote either proto-science fiction or fantasy verging on science fiction, simply as variations of the short-story forms in which they were accustomed to expressing themselves.
What began to distinguish science fiction from other writing in that early time was the idea of what might be called technologized fantasy. From this came the so-called hardware science fiction of the early pulp era--a direct descendant of the tales of Wells and Verne. This was the science fiction of rockets and robots and other futuristic machines, and in the nineteen-thirties it achieved its first real development into something like present-day science fiction in the magazine Astounding, under its editor, John W. Campbell.
John Campbell took hardware science fiction and insisted that it have something more to it than technology. What Campbell wanted was to tie all this into what he called an "idea story," a story that used all the trappings of what was then science fiction to demonstrate a logical point about Man and his present or future possibilities.
This "idea story" was really the thematic story--a story built around a theme. Its roots in the modern era go back to Flaubert's Madame Bovary. Following World War II, science fiction writing began to expand into this larger area of thematic story proper; developing ever more depth and breadth in the nineteen-fifties and -sixties, to emerge in the present decade with its emphasis on "people" stories with themes growing out of the character and motivation of human beings in a possible world.
The three stories in this book are excellent illustrations of exactly this metamorphosis; in a very true sense, evidence of science fiction's coming of age in twentieth-century literature.
GORDON R. DICKSON
THE GREATEST LOVE
"You certainly don't live up to your name, Doctor Craft," Louise Baxter said, acidly emphasizing my name. "I trust your degree is from a legitimate medical college. Or was it the mail order variety?"
I didn't dignify the taunt with a reply. Being a young woman, I held my Cornell Medical School diploma too valuable to debase it in argument with a psychotic.
She continued in the sweetly acerbic voice that must have made her subordinates cringe, "In the fashion industry, you quickly learn how to tell the 'looker' from the 'putter.' It's very easy to classify your
I refrained from saying that her sort--Cold Calculating Female posing as Concerned Mother--was just as easy for me to classify. Her motive for this interview with her daughter's obstetrician was not only specious but despicable. Her opening remark of surprise that I was a woman had set the tone of insults for the past fifteen minutes.
"I have told you the exact truth, Mrs. Baxter. The pregnancy is proceeding normally and satisfactorily. You may interpret the facts any way you see fit." I was hoping to wind up this distasteful interview quickly. "In another five months, the truth will out."
Her exclamation of disgust at my pun was no more than I'd expected. "And you have the gall to set yourself up against the best gynecologists of Harkness Pavilion?"
"It's not difficult to keep abreast of improved techniques in uterine surgery," I said calmly.
I suppressed my own anger at her insult by observing that her anger brought out all the age-lines in her face despite her artful makeup.
"I checked with Harkness before I came here," she said, trying to overwhelm me with her research. "There are no new techniques which could correct a bicornuate womb!"
"So, don't try to con me, you charlatan," and the elegant accent faltered into a flat midwestern twang. "My daughter can't carry to term. And you know it!"
"I'll remind you of that in another five months, Mrs. Baxter." I rose to indicate that the interview was at an end.
"Ach! You women's libbers are all alike! Setting yourselves up above the best men in the country on every count!"
Although I'm not an ardent feminist, such egregious remarks are likely to change my mind, particularly when thrown in without relevance and more for spite than for sense.
"I fail to see what Women's Liberation has to do with your daughter, who is so obviously anxious to fulfill woman's basic role."
The angry color now suffused Louise Baxter's well-preserved face down to the collar of her ultrasmart man-tailored pants suit. She rose majestically to her feet.
"I'll have you indicted for malpractice, you quack!" She had control of her voice again and deliberately packed all the psychotic venom she could into her threats. "I'll sue you within an inch of your life if Cecily's sanity is threatened by your callous stupidity."
At that point the door opened to admit Esther, my office nurse, in her most aggressive attitude.
"If Mrs. Baxter is quite finished, doctor," she said, stressing the title just enough to irritate the woman further, "your next patient is waiting."
"Of all the-"
"This way, Mrs. Baxter," Esther said firmly as she shepherded the angry woman toward the door.
Mrs. Baxter stalked out, slamming the street door so hard I winced, waiting for the glass to come shattering down.
"How did that virago ever produce a sweet girl like Cecily?" I mused.
"I assume that Cecily was conceived in the normal manner," said Esther.
I sat down wearily. I'd been going since four-thirty A.M. and I didn't need a distasteful interview with Baxter's sort at five P.M. "And I assume that you heard everything on the intercom?"
"For some parts, I didn't need amplification," said my faithful office nurse at her drollest. "Since this affair started, I don't dare leave the intercom hook up. Someone's got to keep your best interests at heart."
I smiled at her ruefully. "It'll be worth it-"
"You keep telling yourself--"
"--to see that girl get a baby."
"Not to mention the kudos accruing to one Doctor Allison S. Craft, O.B., G.Y.N.?"
I gave her a quelling look which she blithely ignored. "Well," I said, somewhat deflated, "there must be something more to life than babies who insist on predawn entrances."
"Have a few yourself, then," Esther suggested with a snort, then flipped my coat off the hook and gestured for me to take off the office whites. "I'm closing up and I'm turning you out, doctor."
I had a lonely restaurant supper, though Elsie, who ran the place, tried to cheer me up. Once I got home, I couldn't settle down. I wanted someone to talk to. All right, someone to gripe to. Sometimes, like now, I regretted my bachelor-girl status. Even if I had had a man in mind, I