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 really couldn't see much family life, the kind I wanted to enjoy, until I had a large enough practice to bring in an associate. On a twenty-four-hour off-and-on schedule that such an arrangement provided, I could hardly see marriage. Not now. Especially not now.
I poured myself a drink for its medicinal value and sat on my back porch in the late spring twilight.
So--Louise Baxter would sue me if her daughter miscarried. I wondered if she'd sue me if her daughter didn't. I'd bet a thousand bucks, and my already jeopardized professional standing, that the impeccable, youthful-looking Louise Baxter was shriveling from the mere thought of being made a "grandmother." Maybe it would affect her business reputation--or crack the secret of her actual age. Could she be fighting retirement? I laughed to myself at the whimsy. Cecily Baxter Kellogg was twenty-seven, and no way was Louise Baxter in her sixties.
However, I had told Mrs. Baxter the truth, the exact truth: the pregnancy was well started, and the condition of the mother was excellent, and everything pointed to a full-term, living child.
But I hadn't told the whole truth, for Cecily Baxter Kellogg was not carrying her own child.
Another medical "impossibility" trembled on the brink of the possible. A man may have no greater love than to lay down his life for a friend, but it's a far, far greater love that causes one woman to carry another's baby: a baby with whom she has nothing, absolutely nothing, in common, except nine months of intimacy. I amended that: this baby would have a relationship, for its proxy mother was its paternal aunt.
The memory of the extraordinary beginning of this great experiment was as vivid to me as the afternoon's interview with Mrs. Baxter. And far more heart-warming.
It was almost a year ago to this day that my appointment schedule had indicated a 2:30 patient named Miss Patricia Kellogg. Esther had underscored the "Miss" with red and also the abbreviation "p.n." for prenatal. I was known to be sympathetic to unwed mothers and had performed a great many abortions--legally, too.
There was nothing abashed about Patricia Kellogg as she walked confidently into my office, carrying a briefcase.
"I'd better explain, Dr. Craft, that I am not yet pregnant. I want to be."
"Then you need a premarital examination for conception?"
"I'm not contemplating marriage."
"Thatâ?? ahâ?? used to be the usual prelude to pregnancy."
She smiled and then casually said, "Actually, I wish to have my brother's child."
"That sort of thing is frowned on by the Bible, you know," I replied with, I thought, great equanimity. "Besides presenting rather drastic genetic risks. I'd suggest you consult a psychologist, not an obstetrician."
Again that smile, tinged with mischief now. "I wish to have the child of my brother and his wife!"
"Ah, that hasn't been done."
She patted the briefcase. "On a human."
"Oh, I assume you've read up on those experiments with sheep and cows. They're all very well, Miss Kellogg, but obstetrically it's not the same thing. The difficulties involvedâ??"
"As nearly as I can ascertain, the real difficulty involved is doing it."
I rose to sit on the edge of the desk. Miss Kellogg was exactly my height seated, and I needed the difference in levels. Scarcely an unattractive woman, Patricia Kellogg would be classified by men as "wholesome."
"girl-next-door," rather than the sexy bird their dreams featured. She was also not at all the type to make the preposterous statements and request she had. Recently, however, I had come to appreciate that the most unlikely women would stand up and vigorously demand their civil and human rights.
Miss Kellogg was one to keep you off balance, for as she began doling out the contents of her briefcase, she explained that her sister-in-law had a bicornuate uterus. During my internship in Cornell Medical, I had encountered such a condition. The uterus develops imperfectly, with fertile ovaries but double Fallopian tubes. The victim conceives easily enough but usually aborts within six weeks. A full-term pregnancy would be a miracle. I glanced through the clinical reports from prominent New York and Michigan hospitals, bearing out Miss Kellogg's statements and detailing five separate spontaneous abortions.
"The last time, Cecily carried to three months before aborting," Pat Kellogg said. "She nearly lost her mind with grief.
"You see, she was an only child. All her girlhood she'd dreamed of having a large family. Her mother is a very successful businesswoman, and I'd say that Cecily was a mistake as far as Louise Baxter is concerned. I remember how radiantly happy Cecily and Peter, my brother, were when she started her first pregnancy six years ago. And how undaunted she was after the first miss. You've no idea how she's suffered since. I'm sorry; maybe you do, being a woman."
I nodded, but it was obvious to me, from the intensity of her expression, that she had empathized deeply with the sister-in-law's disappointments.
"To have a child has become an obsession with her."
"Why not adoption?"
"My brother was blinded in the Vietnam War."
"Yes, I see." Now that abortions were legal, there were fewer babies to be adopted, and consequently the handicapped parent was a very poor second choice.
"Children mean a lot to Peter, too. There were just two of us: our mother died at our births. Peter and I are twins, you see. But Cecily has magnified her inability all out of proportion, especially because of Peter's blindness. She feels thatâ??"
"I do understand the situation," I said sympathetically as she faltered for adequate words.
"Since I got this idea," she went on more briskly, "I've been keeping very careful charts on my temperature and menstrual cycle," and she thrust sheets at me. "I've got Cecily's for the past six years. I stole them. She's always kept them up to date." She gave me an unrepentant grin. "We're just two days apart."
I smiled at that. "If matching estrous cycles were the only problem involvedâ??"
"I know there're many, many problems, but there is so much at stake. Really, Dr. Craft, I fear for Cecily's sanity. Oh, no, I haven't breathed a word of this to Peter or Ceceâ??"
"I should hope not. I'm even wondering why you're mentioning it to me."
"Chuck Henderson said you'd be interested."
No name was less expected.
"Where did you meet Dr. Henderson?" I asked, with far more calm than I felt.
"I've been following the medical journals, and I read an article he wrote on research to correct immature uterusesâ?? uteri?â?? and new
methods to correct certain tendencies to abort."
I'd read the same article, written with Chuck's usual meticulous care, complete with diagrams and graphic photos of uterine operations. Not the usual reading matter for a young woman.
"Well, then, why come to me?"
"Dr. Henderson said that he hadn't done any research on implantation, but he knew someone who was interested in exogenesis and who lived right in my own town. He said there was no reason for me to traipse all the way to New York to find the brave soul I needed, and he told me to ask you how the cats were doing." She looked inquiringly at me.
The name, the question, brought back memories I had been blocking for nine years: memories (I tried to convince myself again) which were the usual sophomoric enthusiasms and dreams of changing mediocre worlds into better ones with the expert flip of a miracle scalpel.
Chuck Henderson had helped me catch the cats I had used for my early attempts at exogenesis. Cats were easy to acquire in Ithaca and a lot easier to explain to an apartment superintendent than cows or sheep. I had had, I thought, good success in my early experiments, but the outcome was thwarted by some antivivisectionists who were convinced that I was using the cats for cruel, devious pranks, and the two females which I thought I had impregnated disappeared forever beyond my control. Chuck had been a real pal throughout the stages of my doomed research, all the while caustically reminding me that good old-fashioned methods of impregnation did not arouse vivisectionists.
"He said some pretty glowing things about you, Dr. Craft, and by the time he finished talking, I knew you were the one person who would help me."
"I'm obliged to him."
"You should be," she replied with equal dryness. "He has the highest opinion of you as a physician and asâ?? as a person."
"Flattery will get you nowhere," I said evasively and turned toward the window, aware of a variety of conflicting emotions. "Will you at least examine our medical records?" she asked softly after respecting my silence for a long moment. "I beg you to believe my sincerity when I say that I will do anythingâ?? painful, tedious, disagreeableâ?? anything to
provide my brother and sister-in-law with a child of their own flesh and blood."
She might be right, I was thinking, when she said the real difficulty was in doing it. Here was the magnificent opportunity I'd once yearned for, thrust at me on an afternoon as dull as my predictable future. The adventurousness, the enthusiasm of that sophomore could now be combined with the maturity and experience of the practicing physician. I'd be a fool not to try: to be content with the unwonderful.
"From the moment you stepped into this room," I said slowly to the waiting girl, 'I've had no thought of questioning either your sincerity or your perseverance, Miss Kellogg."
"You'll do it?" And she began to blush suddenly and irrelevantly.
"Would you mind not boxing me into a corner quite that quickly?"
She laughed by way of apology.
"Let's say, Miss Kellogg, that I will examine the problem in the light of present-day techniques. Which have only been partially successful, mind, on animals."
She rose and stretched out her hand to me. I took it and held it briefly, hoping only to express sympathy and respect, not a binding agreement.
"I haven't said yes," I reminded her, alarmed by the look of triumph in her eyes.
"No, but I'm damned sure you will, once you've read all this." And she transferred half a dozen Department of Agriculture pamphlets and other miscellaneous printed documents from her briefcase to my desk. At the door, she turned back, looking contrite.
"I'm sorry about the shocking phraseology I used to attract your attention. I mean, about wanting my brother's child."
I had to laugh. "There's a bit of the showman in the most sedate of us. I'll call you in a few days."
"Grand! I won't call you," and with a warm smile she left.
I heard the street door close, and then Esther had whisked in, staring at me as if I'd changed sex or something. It was obvious that she'd had the intercom key up again.
"You're crazy if you do it, Allison," she said, her large brown eyes very wide.
"I quite agree with you, Esther."
"Of course, you're crazy if you don't at least try," she said, less vehemently, and with a breathiness of enthusiasm that surprised me in my level-headed nurse.
"I quite agree with you."
"Oh, be quiet, Allison Craft. Have you the least idea of the problems you're going to encounter, or are that Nobel Prize and the AMA citation already blinding you to reality? Women aren't catsâ?? at least not
"Well, in a brief spontaneous thesis or two, I'd say the main problem would beâ??"
"Be practical, not medical," she snapped.
Esther was herself again. She keeps me out of debt, weasels the income tax down to the last fraction permissible, gets my bills paid on time, copes with hysterical primiparas, new fathers and doting grandparents, and she's a damned good R.N., too.
"And what are your visible monkey wrenches?" I asked her.
She held up her left hand and counted by the fingers. "Have you considered the moral issue if someone finds out she's giving birth to her brother's child?"
"A different hospital, in another town or state."
"Great time traveling was had by all. Or had you planned to transfer the fertilized egg right here in the cottage hospital before God and his little brother?"
"That's easy to wangle. At night. On an emergency basis. Everyone knows