Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,
Nicholas
nwhyte

Gateways, ed. Elizabeth Anne Hull

Second paragraph of third story ("Sleeping Dogs", by Joe Haldeman:
Low gravity and low oxygen. My heart was going too fast. I stood for a moment, concentrating, and brought it down to a hundred, then ninety. The air had more sulfur sting than I remembered. It seemed a lot warmer than I remembered that summer, too, but then if I could remember it all I wouldn't have to be here. My missing finger throbbed.
This is a collection of stories, poems and essays celebrating the 90th birthday of Frederik Pohl, which was in 2009 (though the book was not published until 2010). Only a couple of them are really good, Haldeman's "Sleeping Dogs" which takes a veteran back to the site of conflict with a memorable twist, and Cory Doctorow's "Chicken Little" which links to both The Space Merchants and Gulliver's Travels. There's also the last Stainless Steel Rat story by Harry Harrison, and late stories by Brian Aldiss and Sherri S Tepper.

Worth also noting Neil Gaiman's poem:
The [Backspace] Merchants

The [backspace] merchants sell deletions and removals,
masters of the world (or so they claim)
they go by many hundred different names
and live inside a giant block of Spam.

It quivers, as if alive, is fed
by tubes and tendrils, and is inhabited.
Portions are cut from it continually to feed the people.
Insidious, invidious,
(occasionally in videos),
the [backspace] merchants seek to sell you:
V1agRa and all its magical cousins
(If you had a larger thing in your pants your life would have been better!!)
(MAGIC PENIS ENLARGEMENT PILLS)
(She'll love the new growth!)
(Make nights turbulent.)

Also, designer watches, diplomas,
diplomats who will entrust you with their missing millions.
There are girls in your town who want to
meet you.

The [backspace] merchants want so to delete you.

The [backspace] merchants click and they erase
our faces, so we keep on losing face.
The [backspace] merchants
offer relief from their own excesses:
The products will not work as advertised
The Spam is vast and must be satisfied.

In the old days of the future
our freedom fighters lived deep inside the chicken meat
Their coffee was the coffiest, their dreams the dreamiest.
The rest of us craved and grazed our lives away
and wondered if we should emigrate to Venus.

These are the poles we navigate between:
Yesterday's futures now reshape our days
into futures past, somewhere between last week and day million
as ancient as a black and white TV show, watched so late
and all the names we conjured with appeared to us in monochrome
with their faces, such young faces,
to those of us who would learn to be plugged in at all times,
they told us of the future, that it was what they saw
a Game of If when they opened wide their eyes.

So we avoided all their awful warnings,
ignored the minefields as the klaxons sounded
played “Cheat the Prophet” just as Gilbert said,
we sidestepped cacotopias unbounded
and built ourselves this gorgeous mess instead

I wish we could still emigrate to Venus.

Sometimes I wonder what the Spam makes of us:
does it define us by our base desires,
or hope we can transcend them? Like small gods,
the [backspace] merchants offer us all choices
and each day
we can be tempted
or delete.
They lay their traps ineptly at our feet.

The present moves so quick we can't describe it,
so Science Fiction limns the recent past.
We future folk are just another tribe who
hyperlinked our colours to the mast,
When now is always then and never soon
Our freak flags will not fly upon the moon.

Our prophets opened gateways, showed us pitfalls
gave us worlds of if and galaxies uncountable.
They made us think then take the other road.
But future yesterdays are growing cold.
The [backspace] merchants huddle in their meat
while we demand a finer, nobler future:
It waits for us beyond the blue horizon.
Our future will be glorious and gold.

If it lasts more than four hours
consult your physician.
It's not quite as mind-blowing a collection as I would have liked, given Pohl's significance and the rank of the authors involved, but it's still pretty good and you can get it here.

This was the sf book that had lingered longest unread on my shelves. Next on that pile is Smallworld, by my old friend Dominic Green.
Tags: bookblog 2019, writer: brian aldiss, writer: cory doctorow, writer: frederik pohl, writer: harry harrison, writer: joe haldeman, writer: neil gaiman
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