Monday, December 29, 2014

Gregory Benford: Still more from Anomalies

More stories from Gregory Benford's latest short story collection: Anomalies

Comes the Evolution"

The characters talk, endlessly, about "revolution," but the title of the story refers to evolution, a gradual change that takes place, when one species slowly becomes another.  Note the names of the characters: Lenin, Trotsky, Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, and Emma Goldman.  She played a pivotal role in the development of anarchist political philosophy in North America and Europe in the first half of the 20th century.

They see themselves as revolutionaries, but their plans show them to be something quite different.  Eventually they all come together to rejuvenate the Cause, but their plans, however, have evolved into 21st century versions whose new focus is not on changing governments but upon finding a safe haven where they can create a utopia.



Another of Benford's short stories that plays with the theme of religion and science.  An amateur astronomer has discovered that the moon is a few minutes ahead of schedule.  It's still in its proper orbit, but it appears to have somehow been transported to an advanced position.  This is impossible, of course.  Later it is discovered that several stars are also not in their proper position and appeared to have suddenly moved within an hour of the time the moon had jumped ahead.  This also was impossible.

One of the characters theorizes that the universe is a computer program and the sudden movements were the result of a bug in the program.  This, of course, brings up the question of the identity of the programmer.  Also, computer programs are normally debugged, here on earth anyway.  Will this program be debugged?  What effect will this possible bug have on earth and how will the debugging take place?  Will it also affect earth?  Eventually a new field of study emerges: one that is a combination of science, philosophy, and religion--the field of Empirical Theology. 


"Caveat Time Traveler"

This is a short story about time travel and some facts about human nature.  The title says it all:  Let Time Travelers Beware.  Human nature doesn't change.


"Lazarus Rising"
This is a tale of cryonics.  Carlos Forenza is 87 years old.  He has come in for his medical checkup.  If they find something that can't be cured or is extremely expensive to cure, they would put him into cryonic sleep and let the future decide when it was ready to deal with his problem.  They wouldn't even wake him to inform him of the situation.  But, something has gone wrong for he is awake, with his senses disconnected.  Clearly he has returned to consciousness before the process of putting him into cold sleep has been codmpleted.  Now, he has to regain control of his body and let them know that something had gone wrong.


"Isaac From The Outside"
This is a poem that brings in a number of  SF writers, one of whom, obviously, is Isaac Asimov.  The theme is simple:  one shouldn't make assumptions about a person from that person's writings.   The poem points out some inconsistencies between what these SF authors write about and how they live their own lives.

One topic covered is cryonics, about which many of these authors have written in various short stories and novels.  But, the poem goes one to ask the following: how many actually went beyond treating cryonics simply as a story element and looked into it as something they might actually consider for themselves? 

The next question should be the reader's question.  I've always considered cryonics simply as a story element.  But today there are companies in existence that will perform this service.  What about you?  Are you interested?

Hmmmm.  .  . I wonder how much it costs.


  1. You say: "Another of Benford's short stories that plays with the theme of religion and science."

    And I ask this: I am curious about the intersections of religion and S/F, as I read somewhere (and I forget the source) about the theme of religion being prominent and positively treated in a lot of S/F. If I were to go beyond A Canticle for Leibowitz -- which I read and enjoyed long ago -- where else would I find the theme in quality S/F stories and novels? You can add to my "bucket list" of reading by suggesting a couple of good titles.

    1. R. T.,

      You might to look at Damon Knight's _The Man in the Tree_, also.

  2. R. T.,

    Going to have to think about this for a while. One title that comes immediately to mind is James Blish's _A Case of Conscience_, Let me poke around the dark recesses of my memory and see what's lurking down there.

  3. R. T.,

    The works of C. S. Lewis? His fantasies are supposed to have strong Christian elements in them: _The Screwtape Letters_, _The Great Divorce_, "The Space Trilogy" (_Out of the Silent Planet_, _Perelandra_, and _That Hideous Strength_).