Science Fiction Though the Decades

Friday, May 30, 2014

2013: The Eye with Which the Universe Beholds Itself (Sales, Ian)

Suspension of belief, bridge of anticipation (5/5)

The Apollo Quartet of Ian Sales began with remarkable qualities of detail orientation and desperation/isolation. That first story, a novella titled “Adrift on the Sea of Rains” (2012), oozed sincerity and dedication on the part of Sales. My expectations for the rest of the Quartet were set after reading “Adrift”; if Sales could infuse detail and humanity into each story without feeling repetitive, then he has a Midas touch. Taking “Adrift” in hand with “The Eye”, the Quartet looks to be impressive!

I procured “Adrift” on my own about two weeks ago, simply out of interest in the work of Ian Sales. I know him for his reviews and opinions on SF (e.g.,,, but I wanted to read his fiction. Happy with “Adrift”, I was even happier when I saw he had posted an invitation to receive the next two books in the Quartet. With that, Ian sent the EPUB files to me and, similar to Ian, I try to be an “irreverent blogger” and a “harsh but fair reviewer”. Regardless of having received the stories as a favor, I offer my honest opinion.
Similar to “Adrift”, there is an abundance of material aside from the story itself. The 60 pages of the EPUB file contain 43+3 pages of story and 14 pages of appendices which feature a list of abbreviations at the beginning of the story followed by a glossary, a bibliography, and a list of online resources at the end. The glossary is a mix of NASA historical fact mixed with speculation about an alternative reality of NASA’s space program (beyond Apollo 17).


Bradley Elliott married his wife, Judy, with the intention of until death do them part. He had said to her that he would accept the Mars mission even if he were offered to be the first man to land there. Little did she realize that Bradley is married to his work, bound by duty and service to NASA and to humanity. For two years, he left behind his wife and the Earth for a mission to Mars, on which he became the first man—and only man—to set foot on the red planet. He felt her marital and physical distance divide him personally, but his one hope remained on returning to Earth to shower his wife in the love she deserved:

If only Judy could see him now, could feel the same anticipation, the same excitement, the same heightened awareness he now feels, could recognise that his moment defines him, that a palpable sense of purpose stretches from this moment, from his heart, both back and forth in time. She’d forgive him for accepting the mission, of course she’d forgive him. He’d told her was coming back. Again and again, he’d told her he was coming back. Not even one hundred and fifty million miles cold keep him from her. (17-18)

His mission on Mars’ soil lasted only ten days. Landing in the Cydonia region, as he looks out the lander’s window and treads on the rusty dust of Mars, his knows his initial mission itinerary is junked; now, he has a new mission focus: “The goddamn Face. And the Pyramid” (28). But with the single mind-blowing discovery he made, America immediately found its footing on an interstellar basis rather than the piddling intrasolar start-up in which they had found themselves.

That was 1979-1980. Man had landed on Mars, a great achievement for science and for Bradley, but the social backfire of the mission was NASA’s insistence on revealing nothing to the very people who paid for the mission: the American people. Bradley became despised, eyed for his vigilant secretiveness, but he also came home to his wife as a loving husband. Soon, he retires from NASA and returns to the Air Force.

From his discovery and the information gleaned from it in Area 51, the US President announces in 1988 that the US has already had an extrasolar base for the last four years. The USAF maintains an interstellar ship and has a debacle on their hands. Bradley receives a phone call: “How’d you like to back into space again?” (43-44). Thinking of Judy while on his interstellar flight, “[S]he’s probably already packed up and left. Perhaps he deserves it” (39-40).

It’s the year 2000 and Bradley is headed 88,120,000,000,000 miles to Gliese 876 d.


Belief had to be suspended in “Adrift” for the Wunderwaffe and its trans-dimensional effect; the Nazi relic was a one-off wonder and produced an all too convenient scenario as a means of escape for the astronauts. “The Eye” is also a novella which begs for belief to be suspended, but for a more progressive and fantastic result, on three accounts: (1) technology existed in 1979 to send a man (literally, one man) to the surface of Mars; (2) Cydonia was the chosen as the first landing site because of the “convincing” Face on Mars; and (3) snapshots of the Mars artifact were detailed enough. If you can ignore these peculiarities and focus on what was accomplished and where Bradley is going, then you should find yourself being struck by the wonderment of Ian Sales’ What if… scenario.

Most people would be torn, thrown into turmoil, when confronting a major bipolar decision: stay with wife or go to Mars (OK, that’s an easy one, but don’t tell my wife). Bradley’s decision to go to Mars is tinged with the “Men are from Mars” theme—he simply wants to leave his Venusian (?) wife and return home to Mars. While “until death do us part” may spur Bradley to return to his wife, the decision to man missions for NASA is an overarching responsibility which trumps all other commitments—even marriage. It may be a tad monomaniacal, but Bradley certainly has his qualms with the responsibility he is willing to shoulder.

He is, after all, the most suitable man for the job 1.5 light years away, for one reason at least.


“The Eye” shares similar themes as “Adrift”: a foundation of hard details supporting a speculative wonder clouded by an atmosphere of isolation (nearly verbatim from the “Adrift” review). This novella swaddles the trio; the result: a frission of disbelief and heightened expectation. Fingers crossed the last two books follow in suit. The remaining stories in the Quartet are:
·         Book 1, novella: “Adrift on the Sea of Rains” (2012)
·         Book 3, novella: “Then Will the Great Ocean Wash Deep Above” (2013)
·         Book 4, “All That Outer Space Allows” (yet-to-be published)

Friday, May 23, 2014

2012: Adrift on the Sea of Rains (Sales, Ian)

Glorifying the details where salvation lies (4/5)

Ian Sales’ Apollo Quartet is an unabashed glorification of the heydays of NASA infused with speculative science fiction. The first story, a novella titled “Adrift on the Sea of Rains” (2012), is heavily based on material researched from NASA’s moon landing integrated with the lore of Nazi wonder-weapons or powerful tools, generally called Wunderwaffe (unrelated to Sales’ similarly titled shortstory [2012]).

Before approaching “Adrift on the Sea of Rains”, the reader should possess or otherwise assume three attributes: (1) glorify the science and personages of early NASA to the point of idolization, (2) have a high toleration for acronyms (for which there is an appendix), and (3) able to suspend belief for the enjoyment of a story.

The 53 pages of the EPUB file contains 39 pages of story and 11 pages of appendices which feature a list of abbreviations, a glossary, a bibliography, and a list of online resources. The glossary is a mix of NASA historical fact mixed with speculation about an alternative reality of NASA’s space program (beyond Apollo 17).


Initially, NASA’s space mission were an attempt to supersede Soviet prowess in the same field of study and to gain the upper hand on the new battlefield miles above the Earth, but the American people fell in love with the lore of astronauts and the glory of victory. NASA continued the mission in the name of science, leaving Americans disenfranchised with the glow of space victory. Science began to reign supreme, legends became myth and the whole charade of space exploration became merely a tool of science.

Colonel Vance Peterson, USAF, is station on the moon. That base, Falcon Base, was established in 1984 with modified modules destined for America’s space station named Freedom. The original four members were later joined by a crew of eight. The central focus of Falcon Base is The Bell, a relic of Nazi science left over from World War II, which the Americans stole and have been experimenting with for years. The primary scientist, Kendall, said that the only way to truly test The Bell’s function was to put it in near-Vacuum. So, up The Bell went to the moon, to Falcon Base with its 100-kilowatt nuclear reactor.

The atmosphere at the base, once driven by routine and command, falls into uncertainty when the war blankets Earth. The American bases carry no word to the moon and soon the Earth is obliviously a dead planet. The men on the moon are the last humans alive, all abandoned by their family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues and government. However, their one hope rests on Kendall’s persistent meddling with The Bell, a construction “nine feet in diameter and twelve feet high” which houses the central experiment of a substance called “Xerum-525” (sounds exactly like this mythical Nazi wonder-weapon).

Fortunately for the crew of Falcon Base, The Bell offers hope. Though only Kendall may understand, sometimes superficially at that, the device, the result of the Nazi gadget is a jump through alternative worlds. Before each jump, Peterson is sent to the moon’s surface to witness any visual change on Earth. After so many successive rounds of jumping, the Earth, home, has remained a barren landscape scarred by the tensions between the Americans and the Soviets.

Peterson has had his own run-ins with the Soviets and has even had the rare pleasure of killing a communist while flying. His hatred of the Soviets know no end while his ache for his return to America holds aloft the hope he meekly instills in The Bell. Though the others in the crew are not as disciplined as Peterson, he keeps himself sane by running through his routine and hoping to find an Earth that is close to the one that had seen die before their eyes…

…then one appears, a beautiful blue marble. While “the men on Falcon Base can listen, but they cannot be heard” (21-22), no one responds to their calls. One thing is noticeable though: there’ s one space station in orbit around the Earth. Memories of America’s station, Freedom, offers them additional hope that rescue or acknowledgement of their plight is possible. In order to secure that possibility of rescue, the astronauts-cum-scientists brainstorm or ways on reaching either Earth or Freedom. When the numbers are tabulated, trajectories plotted and fuel concentrated, the likelihood of escaping from moon’s desolation looks good.

Peterson begins his ascent from the moon and descent toward Earth.


Obviously, this must be a pet project of Sales. The amount of detail imparts an authenticity to the novella, a deft touch of attention to detail that shows careful consideration. While this detail doesn’t exactly make for light reading, it does add an element of first-person perspective to the story—what’s important to the astronaut is carried through the narrative, be it the physics of flight control or controlling the waves of uncertainty.

With Peterson’s fixation of hope comes the obverse niggling doubt; he doesn’t understand The Bell and finds it difficult to place hope on a piece of Nazi construction and its borderline batty scientist, Kendall. Regardless of all subjective observations, there is one truth to Peterson: he is stuck on the moon, over three hundred thousand miles away from a dead Earth. Among the subjective observations and objective truths lay the emotional states of his past and present; he fosters distaste for Commies while feeling nostalgia for being in cockpit of various jets (e.g., the SR-91 and the F-108D). These mission characterize Peterson as a brash, gung-ho pilot unfazed by danger or confrontation.


Considering the series is a thematic Quartet, I hope to see the remaining three stories follow a similar feel: a foundation of hard details supporting a speculative wonder clouded by an atmosphere of isolation and desperation. The remaining stories in the Quartet are:
·         Book 2, novella: “The Eye Which the Universe Beholds Itself” (2013)
·         Book 3, novella: “Then Will the Great Ocean Wash Deep Above” (2013)
·         Book 4, “All That Outer Space Allows” (yet-to-be published)

Friday, May 16, 2014

1960: Rogue Moon (Budrys, Algis)

How “control” can, itself, control a man (4/5)

I’ve gotta respect Algis Budrys on two fronts: (1) he was a prolific reviewer and critic, like my humble self but much a more informed opinion and (2) if he didn’t like a book, he would serve up some choice language to do so. I had known about Budrys through his critiques before I had bought any of his books, I had read his bio on Wikipedia and SF-Encyclopedia, and combed through his works on ISFDB. He had always interested me, but I could never get my hands on his most popular novel: Rogue Moon (1960). It’s fair to say that my expectations were high, and when Jesse urged me to pick it up, I dived into my stack (an almost literal “dive” considering my stack’s disarray) and plucked Rogue Moon from its horizontal recumbent state to a vertical reading state (like matter, books have many phases, you know).

Rear cover synopsis:
“During all recorded history she has hovered near the earth, a timeless symbol for the lover’s ecstasy, a vast frontier for the adventurer’s curiosity. Goddesses and Gibson girls have tripped the light fantastic of her surface while sonneteers and scientists have scanned her changing phases.

Now man had actually reached the moon—and on it the explorers found a structure, a formation to terrible and incomprehensible that it couldn’t even be described in human terms. It was a thing that devoured men—that killed them again and again in torturous, unfathomable ways.

Earthbound were the only two men who could probe the thing—Al Barker, a suicidal maniac, whose loving mistress was Death, and Dr. Edward Hawks, a scientific murder, whose greatest mission was rebirth.”


Dr. Edward Hawks is a certified genius with credentials to prove it. His latest and most brilliant invention, the matter transmitter, is being funded by the Navy through the laboratories of Continental Electronics, a combination which leaves Hawks impervious to scrutiny and untouchable by criticism by the company president, Benton Cobey:

I came in here one morning, and found a letter on my desk informing me you're all at once a Navy commander and in charge of operating and maintaining the installation. Meaning you're in a position to demand from us, as a Naval officer, any equipment you, as one of our engineers, decide the installation needs. The Board of Directors won't tell me the basis for the funds they've allocated. The Navy tells me nothing. (62)

Hawks, himself, isn’t immune to the power he’s been granted. He plies his hand at human resources under his laboratory command, shifting his long-time comrade-in-lab-coats Sam Latourette from a senior technician in the project to an outside, unrelated project. With the baggage of history behind him, Hawks promotes a more junior technician, Ted Gersten (Sam’s top assistant), so that Hawks can have the intrinsic relief that that he’s in “total control of things” (61), something he insists he must have.

Orbiting his thoughts is his most recent subject for matter transmission, one ex-athlete named Al Barked, a man reputed to have a death wish, just a sliver on the lighter side of lunacy. Recommended by Vincent Connington, Continental Electronics' Director of Personnel, Hawks initially tagged along with Connington to the precariously perched house of Al Barker. As much as the house teeters on the edge of the cliff toward the ocean, so too does Barker stagger the wavy grey line of sanity. Much like Hawks, Barker is plagued by self-doubt (stemming from his leg amputation, hindering his career as an athlete) but rather than finding comfort in utter control in Hawks, Barker has lost himself in the a downward spiral. Assisted in this spiral of destruction is his comely yet coquettish live-in partner, Claire Pack, who shamelessly flirts with any and all men in her own web of control. Hawks is hesitant with her sultry advances, while Connington, on the other hand, chases her about the estate in a game of sexually shy cat and mouse.

Having enlisted Barker for the callous assignment which he knows very little about, Hawks leaves the tepid atmosphere of drunkenness and frolic. On his way back to town, he gets a ride from a woman named Elizabeth Cummings, with whom he forms an awkward relationship that revolves around her merely listening to his problems. As she accepts becoming a mental pincushion for Hawks, he misinterprets the power he has in the relationship as love and tells her of his love prior to including himself in the very experiment into which he has been sending Barker.

Hawks’ matter transmitter does not only scan, transmit and reproduce an item… “what the matter transmitter will do is tear you down and then send a message to a receiver telling it how to put you together again” (64). In tearing down the subject, the subject is essentially destroyed and two copies are created: one in the lab and one on the moon. The subject copied on the moon will not share the same atoms as the body back on Earth, yet they will share exactly the same memories, feelings, and flaws as the original. Due to some yet-to-be-understood phenomenon, the Earth-bound copy will receive undiluted sensations from the moon-bound copy—a form of telepathy.

So, what’s the catch?

Well, the matter transmitter is being used to produce copies of men, one-by-one, so that they can explore a mysterious moon construction which kills any intruder in savage, unexplainable ways. When Barker is copied on the moon, he has already been sent to a certain death, but just how and when he will die he does not know, but his body back on Earth will surely experience his own moon-bound death again and again. Barker will act as the chartmaker for the mysterious moon object, and Hawks’ is directly responsible for sending Barker into that formation so that it will repeatedly kill him… for the sake of science and whatnot. So far, only tentative data has been analyzed regarding the specific dimensions of the object and the actions of each chartmaker which causes their own death:

It is, for example, fatal to kneel on one knee while facing lunar north. It is fatal to raise the left hand above shoulder height while in any position whatsoever. It is fatal past a certain point to wear armor whose air hoses loop over the shoulders. It is fatal past another point to wear armor whose air tanks feed directly into the suit without the use of hoses at all. It is crippling to wear armor whose dimensions vary greatly from the ones we are using now. It is fatal to use the hand motions required to write the English word 'yes,' with either the left or right hand. (89)

As flummoxed as Hawks and Barker are at the sheer insanity of the object, they persist exploring it in order to find a way through. But to what end?


Hawks is a man divided by his professional role as a technocratic authoritarian and his personal role as a trouble mind in need of a sympathetic ear. However, in each role he is driven by the need for control, whether by direct manipulation of the project’s direction and funds or assuming the dominant position in a personal relationship. Hawks even says, himself, “Intelligent men pride themselves on their control” (61). Further into the conversation, Benton Cobey asks him, “And you have to have that? Total control?” to which Hawks states, “I have to have that” (61).

Metafictionally, perhaps speaking about his own plight or Budrys forcing it into the story, Hawks later speaks of the matter transmitter’s elaborate control gear, “By setting up crude analogies … we can introduce a certain measure of control” (70). One additional metafictional description of control in Rogue Moon comes courtesy of Vincent Connington: “[T]here's a pattern to life … I mean, there's got to be a pattern, or how could you control things?”, to which Hawks says uncertainly in his dilemma, “I can see that it might be necessary to believe that” (136).

Doing a quick content analysis (some graduate school habits die hard) on the text, one can see a variety of uses for the word “control” in relation to electronics: control array (9), control tape (49), control gear (69), control equipment (70 and 173), microphone switch controls (74), control console (75 and 76), control wheel (76), control knobs (141), and control circuit (149). Nearly all of these mentions of “control” involve either Hawk’s direct manipulation, inclusion to his field of vision or inclusion to his speaking (except for “control wheel” [76]).

Hawks’ need for power seems to extend into his speech, where he controls any dialogue through his use of soul-revealing monologue. This could be (1) and extent of his thirst for control or (2) Budrys’ bungled attempt at adding characterization through lengthy borderline-soliloquies. I desperately want the former posit to be true for sheer sake of convenience for my argument, but my instinct says that the latter is true: Budrys included monologues for not only Hawks, but also for Al Barker and Claire Pack (both of whom are in their own personal battles with control). These cascading monologues become tedious between pages 112 and 132 but they rear their head again and again. Though I have to hand it to Claire for her honesty with Hawks:

Why don't you just shut up, Hawks? What do you do, go through life making speeches? You know what you are, Hawks? You're a creep. A bore and a creep. A first-class bore. (123)

The seductive, flirty Claire Pack is an odd character. She may be firm with Hawks, berating him for his impassionate conversation and unabated disaffection for her but when she’s with the wounded pride of the maniacal Barker, she is putty to be molded. Not only molded, but also slapped around:

Barker's hand cracked over, and Claire fell back, holding her cheek. Then she grinned. "You've done better than that. You used to do a lot better. But that wasn't bad," she admitted … "Isn't he grand?" she said huskily to Hawks. "Isn't he a man?" (32-33)

Aside from bipolar Claire, there are only two other females in Rogue Moon and both play minor similarly submissive roles: the receptive but unfaceted Elizabeth Cummings and Vivian, a faceless and subservient secretary for Dr. Edward Hawks. With Claire or Elizabeth or Vivian, Hawks plays an awkward fellow, his digressive monologues perhaps indicative of his discomfort with women:

I've never been able to understand them [women] very well. I don't know why they do most of the things they do. I've— As a matter of fact, I've had a lot of trouble with women. (127)

When asked by his love interest why he doesn’t make love to her, he is startled by the remark and comments, "For Heaven's sake, Elizabeth, I don't know you well enough!” (128). From this conversation, one can extrapolate a few things: (1) he is so baffled by women because they don’t have control knobs or (2) he is in fact a homosexual more interested in the recurring deaths of Barker—itself, another form of control over another man.

Now… what of the fun-house of death on the moon? What symbolism of control does it have in regards to Hawks’ desire for power and Barker’s deathwish? Perhaps an analogy for life (try as you may, life can defeat you in a number of unforetold ways), for perseverance (keep controlling things and eventually all things will be ordered in a chaotic universe), for sexual experience (a swing and a miss, move on), or for control (confront and be flummoxed by an alien artifact which has none of the ergonomic conformities that human technologies have).


There are some tantalizing aspects of Budrys’ writing, be they intentional or accidental, cognizant or by freak occurrence. The monologues played well into Hawks’ push for control and the use of the word “control” at the hands and eyes of Hawks was a sublime touch. If these occurrences are by fine stoke rather than misstroke, then the rest of Budrys’ bibliographic looks just as enticing as all the nuances in Rogue Moon.

Friday, May 9, 2014

1979: Catacomb Years (Bishop, Michael)

All cities are built on voiceless narratives  (5/5)

Buying Michael Bishop’s Catacomb Years was a wise investment, albeit an impulse buy at the second-hand bookstore. This is the only Bishop novel, or collection, I own. Originally, it was going to stay stacked in my to-be-read pile for 3-4 years in the future (hey, I have a lot of catching up to do in my library) but the alluring cover proved too much… that and Joachim Boaz manhandled me from 8,700 miles away into reading it for his collection of guest posts on the work of Michael Bishop.

You’d be a dullard if you weren’t initially struck by either the premise or the cover art: As history barrels forward in a the manner of a drunkard, American cities like Atlanta eventually cap themselves in domes under the idea of Preemptive Isolation, only to suffer the pangs of dying from its onset of birth. Along with the novel A Little Knowledge (1977), pristinely reviewed by Heloise Merlin, these two books complete Bishop’s Urban Nucleus series.

Rear cover synopsis:
“They were the great years. the years after the U.S.A. was dissolved, after he domed cities were sealed, after the aliens from 61 Cygni had arrived… before they had converted to Christianity!

As rich and outrageous as Faulkner crossed with Heinlein, Michael Bishop’s Future History of the Urban Nucleus of Atlanta chronicles a New South of Near-Future people by born-again aliens, jumpsuited glissadors, child-embodied immortals, Mall guys, fall guys and two improbable lovers looking upward toward the stars. Its publication is one of the major SF events of the decade.”


Two things strike the reader when they learn that Catacomb Years is a collection of stories about a city under a dome: (1) The Why and (2) The How. As for the history WHY the domes were constructed, the book contains (1) a 5-page dated chronology covering the span of time of the stories and (2) a 4-page “Prelude: The Domes”. As for HOW… well, like I said, you’d be a dolt if you didn’t think seven stories of a domed city would be intriguing… but Bishop doesn’t play his fiddle for dolts; he has smartly written humanistic stories of people in the city rather than of the inner workings of the city-cum-Urban Nucleus called Atlanta, itself.

In writing humanistic stories, Bishop takes the high path and ignores the common narratives of the elite (affluent or influential), the powerful (administrators or politicians) or the controversial (pop stars or prostitutes [same thing, right?]). Ignoring these obvious narratives, Bishop instead hits upon the voiceless narratives of the common man in uncommon events—the muted accounts, the unheard secret history of the Urban Nucleus.

Each of these voiceless narratives has consequential ripples in the remaining stories, much as one rock can produce a lake-wide wave pattern. Though spanning generations, the momentum of the city’s subcutaneous reality-in-the-flesh builds to form its own dome of understanding around the Nucleus. With death, with suffering or with hope for renewal, these panels of the city’s geodesic narrative dome frame the city justly.

So, like Bishop’s exclusion of using the horse and pony show to impress the reader, I’ll just say what’s needed of the passing lives in Atlanta.


If a Flower Could Eclipse (1970, novelette) – 4/5 – Isolating himself in the corner of his classroom, the precocious Emory Coleman secretively toils away on his drawings down in black, his favorite color. Observing him through the glass are Fiona Bitler and Dr. Greer, his teacher and the behavioral psychologist, respectively. Considering Emory is the son of the man who assassinated Mz. Bitler’s husband, the situation is odd even before the two disappear together. 29 pages

Here, three individuals struggle to cope with the expectations of their respective role: Emory should be social and obedient yet his nature is reclusive and condescending; Fiona Bitler and Dr. Greer should both be objective in their study of young Emory, but personal needs blur the distinction between professional interests and emotional interests.

Old Folks at Home (1978, novella) – 4/5 – Zoe Breedlove’s own daughter volunteers her for a gerontological study. Though initially dismayed at her unsympathetic attitude toward her own mother, the Geriatric Hostel offers more than Zoe had dared hope. Adopted by, but not yet married into, the Phoenix septigamoklan (an elderly marriage grouping of seven), Zoe spends days and years among her kind in interests, kinship, and love. 49 pages

Unlike an assisted care facility or whatever you want to call a prison for the elderly, the Geriatric Hostel’s program doesn’t simply doll out the meds and swap bedpans every so often. In the septigamoklan, similar to a group of responsible children left on their own, they form a bond amongst themselves and even indulge in eccentricities for the intrinsic need for happiness.

The Window’s in Dante’s Hell (1973, shortstory) – 4/5 – Dead bodies in the urban Nucleus are better left to the unemotional servo-units, in which they simply dispose of the body into the city’s Level 9 recycler. An elderly body’s death stirs up curiosity and morbidity in the city’s Biomonitor Agency, resulting in Ardry and his boss’s son descending the levels to see the dead body. Rather than shock, they experience interest and sadness in the woman’s obsession with an old sci-fi TV series. 17 pages

Ignoring death is to be scared of our shared finality, the one common trait that makes us human: we live, we die. When Ardry and Newlyn come upon the dead woman’s home, the presence of her corpse isn’t as haunting as the elaborate mockup of a starship bridge—an eerie reminder than the death of history walks as a zombie in the minds of others.

The Samurai and the Willows (1976, novella) – 5/5 – Inhabiting Level 9 by trade and inhabiting the same level by choice, Georgia Cawthorn and Simon Fowler, respectively, share a room but not much else: He, a lithe Japanese figure with a fixation on samurai philosophy and bonsai pruning; she, an Amazonian glissaor of crass approach. Their physical proximity develops into a mutual interest and eventual, though slowly evolving, emotional interest of opposites attract. 45 pages

Impassioned by the art of patience and sacrifice, Simon writes of his daily philosophical struggles and toils selflessly with his bonsai trees. Perhaps the extrinsic looks of nobleness endear him to his toiling, but it’s his internal friction which catches him by surprise. When he sacrifices his vanity for a want, his hesitation is a blow to his esteem, so he must sacrifice one last thing.

Allegiances (1975, novella) – 4/5 – Contrary to popular belief under the dome of Atlanta, life still exists and even thrives in the Open. Newlyn Yates, now of the Biomonitor Agency with extended powers, enlists Clio Noble and a Native American, with the alias of Alexander Guest, to emerge from the Nucleus in order to procure two individuals of repute: Emory Coleman and Fiona Bitler. Having been in the open for some thirty years, they have privileged knowledge. 49 pages

Unbeknownst to most in the Urban Nucleus, the world beyond the Dome –itself a shield of ignorance—is fit for life. Once, the expansive roadways of Georgia served automobiles but in the year 2071, these same concrete arteries are chocked with verdant brush—an additional veil of ignorance keeping the domed citizens from knowing the truth about the US, Earth, and aliens.

At the Dixie-Apple with the Shoofly-Pie kid (1977, shortstory) – 5/5 – Julian had always been fascinated by the idea of aliens and so he wrote stories about them. When he learned that they really do exist, he wrote a story based on what he knew of the aliens and the Urban Nucleus: The Dixie-Apple Autumn Savings Sale is a draw enough for most, but the lone alien exhibition causes curiosity to soar, including Cullen, Bayangumay and her kids, one of which is about to run wild through the orderly store. 16 pages

This metafictional morsel allows Bishop to betray his assumed ambition—common man in uncommon events. The Autumn Savings Sale is a significant event for the commoner, but the relevance of the store’s rigid of aisle-passing rules and lax pricing system is insight into the more common inconveniences of Atlanta’s citizens and commentary on our own seasonal shopping habits.

Death Rehearsals (1979, novella) – 5/5 – Julian and his priestess wife live only doors down from the room where two dying aliens lay side-by-side. He is charged with their care—observing the two-year drawn out swansong in their cold tomb-to-be. Meanwhile, a poetic flyer penned by Leland Tanner stirs his soul; he offers the romantic aging man a place in his home and lands him a position at the Geriatric Hostel, where Leland finds work, love and too much truth. 69 pages

Leland Tanner (the same chief scientists from “Old Folks at Home”) is now, himself, an elderly man in need of similar company. To express his sorrow, he illegally prints a sheet of poems and, in doing so, meets the current director of the Geriatric Hostel, who he hopes to woo. Disappointingly, his only recourse for companionship are the dying aliens down the hall. Though he seeks personal closure, a more significant closure looms over all.