The Book of Philip Jose Farmer, p.1Philip José Farmer
The Book of Philip Jose Farmer
Philip Jose Farmer
Philip Jose Farmer
The Book of Philip Jose Farmer
To My Sister, Joan
This collection is a reprint of The Book of Philip Jose Farmer, published in 1973 in softcover in the States and in hardcover in England in 1976. However, for this edition the forewords, where needing it, have been revised and updated. And since three stories, "Totem and Taboo," "The Voice of the Sonar in My Vermiform Appendix," and "Brass and Gold" have been recently reprinted in other collections, I have replaced them with "The Last Rise of Nick Adams," "The Freshman," and a nonscience- fiction tale, "Uproar in Acheron."
The title of this book implies a broad spectrum of my works, samples from each of the many fields of the vast genre of science-fiction in which I've worked. (Played, rather.)
Unfortunately, I can't include every field. I've written stories in many: adventure, space opera, parallel worlds, pocket universes, psychological, political, sexual, biological, pastiche, parody, religious, horror, time travel, ESP, "biographical," Cthulhu mythos, metaphysical, ecological, and Marxian. The last term refers to Groucho, Chico, and Harpo, not Karl, and could be applied to my polytropical paramyths. To include one sample of each would make a book twice as long as this, maybe three times as long. Also, some of the samples would have to be novels.
Thus, the stories and extracts herein are samples of the spectrum, not the complete spectrum.
My Sister's Brother
Of all my shorter fiction, this is, after my "Riders of the Purple Wage," my favorite. A curious story, it has a curious history. It first went to John Campbell, then editor of Astounding (now Analog). He rejected it with the message that it made him nauseated, not because it was a bad story but because of its vivid biological details and its premises. He believed that the readers of Astounding would react as he did. I wasn't surprised; this wasn't the first story of mine that had sickened John.
Sadly, because I liked Astounding word rates, I mailed it out to a lesser-paying market. I bypassed Horace Gold, editor of Galaxy, an equally good payer, because Horace's editorial stomach was, I knew from experience, no stronger than John's. John was supposed to be a flaming reactionary, and Horace was supposed to be a flaming liberal. Actually, both were individuals, proteans who would wriggle out of the grasp of anyone who tried to hold them down while pinning a label on them. In this case, the compelling reason for rejection was their fear of their readers' reactions.
Bob Mills, editor of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, also bounced it. He liked it but thought it too strong for his readers. However, Leo Margulies was planning a new science fiction magazine, Satellite, and, hearing of "My Sister's Brother," then titled "Open to Me, My Sister," asked Bob if he could read it. He purchased it, and the story, retitled "The Strange Birth," was set up in galley sheets and illustrated for the first issue. But Leo's plans collapsed; Satellite though, was canceled.
Bob Mills, meanwhile, had changed his mind. He would take a chance on it. He paid the difference between Leo's check to me and his and published it with my original title. Most of the readers were less queasy than any of the editors would have expected. This was in 1960, when the gears of the Zeitgeist were shifting into overdrive. The makeup of the general readership had changed somewhat; there were many more flexible-minded people than in the 1950's.
I'll note that the reactions of the editors who rejected this story, or, in the case of Gold, would have, are similar to the reactions of the protagonist to the strange society of Mars and the even stranger visitor to Mars, "Martia." This story is a hardcore science fiction tale, but it is also about an Earthman's hangups, extraterrestrial ecosystems, sexobiological structures, and religion.
Also, when the story was written, Hawaii was not yet the fiftieth state. But it seemed likely.
Also, the reproductive-phallic system of Martia's people is an original concept, just as Jeannette Rastignac's was in The Lovers. At the time I wrote the two stories, I was in my sexobiological phase. Which may come again, no pun intended.
Come to think of it, the phase did descend upon me again briefly in the 60's when I wrote the novels Image of the Beast and Blown.
The sixth night on Mars, Lane wept.
He sobbed loudly while tears ran down his cheeks. He smacked his right fist into the palm of his left hand until the flesh burned. He howled with loneliness. He swore the most obscene and blasphemous oaths he knew.
After a while, he quit weeping. He dried his eyes, downed a shot of Scotch, and felt much better.
He wasn't ashamed because he had bawled like a woman. After all, there had been a Man who had not been ashamed to weep. He could dissolve in tears the grinding stones within; he was the reed that bent before the wind, not the oak that toppled, roots and all.
Now, the weight and the ache in his breast gone, feeling almost cheerful, he made his scheduled report over the transceiver to the circum-Martian vessel five hundred and eight miles overhead. Then he did what men must do any place in the universe. Afterward, he lay down in the bunk and opened the one personal book he had been allowed to bring along, an anthology of the world's greatest poetry.
He read here and there, running, pausing for only a line or two, then completing in his head the thousand-times murmured lines. Here and there he read, like a bee tasting the best of the nectar -
It is the voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled...
We have a little sister,
And she hath no breasts; What shall we do for our sister In the day when she shall be spoken for?
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil for Thou art with me...
Come live with me and be my love
And we shall all the pleasures prove...
It lies not in our power to love or hate
For will in us is over-ruled by fate...
With thee conversing, I forget all time,
All seasons, and their change, all please alike...
He read on about love and man and woman until he had almost forgotten his troubles. His lids drooped; the book fell from his hand. But he roused himself, climbed out of the bunk, got down on his knees, and prayed that he be forgiven and that his blasphemy and despair be understood. And he prayed that his four lost comrades be found safe and sound. Then he climbed back into the bunk and fell asleep.
At dawn he woke reluctantly to the alarm clock's ringing. Nevertheless, he did not fall back into sleep but rose, turned on the transceiver, filled a cup with water and instant, and dropped in a heat pill. Just as he finished the coffee, he heard Captain Stroyansky's voice from the 'ceiver. Stroyansky spoke with barely a trace of Slavic accent.
"Cardigan Lane? You awake?"
"More or less. How are you?"
"If we weren't worried about all of you down there, we'd be fine."
"I know. Well, what are your orders?"
"There is only one thing to do, Lane. You must go look for the others. Otherwise, you cannot get back up to us. It takes at least two more men to pilot the rocket."
"Theoretically, one man can pilot the beast," replied Lane. "But it's uncertain. However, that doesn't matter. I'm leaving at once to look for the others. I'd do that even if you ordered otherwise."
Stroyansky chuckled. Then he barked like a seal. "The success of the expedition is more important than the fate of four men. Theoretically, anyway. But if I were in your shoes, and I'm glad I'm not, I would do the same. So, good luck, Lane."
"Thanks," said Lane. "I'll need more than luck. I'll also need God's help. I
He looked through the transparent double plastic walls of the dome.
"The wind's blowing about twenty-five miles an hour. The dust is covering the tractor tracks. I have to get going before they're covered up entirely. My supplies are all packed; I've enough food, air, and water to last me six days. It makes a big package, the air tanks and the sleeping tent bulk large. It's over a hundred Earth pounds, but here only about forty. I'm also taking a rope, a knife, a pickax, a flare pistol, half a dozen flares. And a walkie-talkie.
"It should take me two days to walk the thirty miles to the spot where the tracs last reported. Two days to look around. Two days to get back."
"You be back in five days!" shouted Stroyansky. "That's an order! It shouldn't take you more than one day to scout around. Don't take chances. Five days!"
And then, in a softer voice, "Good luck, and, if there is a God, may He help you!"
Lane tried to think of things to say, things that might perhaps go down with the Doctor Livingstone, I presume, category. But all he could say was, "So long."
Twenty minutes later, he closed behind him the door to the dome's pressure lock. He strapped on the towering pack and began to walk. But when he was about fifty yards from the base, he felt compelled to turn around for one long look at what he might never see again. There, on the yellow-red felsite plain, stood the pressurized bubble that was to have been the home of the five men for a year. Nearby squatted the glider that had brought them down, its enormous wings spreading far, its skids covered with the forever-blowing dust.
Straight ahead of him was the rocket, standing on its fins, pointing toward the blue-black sky, glittering in the Martian sun, shining with promise of power, escape from Mars, and return to the orbital ship. It had come down to the surface of Mars on the back of the glider in a hundred-and-twenty-mile an hour landing. After it had dropped the two six-ton caterpillar tractors it carried, it had been pulled off the glider and tilted on end by winches pulled by those very tractors. Now it waited for him and for the other four men.
"I'll be back," he murmured to it. "And if I have to, I'll take you up by myself."
He began to walk, following the broad double tracks left by the tank. The tracks were faint, for they were two days old, and the blowing silicate dust had almost filled them. The tracks made by the first tank, which had left three days ago, were completely hidden.
The trail led northwest. It left the three-mile wide plain between two hills of naked rock and entered the quarter-mile corridor between two rows of vegetation. The rows ran straight and parallel from horizon to horizon, for miles behind him and miles ahead.
Lane, on the ground and close to one row, saw it for what it was. Its foundation was an endless three-foot high tube, most of whose bulk, like an iceberg's, lay buried in the ground. The curving sides were covered with blue-green lichenoids that grew on every rock or projection. From the spine of the tube, separated at regular intervals, grew the trunks of plants. The trunks were smooth shiny blue-green pillars two feet thick and six feet high. Out of their tops spread radially many pencil-thin branches, like bats' fingers. Between the fingers stretched a blue-green membrane, the single tremendous leaf of the umbrella tree.
When Lane had first seen them from the glider as it hurtled over them, he had thought they looked like an army of giant hands uplifted to catch the sun. Giant they were, for each rib-supported leaf measured fifty feet across. And hands they were, hands to beg for and catch the rare gold of the tiny sun. During the day, the ribs on the side nearest the moving sun dipped toward the ground, and the furthest ribs tilted upward. Obviously, the daylong maneuver was designed to expose the complete area of the membrane to the light, to allow not an inch to remain in shadow.
It was to be expected that strange forms of plant life would be found here. But structures built by animal life were not expected. Especially when they were so large and covered an eighth of the planet.
These structures were the tubes from which rose the trunks of the umbrella trees. Lane had tried to drill through the rocklike side of the tube. So hard was it, it had blunted one drill and had done a second no good before he had chipped off a small piece. Contented for the moment with that, he had taken it to the dome, there to examine it under a microscope. After an amazed look, he had whistled. Embedded in the cement-like mass were plant cells. Some were partially destroyed; some, whole.
Further tests had shown him that the substance was composed of cellulose, a lignin-like stuff, various nucleic acids, and unknown materials.
He had reported his discovery and also his conjecture to the orbital ship. Some form of animal life had, at some time, chewed up and partially digested wood and then had regurgitated it as a cement. The tubes had been fashioned from the cement.
The following day he intended to go back to the tube and blast a hole in it. But two of the men had set out in a tractor on a field exploration. Lane, as radio operator for that day, had stayed in the dome. He was to keep in contact with the two, who were to report to him every fifteen minutes.
The tank had been gone about two hours and must have been about thirty miles away, when it had failed to report. Two hours later, the other tank, carrying two men, had followed the prints of the first party. They had gone about thirty miles from base and were maintaining continuous radio contact with Lane.
"There's a slight obstacle ahead," Greenberg had said. "It's a tube coming out at right angles from the one we've been paralleling. It has no plants growing from it. Not much of a rise, not much of a drop on the other side, either. We'll make it easy."
Then he had yelled.
That was all.
Now, the day after, Lane was on foot, following the fading trail. Behind him lay the base camp, close to the junction of the two canali known as Avernus and Tartarus. He was between two of the rows of vegetation which formed Tartarus, and he was traveling northeastward, toward the Sirenum Mare, the so-called Siren Sea. The Mare, he supposed, would be a much broader group of tree-bearing tubes.
He walked steadily while the sun rose higher and the air grew warmer. He had long ago turned off his suit-heater. This was summer and close to the equator. At noon the temperature would be around seventy degrees Fahrenheit.
But at dusk, when the temperature had plunged through the dry air to zero, Lane was in his sleeping tent. It looked like a cocoon, being sausage-shaped and not much larger than his body. It was inflated so he could remove his helmet and breathe while he warmed himself from the battery-operated heater and ate and drank. The tent was also very flexible; it changed its cocoon shape to a triangle while Lane sat on a folding chair from which hung a plastic bag and did that which every man must do.
During the daytime he did not have to enter the sleeping tent for this. His suit was ingeniously contrived so he could unflap the rear section and expose the necessary area without losing air or pressure from the rest of his suit. Naturally, there was no thought of tempting the teeth of the Martian night. Sixty seconds at midnight were enough to get a severe frostbite where one sat down.
Lane slept until half an hour after dawn, ate, deflated the tent, folded it, stowed it, the battery, heater, food-box, and folding chair into his pack, threw away the plastic sack, shouldered the pack, and resumed his walk.
By noon the tracks faded out completely. It made little difference, for there was only one route the tanks could have taken. That was the corridor between the tubes and the trees. Now he saw what the two tanks had reported. The trees on his right began to look dead. The trunks and leaves were brown, and the ribs drooped.
He began walking faster, his heart beating hard. An hour passed, and still the line of dead trees stretched as far as he could see.
"It must be about here," he said out loud to himself.
Then he stopped. Ahead was an obstacle.
It was the tube of which Greenberg had spoken, the one that ran at right angles to the other two and joined them.
Lane looked at it and thought that he could still hear Greenberg's despairing cry.
That thought seemed to turn a valve in him so that the immense pressure of loneliness, which he had succeeded in holding back until then, flooded in. The blue- black of the sky became the blackness and infinity of space itself, and he was a speck of flesh in an immensity as large as Earth's land area, a speck that knew no more of this world than a newborn baby knows of his.
Tiny and helpless, like a baby...
No, he murmured to himself, not a baby. Tiny, yes. Helpless, no. Baby, no. I am a man, a man, an Earthman --
Earthman: Cardigan Lane. Citizen of the U.S.A. Born in Hawaii, the fiftieth state. Of mingled German, Dutch, Chinese, Japanese, Negro, Cherokee, Polynesian, Portuguese, Russian-Jewish, Irish, Scotch, Norwegian, Finnish, Czech, English, and Welsh ancestry. Thirty-one years old. Five foot six. One hundred and sixty pounds. Brown-haired. Blue-eyed, Hawk-featured, M.D. and Ph.D. Married. Childless. Methodist. Sociable mesomorphic mesovert. Radio ham. Dog breeder. Deer hunter. Skin diver. Writer of first-rate but far from great poetry. All contained in his skin and his pressure suit, plus a love of companionship and life, an intense curiosity, and a courage. And now very much afraid of losing everything except his loneliness.
For some time he stood like a statue before the three-foot high wall of the tube. Finally, he shook his head violently, shook off his fear like a dog shaking off water. Lightly, despite the towering pack on his back, he leaped up onto the top of the tube and looked on the other side, though there was nothing he had not seen before jumping.
The view before him differed from the one behind in only one respect. This was the number of small plants that covered the ground. Or rather, he thought, after taking a second look, he had never seen these plants this size before. They were foot- high replicas of the huge umbrella trees that sprouted from the tubes. And they were not scattered at random, as might have been expected if they had grown from seeds blown by the wind. Instead, they grew in regular rows, the edges of the plants in one row separated from the other by about two feet.
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