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       Trips: The Collected Stories of Robert Silverberg, Volume Four, p.1

           Robert Silverberg
 
Trips: The Collected Stories of Robert Silverberg, Volume Four


  Subterranean Press 2009

  Trips © 2009 by Agberg, Ltd. All rights reserved.

  Interior design © 2009 by Desert Isle Design, LLC. All rights reserved.

  Electronic Edition

  978-1-59606-387-7

  Subterranean Press

  PO Box 190106

  Burton, MI 48519

  www.subterraneanpress.com

  ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

  “In the Group” first appeared in Eros in Orbit.

  “Getting Across” first appeared in Future City.

  “Ms. Found in an Abandoned Time Machine” first appeared in Ten Tomorrows.

  “The Science Fiction Hall of Fame” first appeared in Infinity.

  “A Sea of Faces” first appeared in Universe.

  “The Dybbuk of Mazel Tov IV” first appeared in Wandering Stars.

  “Breckenridge and the Continuum” first appeared in Showcase.

  “Capricorn Games” first appeared in The Far Side of Time.

  “Ship-Sister, Star-Sister” first appeared in Tomorrow’s Alternatives.

  “This is the Road” first appeared in No Mind of Man.

  “Trips” first appeared in Final Stage.

  “Born with the Dead” first appeared in Fantasy & Science Fiction.

  “Schwartz Between the Galaxies” first appeared in Stellar.

  “In the House of Double Minds” first appeared in Vertex.

  Copyright © 1972, 1973, 1974 by Agberg, Ltd.

  Introductory matter copyright © 2009 by Agberg, Ltd.

  Table of Contents

  Introduction

  In the Group

  Getting Across

  Ms. Found in an Abandoned Time Machine

  The Science Fiction Hall of Fame

  A Sea of Faces

  The Dybbuk of Mazel Tov IV

  Breckenridge and the Continuum

  Capricorn Games

  Ship-Sister, Star-Sister

  This is the Road

  Trips

  Born with the Dead

  Schwartz Between the Galaxies

  In the House of Double Minds

  For Barry Malzberg

  Bob Hoskins

  Don Pfeil

  Edward L. Ferman

  Terry Carr

  Roger Elwood

  Judy-Lynn del Rey

  Joseph Elder

  Jack Dann

  Introduction

  We arrive now at the fourth of these volumes in which I am engaged in bringing together a record of my life in science fiction, my long adventure in this wonderful field of storytelling.

  The stories here, all of them written between March of 1972 and November of 1973, mark a critical turning point in my career. Those who know the three earlier volumes have traced my evolution from a capable journeyman, very young and as much concerned with paying the rent as he was to advancing the state of the art, into a serious, dedicated craftsman now seeking to leave his mark on science fiction in some significant way. Throughout the decade of the 1960s I had attempted to grow and evolve within the field of writing I loved—building on the best that went before me, the work of Theodore Sturgeon and James Blish and Cyril Kornbluth and Jack Vance and Philip K. Dick and half a dozen others whose great stories had been beacons beckoning me onward—and then, as I reached my own maturity, now trying to bring science fiction along with me into a new realm of development, hauling it along even farther out of its pulp-magazine origins toward what I regarded as a more resonant and evocative kind of visionary storytelling.

  The stories reprinted here were difficult stories for difficult times. As I have already noted in the introduction to Volume III of this series, the years when the stories of Volumes III and IV were written were years in which the traditional values of American society and much of Western Europe were crumbling, and the science fiction written at that time reflected the dislocations and fragmentations that our society was experiencing. New writers, armed with dazzling new techniques, took up the materials of s-f and did strange new things with it. Older writers, formerly content to produce the safe and simple stuff of previous decades, were reborn with sudden experimental zeal. It was a wild and adventurous time, when we were all improvising our way of life from day to day or even from hour to hour, and the science fiction of that period certainly shows it. Science fiction, which in the United States had been a child of the pulp magazines, turned into a form of avant-garde literature. (It is significant to note that of the fourteen stories in this book, only two appeared in conventional science-fiction magazines, and the rest in anthologies of previously unpublished fiction.)

  Did the readers follow me as I proceeded with these experiments? Not many of them, apparently. I did retain some of my audience—four or five of the stories in this book were nominated for Hugo or Nebula awards—but the actual Hugos and Nebulas went elsewhere during this period, with the exception of the Nebula that “Born With the Dead” won for me in 1975. Awards are only an indirect reflection of the state of mind of the readership; but in those years the sales of my books began a sudden steep plunge that told me a great deal more about how the readers felt about the changed tone of my recent work. My perplexity over that, as you will see, was followed by disillusionment and anger, and even the abandonment (temporary, as it turned out) of my career as a professional writer.

  These stories, then, reflect the turbulence of their times both in their content and the manner of their telling—and the seven years of silence that separates the last piece in this volume of my Collected Stories series from the opening story of the next one demonstrates quite eloquently, I think, the degree of interior turbulence that their creator was experiencing at that time.

  Robert Silverberg

  In the Group

  In the early part of the 1970s, hard as that may be to believe today, many people living in the Western industrial nations devoted a substantial degree of energy to erotic activity. Historical records indicate that it was a time of vigorous sexual experimentation, the formation of unconventional mating relationships, the use of illicit chemicals to enhance physiological response, and, in general, a whole lot of weird stuff. Many of the people who took part in these things are still alive today and some of them actually remember much of what they were doing back then.

  Under the circumstances, it should not be surprising that the editors of thematic science fiction anthologies in that far-off era had the idea of publishing stories that dealt with the future of sex. Two such collections were launched virtually simultaneously in the—ah—seminal year of 1971, and I contributed stories to both of them. The first of them was “Push No More,” for a book edited by Thomas N. Scortia called Strange Bedfellows; I wrote it in November, 1971 and it was included in the third volume of the present series of collections. Then, in March, 1972, I wrote the story reprinted here, “In the Group,” for Joseph Elder’s Eros in Orbit. (It also appeared in Penthouse Magazine.) It’s one of my favorites among my own stories. I like it for its fast pace, its high-gloss surface, its technological inventiveness, and in particular for the bleakness of its conclusion. Even in the midst of all the fun back then I sensed that old-fashioned emotions might eventually intrude on all the disengaged copulators of that free-swinging era and there was likely to be trouble for some of them somewhere down the line.

  ~

  It was a restless time for Murray. He spent the morning sand-trawling on the beach at Acapulco. When it began to seem like lunchtime he popped over to Nairobi for mutton curry at the Three Bells. It wasn’t lunchtime in Nairobi, but these days any restaurant worth eating at stayed open aroun
d the clock. In late afternoon, subjectivewise, he paused for pastis and water in Marseilles, and toward psychological twilight he buzzed back home to California. His inner clock was set to Pacific Time, so reality corresponded to mood: night was falling, San Francisco glittered like a mound of jewels across the bay. He was going to do Group tonight. He got Kay on the screen and said, “Come down to my place tonight, yes?”

  “What for?”

  “What else? Group.”

  She lay in a dewy bower of young redwoods, three hundred miles up the coast from him. Torrents of unbound milk-white hair cascaded over her slender, bare, honey-colored body. A multi-carat glitterstone sparkled fraudulently between her flawless little breasts. Looking at her, he felt his hands tightening into desperate fists, his nails ravaging his palms. He loved her beyond all measure. The intensity of his love overwhelmed and embarrassed him.

  “You want to do Group together tonight?” she asked. “You and me?” She didn’t sound pleased.

  “Why not? Closeness is more fun than apartness.”

  “Nobody’s ever apart in Group. What does mere you-and-me physical proximity matter? It’s irrelevant. It’s obsolete.”

  “I miss you.”

  “You’re with me right now,” she pointed out.

  “I want to touch you. I want to inhale you. I want to taste you.”

  “Punch for tactile, then. Punch for olfactory. Punch for any input you think you want.”

  “I've got all sensory channels open already,” Murray said. “I’m flooded with delicious input. It still isn’t the same thing. It isn’t enough, Kay.”

  She rose and walked slowly toward the ocean. His eyes tracked her across the screen. He heard the pounding of the surf.

  “I want you right beside me when Group starts tonight,” he told her. “Look, if you don’t feel like coming here, I’ll go to your place.”

  “You’re being boringly persistent.”

  He winced. “I can’t help it. I like being close to you.”

  “You have a lot of old-fashioned attitudes, Murray.” Her voice was so cool. “Are you aware of that?”

  “I’m aware that my emotional drives are very strong. That’s all. Is that such a sin?” Careful, Murray. A serious error in tactics just then. This whole conversation a huge mistake, most likely. He was running big risks with her by pushing too hard, letting too much of his crazy romanticism reveal itself so early. His obsession with her, his impossible new possessiveness, his weird ego-driven exclusivism. His love. Yes; his love. She was absolutely right, of course. He was basically old-fashioned. Wallowing in emotional atavism. You-and-me stuff. I, me, me, mine. This unwillingness to share her fully in Group. As though he had some special claim. He was pure nineteenth century underneath it all. He had only just discovered that, and it had come as a surprise to him. His sick archaic fantasies aside, there was no reason for the two of them to be side by side in the same room during Group, not unless they were the ones who were screwing, and the copulation schedule showed Nate and Serena on tonight’s ticket. Drop it, Murray. But he couldn’t drop it. He said into her stony silence, “All right, but at least let me set up an inner intersex connection for you and me. So I can feel what you’re feeling when Nate and Serena get it on.”

  “Why this frantic need to reach inside my head?” she asked.

  “I love you.”

  “Of course you do. We all love all of Us. But still, when you try to relate to me one-on-one like this, you injure Group.”

  “No inner connection, then?”

  “No.”

  “Do you love me?”

  A sigh. “I love Us, Murray.”

  That was likely to be the best he’d get from her this evening. All right. All right. He’d settle for that, if he had to. A crumb here, a crumb there. She smiled, blew him an amiable kiss, broke the contact. He stared moodily at the dead screen. All right. Time to get ready for Group. He turned to the life-size screen on the east wall and keyed in the visuals for preliminary alignment. Right now Group Central was sending its test pattern, stills of all of tonight’s couples. Nate and Serena were in the centre, haloed by the glowing nimbus that marked them as this evening’s performers. Around the periphery Murray saw images of himself, Kay, Van, JoJo, Nikki, Dirk, Conrad, Finn, Lanelle, and Maria. Bruce, Klaus, Mindy, and Lois weren’t there. Too busy, maybe. Or too tired. Or perhaps they were in the grip of negative unGrouplike vibes just at the moment. You didn’t have to do Group every night, if you didn’t feel into it. Murray averaged four nights a week. Only the real bulls, like Dirk and Nate, routinely hit seven out of seven. Also JoJo, Lanelle, Nikki—the Very Hot Ladies, he liked to call them.

  He opened up the audio. “This is Murray,” he announced. “I’m starting to synchronize.”

  Group Central gave him a sweet unwavering A for calibration. He tuned his receiver to match the note. “You’re at four hundred and thirty-two,” Group Central said. “Bring your pitch up a little. There. There. Steady. Four hundred and forty, fine.” The tones locked perfectly. He was synched in for sound. A little fine tuning on the visuals, next. The test pattern vanished and the screen showed only Nate, naked, a big cocky rockjawed man with a thick mat of curly black hair covering him from thighs to throat. He grinned, bowed, preened. Murray made adjustments until it was all but impossible to distinguish the three-dimensional holographic projection of Nate from the actual Nate, hundreds of miles away in his San Diego bedroom. Murray was fastidious about these adjustments. Any perceptible drop-off in reality approximation dampened the pleasure Group gave him. For some moments he watched Nate striding bouncily back and forth, working off excess energy, fining himself down to performance level; a minor element of distortion crept into the margins of the image, and, cutting in the manual override, Murray fed his own corrections to Central until all was well.

  Next came the main brain-wave amplification, delivering data in the emotional sphere: endocrine feeds, neural set, epithelial appercept, erogenous uptake. Diligently Murray keyed in each one. At first he received only a vague undifferentiated blur of formless background cerebration, but then, like intricate figures becoming clear in an elaborate oriental carpet, the specific characteristics of Nate’s mental output began to clarify themselves; edginess, eagerness, horniness, alertness, intensity. A sense of Nate’s formidable masculine strength came through. At this stage of the evening Murray still had a distinct awareness of himself as an entity independent of Nate, but that would change soon enough.

  “Ready,” Murray reported. “Holding awaiting Group cut-in.”

  He had to hold for fifteen intolerable minutes. He was always the quickest to synchronize. Then he had to sit and sweat, hanging on desperately to his balances and lineups while he waited for the others. All around the circuit, the rest of them were still tinkering with their rigs, adjusting them with varying degrees of competence. He thought of Kay. At this moment making frantic adjustments, tuning herself to Serena as he had done to Nate.

  “Group cut-in,” Central said finally.

  Murray closed the last circuits. Into his consciousness poured, in one wild rush, the mingled consciousnesses of Van, Dirk, Conrad, and Finn, hooked into him via Nate, and, less intensely because less directly, the consciousnesses of Kay, Maria, Lanelle, JoJo, and Nikki, funnelled to him by way of their link to Serena. So all twelve of them were in sync. They had attained Group once again. Now the revels could begin.

  Now. Nate approaching Serena. The magic moments of foreplay. That buzz of early excitement, that soaring erotic flight, taking everybody upward like a Beethoven adagio, like a solid hit of acid. Nate. Serena. San Diego. Their bedroom a glittering hall of mirrors. Refracted images everywhere. A thousand quivering breasts. Five hundred jutting cocks. Hands, eyes, tongues, thighs. The circular undulating bed, quivering, heaving. Murray, lying cocooned in his maze of sophisticated amplification equipment, receiving inputs at temples and throat and chest and loins, felt his palate growing dry, felt a pounding in his groin. He
licked his lips. His hips began, of their own accord, a slow rhythmic thrusting motion. Nate’s hands casually traversed the taut globes of Serena’s bosom. Caught the rigid nipples between hairy fingers, tweaked them, thumbed them. Murray felt the firm nodules of engorged flesh with his own empty hands. The merger of identities was starting. He was becoming Nate, Nate was flowing into him, and he was all the others too, Van, JoJo, Dirk, Finn, Nikki, all of them, feedbacks oscillating in interpersonal whirlpools all along the line. Kay. He was part of Kay, she of him, both of them parts of Nate and Serena. Inextricably intertwined. What Nate experienced, Murray experienced. What Serena experienced, Kay experienced. When Nate’s mouth descended to cover Serena’s, Murray’s tongue slid forward. And felt the moist tip of Serena’s. Flesh against flesh, skin against skin. Serena was throbbing. Why not? Six men tonguing her at once. She was always quick to arouse, anyway. She was begging for it. Not that Nate was in any hurry: screwing was his thing, he always made a grand production out of it. As well he might, with ten close friends riding as passengers on his trip. Give us a show, Nate. Nate obliged. He was going down on her, now. Inhaling. His stubbly cheeks against her satiny thighs. Oh, the busy tongue! Oh, the sighs and gasps! And then she engulfing him reciprocally. Murray hissed in delight. Her cunning little suctions, her jolly slithers and slides: a skilled fellatrice, that woman was. He trembled. He was fully into it, now, sharing every impulse with Nate. Becoming Nate. Yes. Serena’s beckoning body gaping for him. His waggling wand poised above her. The old magic of Group never diminishing. Nate doing all his tricks, pulling out the stops. When? Now. Now. The thrust. The quick sliding moment of entry. Ah! Ah! Ah! Serena simultaneously possessed by Nate, Murray, Van, Dirk, Conrad, Finn. Finn, Conrad, Dirk, Van, Murray, and Nate simultaneously possessing Serena. And, vicariously throbbing in rhythm with Serena: Kay, Maria, Lanelle, JoJo, Nikki. Kay. Kay. Kay. Through the sorcery of the crossover loop Nate was having Kay while he had Serena, Nate was having Kay, Maria, Lanelle, JoJo, Nikki all at once, they were being had by him, a soup of identities, an olla podrida of copulations, and as the twelve of them soared toward a shared and multiplied ecstasy Murray did something dumb. He thought of Kay.

 
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