Three Worlds of Futurity by Margaret St. Clair (Ace, 1964)
Three Worlds of Futurity, Margaret St. Clair’s first collection short fiction was actually the second half of an Ace “double” book. Turn it upside down, flip it over and you have Message from the Eocene, also by her, as the companion book. I’ll get to the Eocene later, but today, let’s concentrate on this collection.
The book has but 5 tales: “The Everlasting Food”, “Idris’ Pig”, “The Rages”, “Roberta”, and “The Island of the Hands”. Three of the stories were originally published under different titles. I’m assuming the new titles are the ones she originally wanted to use. The earliest was written in 1949, the latest in 1962. With the exception of “Idris’ Pig”, none of these stories were included in The Best of Margaret St. Clair.
The first story, “The Everlasting Food”, is the best one in the set. After a violent thunderstorm, Richard Dekker discovers his Venusian wife Issa has become imortal. Although she can’t share her immortality with him, she can make their son immortal. She flees across the oceans of Venus (this was written in 1949) with the boy and her half-sister in pursuit. Although the ending is a little contrived, the story still holds up well as an excellent romance. Little touches, such as the title “Pamir”, are what make it excellent. In typical St. Clair fashion, many of the terms invented for the story are never explained.
“Idris’ Pig” is a screwball comedy set on Mars. Not quite Ray Bradbury’s Mars, but a neat place just the same. “The Rages” is told from the point of a man who lives for his next ration of euphoria pills from the government. Finally, there’s another romance, “The Island of the Hands”, which attempts to answer the old question as to what should your inner self should desire.
The stories in this book don’t have the same zing as the ones in Best. The tend to be more serious, more introspective. The one exception is 1962’s “Roberta”, which combines murder, science fiction, and sex change.
A nice little collection, which is a good companion to The Best of Margaret St. Clair.
(First published 10/26/10)