Generation Ship Short Story Review: Chad Oliver’s “Stardust” (1952)

This is the seventh post in my newly resurrected series of vintage generation ship short fiction reviews. I have returned to the author and anthropologist Chad Oliver (1928-1993) whose “The Wind Blows Free” (1957) inspired me to start the series. All of the stories I’ll review in the series are available online and linked.

You are welcome to read and discuss along with me as I explore humanity’s visions of generational voyage. And thanks go out to all who have joined already. I also have compiled an extensive index of generation ship SF if you wish to track down my earlier reviews on the topic and any that you might want to read on your own.

Previously: A. E. van Vogt’s “Centaurus II”in the June 1947 issue of Astounding Science Fiction, ed. John W. Campbell, Jr. You can read it online here.

Next Up: TBD

As the last post was way back in January 2020, here’s a reminder of what I’ve covered so far:

I’ve also reviewed four additional generation ship works (two novels and one short story) since I started the series that I didn’t include:


Chad Oliver’s “Stardust” first appeared in the July 1952 issue of Astounding Science Fiction, ed. John W. Campbell, Jr. 3.5/5 (Good). You can read it online here.

In the 1974 paper “Two Horizons of Man” for the American Anthropological Association, Chad Oliver identified the “larger theoretical and social contexts” in which his two professions (SF and anthropology) were subsumed: “The problems of cultural contact and culture conflict, the discussions of cultural relativism, the idea of cultural evolution, the whole emphasis on looking at things from different perspectives, the questions about what it meant to be human–all of these were as characteristics if science fiction as they were of anthropology” (note). “Stardust” (1952) exemplifies this intersection of concerns. The new generation of explorers encounter the first generation, trapped for hundreds of years on sabotaged generation ship on their way to colonize Capella.

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Short Story Reviews: Carol Emshwiller’s “Day at the Beach” (1959), “Puritan Planet” (1960), and “Adapted” (1961)

It’s time for the fifth post in my series exploring Carol Emshwiller’s science fiction and fantasy–published between 1955-1979 in genre magazines–in chronological order. And if you missed earlier installments, check out Part IIIIII, and IV.

We have a beach vacation in the post-apocalypse, a gorgeous fable of a housewife struggling to chart her path, and the travails of a crashed astronaut and his cat on a planet of religious fanatics. In this installment, I wrap up her stories published in the 1950s and move into the 1960s. Emshwiller published only 12 stories in the 1960s with a publication gap between 1961-1966 while she managed 13 between 1955-1959. In the previous post, Rich Horton and Expendable Mudge speculated that it was due to the birth of her son in 1959.

I’ve listed by rating all of her 50s stories. If you’d like me to write up my thoughts overall on her 50s visions in a more analytical manner (a short essay?), let me know in the comments.

1. “Pelt” (1958), 5/5 (Masterpiece)

2. “Day at the Beach” (1959), 4.5/5 (Very Good) [this post]

3. “Baby” (1958), 4/5 (Good)

4. “Nightmare Call” (1957), 3.75/5 (Good)

5. “Bingo and Bongo” (1956), 3.5/5 (Good)

6. “The Piece Thing” (1956), 3.5/5 (Good)

7. “This Thing Called Love” (1955), 3.5/5 (Good)

8. “The Coming” (1957), 3.5/5 (Good)

9. “Love Me Again” (1956), 3.25/5 (Good)

10. Hunting Machine” (1957), 3/5 (Average)

11. “You’ll Feel Better…” (1957), 3/5 (Average)

12. “Two-Step for Six Legs” (1957), 2.75/5 (Vaguely Average)

13. “Idol’s Eye” (1958), 2.5/5 (Bad)

As always, feel free to join the conversation!


“Day at the Beach” in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (August 1959), ed. Robert P. Mills. 4.5/5 (Very Good). You can read it online here. Like “Pelt” (1958), this wonderful story has been frequently anthologized. I read it in The Year’s Best S-F: 5th Annual edition (1960), ed. Judith Merril. At first glance “Day at the Beach” reaffirms the power of family in the face of a cataclysmic event as a mother and father slowly accept changes brought on by atomic mutation. Or, there’s a more sinister reading where the family unit creates a delusional bubble that obfuscates the real horror outside (and inside) their home.

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Book Review: This Side of Infinity, ed. Terry Carr (1972) (Zelazny, Silverberg, Aldiss, Lafferty, et al.)

3.25/5 (Collated rating: Vaguely Good)

Soldiers in mech armor plagued by existential crisis. Asexual insectoid aliens pretending to be human. Children wielding pet apes as weapons. This Side of Infinity, ed. Terry Carr (1972) gathers eight kaleidoscopic visions from stalwarts (Roger Zelazny and Robert Silverberg) to lesser known authors (David Redd and George H. Smith). As a collated whole, this is a solid collection without a defining standout masterpiece but worth acquiring for the sheer variety and hallucinatory power of it all.

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Short Story Reviews: Carol Emshwiller’s “Baby” (1958), “Idol’s Eye” (1958), and “Pelt” (1958)

I’ve hit gold! Robotic nurses with adult “children.” A blind girl possessed by second sight. And a dog who cannot understand freedom. Here’s the fourth post in my series exploring Carol Emshwiller’s science fiction and fantasy–published between 1955-1979 in genre magazines–in chronological order. And if you missed earlier installments, check out Part III, and III.

In this installment, I have the first that I can confidently declare a 1950s masterpiece–“Pelt” (1958). If you want to participate in my explorations, links to the stories can be found below.

As always, feel free to join the conversation!

Her next three stories are covered in Part V.


“Baby” in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (February 1958), ed. Anthony Boucher. 4/5 (Good). You can read it online here.

Raised by a robotic nurse, Baby, “six feet tall, lean, [with] the look of a hungry hunting animal,” encounters a slowly decaying world unable to provide his needs (115). Baby’s simulacra parent, and to a lesser degree Rob the repair robot, parrot the language, actions, and intentions of humans. He detects an emptiness to the space behind their words and increasing inability to explain the mechanical breakdowns that are never fixed. Saying “please” no longer works (116) but rather makes him angry. Nurse, with her “soft mother-arms” and “specially built place at her breast,” continues to follow her programming and treat Baby as if he were a child (118).

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Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLXXVI (Philip José Farmer, Barbara Paul, Knut Faldbakken, and Ward Moore)

Which books/covers/authors intrigue you? Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?

1. Father to the Stars, Philip José Farmer (1981)

From the back cover: “John Carmody has no ethics, no morals and no conscience. Until he takes the Chance on Dante’s Joy, living through seven nights of wildest fantasies come true, he can’t even imagine why anyone would want a conscience. But Dante’s Joy is a truly strange place–and the phone calls from his murdered wife are only the beginning of his strange experiences.

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Short Story Reviews: Carol Emshwiller’s “The Coming” (1957), “You’ll Feel Better…” (1957), and “Two-Step for Six Legs” (1957)

Here is another post in my series exploring Carol Emshwiller’s science fiction and fantasy–published between 1955-1979 in genre magazines–in chronological order. And if you missed earlier installments, check out Part I and II.

I found Emshwiller’s next three science fiction stories, including the first in her new long-term home The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, polished fables utilizing standard genre tropes (alien mating rituals, a mysterious stranger, etc.) to highlight humanity’s encounter with itself in idiosyncratic and grim ways.

However, this batch presents a bit of a lull in overall quality. These are probably only recommended for Emshwiller completists like myself or fans of off-kilter 50s parables. The next post will contain one of her best known works of the 50s–“Pelt” (1958). I look forward to Part IV.

For those curious why I am conducting this series, check out my review of the intense power that is “Animal” (1968) (the best story of hers I’ve read so far).

As always, feel free to join the conversation!

Her next three stories are covered in Part IV.


“The Coming” in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (May 1957), ed. Anthony Boucher. 3.5/5 (Good). You can read it online here.

A mysterious stranger, “stick thin, and he walked as as scarecrow might walk” (102), comes into town like someone in a trance, his “lips parted, eyes half closed, head thrown back” (102). On cue, a young girl named Nina with her homework spread before her, slips into the same trance-like state. Her mom threatens “if you don’t keep your mind on your work you’ll be set back again this year” (103). But something about the stranger, the unknown, and the other world in which he seems to inhabit free from all care or obligation beckons.

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Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLXXIV (Suzette Haden Elgin, Paul Cook, Herbert W. Franke, Charles Eric Maine)

As always, which books/covers/authors intrigue you? Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?

1. Furthest, Suzette Haden Elgin (1971)

From the back cover: “Coyote Jones, agent for the Tri-Galactic Intelligence Service, had been sent to a planet so unimaginably distant from the rest of the Federation that it bore the descriptive name Furthest. His mission: to find out why the total body of data about Furthest showed the world’s inhabitants to be absolutely average down to the last decimal place. That data had to be false.

Jones was permitted to live on the planet, but the natives were so wary of him that he could uncover nothing—until he chanced into a personal crisis faced by his young Furthest assistant. The boy’s sister had been sentenced to Erasure, and he wanted Coyote Jones to take the fugitive girl in and hide her.

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Short Story Review: Anthony Boucher’s “Star Bride” (1951)

The following review is the 13th installment of my series searching for “SF short stories that are critical in some capacity of space agencies, astronauts, and the culture which produced them.” Some stories I’ll review in this series might not fit. And that is okay. I relish the act of literary archaeology.

As always, feel free to join the conversation.

Today: Anthony Boucher’s “Star Bride” (1951) in the December 1951 issue of Thrilling Wonder Stories, ed. Samuel Mines. You can read it online here.

Previously: J. G. Ballard’s “The Cage of Sand” (1962) in the June 1962 issue of New Worlds Science Fiction, ed. John Carnell. You can read it online here.

Up Next: Poul Anderson’s “Third Stage” (1962) in the February 1962 issue of Amazing Stories, ed. Cele Goldsmith. You can read it online here.

2/5 (Bad)

“Star Bride” (1951) first appeared in the December 1951 issue of Thrilling Wonder Stories, ed. Samuel Mines. You can read it online here.

Anthony Boucher’s short “Star Bride” is a tepid condemnation of colonialism written in the immediate post-WWII stages of decolonization (the Philippines gained its independence from the United States in 1946 and India from the British Empire in 1947). While a deeply problematic and forgettable story, a handful of Boucher’s themes and observations are worth teasing out due to later SF formulations I’ll be exploring in this series.

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Updates: Recent SFF Purchases No. CCLXXIII (Avram Davidson, Joan D. Vinge, William Tenn, and Michael Kurland)

As always, which books/covers/authors intrigue you? Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?

1. The Island Under the Earth, Avram Davidson (1969)

From the inside page: “In THE ISLAND UNDER THE EARTH, a master fantasist has created his most fabulous land of imagination, peopled with humans and not-humans who speak with characteristically different voices and pursue goals and philosophies that set them inevitably against one another.

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