Generation Ship Short Story Review: Arthur Sellings’ “A Start in Life” (1954)

This is the 11th post in my newly resurrected series of vintage generation ship short fiction reviews. I’m continuing my exploration of 50s visions.

As a reminder for anyone stopping by, all of the stories I’ll review in the series are available online via the link below in the review.

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: Frank M. Robinson’s “The Oceans Are Wide” in Science Stories (April 1954), ed. Bea Mahaffey and Ray Palmer. You can read it online here

Next Up: TBD

Arthur Sellings’ “A Start in Life” first appeared in Galaxy Science Fiction (September 1954), ed. H. L. Gold. 3/5 (Average). You can read it online here.

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Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLXXX (Brian W. Aldiss, Judith Merril, Brian M. Stableford, and Chad Oliver)

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

1. Barefoot In the Head, Brian W. Adliss (1969)

From the back cover: “AFTER THE ACID WAR…. Rising from the dust and ashes of a Europe still reeling from the effects of the great Acid War comes Colin Charteris, a futuristic Don Quixote riding the mechanized brontosaurus of the times.

Charteris tries desperately to make sense of the drugged, chaotic world he lives in, and finds himself hailed as the new Messiah. Stranger still, Charteris himself comes to believe this.

His adventures as he tries to save the world from its insanity are brilliantly told, a satiric science fiction comment on the future of mankind.”

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Generation Ship Short Story Review: Frank M. Robinson’s “The Oceans Are Wide” (1954)

This is the 10th post in my newly resurrected series of vintage generation ship short fiction reviews. I’ve returned to an author, Frank M. Robinson (1926-2014), that I promised to read more of after the wonderful “The Wreck of the Ship John B.” (1967).

As a reminder for anyone stopping by, all of the stories I’ll review in the series are available online via the link below in the review.

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: Leigh Brackett’s “The Ark of Mars” in Planet Stories (September 1953), ed. Jack O’Sullivan. You can read it online here.

Next Up: TBD


Frank M. Robinson’s “The Oceans Are Wide” first appeared in Science Stories (April 1954), ed. Bea Mahaffey and Ray Palmer. 3.75/5 (Good). You can read it online here. Note: I read the story in Starships, ed. Isaac Asimov, Martin Harry Greenberg, Charles G. Waugh (1983).

A Boy Comes of Age, or How Do You Make a Machiavellian Tyrant

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Generation Ship Short Story Review: Leigh Brackett’s “The Ark of Mars” (1953)

This is the 9th post in my newly resurrected series of vintage generation ship short fiction reviews. Not every short story I read for this series fits my definition of a generation ship. If you choose to read the story before my review, know that I disagree with its inclusion in SF Encyclopedia’s entry and understand why it was excluded from Simone Caroti’s original list. And that’s okay! I enjoy mapping the territory with all its swampy bayous, hidden coves, and dead ends.

As a reminder for anyone stopping by, all of the stories I’ll review in the series are available online via the link below in the review.

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: Otto Binder’s “Son of the Stars” in the February 1940 issue of Famous Fantastic Mysteries, ed. Mary Gnaedinger. You can read the story online here.

Next Up: Frank M. Robinson’s “The Oceans Are Wide” first appeared in Science Stories (April 1954), ed. Bea Mahaffey and Ray Palmer. You can read it online here


Leigh Brackett’s “The Ark of Mars” first appeared in Planet Stories (September 1953), ed. Jack O’Sullivan. 2.5/5 (Bad). You can read it online here. “Ark” was combined with an expanded “Teleportress of Alpha C” (1954) and released as the fix-up Alpha Centauri or Die! (1963).

Let’s get the obvious out of the way. As I mentioned above, this is not a generation ship story despite its inclusion in the SF Encyclopedia’s entry on the theme. While mothers and children are brought on board a massive vessel secretly constructed on Mars for a journey to an Earth-like planet orbiting Alpha Centauri, the voyage lasts a mere five years. Children might be born on the ship but will only spend a short portion of their lives on board. All of the action of the plot revolves around launching the vessel and Mars’ last attempt to stop the trip immediately as it sets off. Few of the distinctive hallmarks of generation ship stories are present — there’s no generational strife between those born on the ship and their elders, no conceptual breakthrough as the “true” nature of the world is revealed, etc. Instead, the ship is a glorified covered wagon, symbolic of Brackett’s identification of a primitivist masculine drive (with adjacent spouses) to trek West rather than a new social system to explore.

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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: Otto Binder’s “Son of the Stars” in the February 1940 issue of  Famous Fantastic Mysteries, ed. Mary Gnaedinger. You can read the story online here.

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 five 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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