This story from 1963 lives up to its title and is an interesting read in the context of also showing a turning point in how science fiction writers wrote about humans and aliens.
A human space exploration team discovers an Earth-like planet with human-like intelligent species. Their level of technology is around the stone age, but they quickly establish communication and the natives to the planet turns out to be very quick learners. Like extremely quick. Over the span of just a couple of days they go from being presented with the invention of the wheel to using it for quite advanced bandwagons. The humans, while impressed, gets somewhat scared. They see these people as a potential rival that might overtake humans in very few years and dominate the galaxy. Drastic measures, such as total genocide, are discussed but dropped again.
What I personally found interesting about this 60 year old story, is that it is built around a human mindset towards aliens that we don’t see much anymore in fiction. I grew up with stuff like Star Trek that generally has a positive and optimistic view of alien species – where the default assumption is that advanced species will be peaceful. Of course this story is not the first to challenge the view of the old pulps where humans are entitled to dominate the galaxy, this anthology also has The Aliens by Murray Leinster from 1959, but it is a good example of the shift in how aliens, and more to the point – how humans viewed other species, was portrayed in science fiction at the time.
I found the ending to be bit rushed but liked the overall more positive tone, so definitely worth a read.
Read in The World Turned Upside Down Original published in Worlds of If, May 1963 ISFDB Link Read the story at drabblecast.org Rating: 4
This story from 1962 takes places more than 70 years after a big war. A war fought with big intelligent war machines. Now the war is almost forgotten, but some of the machines are still buried deep underground and one is awakened by nearby construction work. The intelligent machine is still operating as if the war is going and it is heading straight for the city. Now an old and retired soldier is the only one who may be able to persuade the machine to stop its mission.
What I found most interesting about this otherwise pretty straightforward story, is how differently my reading was compared to the editors of The World Turned Upside Down. Their comments on the story focuses on its portrayal of being a war veteran and showing the sense of duty soldiers have. They even see the machines as somewhat sympathetic. My take on the story was more in the direction of being a warning against autonomous war machines. How dangerous it is to have intelligent weapons acting on their own lying around, especially after the war has ended. A concern that becomes even more relevant with the military technology of the present, where we are already seeing autonomous drones being used to some extent. That doesn’t negate what the editors say about the story though and I still found it worth reading.
Read in The World Turned Upside Down Originally published in Analog January 1967 ISFDB Link Rating: 3
A long novella that follows a highway patrol squad on duty in a future where the highways a several miles wide and the cars are going several hundred miles per hour. There is not much of a story. The squad do regular things like handling accidents, bank robbers and even a baby birth.
The writing is competent but I fail to see any point to this story. It doesn’t really need to be science fiction. It is basically just faster cars and larger highways as a background setting for a rather mundane description of the working lives of this highway patrol.
I suppose the appeal is that it shows appreciation for the everyday working heroes and such professions are still needed in the future, but there is not much appeal to this story today.