Lost In Space

In last night’s dream I was looking for a science fiction story by wandering through the collected books in somebody’s house, and he had quite a few. Room after room was crammed with book cases crammed with books, in a house so big I remember driving through the hallways at a pretty fast clip in my Toyota.

Apparently I knew this guy although I couldn’t tell you who he was, other than he was wearing the classic nerd uniform: white, button-down shirt and black horn-rim glasses. He knew all the stories I knew … except this one. It was a short story about time-travelers who stole people from the past to repopulate the future. They were on an airplane that was going to crash at the end of its flight, so they beamed aboard it, anesthetized everybody, beamed them into the future and replaced everyone with corpses. I’m pretty sure this is a real story, but no matter how many times I wring my brain for the title or the author I can’t get it to pop out.

In one room, a bunch of this guy’s friends were sitting at tables reading until we came in, and after we all said “Hi, how ya doon?” I asked if any of them had ever read this story. They all said no, and one of them added, “I’m not really into Golden Age science fiction,” referring to stories that were written by the likes of Asimov, Clarke and Heinlein. Apparently the story I described sounded a bit wrinkly around the edges, quaint, even. And although I wanted to grab my crotch and tell him, Hey, pal, I got your Golden Age right here, it probably would have been a story that was, to him, what a Jules Verne story is to me. They don’t write them like that any more.

“The story I’m looking for was probably written in the 70s or 80s,” I told them, “and was published in a collection, probably a ‘best of the year’ or a book of Nebula or Hugo award-winners.” Blank stares all around. That didn’t help one bit, so I thanked them and we went on to the next room, where I kept on thumbing through books while talking about my favorite Golden Age authors with my nerd friend.

I’m never going to find that story, am I?

LATER: Yes, as it happens I do get to find out. The story was Air Raid, published in 1977 by science fiction author John Varley, who later expanded it into the novel Millennium and even wrote a screen play for a movie, also called Millennium, starring Kris Kirstofferson and Cheryl Ladd.

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