This volume is dedicated to two groups of people: all of us in our 50s and 60s for whom the future was to have arrived in the year 2000 and that could not come soon enough and to the rising generation for whom it might yet arrive in 2100. I use the word “might” because the future that was scheduled to have arrived in the year 2000 never came.
Let me explain.
When I was a boy growing up in the 1960s, the year 2000 was still far off; far enough in the dim future to retain a mythic meaning to my friends and I. Fueled by vistas of cloud cities and flying cars seen in such television shows as Lost in Space, Star Trek or Jonny Quest and in countless books and stories by such classic SF authors as Isaac Asimov, John Campbell, Edmund Hamilton, Murray Leinster, C.M. Kornbluth, Frederik Pohl, Eric Frank Russell, and Stanley G. Weinbaum, we dreamed of a future that would be exciting simply to spend our day to day lives in.
As it was, the SF stories we spent summer afternoons devouring, described futures made up of bubble domed cities, moving slidewalks, regular space travel service between the planets, and personal jet packs. And though many of the futures dreamed up were of the dystopian variety, that never took away from the background toys that we believed could be possible in any future. But of all the writers detailing the future in those days, none captured the awe and wonder of what could be better than Ray Bradbury. His stories of rocket ships and alien worlds were less about what could go wrong in the future, than what could go right and were more often than not populated by families: mothers and fathers and especially children. The future, in Bradbury’s stories, was one that most matched the one my friends and I expected down the long years to the 21st century which seemed so far away when we were 12 years old!
So imagine our disappointment to find that when the future arrived in 2000, it was not at all what we had expected. Instead of artificial gravity hovercars and overhead flight patterns, personal transportation was still earthbound and still based on the hundred year old internal combustion engine. Instead of cloud cities and bubble shaped domiciles, there were still drab apartment complexes and colonial style homes reminiscent more of the 19th century than the 21st. Instead of a sleek monorail system or frictionless trains, public transportation still consisted of subways and busses that continued to spout foul smelling exhaust into the air and even the space program, which had begun with such promise, had retreated from the moon and withered to almost nothing. Finally, the 21st century was dominated by a society that, for the most part, had devolved from that of the more civilized 1950s.
With those disappointments in mind, the stories in this collection were written. They are meant to recapture that spirit of optimism young people had for the future at a time when World War II was not that far removed from living memory. When the can do attitude of the United States in particular following its great victory over two powerful foes still dominated American pop culture. When American heroes were square jawed soldiers, brave policemen, or God fearing scientists who were as comfortable in the cockpit of a jet plane as they were in a laboratory.
My hope in writing the following stories has been to recapture the sense of optimism in the future that most young people once had; the ones for whom the year 2000 was to have been the tripwire beyond which everyone would be living in the superfuture. Here, in these tales, I hope to have revived some of that spirit and hope that any members of the younger generation reading them can be uplifted and find that the world of the future need not consist of limited expectations and the dead hand of political correctness.
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Mars Needs People - All his life, Dexter Snow dreamed of going to Mars, but without any technical skills, a place aboard an outbound rocket wasn't to be had.
THERE WAS A ROCKET - It's tough to have a romance when you can only see your girl for a few hours every 20 years!
FOR LOVE OF OLD EARTH - When environmental correctness becomes a religion, a group of children commit sacrilege when they decide to remain behind on an earth abandoned by a population who would rather leave than take a chance on doing it any harm.
THE RETURN OF ROCKETMAN KEN TOBY - After a lifetime in the rocket corps, Ken Tobey returns from space with a new understanding of the Earth's unique position in the solar system.
HOW JEREMY SAVED THE FUTURE - After visiting a possible future devoid of hope and progress, Jeremy Bonner travels to the past to find an alternative time line that offers more than despair and moral ruin.
THE ROBOT THAT ADAPTED - Joozy thought that it was strange that old Mr. Heinkel liked to talk to his household machines…until he heard the story about his best friend growing up on Mars…a shape shifting alien robot!
THERE ARE NO REGRETS IN SKYVIEW TOWER - Dissatisfied with his politically correct life in the mile high towers of the city, Stoney Vander escapes to a saner world only to discover he might not have the courage to stay there!
DOWN THE LONG, LONG YEARS - Can the dreams experienced by a young boy in the 1950s have any connection with those dreamed by his older self commanding a spacecraft to Mars in the 1990s?
THE DAY THE COMPUTERS FAILED - When a space born pulse shuts down all of the world’s computers, people are forced to rediscover old ways of doing things…including playing a strange game called baseball!
PIONEER STOCK -Private Eye Oscar Thad had only disdain for Martian debutante Althea Pendleton…until tracking her down to a wilderness world well off the beaten star lanes and learning that there was more to the spoiled rich girl than he thought!
NO CHOICE AT ALL - What happens when one man defies the delicate timetable of a regimented society?
THE BOY WHO CIRCUMNAVIGATED VENUS - 10-year-old Davey Cescu hated living on Venus…until the day he stowed aboard an electro-magnetic rail car and toured the planet at rocket speed!
THE DISAPPOINTED MARTIAN - One of the last of his kind, Sirjyl continues to believe that he’ll find a fellow Martian some day.
NO MORE EVES - What followed when the last man on Earth met the last woman on Earth was anything but expected!
THE WAY THE FUTURE USED TO BE - In all outward appearances, the Ixbees were a typical American family...but then, what was that rocket doing in the garage?