Warring Supercomputers, Deep Space, and Cold Equations: 5 Tales from Tomorrow

Warring Supercomputers, Deep Space, and Cold Equations: 5 Tales from Tomorrow

5 Tales from Tomorrow-back-small 5 Tales from Tomorrow-small

5 Tales from Tomorrow
Edited by T. E. Dikty
Crest Books (176 pages, $0.35, December 1957)
Cover by Richard Powers

T.E. Dikty edited a bunch of SF anthologies, mostly throughout the Fifties and many in collaboration with Everett F. Bleiler. Aside from Clifford Simak and perhaps one-hit wonder Tom Godwin, the names in this volume are not quite the SF A-list, but the results are mostly not bad.

“Push-Button Passion,” by Albert Compton Friborg

As I was reading this story I couldn’t help wondering if Friborg was the pseudonym for a better known author – Kurt Vonnegut. It has that whimsical, satirical feel that one tends to associate with Vonnegut. Turns out that it is indeed a pseudonym, but for an academic named Bud Foote, whose SF output was limited to this and one other short story, also published in the Fifties.

The story takes place in a future where two supercomputers are orchestrating and fighting a war between two superpowers. Any resemblance to a Star Trek episode that came along a decade or so later may or may not be accidental. It’s a serious topic that the author approached in a lighthearted way and what seems like SF throughout most of the proceedings veers off into something more like fantasy by the time it’s all over.

5 Tales from Tomorrow, 1967 edition
5 Tales from Tomorrow, 1967 edition

“The Cold Equations,” by Tom Godwin

I was familiar with the premise of this well-known story and I assumed that I must have read it at some point. But as I got into it it didn’t seem familiar, at least not in the details. In any event, the premise is a simple one – a stowaway on an Emergency Dispatch Ship must be dumped out the airlock due to fuel constraints and the need to deliver emergency supplies to a group of endangered colonists.

However, the pilot hesitates to do so solely because the stowaway is a young girl. If it had been a man he’d apparently have been sucking vacuum in no time. Make of that what you will. It’s as much philosophical exercise as it is short story and it’s pretty much been picked apart in the six decades since it came out – rightly or not. Interesting, but heavy on the melodrama, would be the super brief version of my critique.

“How-2,” by Clifford Simak

Robots are people too. Or are they? It’s a question Simak takes on in an entertaining way when his protagonist decides to keep a robot that was shipped to him by mistake. The complications pile up with impressive results. The best of this bunch, for my money.

“Deep Space,” by Robert Abernathy

What will happen when humans finally go into space? We’ve now done so for more than half a century and we’re pretty sure there will be no major ill effects. But at the time Abernathy wrote this story the topic was fair game for speculation. The first man to go into space in his story undergoes a pretty radical transformation and I couldn’t help being reminded of a movie that came along a decade or so later – 2001: A Space Odyssey.

“Exile,” by Everett B. Cole

I don’t run across many stories I can’t get through but this novella lost me about halfway. It went nowhere and took a long time doing so. What I managed to read has something to do with an interstellar anthologist getting conked on the head and losing his memory on an Earth-like planet. Maybe if I’d hung in it would have paid off but I guess I’ll never know.

William I. Lengeman III’s last review for us was Terror By Night. He holds forth at www.wileng3.com.

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