Memories of the Future
by Robert F. Young
Review by Ernest Lilley
Electricstory.com ISBN/ITEM#: 1930815085
Date: 01 April 2001 / Show Official Info /
Memories of the Future is a tremendous collection of short stories from an author that should have been much better known than he was. Robert F. Young (1915-1985) wrote and had his fiction published over a thirty five year period in both genre publications and non, including the Saturday Evening Post. Unfortunately, Robert, we hardly knew ye.
Barry N. Malzberg's introduction makes much of the author's lack of fame and personal success. The science fiction community was surprised to find out from Locus that Young had been a school janitor for decades, and that his characters, "are forced by landscape or by mythic object...to some level of self-confrontation they cannot abide and, over and again, they fall away from that confrontation."
In other words, failures.
I wonder if Barry read the same collection that I did.
In story after story, I found Young's protagonists to reach for some pinnacle or object of desire and upon gaining it to look their dream square in the face and hold their head up even though it may not be the dream they hoped for. Not always successfully perhaps, but they make the effort.
I find his characters to be tremendously admirable. They risk their selves questing and pick themselves up when they fall. What could be more courageous? Shakespeare played similar tricks on King Lear, setting him up against tragedy after tragedy, just to show how he endures.
In "The Little Red Schoolhouse" a boy tries to go back to the childhood society has taken him from. An adventure in childrearing witch reminds me a bit of something Philip K. Dick might have done.
Another I liked, "Goddess in Granite", is a climbing story about a man scaling the mountain of his obsession, a range shaped like a beautiful woman. Cory and Catska Ench did a great job on the cover art, depicting this story first published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in 1957. No, the grand tetons are not his destination. He seeks the window to the soul.
Several of the stories are about time travel or being trapped in the past. In "Shakespeare of the Apes" Young's protagonist has been sent into the past as punishment, to live among us for his sins. "Glass Houses" tells a story which makes me wonder if the author did a tour in Germany along the Berlin Wall. These things did happen to lonely guards on duty, late at night, though not perhaps in this way.
I think "Divine Wind" is perhaps my favorite story, about a man who is chosen for a kamikaze mission in a far future space opera. Like many of Young's characters, he faces an impossible situation, but ultimately so do we all. It's how we face them that counts.
The short story format works perfectly for ebooks, and I'm delighted that ElectricStory.com, Inc has brought this authors works out so that he may be better known. Let's hope they bring back all the great authors I've never read.
Other ElectricStory titles include those by Michael Bishop, Terry Bisson, Tony Daniel, Mark Jacobson, Paul Park, Rudy Rucker, Lucius Shepard, Richard Wadholm, and Howard Waldrop.