Friday, April 24, 2015

I Just Bought a Book with the Number 50 in the Title, by Jim Hart

This week my wife found a used copy of 50 Short Science Fiction Tales for me at a local thrift store.  I was pretty excited! I was like a little kid with a new toy and started reading it in the car on the way home. (No, I was not the one driving.) 

Short stories are great for us short-attention span readers. You dive right in, and then in just a couple of pages you hit the punch line and you’re left either saying "cool…..didn’t see that one coming”  or maybe just "hmmm……that’s nice.”  But doesn’t sci-fi really lend itself to this type of quick story telling?

The copyright page says this book was first printed in 1963. The edition I now have was the twentieth printing from 1979 and it’s a Perma-Bound library edition. I wonder how many students fingered through the pages while the words floated through their minds.

One of the first stories, from sci-fi great Isaac Asimov, is The Fun They Had.  This little story is set in the year 2155, and it starts out with a little girl writing in her diary “Today Tommy found a real book!” 

The story tells us that the little girl’s grandfather said that his own grandfather once told him that “there was a time when all stories were printed on paper.”  

Asimov goes on to write that young Margie and Tommy  “turned the pages, which were yellow and crinkly, and it was awfully funny to read words that stood still instead of moving the way they were supposed to – on a screen, you know. And then, when they turned back to the page before, it had the same words on it that it had when they read it the first time.”  

This short story, even though included in this collection from 1963, first appeared in 1951! Isn’t that one of the things we love about sci-fi – the often prophetic view into a possible future?

So you never know what small gem is waiting for you on the thrift store book shelves!  Isn’t it worth taking the time to scan through the titles? What’s the last treasure you uncovered in the used book section?

Oh – and the story goes on to say that as little Margie and Tommy were looking through this old paper book, Tommy declared, “What a waste. When you’re through with the book, you just throw it away, I guess. Our television screen must have had a million books on it and it’s good for plenty more. I wouldn’t throw it away.”


Marilyn Turk said...

Jim, isn't it scary how some of the former scifi stories were prophetic? That's scary. I wonder what today's scifi is predicting?

Diana Flegal said...

Sci-Fi and Popular Mechanics magazines. So much of what my dad read in that as futuristic is the norm now. Fun post Jim. Thanks for the grins.

Terra said...

I came over from TWV to read this post which was mentioned there. What a great take on "real" books vs. television.