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«Buy Jupiter and Other Stories», Isaac Asimov

To all the editors, whose careers

at one time or another,

have intersected my own -

good fellows, every one.

 

In THE EARLY ASIMOV I mentioned the fact that there were eleven stories that I had never succeeded in selling.What’s more, said I in that book, all eleven stories nolonger existed and must remain forever in limbo.

However, Boston University collects all my papers with an assiduity and determination worthy of a far better cause, and when they first began to do so back in 1966, I handed them piles and piles of manuscript material I didn’t look through.

Some eager young fan did, though. Boston University apparently allows the inspection of its literary collections for research purposes, and this young fan, representing himself as a literary historian, I suppose, got access to my files. He came across the faded manuscript of Big Game, a thousand-word short-short which I had listed inTHE EARLY ASIMOVas the eleventh and last of my lost rejections.

Having read THE EARLY ASIMOV, the fan recognized the value of the find. He promptly had it reproduced and sent me a copy. And I promptly saw to it that it got into print. It appeared in BEFORE THE GOLDEN AGE.

When I read the manuscript of Big Game, however, I discovered that, in a way, it bad never been lost. I had salvaged it. Back in early 1950, Robert W. Lowndes, then publishing several science fiction magazines for Columbia Publications, and reveling in the science fiction boom of the period, asked me for a story. I must have remembered Big Game, written eight years earlier, for I produced DAY OF THE HUNTERS,which was an expanded version of the earlier story, and Had published it in the November 1950 issue of Future Combined with Science Fiction Stories.

Day Of The Hunters

It began the same night it ended. It wasn’t much. It just bothered me; it still bothers me.

You see, Joe Bloch, Ray Manning, and I were squatting around our favorite table in the corner bar with an evening on our hands and a mess of chatter to throw it away with. That’s the beginning.

Joe Bloch started it by talking about the atomic bomb, and what he thought ought to be done with it, and how who would have thought it five years ago. And I said lots of guys thought it five years ago and wrote stories about it and it was going to be tough on them trying to keep ahead of the newspapers now. Which led to a general palaver on how lots of screwy things might come true and a lot of for-instances were thrown about.

Ray said he heard from somebody that some big-shot scientist had sent a block of lead back in time for about two seconds or two minutes or two thousandths of a second – he didn’t know which. He said the scientist wasn’t saying anything to anybody because he didn’t think anyone would believe him.

So I asked, pretty sarcastic, how he came to know about it. – Ray may have lots of friends but I have the same lot and none of them know any big-shot scientists. But he said never mind how he heard, take it or leave it.

And then there wasn’t anything to do but talk about time machines, and how supposing you went back and killed your own grandfather or why didn’t somebody from the future come back and tell us who was going to win the next war, or if there was going to be a next war, or if there’d be anywhere on Earth you could live after it, regardless of who wins.

Ray thought just knowing the winner in the seventh race while the sixth was being run would he something.

But Joe decided different. He said, “The trouble with you guys is you got wars and races on the mind. Me, I got curiosity. Know what I’d do if I had a time machine?”

So right away we wanted to know, all ready to give him the old snicker whatever it was.

He said, “If I had one, I’d go back in time about a couple or five or fifty million years and find out what happened to the dinosaurs.”

Which was too bad for Joe, because Ray and I both thought there was just about no sense to that at all. Ray said who cared about a lot of dinosaurs and I said the only thing they were good for was to make a mess of skeletons for guys who were dopy enough to wear out the floors in museums; and it was a good thing they did get out of the way to make room for human beings. Of course Joe said that with some human beings he knew, and he gives us a hard look, we should’ve stuck to dinosaurs, but we pay no attention to that.

“You dumb squirts can laugh and make like you know something, but that’s because you don’t ever have any imagination,” he says. “Those dinosaurs were big stuff. Millions of all kinds – big as houses, and dumb as houses, too – all over the place. And then, all of a sudden, like that,” and he snaps his fingers, “there aren’t any anymore.”

How come, we wanted to know.

But he was just finishing a beer and waving at Charlie for another with a coin to prove he wanted to pay for it and he just shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know. That’s what I’d find out, though.”


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