The Corner

Bradbury Bleg

Nobody is getting my back. Grr. This email is representative:

Jonah,   I don’t recall any such story by Bradbury, and wonder if you’re semi-recalling either of two stories by other sf (not “sci-fi,” please!) titans.   1) “Far Centaurus,” a short story by A.E. van Vogt, was published in Astounding in the early 1940s. In it, a small crew is traveling to the closest star to our sun in suspended animation on a slower-than-light ship, and arrive to find that, while they were on their way, faster-than-light travel was developed and the planets at their destination have been colonized by humans from Earth. After trying to fit in with the advanced humans, with all the success of Neanderthals at a present-day cocktail party, they get a ship and drive it into a star so massive (too bad van Vogt didn’t call it a black hole) that it hurls them back in time, and they return to earth in their own time.   Probably the only way to get the story in an in-print book is in _Transfinite_, available for $29.00 from Amazon. However, I have a redundant copy of a paperback fromt he 1960s in the office with the story, which I could send if you’ll provide an address.   2) _Time for the Stars_ is one of Robert A. Heinlein’s memorable YA novels (they called them “juveniles” back then) from the late 1950s. A slower-than-light “torchship” is sent out with a large crew to explore other stars. No suspended animation this time — the ship can get close enough to lightspeed that relativistic effects make the journey seem like a few months, rather than years. Communication with Earth is maintained by several telepathic twins, one twin on the ship, one back on Earth, who can communicate instantaneously. Near the end of the novel, after the ship has been out for a few years (several decades back on Earth), they are instructed to rendezvous with another ship, which outfits the torchship with a FTL drive, and the ship returns to Earth post haste, where the still-young narrator meets his twin, now an old man.   If the story is a Bradbury yarn that I’ve missed reading or forgotten, it definitely isn’t “R is for Rocket” (originally published as “King of the Gray Spaces,” under which title it had an excellent comic adaptation in one of the EC sf comic books). That one has a teenage protagonist who stands outside the fence at a spaceport watching the ships take off, dreaming of the day when he can fly one himself, though his mother doesn’t approve of his ambition.   Hope this is helpful and that your eyes didn’t glaze over.   KUTGW,

Jonah Goldberg — Jonah Goldberg holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute and is a senior editor of National Review. His new book, The Suicide of The West, is on sale now.

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