"Transformations II: Understanding American History Through Science Fiction" Edited by Dan
I found this absurd book in my garage, and read it mostly because it's very light to carry on the bus. (It's designed for witless high school students, and has questions after each story such as:
1. How do the characters of James Bowie and David Crockett as presented in this story compare with the characters of them as presented in history books?
2. How could you prove that statements in history books describing the battle at the Alamo are more accurate than the statements of this fictional account?
(That's at the end of "Remember the Alamo" by T. R. Fehrenbach. Can you believe they call him "David Crockett"? This book is from the ancient days of 1974. Also, those questions sound like they were translated from Latvian.))
The book contains one real masterpiece, which I'd never seen: "The Conquest By the Moon" by Washington Irving, a fantasy about moon beings conquering the earth, just as Europeans subdued the Native Americans:
Let us suppose, moreover, that the aerial voyagers, finding this planet to be nothing but a howling wilderness, inhabited by us, poor savages and wild beasts, shall take formal possession of it, in the name of his most gracious and philosophic excellency, the man in the moon.
The story includes a report that the moon warriors send back to their leader:
"We have moreover found these miserable savages sunk into a state of the utmost ignorance and depravity, every man shamelessly living with his own wife, and rearing his own children, instead of indulging in that community of wives enjoined by the law of nature, as expounded by the philosophers of the moon."
Irving predicts Mormonism, for one thing.
Most of the stories deal with time travel -- not the most compelling fictional theme. Only "I Do Not Hear You, Sir" by Avram Davidson, about a sleazy art dealer who discovers a telephone allowing him to call the 18th century, touches the miraculous:
"We must all hang together or we shall surely hang separately... What's your need, neighbor? The colonies should and will unite, but meanwhile the day's work goes on."
"Benjamin Franklin I presume?"
"That same, my friend. Job-printing? Nice new line of chapbooks for your pleasure and instruction? Latest number of Poor Richard's Almanack? Bay Psalm Book? Biblical Concordance? Hey?"
My biggest problem with Transformations II is that someone -- perhaps a witless high school student -- tore out three separate pages from three stories. Thus I lost a good bit of "A Scent of Sarsaparilla" by Ray Bradbury -- 32 days before he died!
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