Shad: ABC Is For
Artificial Beings Crimes
|It Came From Schenectady
So, where do you get your ideas?
Harlan Ellison's answer to the question above was: "A post office box in Schenectady. You send in two dollars and a self-addressed stamped envelope and they send you back an idea."
Hence, when it came time to present a collection of mine, each piece preceded by a brief description of the origins of the story, the title of the collection became obvious. Despite the title, these are not all humorous stories. Some serious, a few amusing, and at least one that an outfit in Hollywood thought about making into a motion picture ("House of If").
Contents and a little of
It Came From Schenectady
by Barry B. Longyear
The House of If
The Portrait of Baron Negay
SHAWNA, Ltd. Here's a taste:
A Time For Terror
Catch the Sun
Where Do You Get Your Ideas?
Idea For SHAWNA, Ltd.
The idea for this story, "SHAWNA Ltd., " was a gift. I was in New York and I dropped by Davis Publications to say hello to the Asimovians. George Scithers and I talked awhile, then he turned to his assistant editor, Shawna McCarthy. "Why don't you ask Barry?"
Her eyebrows went up. "About what?"
"About that thing." George pronounced the word "thing' as though it had a bad taste.
Shawna's face lit up, she slid her chair next to me, and she asked, "Idealist philosophy. You know, it's only there because I see it there. I was wondering if that could be rigged up for a faster-than-light drive. See, you'd power the thing by harnessing some philosophers who would think themselves from one place to another."
On my way home,
I pondered the
fact that I wouldn't be asked questions like that if I was in the
aluminum siding business. Nevertheless, I decided to give Shawna's
premise a try. Trying to get practical, honest work from a
philosopher is the kind of challenge that tests the limits of credible
fantasy. Besides, I didn't want her to think I was chicken.
As the huge,
liner taxied out to the run-up pad at the end of the runway, Enoch
began wishing he had never taken up Leonid Veggnitz's offer. The
behind SHAWNA, Ltd. had coaxed the semanticist into converting the
and applications of SHAWNA theory and flight from Aristotelian to
logic. "Soup it up," as Veggnitz put it. The philosopher
he had been introduced to as he took his seat in the cockpit seemed
enough, but Rawls had never been up before. As the engines
he turned to his right. Captain Sanford, director of the
philosophical flight school, looked back. "Is there something the
Sanford chuckled and nodded his head toward the four pilots in the seats forward of theirs. "They have to get us into the air first. Otherwise, we'd leave a dandy hole in the runway. Because of the extra weight we'd pick up, we probably wouldn't make our destination."
"SHAWNA flight is limited right now, but as I understand Doctor Veggnitz, he hopes that your work will make us SHAWNA, Unlimited---bigger payloads with fewer philosophers."
Rawls nodded and looked toward the front. First Philosopher Wheeler reached to a panel, picked up a mike, and keyed it. "Tower, this is SHAWNA one one seven, PFR to Betelvane, over."
Rawls saw the First Philosopher listen into his headphones.
"Roger, tower; one one seven cleared for immediate takeoff." Wheeler turned to his right. "Okay, Hansen, throw the coal to it." The one called Hansen, Second Philosopher, grasped the throttles with his left hand and gradually pushed them forward. The ship trembled and began rolling forward.
Hansen called off the markers as they rolled down the runway. "Twenty . . . nineteen . . . eighteen . . ."
Third Philosopher Valdez called off the airspeed. "Ninety ... one-thirty . . . one-ninety . . . two-eighty, and rotate!"
Rawls felt his stomach sink to his lap as Wheeler pulled back on the wheel, shooting the great craft up into the atmosphere. Wheeler nodded at Hansen. "Gear up."
Rawls' buttocks quivered as he heard the multiple whineclunks of the landing gear retracting.
"Heading two one zero."
"Two one zero."
Rawls watched as the philosophers flicked switches, turned knobs, and pulled at controls. Wheeler turned a knob and then keyed his mike. 'This is the First Philosopher, Captain Wheeler, speaking. Welcome aboard SHAWNA flight one one seven enroute to Hajii Field, Betelvane. We will be at jump altitude in approximately eight minutes, and we estimate Hajii Field at 2:72, Interstellar Standard Time. Local time will be 8:91. Enjoy your flight, and please pay attention now while the stewardess in your compartment explains the ship's emergency equipment and procedures. Thank you." Wheeler hung up the mike.
Rawls felt a hand shaking his arm. He turned toward Sanford, "Yes?"
"Before the jump, I should explain what you are going to see, since neither of us will be allowed to talk during the jump." He smiled. "Distracting the philosophers during the jump could be very dangerous."
Sanford pointed at the four philosophers. "Those seats swivel around, and they will turn at jump time. This is so they will not be looking out the window. You see those helmets suspended from the overhead?"
Rawls looked up and saw four gold helmets, coils of red and orange wires leading from them, dangling from hooks. "Yes. Are they the links to the amplifier?"
Sanford nodded. "They'll put them on after they've turned. You see, they can't chance having their vision contradict their thinking about where they are."
Rawls nodded. "I can see why, but what about simple human doubt? I know these flights have been going on for years, but I have doubts."
"These philosophers are the cream of a very select crop. They are screened and re-screened until the last doubting Thomas is removed, then screened again." Sanford smiled and raised his eyebrows. "I think you can see why we can't afford a rogue skeptic getting into the driver's seat."
Rawls nodded, then the cockpit door opened. A stewardess entered carrying a cup-laden tray. "Coffee, fellas?"
She carried the tray to the four philosophers, who each took a cup, then she turned toward Rawls. "Coffee, Doctor?"
Rawls took a cup. "Thank you." Sanford took a cup, and as the stewardess left, Rawls sipped at the steaming brew. He was half-finished as the philosophers put the ship on autopilot and swung their chairs around. Wheeler smiled at the Doctor, then reached down and placed his coffee on the deck. Then he reached up and pulled down the helmet above his seat and placed it firmly upon his head. The other philosophers did the same.
Sanford leaned over to Rawls. "Doctor, until after the jump, we must do no talking."
Rawls nodded and watched the philosophers. Wheeler loosened his necktie, checked to see that the other philosophers were wearing their helmets, then turned to Hansen. "Right, Dicky, engage the amp."
"Check." Hansen fiddled with a small panel of knobs recessed into the armrest of his chair. "Amp engaged, power reading at 100 percent, all green."
Wheeler turned to the Third Philosopher. "How are we holding up, Pancho?"
Third Philosopher Valdez checked the instruments on the console attached to his chair. "Airspeed four twenty, altitude twelve thousand, bearing one two zero, all green."
Wheeler turned to the Fourth Philosopher. "Anything in the way, Tony?"
The Fourth Philosopher examined the CRT readout next to his chair. "All clear, Captain."
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