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FOREWORD I rue first Gnome Press anthology in the planned series of “adventures in science fiction” there was one thought in mind which motivated its publication. This second book represents a continuation of that idea. The first paragraph of the Foreword in that first book expressed the purpose so clearly, we believe, that it is worthy of repetition here. “This book was planned from the very be- ginning to be more than just a collection of interesting adventure stories, Tt was organized around a central idea, one theme which moves logi- cally from story to story. By building upon this unifying theme, we who prepared this book sincerely believe, a new idea in science fiction an- thologies has been developed—a science fiction anthology which, taken in its entirety, tells a complete story.” The central idea in this latest book concerns Mankind itself. ‘Whereas the first in the series dealt with a phase in the life of Man, specifically interplanetary spaceships and space travel, these stories to- gether consider the development of humanity and its culture as a whole. Science fiction writers have always concerned themselves with the direction in which the civilization of Earth is heading; likewise they have, with imaginative soarings, searched the past for clues to our inheritance. From their collective minds we have assembled what may well be called “a future history of Mankind,” together with some ap- propriate background material to round out the picture. Fletcher Pratt, noted as an historian and himself a writer of science fiction, has contributed an introduction which analyzes and develops the central theme. His remarks add a great deal to the coherency of this volume. In addition, his sympathetic discussion of the underlying principles around which science fiction is written ought to increase understanding among those to whom this is a new field of literature, Martin GREENBERG INTRODUCTION by Fletcher Pratt CIENCE FICTION is unique among the modern groupings of literature in that the anthology is perhaps its most typical form. Not that there are no book-length novels in the field. There are some extremely good ones; but the method and material of science fiction lend themselves peculiarly well to the short story. The writer of science fiction is and must be concerned with the reactions of human beings in environments which, cither by time or circumstance, are strikingly different from the world in which we spend our daily lives. If that writer elaborates the picture of his imagined world in every last logical detail, he risks losing track of the individual people he is writing about. That is, he turns out a treatise instead of a story; and in fact much book-length science fiction is more science than fiction, Bellamy's Looking Backward being a famous example. The writer who is really telling a story can normally afford only a glimpse of the different world in which his tale is laid, enough to indicate its main lines and why it is provided with pleasures, duties and perils unlike those that normally surround us. Moreover, science fiction appears largely in magazines for the first time, and the modern American magazine reader has established his perfectly reasonable repugnance to being bothered either with very long stories or losing the thread of a type of story that always requires rather close reading while waiting for the next issue to come out. The short story has thus come to dominate the field of science fiction, and it is not surprising that various people have found many short stories 7 8 INTRODUCTION too good to be left gathering dust in piles of back number magazines, But these same rescuers-from-oblivion generally operate on the theory that it is enough if a story be both good and science fiction, The collections normally represent nothing but their editors’ preference for a group of wholly unrelated stories. To this generalization the Spring of 1950 produced a brilliant exception—Men Against the Stars, edited by Martin Greenberg. The same editor now gives us another anthology with a genuine idea behind it. This time it is the history of the world; not the history of the world as dealt with by the Encyclopaedia Britannica and taught in the colleges, but the kind of history we cannot actually know, only view through the efforts of controlled scientific imagination, Or perhaps imagination is the wrong word when associating with science. Extrapolation, the pro- longing of a thoroughly established curve to discover the end product of a known movement is a perfectly legitimate scientific technique. In this group of stories, then, the reader is presented with a series of extrapolations about the history of the Earth. It is by no means en- tirely extrapolation into the future, for in the first two stories of the collection we are living at the end of the curve and the authors have run back along it to see where we might have come from. One rather remarkable fact about these stories is that, although they are the work of many different hands, they might almost have had their origin in a single mind—or group of minds in agreement on essentials. One can accept the picture of the world in any of these stories, one can agree that current progress will one day carry us to the point at which the story takes place, without invalidating anything that has gone before in the book or anything that will come later. No doubt it fepresents a rather adroit piece of editing for such a result, but it is rather worth asking whether editing alone is responsible—whether it is not significant that among practitioners of the controlled scientific extrapolation there is such general agreement as to the probable de- velopment of the civilization of Man. We know that predictors of the future can be as wildly wrong as EL. G. Wells when he had the war in the air fought out by gigantic fleets of hydrogen-filled balloons. But the point is that Wells’ balloons were merely a technical detail; there was a growing accumulation of evidence to indicate that he may have been quite right about the over- all effects of prolonged and violent aerial warfare. So it may well be with these stories. The exact nature of an invention cannot usually be