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All That’s Left to Linger On

Orbit 13  (Orbit, volume 13)

Edited by Damon Knight 

30 Nov, 2021

Damon Knight's Orbit


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Orbit 13 is the thirteenth volume in Damon Knight’s anthology series of original science fiction. It was published in 1974.

Orbit 13includes twenty stories, of which six are by five women, and fourteen are by fourteen men. As far as I can tell, none were nominated for awards. Of the twenty stories, twelve were only ever printed in Orbit 13 (except for one edge case: Piserchia’s Idio” was reprinted in Le livre d’or de la science-fiction: Orbit, which seems to have been a Francophone anthology of the best of Orbit). I believe that is the Orbit with the smallest number of stories that were nominated for awards or reprinted (of those collections I’ve read so far).

It would be nice to assure readers that this was rank injustice, but … this was not one of the impressive Orbit collections. There’s a trend where the Orbits are concerned and it’s not in Orbit’s favour. 

Highlights are Wilhelm’s The Scream” and Lafferty’s And Name My Name.” Otherwise, this was meagre fare. I read sour tale after sour tale by people who may have spent the next few decades astounded at how much worse things could get. At least if they dropped a pen, they could pick it up without their backs doing mysterious and terrible things. 

Orbit 13 is out of print, although used copies are easy enough to track down. 

Eight more volumes to go. 

The Scream • (1974) • novelette by Kate Wilhelm

As human populations inexorably decline for reasons that are unclear, a doomed party of second-rate researchers — the best available — explore abandoned Miami. One by one, they vanish.

For some reason the researchers think Seminole Indians will be as immune to the whatever as animals are proving to be. This is not shown to be the case. It’s possible that this story shares a setting with Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang.

Young Love • (1974) • novelette by Grania Davis

A Subpar-American relates in broken English how she found true love. 

Was there really a need for a modern The Marching Morons”? 

And Name My Name” • (1974) • short story by R. A. Lafferty

One age gives way to the next, and the self-proclaimed masters of the planet are rewarded for their efforts … with demotion.

Going West” • (1974) • short story by Edward Bryant

An unhappy man relentlessly drives west, in search of his destiny. 

My Friend Zarathustra” • (1974) • short story by James Sallis

A lugubriously morose artist’s melancholy pessimism inexplicably fails to save his doomed marriage. 

I would say therapy might have helped” but I see from the next story in the anthology that Knight anticipated me. 

Therapy” • (1974) • short story by Gary K. Wolf

An unhappy couple’s marital issues are no match for the assembled therapeutic efforts of intelligent machines.

To be honest, lock them in a room until they make up” does not really require advanced technology to implement. Montresorcould have managed it. 

Gardening Notes from All Over” • (1974) • short story by W. Macfarlane

First contact with insectile aliens involves aphrodisiacs and the suggestion that perhaps this is not the first contact at all. 

Idio” • (1974) • short story by Doris Piserchia

Apart, the three — two women, one hermaphrodite — were genetically and mentally deficient. Mind-linked by advanced technology, they became a composite being more than able to overpower and rape their attendants. 

Many of the stories in this collection are about sex or death or sex and death. There are also a number of stories about eugenics. This story combines all three themes. 

Fantasy’s Profession” • (1974) • short story by Albert Teichner

Unconventional, insult-based, therapy proves strangely popular, much to the irritation of conventional therapists.

Spring Came to Blue Ridge Early This Year” • (1974) • short story by Charles Arnold

A dissatisfied small town doctor can do nothing about the chronic apathy that plagues the world.

Creation of a Future World in The Tracer” • (1974) • short story by Steve Herbst

A study of the innovative methods used to provide verisimilitude to the (entirely fictional) Depression-era techno-dystopian SF crime movie The Tracer.

Coils” • (1974) • short story by John Barfoot

An unhappy woman cannot escape the cycles within which she is trapped. 

This starts off with an extremely off-putting image of an African American woman’s body being put in a toilet. No idea what virtues Knight saw in this. Under other circumstances this would have been where I stopped reading. 

Time Bind” • (1974) • short story by Sonya Dorman

Illicit efforts to appropriate experimental equipment to ensure success in past romantic efforts fail abjectly in bizarre ways. Cheated of past romantic success, the protagonist instead receives present day revelation. 

And very likely, a criminal record. 

Everybody a Winner, the Barker Cried” • (1974) • short story by Charles L. Grant

Facing certain death from fallout, a woman and her companion spend their final days at her favourite amusement park.

Remember I said the stories here were mainly about sex or death? This is about death. 

Naked and Afraid I Go” • (1974) • short story by Doris Piserchia

Male doctors are horrified to discover that women have become able to reproduce without men. Nothing they try, not even killing the women, can forestall this momentous alteration in the human condition.

A number of 1970s SF stories by women were quite pessimistic about how men might react to a change in the status of women. Recent events suggest their pessimism was well founded. 

Teeth” • (1974) • short story by Grace Rooney

An unethical man is obsessed with getting a perfect set of teeth. Bad news for the man who owns said teeth. 

Troika” • (1974) • short story by Stepan Chapman 

A trio of dissimilar survivors trudges across what appears to yet another post-apocalyptic desolation.

Black Sun” • (1974) • short story by Dennis Etchison

A man struggling with medical bureaucracy discovers his wife is resorting to a very alternative therapy. 

The Mouth Is for Eating” • (1974) • short story by William F. Orr

An alien turns to humans to satisfy certain base appetites.

Flash Point” • novelette by Gardner Dozois 

Down-home folks reluctantly face salvation from human shortcomings in the form of an inexorable, mysterious process that reduces humans to ashes. 

Arcs & Secants” (Orbit 13) • (1974) • essay by uncredited

Author bios.