James Nicoll Reviews

Home > Reviews > Post

Sing And Dance Forever And A Day

Orbit 2  (Orbit, book 2)

Edited by Damon Knight 

29 Jun, 2021

Damon Knight's Orbit

5 comments

Support me with a Patreon monthly subscription!

1967’s Orbit 2 is the second volume in the Damon Knight-edited Orbit series. 



Orbit 2 contains ten stories, of which four were written by women (three women). Not as egalitarian as Orbit 1 but still unusual for anthologies of this era. Perhaps to compensate, Knight takes time to comment that Wilhelm is a small, slender, feminine woman who does not look capable of writing the things she writes.” Because appearances are always a reliable guide to a writer’s talents. Oh, well. You can take the anthology out of the 1960s but you cannot take the 1960s out of the anthology. 

On that note, perhaps it is because Wilhelm was a small, slender, feminine woman” that she was able to write a story about the merciless exploitation of a women by the men dependent on her for their income. The story has not aged particularly in that regard, as I imagine Britney Spears might agree.

While this isn’t quite as impressive as the initial volume (or those to come), there are some stories of note. The Wilhelm, obviously, as well as Reed’s fable about the extremes to which society will go to enforce beauty standards. I’ve not read Russ’s Alyx stories, so I don’t know if they even went beyond establishing that women characters could also swashbuckle. I’d chuckle indulgently that Russ felt that this was a point that needs establishing, but as recent conversations on social media show, this is an evergreen subject. 

The Doctor” • (1967) • short story by Theodore L. Thomas 

Trapped in the past by a time machine mishap, a physician does his best to tend to humanity’s brutish ancestors. 

Among other things, this demonstrates the utility of robotic testing of brand-new equipment. The time machine still would have been smashed, but nobody would have been trapped in the past. 

Baby, You Were Great! • (1967) • short story by Kate Wilhelm

Entertainment innovation proves dependent on a particular woman, whose profit-generating ability is maximized regardless of her feelings in the matter. 

Fiddler’s Green • (1967) • novella by Richard McKenna

Trapped on a lifeboat, with rescue unlikely, sailors turn to an implausible-sounding method for creating alternate realities in which to survive. The method works but there turn out to be some serious drawbacks. 

I appear to have been indifferent to this tale of godhood gone wrong for decades….

Trip, Trap • (1967) • novelette by Gene Wolfe

Confrontation between a forbidding guardian and two travelers is related by both adventurers: one, a mighty-thewed barbarian, and the other an erudite off-world academic.

The joke here being that both of them have blindspots the other does not, as well as insights the other lacks. 

The Dimple in Draco • (1967) • short story by R. S. Richardson [as by Philip Latham]

An astronomer juggles two endeavors: trying to make sense of bizarre astronomical data and trying to make sense of his disheartening private life. 

I Gave Her Sack and Sherry • [Alyx] • (1967) • novelette by Joanna Russ

Refusing a stultifying conventional domesticity that reduces women to lesser beings, petite Alyx abandons her brutish husband for a life of adventure. 

The Adventuress • [Alyx] • (1967) • novelette by Joanna Russ

Alyx somewhat reluctantly accepts a commission to transport a young woman who is eager to be far from where she currently is.

In something of a subversion of stock adventure tropes, in particular beauty is never tarnished,” Alyx not only picks up nicks and scrapes and extensive burns, but she also retains the scars as mementos. 

The Hole on the Corner • (1967) • short story by R. A. Lafferty

A dimensional portal and the endless stream of predatory doppelgangers it produces provoke endless resolutions to do something about the portal … resolutions that never result in concrete action.

My brain is not wired for Lafferty stories. I always feel like one of us has had a drink or two. 

The Food Farm • (1967) • short story by Kit Reed

Dispatched to a fat farm by her judgmental parents, a young woman turns the tables on her tormentors, thanks to her own efforts and the assistance of the world’s most beloved pop star. 

Full Sun • (1967) • short story by Brian W. Aldiss

Humanity is an urban species, save for the werewolves. Assigned to kill werewolves by the machines who run the world of the distant future, a hunter comes to a disquieting realization about his own society. 

The big twist is fairly obvious, but I did find the vision of future humanity as an essentially urban species intriguing. 

Orbit 2 is out of print.