Tripping on the Past
A Glass Full of Stars
By Robert F. Young
Robert F. Young’s 1968 A Glass Full of Stars is a collection of science fiction stories.
I decided to reread this on the strength of the cover, which is eye-catching in ways that many contemporary SF covers are not. I didn’t recall much about the author or the contents.
(There is a minor mystery here: I know I encountered the novelette Little Dog Gone in the recent past, and not in any of the collections and anthologies listed on ISFDB. Any suggestions?)
Young is happy to use extremely dubious science, which would be fine if he didn’t feel the need to explain it at length. The more rubber one’s science, the more brevity is called for. As a rule, the longer a Young tale is, the more likely it will venture into unfortunate exposition.
I didn’t love these stories anywhere as much as Leiber did (or if the SFE entry on Young is a guide, as much as John Clute did). In addition to the wacky science, Young is far too sentimental for me. That said, some of the shorter pieces were memorable. “Thirty Days Had September” is pointedly effective satire, while “The Grown-Up People’s Feet” packs remarkable bitterness into a very short space.
A Glass Full of Stars has been out of print longer than some nations have existed.
Introduction (A Glass of Stars) • essay by Fritz Leiber
An enthusiastic introduction by Leiber, who is particularly taken with Young’s frequent use of romantic themes.
“Boy Meets Dyevitza” • (1962) • short story
American hero Gordon Andrew reaches Venus, only to discover that Major Sonya Mikhailovna of the Soviet Space Force got there first. Marooned together, the representatives of two hostile world powers struggle to salvage something from the debacle. Which they succeed in doing, even if what their solution is not at all what their governments would have wanted.
Young isn’t much concerned with scientific plausibility. Not only is this a pulp Venus with breathable atmosphere, the natives are (extremely puritanical) humans.
“Star Mother” • (1959) • short story
A mother witnesses a heartbreaking disaster as her son’s space mission goes horribly wrong. Thanks to mass media, America watches her.
L’Arc De Jeanne • (1966) • novelette
Her world threatened by a would-be galactic dictator, a young woman is manipulated by two dead idealists into recapitulating the career of the Maid of Orleans. Can a futuristic Joan of Arc avoid her predecessor’s unpleasant fate?
“On the River” • (1965) • short story
A lonely man and a lonely woman find true love … while drifting down the river Styx on the way to the afterlife, seemingly too late for their romance to matter.
Neither Do They Reap • novelette
America’s long-suffering government functionaries struggle to keep America’s indolent, useless masses entertained despite the very serious challenge presented by the death of creativity.
To Fell a Tree • (1959) • novelette
Hired to fell the last standing great tree on Omicron Ceti 18, treeman Tom Strong is haunted by the planet’s last dryad and the mystery of what really happened to Omicron Ceti 18’s long-vanished natives.
I thought this was going to be a “terrible things settlers do to natives” story but it isn’t, for the most part. It’s a “terrible things technological cultures do to nature” narrative. To Fell a Tree may have been expanded into the 1982 novel The Last Yggdrasill, if the Sweet cover is any guide.
Wish Upon a Star • (1956) • novelette
Trapped in the Western military dictatorship, a man and woman dream of freedom. Liberty is but a step away, but there’s a vexing catch.…
The Fugitives • short story
A husband and wife discover they cannot escape their past — or the consequent lynch mobs.
The Pyramid Project • (1964) • novelette
A human scout surveys an Earthlike planet, aware it will probably be destroyed in the upcoming battle between humans and their bitter enemies. Unaware the world is populated, the scout cannot take into account native efforts to save themselves.
I am torn between describing the native’s plan as “impressive in scale” or “needlessly convoluted, given their demonstrated abilities.”
“Thirty Days Had September” • (1957) • short story
In an era when education has been relegated to infotainment programs and cereal box top quizzes, a well-meaning man tries to introduce good old robot education to his son. The experiment accomplishes many things, but not its initial purpose.
Little Dog Gone • (1964) • novelette
A burned out actor finds a new life with a washed-up actress, thanks to the intervention of a teleporting dog. Will the actor be tempted back to a life of success and public adulation?
“The Grown-Up People’s Feet” • (1955) • short story
A father remembers the day when his daughter learned to read and why this skill became utterly irrelevant.
Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory • (1963) • novelette
A workaholic spaceman’s insistence on following narrow guidelines dooms a stowaway. Too late, he tries to make amends by exploring his illicit passenger’s life.
I know this sounds like the Cold Equations Now with Added Remorse, but it isn’t.