James Nicoll Reviews

Home > Reviews > Post

Young Hearts Run Free

Orbit 7  (Orbit, volume 7)

Edited by Damon Knight 

7 Sep, 2021

Damon Knight's Orbit


Support me with a Patreon monthly subscription!

Orbit 7 is the seventh volume in Damon Knight’s Orbit science fiction anthology series.

Review includes spoilers for stories that are over half a century old. 

Woot! A third of the way through this little project. It’s amazing how much one can get done if one focuses on small steps and not the grand design of which they are a part.

This anthology has twelve stories, of which three are by women and nine are by men. Because Knight didn’t limit authors to one story per Orbit volume, that is three stories by three women and nine stories by seven men. 

Like Orbit 6, this volume contained a lot of award bait, attracting a total of four Nebula nominations, two Locus nominations, two Hugo nominations, and a Ditmar. As previously discussed, SFWA’s Old Guard took this as a personal affront and orchestrated a No Award in the short story categories. One has to wonder what the overlap is between the authors responsible for that bit of spite and Kowal’s Twelve Rabid Weasels of SFWA. Almost certainly not 100 percent but I’d be surprised if it were zero. 

Orbit 7 is out of print. That said, April Fool’s Day Forever, Eyebem,” Continued on Next Rock, A Dream at Noonday,” Woman Waiting,” Old Foot Forgot,” and The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories” all appear to be in print for reasonable values of in print,” which is a surprisingly high fraction given the age of the material. See the entries for the individual stories for details. Regrettably, I am far too lazy to track down the relevant Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, and Chapters links for each story. 

In case you want to know more:

April Fool’s Day Forever • (1970) • novella by Kate Wilhelm

A world-wide pandemic causes mass death and garners short sighted official responses, and seemingly deranged speculations that the pandemic is a sham. The event proves to be human-caused, carried out for reasons its architects are convinced are benevolent in the long run. However, the plotters have overlooked a crucial detail.

As it turns out, the pandemic” is orchestrated to exterminate the eugenically unfit, specifically the sixty percent of the population immune to an immortality treatment. Now, there’s a lot, a lot of pro-eugenics SF out there. This, as it happens, is not pro-eugenics. In fact, it comes down against murdering most of the population. 

April Fool’s Day Forever was nominated for a Nebula, which it lost to Ill Met in Lankhmarby Fritz Leiber.

This was most recently collected in 2020’s Masters of Science Fiction: Kate Wilhelm, Volume 2, although 2015’s The Infinity Box is only a bit older and far more affordably priced. 

Eyebem” • (1970) • short story by Gene Wolfe

A robot, confident that superior creations like itself will inevitably displace flawed humanity, encounters a situation in which it is outclassed.

This, on the other hand, is a pretty traditional John Henry vs the Steam Drill story, save for the matter of the perspective from which the story is told. 

This is contained in 2013’s reprint of Endangered Species.

Continued on Next Rock • (1970) • novelette by R. A. Lafferty

Archaeologists struggle to make sense of a site that seems to transcend time itself.

This was nominated for a Hugo (losing to Sturgeon’s Slow Sculpture”) a Nebula (losing to Slow Sculpture” again), a Locus (Losing to Ellison’s The Region Between”), and a Ditmar (losing to Ringworld). This is, I suppose, one downside of writing nominated for many awards: the possibility of losing in every case. 

This can be found in 2021’s The Best of R. A. Lafferty.

To Sport with Amaryllis” • (1970) • short story by Richard Hill

A square struggles to overcome his essential squareness.

I am mildly amused that one of the symptoms of incurable dullness is an fondness for Republican campaign brochures. 

This appears to be out of print. 

In the Queue” • (1970) • short story by Keith Laumer

Having spent his whole life contending with inflexible, time-consuming bureaucracy, an everyman protagonist confronts an insurmountable opportunity: freedom.

Laumer’s fiction didn’t age well; the awfulness of his post-stroke fiction did the reputation of his pre-stroke fiction a lot of harm. That said, this is a very straightforward anti-bureaucracy fable, despite which it was nominated for a Hugo (which it lost to Slow Sculpture”), a Nebula (which it lost to No Award), and a Locus (which it lost to The Region Between”). 

I was afraid I’d have to acknowledge a Baen book, but the collection in question seems to be out of print. That collection is also about eighteen years old, so I don’t know why I am surprised to discover it is out of print. 

The Living End” • (1970) • short story by Sonya Dorman

A fertile woman cheerfully embraces the opportunity to maximize her reproductive potential.

This appears to be out of print.

A Dream at Noonday” • (1970) • short story by Gardner Dozois

Two intertwined narratives slowly reveal how a boy’s dream of being a soldier became reality.

It’s generally a pretty solid bet that any given Dozois will turn out to be about death. Twenty or so years ago, a critic complained that Asimov’s, then edited by Dozois, was past-and-death focused, which as I recall was thought to be a symptom of aging. No, Dozois was like that back when he was just a kid of twenty-three.

This can be found in 2011’s When the Great Days Come.

Woman Waiting” • (1970) • short story by Carol Emshwiller

Waiting for her plane, a woman is progressively diminished.

Contained in The Collected Stories of Carol Emshwiller, Vol. 1, which is still available from NonStop Press (no matter what booksellers claim).

Old Foot Forgot” • (1970) • short story by R. A. Lafferty

A physician, faced with inevitable mortality, struggles to come to terms with his condition.

Like the previous Lafferty, this may be found in 2021’s The Best of R. A. Lafferty.

Jim and Mary G” • (1970) • short story by James Sallis

Parents dispose of their unwanted child. 

At first reading, I assumed the issue was that the boy is somehow developmentally challenged. There’s only equivocal evidence for this reading in the story. It might be more in keeping with SF tradition if the boy were perfectly unremarkable and killed because inconvenient. 

This appears to be out of print.

The Pressure of Time • (1970) • novelette by Thomas M. Disch

The Catholic Church takes a bold stance on immortality, one whose implications we see played out from a young girl’s perspective.

What are the odds that there would be two stories about immortality in one anthology? Or that both would put centre stage reasons to be skeptical about the benefits? Assuming it’s not an immortality-themed anthology, I mean.

This appears to be out of print. Disch’s critical popularity has not translated into published collections. 

The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories” • [Archipelago] • (1970) • short story by Gene Wolfe

A boy faced with unwanted changes in his household turns to fiction for solace. The two levels of narrative intertwine.

Not to be confused with the stories The Death of Dr. Island” (1973), The Doctor of Death Island” (1978), or the collection The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories and Other Stories, which contains The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories”, The Death of Dr. Island” (1973), and The Doctor of Death Island” (1978), along with many other short pieces. Mr. Wolfe was a playful fellow.

Again, what are the odds that two different authors would use the same trick of interweaving two storylines as they work towards the story’s destination without that being the focus of the anthology? But Dozois’ contribution used a similar narrative approach. Perhaps Knight had a weakness for the technique. 

This was nominated for a Nebula (losing to No Award). It may be found in 2020’s The Best of Gene Wolfe: A Definitive Retrospective of His Finest Short Fiction