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Collector's Item   By: (1915-1986)

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We've often wondered what would happen if Robert Young should cease to be a lyrically intense writer for a story or two, forsaking the bright, poetic worlds of MISS KATY THREE and THE FIRST SWEET SLEEP OF NIGHT to become dispassionately analytical on a cosmic scale. Now we know! He'd chill us to the bone by setting two squixes to brooding over a never to be born Earth, exactly as he has done here. And thrill us, too with the liveliest kind of entertainment.

collector's item

by ... Robert F. Young

Very trivial things can go into the weaving of a nest. The human race, for instance

The condensation of the histories of ten thousand races into a text concise enough to fit into a single volume had been a task of unprecedented proportions. There had been times when the Galactic Historian had doubted whether even his renowned abilities were up to the assignment that the Galactic Board of Education had so lightly tossed his way, times when he had thrown up his hands all five of them in despair. But at last the completed manuscript lay before him on his desk with nothing but the final reading remaining between it and publication.

The Galactic Historian repeatedly wiped his brows as he turned the pages. It was a warm night, even for Mixxx Seven. Now and then, a tired breeze struggled down from the hills and limped across the lowlands to the Galactic University buildings. It crept into the Galactic Historian's study via the open door and out again via the open windows, fingering the manuscript each time it passed but doing nothing whatsoever about the temperature.

The manuscript was something more than a hammered down history of galactic achievement. It was the ultimate document. The two and seventy thousand jarring texts that it summarized had been systematically destroyed, one by one, after the Galactic Historian had stripped them of their objective information. If an historical event was not included in the manuscript, it failed as an event. It ceased to have reality.

The responsibility was the Galactic Historian's alone and he did not take it lightly. But he had a lot on his minds and, of late, he hadn't been sleeping well. He was overworked and over tired and over anxious. He hadn't seen his wives for two Mixxx months and he was worried about them all fifty of them.

He never should have let them take the Hub cruise in the first place. But they'd been so enthusiastic and so eager that he simply hadn't had the hearts to let them down. Now, despite his better judgments, he was beginning to wonder if they might not be on the make for another coordinator.

Wives trouble, on top of all his chronological trouble, was too much. The Galactic Historian could hardly be blamed for wanting to see the last of the manuscript, for wanting to transmit it to his publishers, potential hiatuses and all, and take the next warp for the Hub.

But he was an historian the historian, in fact and he persisted heroically in his task, rereading stale paragraphs and checking dreary dates, going over battles and conquests and invasions and interregnums. Despite his mood and despite the heat, the manuscript probably would have arrived at his publishers chronologically complete. So complete, in fact, that schoolteachers all over the galaxy would have gotten the textbook they had always wanted a concise chronicle of everything that had ever happened since the explosion of the primeval atom, a history textbook that no other history textbook could contradict for the simple reason that there were no other history textbooks.

As it was, they got the textbook, but it did not contain everything that had ever happened. Not quite.

Two factors were responsible for the omission. The first was an oversight on the part of the Galactic Historian. With so much on his minds, he had forgotten to number the pages of the manuscript.

The second factor was the breeze... Continue reading book >>

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