CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT

Andy Sawyer, the Science Fiction Librarian at Liverpool University, has provided an answer to my puzzlement as to who wrote “Children of the Night” – a wonderful, terrifying science fiction short story about a PR man who has to broker a peace agreement between Earth and aliens who have done some truly terrible things (at least, by our standards). The author was Frederic Pohl, and you can read the story in his book, The Best of Frederic Pohl.

I should have known! Pohl and his pal K.M. Kornbluth wrote The Space Merchants, and Children of the Night is a natural (though much grimmer and more terrible) sequel to that great novel. I identify with its protagonist more strongly than with any other literary character (with the possible exception of Alice). If you read it, I wonder if you’ll see why.

And I must add two more tales to my list of recommended SF shorts: A Sound of Thunder, by Ray Bradbury. Perhaps the best time travel story of them all – though Herbert George Wells’ Time Machine ain’t too shabby, either. I re-read it recently and not only does it predict global warming, it also anticipates the intellectual breach we’re seeing right now, between those who use tablets and type with their thumbs (Eloi) and those who hunker down over keyboards and know how machines work (Morlocks).

And Brian Aldiss’ great short story, Poor Little Warrior, which visits the same territory as Ray Bradbury’s, with similar yet uniquely different results. Who would have thought that dinosaurs had ticks?

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