First, I'm sorry I haven't been around visiting blogs much this week. Besides feeling a bit down, I got the rough drafts from my writing class on Tuesday and spent a LOT of time commenting on and correcting those. But here's my post for Forgotten Books Friday for this week. I'll head out to look at blogs after I get this up.
Pattinase has suggested that this week’s Forgotten Book Friday feature a forgotten short story. Since I love me some short stories, I am so happy to take part. And man was it hard to narrow down my choices. There are so many wonderful short stories that I could talk about: The Cold Equations by Tom Godwin, Surface Tension by James Blish, Nightfall by Isaac Asimov, Hangover by John D. MacDonald, The Jaunt by Stephen King, The Nine Billion Names of God by Arthur C. Clarke, Riding for the Brand by Louis L’Amour, A Relic of War by Keith Laumer, Valley of the Worm and Worms in the Earth by Robert E. Howard, etc. etc.
But I’ve decided on a story by Ray Bradbury. Bradbury has had so many incredible stories of course, The Veldt, The Fog Horn, The Golden Apples of the Sun, The Small Assassin, The Wind, and many more. But there’s one that I’ve never seen reprinted and almost never see anyone talk about. This is “Frost and Fire,” a longish story from the collection R is for Rocket, which was first published in 1962. I first read this collection sometime back in the sixties and “Frost and Fire” stayed with me for years after, although I forgot the title and the collection it was in. For several years in my late 30s I searched and searched for the story but was unable to remember the title or even who had written it until a friend of mine identified it for me. I believe that friend was Steve Tompkins. I immediately read the story again, and just reread it this week in preparation for this post.
Although it’s in an anthology whose title suggests science fiction stories, and it involves a space ship, “Frost and Fire” is very much a fantasy. Physically and technically it is an impossible tale, but it’s still wonderful for all that.
Imagine a world where humans are born, grow, mate, age, and die in 8 days. It’s a world where the sun kills and the ice at night freezes the very marrow, where for only two hours a day, at dusk and dawn, are people able to leave their caves and run and play and gather food amid the rapidly growing plants.
Imagine though, that in the distance, winking in the early morning sunlight, the people see a ship, the last intact ship from the space fleet that brought them to this nightmare planet. A child named Sim is born into this world. He is born with the racial memory of all his people, and the telepathy that lets them learn quickly what they need to know to survive. A girl named Lyte is born at the same time, and comes to love Sim. And all this happens quickly, quickly, quickly. Because death is only days away.
Sim yearns to reach that ship, although no one has ever survived such an attempt. And Lyte is determined to accompany him. I won’t tell you the ending, but the story is well worth the read if you can find it.
There was a brief revival of interest in this story in the 1980s. In 1983 it became the basis of a short film called Quest, and in 1985 it was adapted as a graphic novel by Klaus Jansen for DC comics. I have not seen the film or read the graphic novel, and didn’t even know that either existed until I started researching this post. I’ll begin looking for that graphic novel, though. “Frost and Fire” is definitely a forgotten story these days, though, and it shouldn’t be. It shows Bradbury at the height of his powers.