12

I am looking for a synopsis or summary of two Spider Robinson short stories, "It's a Sunny Day", and "Father Paradox". This is kinda a reverse story-identification... I have name and author, I'm looking for what the story is.

Many years ago I ran across a copy of Melancholy Elephants, a collection of short stories by Spider Robinson. More recently, I rediscovered my copy of the short story collection By Any Other Name — a nearly identical collection. I had confused the two collections for a long time, since title for title, there are only two or three tales appearing in the older book that are not in By Any Other Name. A few more the other way around, but I don't mind that since it's the one I have. And there was a story I had thought was in the collection, that I thought I must have mis-remembered when I couldn't find it in By Any Other Name — so now I'm wondering if it was one of the two that didn't overlap.

I was hoping to find a synopsis or summary of these stories, to refresh my memory. There are a few places that list the work, but nothing more than title, no way of knowing what the story's about. This link I found has summaries of some of the stories, but omitted two works (made me wonder if they were working off the newer collection as well). I did manage to find "Not Fade Away" elsewhere, but I was hoping someone could find the other two since I haven't managed.

  • I'll admit that I'm still curious about "Father Paradox"... – FuzzyBoots Feb 15 at 11:14
  • His collections certainly have a lot of overlap! I have the old "Antinomy" anthology and the stories in it appear to be in the other collections as well. No Father Paradox though sadly. – Organic Marble Feb 15 at 15:22
  • My copy of Melancholy Elephants has "Father Paradox" but not "It's a Sunny Day" which is weird; it's the opposite of @JohnRennie 's situation. – Spencer Feb 16 at 16:42
9

I have the Melancholy Elephants anthology so I can help you with "It's a Sunny Day". However my copy of Melancholy Elephants end with "Rubber Soul" and doesn't contain the story "Father Paradox". There must be an extended edition with the additional stories.

NB this is basically all spoiler so be warned!

It's in the future where mankind has established colonies and it's implied that Earth has collapsed under the weight of overpopulation. The main protagonist, Zachary Mountain-Born, runs a farm on the vaguely anarchist planet New Home, and his life is a rather stereotypical rural idyll.

One day, a boy, Timeth Connery, is delivered to him. Timeth was brought up on the planet Velco. Velco is headed down the route to ruin that Earth took and they're desperately trying to improve efficiency to keep their planet going. Timeth is a genius and has been hothoused, but he has failed to deliver the innovations Velco had hoped for. He's been sent to stay with Zack in the hope a relaxing holiday will do the trick.

Timeth is a stereotypical anal-retentive nerd, and the story is about Zack's strategy to get him to unwind and just enjoy life. He succeeds so well that Timeth refuses to go back to Velco and Zack has to tell the agents from Velco that Timeth died in a rockfall.

The title comes from the last line of the story:

Timeth pulled away smiling. “Let’s go outside, Zack,” he said. “There’s a shed to be built.”

“Whoa, lad. What about breakfast?”

“The hell with breakfast,” Timeth said, and raced to the window. Flinging it open, he breathed in a great chestful of spruce and earth and distant sea.

“Look!” he cried, pointing. “It’s a sunny day!”

The story is a thinly veiled manifesto for the libertarian lifestyle and an attack on cosmopolitan America.

  • Ah, thank you so much! I'm so glad to have at least one of them. There are two different editions of the book, yes, from 1984 and 1985, the difference being the same two stories I was looking for - I'm not sure why, when they were released so close together. But once more, thank you! – Megha Mar 5 '16 at 2:08
5

This isn't a complete answer, so I'll delete it if it's not good enough.

I found a reference to "Father Paradox" categorized as an "Observation Resolution" take on the time-travel-paradox story, where anything the time traveler does simply makes things turn out the way they are anyway. A micro-review on another page (search for "paradox") supports this.

I found another reference, search for "Steve MB" on 11-14-2011, that gives a summary but isn't certain about the story name. (I did find another reference to this exact plot, but it wasn't associated to any story or author at all, so no help there.)

The gist of the plot (assuming the summary is correct) is that rather than commit suicide directly, a time-traveler decides to kill his father before he is conceived. He goes back in time and kills his father, but it turns out that his father was sterile and not, biologically, his father. So the time-traveler still exists, and is forced to commit suicide more directly.

  • I've read that story. I just don't know if it is indeed "Father Paradox". – FuzzyBoots Feb 15 at 17:31
  • @FuzzyBoots Sorry, the only reference I could find also wasn't sure. :) – DavidW Feb 15 at 17:57
  • I've ordered the book from abebooks. I hope it is the right edition! – Organic Marble Feb 16 at 1:08
  • Partial answers are welcome, and I really do appreciate your taking the time to give me this one - It really helps even to have a partial answer. Not to mention it can help someone else to find a fuller answer later, I did notice Spencer's answer is shortly after yours, I might not have gotten his answer without yours first :) – Megha Feb 17 at 3:19
4
+50

My copy of Melancholy Elephants has "Father Paradox" but not "It's a Sunny Day" which is weird; it's the opposite of John Rennie's situation. I have the 1985 Tor paperback edition which includes "True Minds", "Satan's Children", and "Not Fade Away".

Anyway, "Father Paradox" is a very short story, only 4 pages long. A man named Carmody breaks in to a Government facility to gain access to a recently-invented time machine.

This one line early in the story gives everything away:

But what none of them realized--what Carmody alone had been in a position to realize--was that the machine was also the world's first and only perfect means of suicide._

What follows is a brief description of the time machine itself and a rationale for Carmody's actions (my paraphrasing):

Carmody's life has gone to shit, and so he's going back in time to kill his father before he (Carmody) could be conceived. Thus the title. It's a contraction, so to speak, of the Grandfather Paradox.

Well he succeeds, but the consequences he expected didn't occur.

Carmody's biological father was a farmhand who was having an affair with his mother. His "father", whom he killed, was sterile. So Carmody has to commit suicide the old-fashioned way.

Which explains why in the first iteration, Carmody's father had been so cold to him.

The story ends with:

Carmody's last thought was that he was a paticularly unlucky bastard, and he never knew how right he was.

Quintessential Spider Robinson there.

PS In his preface to Melancholy Elephants, Spider Robinson tells how the anthology was a recompilation of an earlier anthology, Antinomy, which was, as he puts it, "remaindered during publication" because Dell (the publishing company) decided to drop its entire science fiction line. However, the two books only share four stories. If you're going to spend money on old Spider Robinson anthologies, I would suggest you try to get one of those, because in addition to the other stories, there are a lot of funky Spider Robinson-ey things between the stories...

  • Thanks for this, I really appreciate your answer - it's a really good one, and with lots of quotes backing it up. Thank you very much :) – Megha Feb 17 at 3:20
  • @Megha Technically only two quotes... – Spencer Feb 17 at 12:51
  • I just received the book, and it's the same edition as yours, with "Father" but not "Sunny"."Sunny Day" seems to only have been in the 1984 Canadian edition of Melancholy Elephants. But it's available in Galaxy magazine at the Internet Archive archive.org/details/Galaxy_v37n01_1976-01/page/n3 – Organic Marble Mar 2 at 1:06
  • 1
    @OrganicMarble I w nder what's with ll the drop ed lette s in tha canne iss e of Galax .... – Spencer Mar 2 at 19:38

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.