I am looking for the title of an annual Sci-Fi anthology book from circa 1969 or 1970. I remember two stories from it:

  1. Space fighters where the pilot is encased in a womb-like structure that protects him from damage and radiation. The pilots can only go on a certain number of missions before they begin to revert mentally into an embryonic state due to the womb like nature of their ship.

  2. A boy lives alone in a house controlled by a house "nanny" computer. His parents are dead. He cannot go outside due to the radiation from a atomic war. He spends his days living out fantasy stories in his mind. His only outside human contact is via a video link with a girl who shares his fantasies. The "girl" turns out to be an older overweight woman wearing a blond wig who is lonely and plays the child part for company. One day the computer breaks down and the boy leaves the house.

1 Answer 1


I'm going to propose Analog 8 as your anthology. Published in 1971, cover shown in the link.

I base this identification on the first story you mention, about space fighter-pilots enclosed in womb-like structures. I've read it, and will list the details I managed to find. It's "Womb to Tomb" by Joseph Wesley, also known as L. J. Stecher. Originally published in Analog August 1969. According to ISFDB, to which the above links point, it has been anthologised in Analog 8.

It has also been published in Best SF: 1969 edited by Harry Harrison and Brian Aldiss. This also appeared under the title The Year's Best Science Fiction No. 3. The latter is the British version of the book, and is almost certainly where I first read "Womb to Tomb"

I couldn't find an online copy of "Womb to Tomb". However, I did find a summary of a French translation, "La Première et dernière demeure", published in Histoires de guerres futures edited by Jacques Goimard. That was enough to confirm that it is the story I was thinking of. Here's an English translation of that summary:

Admiral Burkens, head of the Functional Re-education Centre for Combat-Injured Spacecraft Pilots, receives a visit from Senator Grimes. Grimes comes to enquire about his son Jim, wounded in combat against the Kwartah with whom humanity is fighting a long and bitter war.

Burkens tells Grimes about a combat vehicle, “the Egg”, which makes pilots much more efficient. The pilot is immersed in an airtight capsule, filled with a liquid which both nourishes them and provides them with air [or at least oxygen, probably under pressure]. The Egg is equipped with extremely resilient armour and sophisticated means of protection (and, notably, can act as a lifeboat), and has proven very effective, enabling its pilot to stay permanently in combat.

The downside is that the pilot gets so used to his Egg that he no longer wants to come out, like a child who wishes to remain in the maternal amniotic fluid. So you might say that The Egg has become the soldier's first abode, as if he were still unborn, but will probably also be his last. Forcibly removing the pilot from his "womb" causes trauma equivalent to that of a Caesarean section, after which he goes cataleptic and regresses to the mental state of an infant.

And so the Centre's job is to rehabilitate thousands of pilots. Studies show that it is only safe to leave the Egg three times: a fourth exit causes such "psychological loss" that it should only be risked in the event of an extreme emergency (such as a massive attack by the enemy). This is why, after three exits from the Egg, one is re-deployed to the rear as logistical support. That's what happened to Jim. So Senator Grimes can be assured that no matter how much his son begs, threatens or yells, he will never return to an Egg.

Burkens finishes by explaining that this was his own situation too. The story ends with this last sentence from him: “God! How I wish the Kwartah would attack us now!"

So that confirms "Womb to Tomb". This Goodreads discussion confirms that I saw it in The Year's Best Science Fiction No. 3. User Roddy Williams gave summaries of all the stories there. "Womb to Tomb" matches, and so do the others.

The reason I suggest that you saw "Womb to Tomb" in Analog 8 is that none of the The Year's Best Science Fiction No. 3/Best SF: 1969 contents seem to match the second story you describe, about the boy living alone in a house controlled by a house "nanny" computer after an atomic war. And ISFDB lists Analog 8 as the only other anthologiser.

Having said that, I'm not really convinced by Analog 8 either, as I'm not sure the titles of the stories in it would fit with a boy living alone etc. But at least I hope identifying "Womb to Tomb" helps you track down your anthology.

  • Be aware that ISFDB is not necessarily complete for anthologies - Ive been hunting down a book containing a well known story for ages and its not in the list of books that ISFDB says contains it.
    – Moo
    Jul 24, 2020 at 21:52
  • Thanks. In which case I'd definitely suggest that although this is the best answer I can give, it would be good if the original questioner could try to recall any other details of the anthology, including its cover. I still can't find any other reference online than the ones I mentioned. Jul 25, 2020 at 0:34

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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