9

Sometime around the late 1980s, I checked out a science fiction anthology from a library. (The stories were written in English.) I don't remember if all the stories were by the same author, but two of them definitely were. They are the ones I seem to remember best from this book, so I'll summarize the major plot points:

  1. The (third-person) viewpoint character and his best friend are angry young men living on a colony planet which just barely lives hand-to-mouth, with strict rationing and other unpopular controls which make the common people feel their rights are being trampled underfoot. (I have the vague impression that ships from Earth arrived rarely, and so the colony had to feed itself as it went along, or else starve to death. But I'm not clear on the details.)

  2. These two men are ringleaders of a resistance movement which resents the way the current ruling class has been running things. I think the "ruling class" may have been corporate executives -- at any rate, I'm positive that they were not the winners of recent "fair and and open" elections, or else the angry young men simply would have been planning to try to unseat them in the next regularly-scheduled election. (I don't think this colony had elections at all, fair or otherwise.)

  3. In the end, the revolution succeeds in staging a near-bloodless (perhaps utterly bloodless?) coup. Once it begins, I think it's all over within a matter of hours. In large part because a great many other colonist-workers, even if they were not active rebels, were highly sympathetic to the idea that it was time for a drastic change! When the viewpoint character confronts the now-former "chief executive" (or whatever his exact title was), the latter seems tired, and somewhat relieved, at the thought that now it's someone else's problem to try to manage the local economy, etc.

  4. The story ends with the viewpoint character now sitting in the office of the former "chief executive," and having a private talk with the other character who had helped him organize the coup. The new chief executive talks about the painful lessons he's learned since gaining access to the central records a few days ago. For instance, he says that he's realized that the only way to keep the colony alive (adequate food production, perhaps, in this alien environment? And/or producing some valuable commodity which will persuade Earth to keep doing business with them, instead of writing the colony off as a dead loss?) is to arrange for a large number of men to work, in rotation, on an incredibly unpopular assignment. I forget exactly what, but the irony is that the old regime's recent announcement of this upcoming assignment, lonely and strenuous, far away from the one real city of the colony (as I recall), had played a large part in making it feasible for the revolution to succeed!

  5. In the anthology that I read, the next story in the book was a direct sequel to the one I just described. It still deals with the same character as the main viewpoint character, but now it's been at least 10 years (or more?) and he can see that, although he's tried to be more even-handed and liberal than his predecessor, popular resentment is building up for a brand new revolution directed at unseating him! The only thing that saves him is that there's just been some sort of breakthrough which at last will make it much easier (in terms of man-hours of hard labor each month) for the colony to become truly self-sufficient.

I don't insist you identify the anthology for me. If you can just identify one or both of the short stories that I summarized in Points 1 through 5, with the title(s) and the author's name, that will be a "correct answer." From there, I can handle it on my own. (ISFDB should be able to tell me what book or books have included those stories. I've never again run across either of them in anything else I've read since the 1980s.)

11

Sounds like "The Right to Revolt" and "The Right to Resist", short stories by Keith Laumer; first published (together) in If, May-June 1971, which is available at the Internet Archive; reprinted in The Best from If, Volume I and American Government Through Science Fiction (Patricia Warrick, Martin H. Greenberg, and Joseph D. Olander, eds.) Here is a capsule review by Don D'Ammassa:

Finally we have two related stories that appear together in The Best from If (1973), "The Right to Revolt" and "The Right to Resist." In the first, colonists on a planet run by a corporation rebel rather than accept the imposition of new colonists and the pre-emptive relocations of those already in place. In the second, the rebels have taken over but now face unrest from the people they rule. Both tend to lecture rather than show.

In "The Right to Revolt" the viewpoint character, Andrew Galt, is one of a group of angry young men, third generation colonists on a colony world named Colmar. As the story opens, they are complaining bitterly about the administration:

"We told them," Williver said, sounding frightened. He swallowed. "We held off until now to give them a chance to see reason. They didn't. Opening a new sector now is a smack in the teeth to every man in the colony."

"It's not just a kick in the mouth," Gray said. "It's slavery for all of us who are tagged to go out on the advance team. And for what? To give the Colonial Bureau a nice growth rate to brag about."

"To fill politicians' pockets back on Terra," Pinchot corrected. "We're supposed to give up our homes, families, friends, move out into the desert, live in lash-up hutments, eat issue rations, work like horses fourteen hours a day—"

"I'm not afraid of work," Galt said. "If it were on a voluntary basis I might even sign on."

"But it's not voluntary, Galt. It's compulsory. They decide who goes and for how long."

They decide to revolt:

"The Committee of Fifty," Galt said, "consisting of forty-one members by actual count, out of over twenty-five thousand colonists—"

"What percentage of French peasants staged the French Revolution?" Gray demanded. "How many Americans actually fired on the Redcoats? How many Bolsheviks tossed out the Czar?"

"We can do it," Pinchot said, his eyes narrow and intent. "We move in fast, take the Port and the Comm Center, the generator and pumping stations, the depot and warehouses, grab Admin House—and we're in charge."

The revolt is not quite bloodless. One of the casualties:

"Stop where you are! Davies, Henderson! We know you, you can't get away—" The voice broke off as light winked and a shot crashed from the gate. Fry was lying flat in the shadow of the ornamental gatepost. Galt saw another flash, but the second shot was drowned by the short savage roar of a police bullet-pump. Fry's body was flung a foot into the air and hurled ten feet back like a bundle of rags.

The revolt succeeds. Galt confronts Administrator Blum in his office:

"What do you want from me, Andy?"

"Capitulate. Hand over control to the Committee and step down. I'll guarantee your safe conduce—and Jensen's, too, unless he does something stupid, like firing on our men."

Blum stared levelly across at Galt. "Are you sure this is what you want? The responsibility—"

"Tell him," Galt said harshly.

Blum turned to the screen. "Lay down your arms, Stig," he said. "I'm signing a formal resignation in favor of Andrew Galt."

Now Galt is running the colony, and his revolutionary comrade Pinchot is unhappy with him:

Galt pushed another sheet of paper across the desk. Pinchot glanced at it, then stared at Galt.

"Are you right out of your mind? This is Blum's Opening Order for Sector Twelve."

"Wrong. It's my order for opening Sector Twelve."

"You can't do it. The people won't accept it. What will Gray and Williver—and Pyle and Tomkin and the others say? They—we—risked our necks fighting this same crazy scheme."

"We need more income, less dependence on imports. We have to extend our usable acreage and expand our mining operations. If you can think of another way to do it, I'll welcome the suggestion."

Pinchot's face looked slack and grayish. "Is this what we took over—the same old headaches, only worse?"

"Did we really take over, Pinchot?" Galt asked tiredly. "Or did they con us into standing on our own feet?"

"The Right to Resist" is set twenty years later. The new regime is facing unrest:

The crash of breaking glass was like an explosion in the darkness. Planetary Administrator Andrew Galt came awake, rolled off the side of the bed and hugged the floor. In the silence a final glass fragment fell from the window frame to the rug. Galt got to his feet, saw the paper-wrapped bolt lying by the dresser.

END TYRANNY ON COLMAR was lettered neatly in red on the back of a recently published ration application form. Galt grunted and tossed the aper away.

Marine ecologist Dick Weinberg makes a breakthrough:

"You remember the problem I reported I was having with the slime formation," Weinberg said.

"I see it hasn't improved any," Galt said. "I hope it's not interfering seriously with your work."

"Fact is, Andy, I've about dropped everything to work on it. I think I've identified it as a mutated Fuligo Septica, probably introduced on some imperfectly sterilized glassware from Terra. We tried high-pressure steam first, but—"

"Just a minute, Dick. Dropped everything?" Galt's voice was harsh. "Maybe I haven't succeeded in making it clear that the mission of finding food supplements for the Colmarian diet is absolute top priority—"

Weinberg looked reproachfully at Galt. "Mr. Administrator, may I make my presentation?" His wide mouth quivered, the corners running upward in spite of his obvious effort to hold them down.

"What the devil are you grinning at?"

"How did you like the coffee?"

"Drinkable," Galt snapped "What—"

"It's made from the sporangia phase; the stalks, you understand, dessicated, ground, and roasted."

"You made that coffee out of—this?" Galt prodded a mass of crusted brown flakes with his toe.

"Uh-huh. The cake was made from the spores, with an admixture of plasmodium, plus a sweetener."

"Slime cake?" Galt said.

"Of course all this required a certain amount of processing. We're running some ideas in glass, looking for shortcuts—for commercial quantity production, you understand. But with a little drying and compressing, we get what, unless I flunked Chem 1, is the best all-around livestock feed going." He took from his pocket a hard, dull-shiny, purple-brown cake the size of a bar of soap. "Hence the goats," he said. "And the chickens."

Galt stood as if stricken. "But—if this is true—" He took a deep breath and became brisk. "Fine. One miracle to order—" His voice broke and he cackled in glee. "Dick, you sneaky bastard, you've just saved a world, damn your hide!"

  • Thank you. That looks very much like what I was remembering. I'm pretty sure I must have read it in the "American Government Through Science Fiction" collection you mentioned. – Lorendiac Nov 8 '16 at 22:34

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