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The young man wakes up every year from stasis for just one day. He's on a space ship heading for a planet to colonize, I think. The first time he wakes, the computer leads him to a nursery full of babies. Each time he wakes the children are a year older. The computer tells him that he is there to help influence the children and help them develop. Once they reach teenager years, they start trying to figure out the huge ship. Start trying to access forbidden areas. The young man sees all this in snapshots each year as the group of kids form politics and other social dynamics. Before the group of kids reaches around 20 years old, he wakes to a new set of babies. The computer tells him that it destroyed the group and hopes he will do better with this new group of children.

Does that ring a bell for anyone? I really hate losing the info on good stuff I read years ago. But, I suppose some stories are just ephemeral. They are there for a short and never get popular enough to become classics. Thanks for any help!

  • Hello Mike, and welcome to the SF & Fantasy Stack. Do you remember any other details? When did you read it? In what language? What did the cover look like? O, by the way, have you taken the tour yet? – SQB Nov 22 '16 at 7:30
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Searching for title: short story or book from 80's

"Birthdays", a novella by Fred Saberhagen, also the answer to this question; first published in Galaxy, March 1976, which is available at the Internet Archive, click here for download options. It was reprinted in the 1980 anthology Galaxy: The Best of My Years (James Baen, ed.) and in the Saberhagen collections Earth Descended (1981) and Saberhagen: My Best (1987).

The young man wakes up every year from stasis for just one day. He's on a space ship heading for a planet to colonize, I think. The first time he wakes, the computer leads him to a nursery full of babies.

Looking back, Bart could never clearly remember any part of his life before the day when the Ship first woke him from a long, artificially induced sleep, and guided him to the nursery to see the babies. That day and the first few that followed it were very confusing to live through.

Each time he wakes the children are a year older. The computer tells him that he is there to help influence the children and help them develop.

"The prime directives under which I operate are very clear. One human parent, adoptive or real, is necessary to the successful maturation of children; images and machines are psychologically inadequate for best results. Therefore, after receiving some elementary preparation for the role, you will serve as adoptive parent for the first generation of colonists."

[. . . .]

When he had closed himself into his little plastic-walled bedroom the Ship's voice said: "You will be given a substantial breakfast when you wake again. That will be one standard year from now."

Before the group of kids reaches around 20 years old, he wakes to a new set of babies.

Actually, the last of the children die at the age of 68. When Bart is awakened for the 69th time:

"The prime directives under which I operate are very clear," the Ship said in his ear. "At least one human parent is necessary for children to mature to their full potential.

"We will arrive in less than twenty standard years within a system of planets probably suitable for colonization. From now on you will be awakened increasingly often. You will serve the first generation of colonists as parent. Like them, you have first-rate genetic potential, and perhaps you will remain in some position of leadership when they mature. Today begins your apprenticeship in this role; your elementary preparation for it—a course in the basics of human psychology—was completed yesterday."

With gradual comprehension Bart walked on, guided toward the new nursery by the polyphonic squalling from its full cribs.

  • Mike, please let us know if this is the story you were looking for. No need to post a comment, you can just "accept" the answer by clicking on the check mark next to it. – user14111 Nov 22 '16 at 8:42
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    That's much less dark than the initial version. More uplifting. – FuzzyBoots Nov 22 '16 at 11:02
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    @FuzzyBoots Somehow I liked the original version better. That story had more bite to it. – xLeitix Nov 22 '16 at 14:00
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    Wait so the "elementary preperation" was raising the first set of kids until they we're grown ups and the computer killed them to start the "real" batch....not sure if that's less dark – DasBeasto Nov 22 '16 at 16:50
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    @DasBeasto In the story, the computer doesn't kill them, they die of natural causes. Well, as natural as causes from a deep space voyage can be. – James Moore Nov 22 '16 at 17:59

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