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I'm looking for a short-story about a society that experienced multi-generational decay (Earth, not a colony-ship), and the story was about two relatives confronting each other. It's at least thirty years old, probably in some collection that could be anything, like a book or magazine. The general story:

An older man is at a spaceship (possibly starship, possibly just inter-system - it's been 30 years), and a middle-aged man is arguing with him, about taking his small child with him. The dialog is something like, "You don't know how bad it is out there - every thing's breaking down, people are tearing everything down - there's even cannibalism going on. You have to my take my son, he's young enough to never been exposed to all this."

The old man says something like, "But this is all a result of your children, and how you raised them, on your crazy beliefs".

The old man: And that's when he said something that will haunt me forever - "but you raised us!"

  • I have no idea why I thought of this story, after all these years... – John C Nov 3 at 18:02
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This is likely "Generation Gaps" (1972) by George H. Smith, writing as Clancy O'Brien, in the September 1972 edition of Analog.

The story opens on an Earth-Moon shuttle and we're introduced to one of the titular gaps as a younger (20ish) stewardess tries to ply Prof. Morris Benjamin, who is much older (50ish), (and very much uninterested) with drugs and free sex. After she gives up she sends the older (40ish) captain to talk him out of abandoning Earth and going to live on the Moon.

Earth has apparently been given over to the Aquarians, and university teachers (like the protagonist) are reduced to teaching the history of rock music, astrology and the I Ching.

The story then flashes back to a representative from the "United Communes" coming to his office to try and convince him to stay on Earth because ever since the "Jerries" (older square folk) have started leaving, things have started to break down.

We then learn about the following generation: the Pyros who burn things, the Vamps who want to be vampires and the Eaters, who practice cannibalism.

When the shuttle arrives on the Moon, the captain suddenly defects as well, bringing with him his 5-year-old son. He promises that he has hidden his son from society, so he has never been exposed to drug culture or the rampant other vices of society. (The son even has a short hair cut!) He escapes even as the rest of the crew of the shuttle try to keep him from defecting, since without the captain they have no hope of operating the shuttle.

He caught up with me, his breath coming in short gasps as he clung tightly to the child in his arms. "I raised him in my cabin on the ship... he's never set foot on Earth... he's never had drugs... never heard the music... never listened to the superstitions... so I think he'll be all right."

"Of course he will," I said

The story closes on the end of his conversation with the government representative:

The youth-hell, he was thirty-five!-had told me about their thems, the fifteen-year-olds who were coming up behind his generation and how terrified the gurus were of them.

"Don't leave us," Little Running Rabbit had said. "They're coming up behind us and we don't know what to do about them. We need help. For God's sake, don't leave us. These kids are really spaced out and we don't know what to do."

I had tried to hold them back but the bitter words had come. "You raised them!" I told him. "You raised them your way... not our way!"

Then he had hurled the words at me, the words that were at once a barbed missile and a stinging indictment.

"But you raised us!" he had said.

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  • Exactly right. Wonder if I still have that old Analog? – John C Oct 21 at 18:14
  • I could have sworn there was a scene with the one character trying to get his small child on the ship, with the promise that he was "too young to have been exposed to their ideas". Was that actually in the story? Or is my memory just misfiring? :) – John C Oct 22 at 17:36
  • No, you're right. Sorry, I'll add that to the answer. – DavidW Oct 22 at 17:40
  • No need, your answer made it sound like just the one guy was involved in boarding the ship, and I just was worrying about my memory. I really need to find it again (the book, not my memory). – John C Oct 22 at 17:55
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    @JohnC The anthology Sociology Through Science Fiction is available to borrow at the Internet Archive if you want to re-read it; if you want to buy a copy of that issue of Analog there's a site called BackIssue.com that has it for sale. – DavidW Oct 22 at 18:12

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