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Looking for a sci-fi short story compilation book I once read. I don't remember whole lot of details, but there are two stories I sort of remember. A lot of details are missing, but the overall plots are as follows.

  • Story 1

A protagonist (depressed I think), wakes up and feels something different. Soon the protagonist learns that he can control everything around him with his mind. The protagonist eventually learns there is no limit to the power, and even erases the Earth and the entire universe from existence. Feeling extremely lonely being alone in the void, the protagonist even tries to erase his own existence. At this moment, a "being" appears to the protagonist and tells a story. This "being" says that it went through the same thing the protagonist went through and erased the everything in the universe, then it created everything, and tells the protagonist it is his turn to do the same thing.

  • Story 2

This story is set in a future where space exploration/warp drive is available (not sure if it was widespread, or being researched). A man, the protagonist, steals a spaceship capable of warp drive (I don't remember why). While doing so, he uses a gun to kill the team of astronauts who were originally supposed to be on the spaceship. The protagonist uses the warp drive, but soon learns that he is now lost in space, alone in the cockpit, with nothing he can do. The only thing left for him is a painful, slow death. Soon, he remembers a gun he brought with him, with which he can kill himself, but the gun is empty.

I think I read this around 1997~1999. I'm quite sure it was pre-2000. I read this book as a part of an English lesson, learning English as a second language. Along with this book, I read quite a few Penguin Classics like A Tale of Two Cities and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, so the reading level should be similar to those books.

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  • The first story must surely be "The Solipsist" by Fredric Brown Apr 20, 2022 at 11:33
  • Yes, the first story is Solipsist by Fredric Brown - you can read it here. It has only been anthologised in collections by Fredric Brown so the other story must be by him as well. Apr 21, 2022 at 7:24
  • I agree @JohnRennie but I can't think of any Brown stories that resemble story 2 :( Apr 21, 2022 at 7:32
  • @ClaraDiazSanchez I think the second story is a misremembering of Star Light as you suggested earlier, and the collection was either unauthorised or isn't in ISFDB. I think you should post an answer along those lines. Apr 21, 2022 at 8:30
  • @JohnRennie I'll wait a bit longer, just in case someone comes up with a Brown story that matches. He was quite prolific, and I haven't read them all! Apr 21, 2022 at 8:53

1 Answer 1

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I believe that the first story is Solipsist by Fredric Brown, a very short story of just 356 words, first published in 1954. It deals with a man called Walter B. Jehovah, who became a solipsist after a run of very bad luck:

Within a week, his wife had run away with another man, he’d lost his job as a shipping clerk and he had broken his leg chasing a black cat to keep it from crossing his path

In hospital he wishes the stars out of existence, then all other people, then the Earth and his body. Alone in the void he wishes to will himself out of existence but finds that he cannot. As the OP recalls, a voice explains to him that the only way to end his existence is to create a universe and wait for someone to arise with sufficient belief to will him out of existence.

And the voice was gone. Walter B. Jehovah was alone in the void and there was only one thing he could do. He created the heaven and the earth.

It took him seven days.

As far as I can see, this story has only been reprinted in anthologies of Fredric Brown's work, notably Angels and Spaceships (where I first read it). I have been unable to come up with a Brown short story which matches the question's second story though.

However, the second story does have some resemblance to Star Light by Isaac Asimov. The story's protagonist, Trent, steals a valuable metal with an older accomplice who has invented a computer able to compute their spaceship's position by comparing the appearance of the stars with a comprehensive database of their locations. After the theft Trent murders his accomplice with a knife, and quickly makes a random hyperspace jump to evade pursuit. From the wikipedia summary:

He makes the jump, then waits for the computer to match a bright nearby star to its stored patterns. Much time elapses, however, without a match being found. Trent realizes, to his horror, that the star must be a recent nova, which the computer will therefore never be able to find in its maps. He is apparently unable to override the search procedure, and his life support will not last indefinitely. The story ends with Trent wishing that he had kept the knife.

I suggest that the second story is a slightly mangled memory of Star Light, and as John Rennie suggests, either there is short story collection containing these stories that does not appear in the ISFDB, or that they have been conflated in the OP's memory. Human memory is a curious thing!

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    The point about not being able to find a book with both stories is mitigated by OP's remark that they were read in an English class; there have been a large number of anthologies for students published over the years, for example by Scholastic, and at least some are not captured by ISFDb. (The anthology I first read "The Machine Stops" in is not among those listed, despite it being printed sufficiently to distribute copies to entire classes of 30 students.)
    – DavidW
    Apr 21, 2022 at 22:20
  • Thank you all! The first one is definitely "The Solpsist" and 99.99% sure the second story is the "Star Light" I just made an account and not sure how to select the answers, so I just wanted to thank you all for the inputs!
    – user151605
    May 1, 2022 at 13:38

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