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A while back I read a science-fiction short story that I very much want to re-find. If you've read it, my plot description will hopefully ring a bell and maybe you'll recall some vital stats about it.

I probably read the story in a "Best of the Year" anthology or a "Best of 'If'" type collection or the like. The story has got to be at least 10, 15 years old but likely way older (from the 1950's, 60's, or more likely the 70's or 80's. Maybe 90's, but again probably older).

PLOT: A current-day (or 20th C.) man finds himself in the future-- I don't remember how but I think via cryogenics, maybe he was ill & had himself frozen till there was a cure. Doesn't matter. The main plot point was, in the future everyone is healthy and young, they have some sort of procedure? or substance? that keeps them so. And beautiful too, I believe. And, if I recall correctly, immortal (or very very very long-lived).

It's a pretty cool society, fairly Utopian.

ANYWAY, the guy attracts women who are wowed by his "savage", natural 'ugliness', and he enjoys his sort of Rock Star status.

I think he wants to get the "stay young forever" procedure but they don't want to give it to him for some reason? Don't recall details. They're a very gentle, permissive, even innocent society. Maybe there's short supply of the procedure? Or they want him to remain "as is", special & unique?? Or maybe someone has to die, which is rare, in order to make room for one more immortal? I think that might be it.

Anyway. He starts trying to denigrate & criticize their society's "superficial" beauty, & keeps extolling the virtues & value of aging naturally-- I definitely recall he keeps using a catchphrase/ theme in his PR campaign, something like "there's nothing like the dear, grey-haired dignity of my dear old mother" (or grandmother; maybe "white-haired"). ANYWAY, he pushes this idea in all the talk-shows & stuff, and he really tugs at the heartstrings, tears in eyes, playing it up, and people eventually start following this idea-- forgoing their 'superficial' rejuvenating treatments so as to achieve the 'dignity' this guy is reverently extolling.

The kicker is, he's doing this to manipulate the people (they're not used to con-artists, have no wariness or immunity to bullshit & lies), I THINK it's because their new 'fad' of naturally aging/ dying somehow allows HIM to access the youth treatment (because there's lower demand?? Opens a slot for him? Don't recall). So HE gets the rejuvenating treatment-- complete hypocrisy, & his intent all along during his "beauty of natural ageing, my dear old white-haired mother" etc PR campaign.

I don't recall if there's any further punchline/ denouement for his trickery-- but anyway that's the basic plot. The people in this future society are no match for his trickery... he snows them till most follow his shaming-of-perfection / glorifying-of-natural-aging campaign-- a disingenuous manipulation for his own purposes.

No clue what author. Not even sure which decade. I DO NOT recall this being a widely-anthologized or classic, well-known story-- but it's pretty good.

I've read tons & tons of SF short stories (not recently though), & again, I do NOT think this is a particularly famous one.

Hey, I sure hope someone recognizes the plot & can help me out here! Even just any other details might help in my search, even if you don't recall the title or author.

Thanks very much in advance!

Becca P.

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    Hey, that was quick! Brand new member of stack exchange, though I've browsed occasionally. Thanks in advance, be really cool if you find it! -B. ..PS- Not sure if my "conversational" reply/comment is apropos for stack-exchange. I'll acclimate/ revisit the "tour" page. Thx – Becca Piano Jul 9 '15 at 20:10
  • It sounds a bit like Robert Silverberg's Caliban, but the part of him being a trickster is quit opposite of what happens in that story. – Dragan Milosevic Jul 10 '15 at 5:05
  • Caliban by Robert Silverberg is a little like that. majipoor.com/work.php?id=126 "We are enthralled by your primitive odors." " I want to be golden-haired and have blue eyes and regular features... Grinding my flesh against that of Drusilla in the copulatorium I wonder if she could be one of my descendants. ... I am still self- conscious about my appearance but I pretend otherwise..." – Frock Jul 10 '15 at 5:07
  • I know this story really well, but I just cannot think of the title. The punchline is somthing like "in the land of the beautiful the ugly man is king". At the end of the story the protaganist has himself modified to be beautiful but finds that everyone else has modified themselves to be ugly. I remember this as being from the new wave in SF era. I had an idea it was in the Dangerous Visions anthologies (I've checked and it isn't) or roughly contemporary with them. – John Rennie Jul 10 '15 at 9:48
  • @JohnRennie I think we must be thinking of two different stories. My nominee, Ross Rocklynne, may be the Grandpappy of the New Wave, but your punchline doesn';t match his story. – user14111 Jul 10 '15 at 10:26
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A while back I read a science-fiction short story that I very much want to re-find.

"Backfire" by Ross Rocklynne.

I probably read the story in a "Best of the Year" anthology or a "Best of 'If'" type collection or the like.

You must have read it in Groff Conklin's Omnibus of Science Fiction.

The story has got to be at least 10, 15 years old but likely way older (from the 1950's, 60's, or more likely the 70's or 80's. Maybe 90's, but again probably older).

Older. Originally published in Astounding Science-Fiction, January 1943, available at the Internet Archive.

A current-day (or 20th C.) man finds himself in the future-- I don't remember how but I think via cryogenics, maybe he was ill & had himself frozen till there was a cure.

"He appeared out of thin air on the streets one day, talking a different language. I identified his clothing as twentieth century. They put him under a hypnobioscope and taught him the language. His general explanation was that somebody back in the twentieth century wanted to get rid of him, and sent him on a one-way trip with a time machine. Political enemies."

The exile's name is Thomas Q. Greeley. Here he's talking to the official who denied him the immortality treatment:

The big man rose with an oath and threw his cigar violently against the wall. "I thought so," he shouted, his face turning slowly red. "I thought so when you began stalling me three or four weeks ago. All that bunk about studying me. You decided then that I didn't 'fit' into your namby-pamby silk civilization where everybody falls into a mold and too bad for them if they don't.

"You're all eighteen years old, and polite and noble and gentle. You work every other year for four hours a day. The rest of the time, you parasitize off of machines. You're so damned superior you stink. You haven't got an ounce of charity in you. You can't appreciate a man from the twentieth century, born in an age when you had to work your guts out to get any place. When you had to harden up like steel and knock the other guy down before he took you over the ropes. So now I don't 'fit' and you won't give me immortality."

He burst into a wild, incredulous laugh which abruptly stopped as he fastened his intense, feral eyes on Bruce.

"Why, I'm so superior in real, animal aliveness to you birds," he bit out, "that I wouldn't trade my body or my outlook for a dozen of yours. Noble! Gentle! Courteous! Weak, sniveling, snobbish degenerates, you mean. O. K., O. K. You asked for it. And believe you me, you're going to regret it. You're going to be glad to give me immortality before I'm through with you. It's a promise! Now get out. I know my rights. These are my quarters until I choose to move, and what the hell do you mean walking in without knocking? Get out!"

He starts trying to denigrate & criticize their society's "superficial" beauty, & keeps extolling the virtues & value of aging naturally-- I definitely recall he keeps using a catchphrase/ theme in his PR campaign, something like "there's nothing like the dear, grey-haired dignity of my dear old mother" (or grandmother; maybe "white-haired").

"Our civilization," said Greeley, "was based on the word mother. Mother! I wish you could have seen mine, fellows. I sure wish you could—and I'd hate to have you point out your mothers. I'd sicken at the sight of them. Now my mother. She was old. She didn't have a silky face, and curving legs and hips and a sexy smile. She was the way the great Creator meant her to be. She was my mother! She had the respect that was due her, and she had a sweet smile, and there were silver hairs amongst the gold. I shudder for this civilization. Where will you find a crowning glory such as that? Silver hairs among the gold!"

("Nice choice of phrases," Lasser had said, his eyes moist. Probably he was crying now.)

"She died, yes. But was there anything terrible about death? As I sat at her bedside, and clasped her dear old hand in mine, there was no fright in her eyes. She knew she was going to a happier land. She knew that the arms of her Creator were outstretched to gather her to His bosom, and she passed away with a gentle smile on her lips, and her last words were, 'We will see each other again soon, son.' And then she was no more. And I strode away feeling as if I had seen a great truth—for it was then that I saw the real immortality; not an immortality in life, which is but a mockery of the real thing, but an immortality beyond death. I was a happier man for that, fellows, believe you me, when I saw my mother pass into the great beyond."

(Such new thoughts, such beautiful thoughts, such great truths, Lasser was thinking.)

In the end, Greeley is made immortal, to the dismay of his followers:

Jan's desperate voice blasted out. "Citizens! Behind you stands the man who has showed you the truth about immortality."

There were some half-hearted cheers of agreement. Bruce slowly, helplessly, shook his head back and forth.

"He has showed you the sins of immortality!"

This elicited a greater response. The buildings surrounding the Square threw back thundering echoes. Greeley was standing stone still, wary of face, looking at Jan with his heavy brows drawn suddenly down. He started forward suddenly, his jaw hanging open in an amazed, blistering curse.

Jan saw him coming. He dramatically pointed his arm at Greeley and yelled, "Examine his skin! Yesterday he was made immortal, at his own request."

An invisible switch was thrown and there was no sound. Nor was there motion, save that of Greeley. Greeley came up on Jan's left and his big arm went up and shoved him against the railing. Greeley made a furious grab for the microphone. His voice bit out, "Fellows—" But it was a voice filled with scalding panic, for Greeley must have seen the youths who suddenly urged themselves up the stairs. He turned with a flurry of panic contorting his face. By that time, the youths were on him. They grabbed at his arms and held him. Then Greeley went down, submerged in a tangle of human beings. The microphone went down, too.

"Fellows," came Greeley's voice, but it was a high-pitched scream of protest. A roar rippled over the crowd, spreading outward from the dais. A stream of human beings came surging up onto the dais.

Bruce vainly tried to pick Jan from the sickening carnival of motion and sound. But he couldn't keep his fascinated eyes from Greeley. The man was suddenly held aloft. His clothing had been stripped from his body. Red furrows were on his skin. His neck was hanging at an unnatural angle. Bruce guessed that he was dead. They had examined Greeley's skin.

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    Wow, wonderful, I'm 99+% sure it's Rocklynne "Backfire", user14111. THANK YOU. Seems to match on all counts-- lines about the mother,the vowing for 'revenge' (which I'd forgotten). "Silver hairs among the gold"-- Must be it. John Rennie sugg'n matches plot twist,don't recall "ugly man is king".. Also, I do have Science Fiction Argosy. I've read "Caliban", not impossible I may've mixed a few features of it w the Rocklynne-- the adoration of his ugliness??-- or maybe not. Thank you ALL! for the input, so prompt-- & TY so much user14111- your itemized, quote-filled reply was EXTREMELY useful. – Becca Piano Jul 13 '15 at 20:00
  • I added some of the ending, which may help you to decide if this is really the right story. – user14111 Jul 14 '15 at 6:46

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