Thursday, 3 April 2008
Grow Old Along With Me...
This sort of follows on from yesterday's subject of aging.
At the weekend I was reading a science fiction short story by Arthur Selling, which is in an anthology I have called "Stories of Time and Death". I know, it's not one of the books on my sidebar, but it will be once I've finished the last chapter of "The Yellow Dog."
Anyway, I know that you're all experts in Special Relativity, since we covered that topic a while back. You will of course remember that one of the strange facts discovered by Einstein is that you age less when you're moving relative to someone who isn't, and that if you move very fast you may start to notice this.
In the story our hero is a scientist/astronaut called Grant who travels in a very fast spaceship, looking for evidence of life on other planets. For every year he's away, about 15 years pass on Earth, and his missions can last as much as 3 years (40-odd Earth years).
He's contracted to do this work for 20 years, which turns out to be 8 missions. Every time he comes back to Earth for a few months he meets a whole new generation of people.
As you can imagine, his personal life is almost nonexistant. Almost. The story is set between his 7th and final missions. After about his 5th, he'd had a relationship. The woman had fallen madly in love with him and they'd got married. The woman (who's name I can't remember so lets call her Cher) had a son. Our hero came back after 30-odd years expecting to find his now 60 something wife, only to discover that in a desperate effort to cope with the age difference, Cher had had all sorts of cosmetic surgery so that nothing original or real was left. She'd also pressured their son to become an astronaut like his dad, but he couldn't take it and became a total nervous wreck. Grant couldn't cope with all this, and he vowed never to have another relationship.
You can guess what happens after the 7th mission. He meets and falls in love with a woman. They have a great time, then he tells her about his life and how hopeless their love is. In order to ensure that astronauts fulfil their contract, they only make a reasonable amount of money after they finish their last mission, but Etta has enough money, so she suggests that he just stay with her.
He won't. He is determined to complete his mission. This is the point in the story which was a real let-down. Come on! If they're so madly in love, he wouldn't go back into space. Someone else could go instead. But no, he shows how much he cares and gets ready for another trip (33 years this time).
So she goes off and gets herself a baby. Not with Grant, or any other man, but a baby that will be a clone of her, which she will give birth to, bring up and then when Grant returns he'll have her back again just as she is now. Except it will actually be her daughter.
Is it just me, or is this sick? Etta reckons that because the child will be a clone and Grant is the only man for Etta, he'll be the love of her daughter's life too. Shouldn't she just have told him what a jerk he was when he refused to stay on Earth?
What do you think?