LESTER del REY, Editor – Best Science Fiction Stories of the Year: Second Annual Edition. E. P. Dutton, hardcover. 1973. Ace, paperback, December 1975.

   #6. R. A. LAFFERTY “Eurema’s Dam.” Short story. First published in New Dimensions II, edited by Robert Silverberg (Doubleday, hardcover, 1972). First collected in Golden Gate and Other Stories (Corroboree, hardcover, 1982). Co-winner of the 1973 Hugo Award for Best Short Story.

   While he had written some short fiction before then, Lafferty is best known to me for his first three novels, which came out in 1968, almost all at the same: Past Master, Space Chantey, and The Reefs of Earth, and his exuberant and truly one-of-a-kind way of telling a tale.

   While his stories were nominated several times for various major awards, “Eurema’s Dam” was the only one to win one of the major ones. To me, at this much later date, the story is a mere trifle, but when it was first published, it garnered considerable acclaim from SF critics and fans alike.

   This is the life story of a unique individual named Albert, and let’s let Lafferty tell you what you need to know about him, starting from the very beginning of the story:

   He was about the last of them.

   What? The last of the great individualists? The last of the true creative geniuses of the century? The last of the sheer precursors?

   No. No. He was the last of the dolts.

   Kids were being born smarter all the time when he came along, and they would be so forever more. He was about the last dumb kid ever born.

   How dumb was he? He was so dumb about arithmetic that he was forced to invent a pocket calculator. He could not tell his right hand from his left without noting the direction of whirlpools and which side a cow is milked on. He even invented a machine that would help him not be afraid of girls.

   When he had a hunch that he would never be good at hunches, he fabricated a machine to help him with that, and he called it Hunchy. Of all the machines and other devices he invented, and there many of them, all of them built on logic, this is the one that he discovers he needs the most.

   It may be that science fiction fans in 1972 could see a lot of themselves in Albert. If so, I can certainly understand that. There is one thing that is for certain. Only R. A. Lafferty could have written this story, and I’m glad he won a Hugo for it.


Previously from the del Rey anthology: FREDERIK POHL & C. M. KORNBLUTH “The Meeting.”