LOU SAHADI, Editor – An Argosy Special: Science Fiction. One-shot reprint magazine. Popular Publications, 1977.

#2. CHAD OLIVER “The Land of Lost Content.” Short story. First published in Super Science Stories, November 1950. Collected in A Star Above It and Other Stories (NESFA Press, hardcover, 2003).

   Of the many SF writers of his day, Chad Oliver certainly had the credentials for the job. He had a PhD in anthropology from UCLA and was a fixture in that department at the University of Texas for nearly 50 years, including twice being chairman. He didn’t write a lot of science fiction, but as they say, what he did write was choice.

   My favorite of the nine novels he wrote, some of which were westerns, was The Winds of Time (1956), in which a race of aliens who came to Earth thousands of years in past decide to go into suspended animation to wait for a civilized mankind to evolve.

   “The Land of Lost Content” was Oliver’s first published story, and frankly, while certainly quite readable even today, it doesn’t show him at his best. The story line is unfortunately a very familiar one, that of a group of underground survivors of a nuclear and/or germ-based catastrophe on the surface of the Earth deciding generations later to break all of their dying society’s laws and see if they can make it to the land above.

   The last few lines sum it up: “Could they succeed where gods had faltered? He shook his head. Probably, almost certainly they would fail. But they would try. For that was what it meant to be a man.”


Previously from this Lou Sahadi anthology: ROGER DEE “First Life.”