DONALD WOLLHEIM, Editor, with Arthur W. Saha – The 1989 Annual World’s Best SF. Daw #783, paperback original; 1st printing, June 1989. Cover art by Jim Burns.

#10. JACK CHALKER “Adrift Among the Ghosts.” Short story. First published in the collection Dance Band on the Titanic (Del Rey, paperback original, 1988).

   One of the early ideas of science fiction — or could it possibly be true? — is that all of the signals of every radio or TV show ever aired are still heading out from Earth, and if intercepted they could take the would-be listener, no matter how many light years away, back to the past and all of this planet’s cultural history, a high percentage of which is now considered lost.

   The signals would be awfully weak, of course, and they would need to b amplified. It would also take an alien listener, as it is in this story, years and years to translate, assimilate and sort the worthwhile from the trash. But if that alien listener, perhaps, was a prisoner alone in space, for crimes committed on its own world, with years and years on its hands tentacles, then of course then it could be done.

   There’s only one flaw, and of course I can’t tell you that, for that’s the point of the story. But it’s a flaw worth realizing, and one I think I will remember for quite a while.

   During the 1980s and 90s Jack Chalker as an author will himself be remembered for his many SF and fantasy sagas. all several books long (Dancing Gods, Well of Souls, etc.) than for his short fiction, which in number were not many, but this one is a good one.


Previously from the Wollheim anthology: B. W. CLOUGH “Ain’t Nothin’ But a Hound Dog.”