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The Forever Reading

I’ve been trying to work my way through all of the Hugo- and Nebula-award-winning novels I haven’t yet read (which are legion), in between reading new short fiction etc.

Yesterday I got to Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War. Yes, I know it’s shocking and shameful for an SF buff, not to mention an SF writer, not to mention someone who’s fascinated by time dilation, not to have read that book. I haven’t read Anna Karenina either.

So I started it yesterday . . . and realized that I’d already read it.

Or rather, I’d already read the first chapter. Or, to be very precise, I’d read the story “Hero,” which appeared in the June, 1972 issue of Analog, and which became “Private Mandella” in TFW.

I read that story when it first came out (I googled the cover of the June, 1972 Analog and I remember that picture clearly). There were only a few details that stuck with me from the story I read back then: the woman being decapitated by a flying rock while fleeing the site of an explosion; the casual sleeping/sexual arrangements among the soldiers; the “french corkscrew.”

(Give me a break. I was a 12-year-old boy. The lurid and the sexy were naturally the most interesting things to me.) (Now that I think of it, the “confraternization” in the novel looks like it was designed by a 12-year-old boy. I’ve never read a feminist critique of TFW, but I can just imagine it. Female soldiers who are “compliant and promiscuous” by law?? Oh, my aching head!)

My memory has garbled practically everything else. I remembered the training as taking place on Luna, not on Charon, and I remembered the decapitated soldier as being the protagonist’s bedmate, and I didn’t remember any interstellar war. There was something vaguely familiar about the telepathic green teddy bears on Epsilon Aurigae Alpha, but I’m not sure I actually read about them in 1972.

On eBay my handle is “piecesofmypast”, because I am forever trying to locate tidbits I remember from childhood. How odd to come upon one unawares.

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