Day Million • 1966 • Post-humanity short story by Frederik Pohl

★★★★★

Look at Little Red Reviewer’s blog for #VintageSciFiMonth.

Synopsis: The very few pages of this story starts with 

On this day I want to tell you about, which will be about a thousand years from now, there were a boy, a girl and a love story.

The narrator, a contemporary of 1966, surprises his listeners constantly by undermining their expectations.

The genetically engineered girl is a transgender female living underwater; the boy a cyborg traveling the galaxy; and the love story a very short one: They meet, declare love to each other, marry the next Wednesday, exchange their mathematical algorithms, never to meet again, but happily living from there on with the simulated experience of each other. 

Review: Pohl is a giant of SF, having published for three fourths of a century, from the Golden Age up to our time. 

This is his best short story that I know, and has been heavily anthologiest – the isfdb entry goes on for pages.

The narrator is a funny one, mocking the reader at the day 700,000 with his pointed remarks, while at the same time looking forward with a poignant sentiment about the change in humanity that is about to come within the next 750 years. 

It is less an extrapolation of technology than a deconstruction of gender and sex, leading to a modern understanding that we very often find nowadays in literature. But wait, this is a work of 1966, and it aged oh so perfectly well. Pohl plays with gender fluidity that will resonate with everyone interested or engaged in our LGBTQ+ times. 

The real question reflecting back to our times is: What do we believe today to be absolutely normal but makes us shiver will change completely in the future? Totaliarian state as a best answer to our problems? Giving up individualism and submerging in the cloud? 

At a time when Pohl didn’t want to have anything to do with the New Wave of SF, he wrote (unwillingly?) a great case of this subgenre and equaled the audacity of New Wave’s icons Aldiss/Ballard/Moorcock by breaking up cultural norms.

This story is highly recommended to SF readers who don’t need a plot, but want to see how well #VintageSFMonth can recover old time stories.

Meta: isfdb. Available online at Baen. I’ve read it years ago in James Gunn’s The Road to Science Fiction, and re-read it in the Big Book of SF.

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15 Responses to Day Million • 1966 • Post-humanity short story by Frederik Pohl

  1. pdtillman says:

    Fully agree with the full 5 stars! Pohl’s best short story, and ranks pretty high on my [mental] list of the 100 Best SF shorts of all time, all of which are 5-star winners. It’s a bit dated now (1966) — even I barely recall the music of d’Indy https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vincent_d%27Indy
    Paul Marie Théodore Vincent d’Indy (1851-1931). Pohl must have been a fan. Or his editor at Playboy? He had an asteroid named in his honor: 11530 d’Indy, discovered in 1992 by Belgian astronomer Eric Walter Elst, presumably another fan.
    As always, thanks for the story link. Read countless times, always with pleasure.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ola G says:

    All right, I’m sold! 😁

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I remember reading a few works by Pohl in my oh-so-remote youth, the most recent ones being the novels in the Heechee series, so I wonder how this older story would work for me: I will have to check it out… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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