Between martinis on New Year's Eve, it suddenly occurred to me that the people who celebrated New Years in 1901 could scarcely imagine the world in which I found myself. With the aid of another martini, this led me to wonder if I, sitting in the middle of the 20th century, could visualize my own New Years in 2001. I couldn't, of course.
So I got looking around, and here were all these young people around me. They, too, barring accident, would all be around in 2001. So I asked some of them to try to visualize for me what kind of a world they thought they'd be living in, come Jan. 1, 2001 A.D. The results appear on the following pages.
In each case, I tried to get each person to try to do an "honest" job. I wasn't looking for science fiction projections. I hoped to get a cross-section of what these people really thought would happen to their world and their lives in the next half-century.
There is, incidentally, no common denominator for the group, except that all might reasonably expect to live for 50 years more. Some read science fiction; some do not. Some are writers by trade; some are not. None of them had given the subject any thought before; fifty years is a mighty long time to think about.
No one of the writers, including the editor, got any opportunity to see anyone elses manuscripts until they were all in. The results - to me, at least, were quite surprising. After reading them - perhaps you'd like to speculate, too. Where will YOU be and what will it be like for you in 2001 A.D.
Well, I finally made it. My first great-great-grandchild was born this morning in New York. I've just seen him on the visiphone and talked to Nancy from out here in California - I still can't get over that gadget! Takes me back to when the youngsters wanted to try to "show me" things on the old telephone, and how I'd laugh at them. I really never thought I'd live to see the day - and I guess I wouldn't have, actually, if Dr. Lawrence hadn't cracked the cancer problem with that atomic cell-relocator of his.
Nancy's doing fine - says all she needs is a good, dry Martini. My, but it's easy for the girls nowadays - you don't even have to go to a hospital if you don't want to; they just send around the mobile unit to sterilize stuff with a radiation unit and give the nerve-block drops and have the instruments handy if the doctors need them. It still takes nine months, but that's about the only similarity I can see. Why, they can even duplicate the mother's own milk on two hours notice! these kids never even heard of colic, imagine!
Still, Father and I have it pretty easy, too. Here we have this cute place right outside Yosemite National Park and so many nice young folks for neighbors - mostly commuters from the Los Angeles or San Francisco Industrial Concentration Centers. Seems funny to remember all the acres it used to take to raise grain and tomatoes and things in the Valley. Now that they've moved the World Tomato Depot and the World Peach Depot into what was the Salt Lake desert when I was a girl, the whole valley is covered with flowers and trees. We're mighty proud that each house has nearly an acre of ground in the San Joaquin subdivision. Guess we Californians will always have gardening in our blood - though goodness knows, what with weather control and the world-wide weed eradication program a few years back, and all those automatic soil reconstructors, a child could keep things growing.
But Father and I still get a kick out of having a few fresh vegetables out of our own garden, even if I can get just-picked pineapples and guavas and things only one hour to our door from the World Pacific Super-Depot. Then, too, with the four-hour day and transportation what it is, the family's always dropping in. And I say these youngsters get as big a kick out of kittens and butterflies and mud pies in the back yard as mine did, for all their TV nursery schools, invisible-cube kiddy fences and what all!
And, of course, the consequences of adding a large mud pie and a clean pair of rompers aren't nearly so disastrous now, I'll admit. Everything's made out of these non-wrinkle materials - (how many years is it since I've used an iron, I wonder?)-you drop everything right into your automatic laundry chute and five minutes does the trick. Father still won't fold his own shirts, though - and nobody's figured out a device that'll put 'em away yet.
Nowadays, you simply don't clean house the way we used to - with these dust magnetizers and anti-grease sprays you don't have to. Making beds has practically disappeared - all you have to do is put on a bedspread if you're that old fashioned, but with automatically heated floors, walls, and ceilings - who need covers? And no more lighting fixtures on the walls, thank the lord! just activate any spot where you want a light, and there it is.
My eyes aren't what they used to be, and I just haven't worked myself up to a cornea transplant yet, even though I suppose I need it. But since we can beam in on the Central World University Library or the Inter-Oceanic Symphonic Collection any time and hear any book or any music we want, it doesn't matter much. Which reminds me, did I tell you what the kids gave us for Christmas? Brings hot coffee right up to your bedroom, through a chute, any time you set it for. You know, I think I'll go out and whip up a batch of doughnuts on my automatic range right this minute. I heard Central Weather has us scheduled for a rain, and I think doughnuts would taste mighty good in front of the fireplace tonight.
Jeanne Cronin combines two careers: she writes by day and is in the throes of raising a teen-age daughter at night. She thinks 2001 will find her interested in the same things she is now; her family, good food, a clean, well-run house. She likes to think she might just sit in front of the fireplace and ramble on about the past, and maybe whip up a batch of doughnuts.
By Don Fabun
It rained again last night, of course. Seems to me it rains more often than it used to. And it's colder. Gets colder every year.
Not such a bad New Year's Eve, though. Along about nine I caught a striper. Must weigh eight-ten pounds. Big, fat fellow, out there just the other side of the flat rock. Bit of a moon up by then, surf running full and strong, tide just turned. Knew I'd hook into something before he even hit.
Well, put down one big fat striped bass for 2001, A.D. My assets! Remember how I used to sit down and write up an inventory each New Year's Day? What I'd gained in the year; what I'd lost? What I expected of the coming year? There never was much to put down, really. I can admit it now, it doesn't hurt anymore. A house - whatever happened to that place do you suppose? Probably tore it down and made a site for the monorail there. I wouldn't know, I haven't been up that way for thirty years. I got a shack by the beach, and a big fat bass, there's half a bottle of wine under the sleeping bag and four cigarettes left in the old coffee tin. More assets than I ever had in my life.
Being old isn't so bad. Nobody expects much of me anymore. No deadlines to meet. No trains to catch. (What ever happened to the trains? They stopped whistling coming down the Peninsula, eight, ten years ago. Probably went like everything else I knew.) A man lives too long; outlives his time. You just don't get to 81 without losing something. But gaining a little something, too. I got me a big fat bass, a real fighter!
Just before I caught him, Orbital I came up. Always gives the old heart a little tug. It's like having an extra evening star, only going the wrong way. Comes up sudden over the horizon - gasses whoosh! over your head - going hell for leather over the Coast Range. Be in London in six hours. Too fast for an old man. Everything's too fast these days. Too fast and too cold and they've got everything down pat, now. Except the bog fat stripers that swim out by the rocks. Takes a man to land one in the dark, with the surf up high and storm making up angry in the south. But everything else id down on their little shiny computers. If you got a finger to push a button, you've got a job. And if you can't push a button, some fool pushes it for you and you eat just the same. I'd like to see just one hungry old, bleary-eyed old sonuvabitch of a bum scooping up cigarette butts from Third Street once more before I die. They don't have them anymore. No butts in the gutter; no bums in the doorways. They got it all sewed up.
Won't even let you die in peace anymore. Bright young fellow down from the City just yesterday. Says I'm eligible for a new heart, now. They got it all down in their little punched cards. He had all the information with him. Doing me a big favor, coming all the way down in his antiseptic little 'copter. White uniform. Plastic gloves. Smelling like a hospital. "Just sign here," he says. "You've got it coming," he says.
Told him I'd think it over. A man outlives his time. With another heart - who knows, I might make it another fifty years. "Be young again," he says. "All the old-timers are doing it. Get a new lease on life."
I don't know. I kind of like it this way. It gets a little colder. And some night there'll be a big sting-ray out there and a little more fight in him than there is in me. And then they'll have to punch another little hole in my card and put it in the dead file. So it'll give them something to do - not something to think about, but something to do. They'll never think about anything. Not ever again. It's all down on their little computers.
No, I like it this way. Play it out with the hand I got. The cards could have been a lot worse.
Still, I wonder what New Year's in 2051 will be like?
January 1, 2001
Sure wish you'd decide once and for all to move to the coast; it'd be nice to talk to you for a change. And believe me, talking is about all I do these days! (But really, 74 isn't so old. Es will be 76 in a few months!)
This business of January 1 has set off a stream of memories; I must be getting garrulous in my old age. (But really, 74 isn't so etc., etc.) It started my thinking that not too many years ago on this afternoon I never would have sat down to write a letter; rather, I'd have watched the Rose Bowl Game. Hope they revive it again.
Think of the technological change we've seen in the last fifty years. It has been literally frightening, and I say that as a person well aware that in my earlier days I'd sniff contemptuously at people who were afraid of change. But this has been a little too much.
I'm comfortable here, and too damn lazy and too old (But really, 74 etc., etc.) to look it up, but that quotation about what would it benefit a man to gain the world and lose his soul seems apropos. As an old science fictionist, I was extremely happy to see us on the moon and Mars. But it was a case of too little and too late. What good did it do? (Of course, it did prove my old argument that Martian animal morphology would in no case resemble the humanoid, but that's old hat now, and all I can do is go of in the corner and feel superior and sulk all by myself.)
Aside from my pique that we went to the planets too late to do me, or you, or any of the old group any good-and the realization that we were "too aged to meet minimum physical requirements" was a hard pill to swallow-the colonies remain, I presume, integral units of no value to us here. The great hope of the future: Ha! (Pause, while I wipe away tears of laughter.)
I think I knew, a long time ago, that what we needed was a basic change in ethics or morals or what-have-you. Unfortunately, I fell into the semantic trap: good (undefinable) equals science equals scientific technology equals good world. So Wylie was right, and all those nice, shiny gadgets I put my trust in were misused. Science contributed nothing to the world in which I'd hoped my kids would grow up.
Remember how we used to worry about Russia and the "inevitable war"? There wouldn't be anything left of the cities, nor of Civilization as we knew it, nor of a whole bunch of things. That's one worry we don't have to worry about anymore, isn't it?
Yeah, we've had our technological change-all of it has been downhill, and maybe I am getting old, but the thing I miss most from the old times are flush toilets!
PS Do Es and me a favor, will you? Answer this one fairly soon. We figure you should get this in two-three weeks, depending on whether the rider goes south or north of the LA desolation area.
PPS Don't know whether this is good or bad news, but they're getting ready to trial run the railroads here. From what I can see, we're re-making civilization in our old image.
Hal Partelow flew B-24's in the last war, is a writer, married, lives in Palo Alto, couldn't make up his mind if it was going to be a better world or a worse one. Wrote it both ways. If we solve our problems - if we don't. -x -y?
New Year's Eve is the holiday of sounds. It strikes us through our ears as Christmas reaches us through our fingertips; as Easter finds meaning in the odors of moist earth, green flowers, and the kitchen. The sounds of New Year's Eve are the noises we make to blot out our consciences - a blatant wall we build between the frustrations of tomorrow.
New Year's Eve 2001. The drip of rain on the patio. The console whispers music from the corner. (Someone turned it low when the teleview rang.) an icecube settles in a glass. The crisp, clean flick of cards on the table. The sound of my voice.
'My play already? Okay. We'll just put the six of clubs right - here. Good old Michael. Leave it to him to remember his folks on New Year's Eve. All the way to Palo Alto from New York - just think! God - it must have cost him thirty or forty dollars to look us up.
'What's going on, Nancy? Are we playing diamonds on hearts now? Fred, how's that drink of yours holding up? Oh - my play again. What in hell's going on here? - have to feed the pot.
( The 'plack' a chip makes.)
'It was midnight in New York when he called. Such a clear picture, too - did you notice? Funny thing, tho, Michael said he was right down town when he called - and the streets were almost deserted. Said most people were at home. No whistles or anything.
'No, sir - New Year's isn't what it used to be. Remember San Francisco on New Year's, Fred? Used to rope off the streets. People by the thousands - and damned near everybody looped to the gills. Used to know a guy - you remember Garcia, don't you Marian? He was our best man. Garcia lived for New Year's Eve. Little guy. A little guy with a big wife. I think he hated people. Every New Year's Eve, he'd go out in his garage with a fifth and a hatchet. He'd kill the fifth and then chop hell out of every wooden box in the garage. I found him there one night. Poor Garcia. Sitting in the middle of the floor surrounded by kindling and crying to beat hell. Funny guy - he did the same every New Year's. Seemed happy all the rest of the year though. Jolliest guy you could find.
'Who's holding on to that ten of spades? Maybe we all need to be a little like Garcia. Maybe we all were unhappy underneath and didn't know why. So we'd get tight or chop hell out of things - act crazy sometimes - just to let off steam. I don't know.
'Let's put this ten of spades - here - and I take the pot!
'Oh - gotta go so soon? Well let's do this again some time. Will you get their coats, wife? Goodnight, Fred and Nancy. Oh, Fred - when you cross the street out there better let the drivers see your teeth. That black hide of yours makes you look like a shadow. By the way - Happy New Year!
When the sounds of New Year's Eve grow louder than the chimes that end it; when its fever spreads into the second day, and the third; fans itself across boundaries and oceans-then the shouting of New Year's Eve becomes the yelling of war.
New Year's Eve: 2001. The drip of rain on mud. A rocket whispers by from below the horizon. You hear it strike behind you-softly, like the thump of a book closing. The suck, suck, suck of men's boots. Inarticulate voices of the men who carry you. My voice, blended into my thoughts and groans.
"Easy! Crisakes, take it easy! You, kid-carry your end-don't keep looking at me. Never saw a man wounded before, dying?"
( Wounded. Goddam rocket came out of nowhere. Landed at my feet. Raining again. Tough on the blaster teams.)
"Send up the blasters. I want eight good teams-I mean good teams. Go up there and kick them out of San Francisco-kick them back into the Pacific!"
( Raining on my face. Cold. Too old for this life. Going to get a damn fine head cold out of this. Cut down battle efficiency.)
"You, kid-can you write? Take this down. It's an order. 'Men will not catch cold on stretchers. No-make it 'Men will not ride on stretchers in the rain.' Cross it out. Change it to 'Antibiotics' will be administered to all men who ride on stretchers in the rain.'"
( Rain. Rain. Go away. Little Harold wants to play. In the pain.)
"Pain and rain. Rain and pain. Where are we? See that tree? That's the El Palo Alto. Big tree. Big red pine tree. Covered with blood."
( Bleeding on my uniform. Bled a lot in my life. How many gallons have I bled? If X is the age of the soldier, and given 6 times the quantity minus four AC equal to the number of drops-how many gallons of blood? Cut my head when I was six. Cut my finger when I was ten. Making arrows with a butcher knife. Old now. Seventy-eight-or is it sixty-eight?)
"Biographical note. When he was seventy-eight, he was cut in two by a rocket and walked to Palo Alto.
"Zero hour. Zero hour! Attack Plan Easy will begin at twenty-four-hundred. Units seven and nine will converge on Old Atherton-grid coordinates . . ."
(Twenty-four-hundred. Midnight, old time. It's New Year's! Kiss me, Marian-it's midnight! Happy---)
Charlotte Lloyd ran the book department of a local store - thus ensuring herself of a plentiful supply of reading matter. She is especially interested in modern poetry (writes it herself, matter of fact), so the poetry section gets special attention. She has begun to build up the science fiction department - recently to the satisfaction of younger customers. As may be gathered from the tenor of the following contribution, Charlotte has a deep interest in philosophy and has expressed her forecast accordingly.
January 1, 2001
Knowing one another as we do, my decision to leave for Magma is undoubtedly not the surprise to you it was to others. Although I find little in my 75 years to regret, I have finally resigned myself to the role of pessimist. You still hope the new philosophy will win out, so it is only right that you spend the rest of your time within society. Because I consider catastrophe certain, I have chosen to leave society for this desert where only nature and not man makes war and peace.
Our generation's time is over, Richard. Those of us remaining in old age are with heavy hearts and conscience. So many of our time have already died violent, senseless deaths in the turmoils of war and revolution. They are dead because we have not found a workable reality, because we have been too poorly equipped to live in one world. Until now, I have, like you, always hoped to leave these terrible years of groping behind with civilization intact. But now I have concluded all we have learned from the small wars and social upheavals of these last 60 years is how to precipitate conflict on a really gigantic scale.
The small wars have bled the world of men and resources. Even India and China with their prodigious birth-rates, and Russia with its tremendous resources have been lanced. But up to now, in spite of colossal waste and wreckage, civilization has not been annihilated. In the war which I believe coming, no civilization will remain.
The wars among the nations and the social upheavals within the nations during our life-time have only been indications of a tremendous revolution taking place. It has been a revolution of the mind-as all basic revolutions are basically. How like, though diametrically opposite, the dilemma of the ancient Greeks has ours been. Their thoughts were circumscribed by lack of experiment and applied technology.
We possess the fruits of applied technology, but have found ourselves dangerously lacking in knowledge of their implications. We have realized much too late the necessity of much knowledge. Concepts of Machiavelli, Marx, and Nietsche, scattered pell-mell through our own societies, have, in the light of modern technology, constituted dangers almost beyond our imaginations. These ideas have had to be countered by others more conducive to survival. The struggle of new ideas against the old has been our real struggle, our revolution these past 60 years.
Because all change in thought demands time to permeate the straits of society, the past 60 years have also been a race for enough time against destruction.
As you know, I too held your optimistic views, Richard. The many small wars of our life-time I viewed only as lessons by which we must surely learn how economically, morally, and culturally unprofitable conflict was. They only occurred when we forgot the importance of peace, when the new concepts seemed too untrustworthy to be accepted by the majority.
How tenderly and with what altruism and optimism you and I nurtured these new ideas, Richard. Each war we saw as a lesson and not a set-back. If the world had to learn by trial and error, still we felt sure it would learn. But the world has learned little. That it will not listen to us, or to men who hold our views is perhaps our fault. The world has failed to even muddle through these last 60 years.
The revolution will soon be over, and we will have lost.
That night the Twentieth Century was on its way out - just in time - and they were giving a banquet for one of its most distinguished citizens.
He was a man who, at 23, had become the youngest newspaper copyreader in San Francisco. Through the years, his keen, searching mind had swept upward until now, at 78, he was the oldest copyreader in San Francisco.
At the center of the broad, white table sat a toastmaster; at his left, a prompter. At the head of the table was an empty chair and - underneath it, with his head tangled in the rungs - lay the guest of honor.
At a signal from the prompter, the toastmaster arose, and two copy boys, dressed in the traditional sackcloth, appeared from the wings. They lifted the guest of honor to his chair. There was a slight snapping noise.
"A little brittle, isn't he?" said the toastmaster.
He raised his glass, spilling a little.
"Ashes to ashes . . ." he began.
"Wrong one," whispered the prompter.
"Where the hell did I put those notes? Oh, yeah."
He raised his glass again, and, to prevent further waste, drank the contents.
"Friends, we are gathered here tonight to honor a white-haired, stupid old man who . . ."
"That's 'white-haired stooped old man,'" whispered the prompter.
"You haven't known this son of a bitch as long as I have.' For a moment, the toastmaster fumbled through his notes.
"This white-haired old man who has done so much for us," he continued.
"Who was it, in those dark days after World War II, who cheered us and kept us informed, in headlines, of the world's condition? It was this man.
"It was he who, on a sweltering afternoon in Berkeley, wrote: 70,000 IN HEAT AT BIG GAME.
"It was he who, after the gala society function, composed DEBUTANTES HOLD BACHELORS BALL.
"We owe this man much; he in turn owes us much." He consulted his notes. "$17,598, in fact."
"The toastmaster paused and looked under the table, where the guest of honor had slipped again. He poured a cup of hot adrenalin and handed it down.
"In grateful recognition, we have honored him tonight. The blood bank, where he has long had credit, has given him a fifth of blood.
"His fellow workers have taken up a collection to buy a bone for his mother,
"Other gifts are forthcoming. If we can catch the copyboy to whom they were entrusted."
The prompter touched his arm and whispered something to him. The toastmaster stooped under the table. He remained quite a time. When he arose, with some difficulty, his voice was more restrained.
"Friends, over the years this man has developed quite a few neuroses and idiosyncrasies. Now, it seems, he has found a new one. For the past five minutes, he has not been breathing."
A doctor was called and quickly verified the suspicion that had arisen in the minds of the brighter ones present.
"He is dead," he said. "Foot and mouth disease. Since the age of 4, this man has had his foot in his mouth. Finally, It has got him."
Somewhere in the night a clock tolled twelve.
And that was the way the Twentieth Century - and Robert Lee McCary - ended.
Elizabeth Farmer, art editor of the DIGEST, is an English major at UC. She lives at the top of Panoramic Way, and being a sound sleeper has some difficulty making her early morning classes. We're trying to convince her that the DIGEST needs her artistic talent-anyone can write, we point out-but Liz got around us this time; she wrote and illustrated her 2001 contribution.
AN OLD LADY'S MEDITATIONS WHILE SITTING ON PANORAMIC HILL, READING AND SEWING QUILTS IN THE YEAR 2001.
Mind being old? Why, Lord no! Being old's not bad at all. All my life I've wanted time to read, and now I've got it. They're putting out such nice science fiction these days, too! Almost as nice as the kind I used to write back in the days when people were still speculating about life on Mars.
Mars? What a disappointment that was! Funny, isn't it, the way the world goes on dreaming, we keep trying to push back the horizons-then, when discoveries really are made, they're never quite as sensational as one had anticipated. The dreaming is the best part.
Well, there are still all of those new discoveries they're making about outer space to work with, so the dreaming still goes on. And then there are plenty of the familiar old reactionary themes: machines seize power, robots replace man-Dear me! To think we were singing that same old song fifty years ago, when there was so much less apparent cause for concern! Nowadays-but then, you know what it's like now.
Still, come to think of it, the world hasn't changed much-not in really fundamental things. At least, that's what I always tell the young people. There's a little more confusion; more things to think about and more things to keep you from thinking about anything. It's one of the ages great paradoxes, the fact that we are furnished with food for thought and means of diverting thought simultaneously and in like quantity. The two seem to advance together. Ah, me! I remember I used to think these things back when they first brought out television. Couldn't say much about it then; now I have the excuse of senility.
I never did break down and buy a set, though. The young people still laugh at me about it and say I'm missing a lot. Other old ladies, they say, couldn't bear to be without their television. But heavens! That's just the point, I say. I don't want to be a slave to television or anything else. Besides, when would I find time to read and work on my quilts!
I guess I must have sewn enough quilts to cover all of Panoramic Hill by now. There is something very satisfying and at the same time very amusing in working at something that goes so slowly in the face of all the world's hustle. Call it stubborness, if you like, but let an old woman have her foibles.
And all of my delights are stitched into them, too. They are maps, mostly, of places I've been with comments cross stitched on and pieces of landscape, and people in folk costume. One of my favorites traces the evolution of man from the protozoa, with all the intermediary forms carefully worked out.. (I like to get the development of a thing all down in an orderly manner and look at it. There's another one that shows the changes in sailing ships from the days of the Vikings to the Flying Cloud, and one has the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales with all of the characters pictured as I like to think of them.
So you see, I have a happy life. I smile at the people who can't understand and feel sorry for them.
The only compromise I've had to make with my integrity was the purchase of a helicopter a few years ago. For all the advances science has made and all the improvements in transportation, they never did get around to installing one of their fancy new lifts on the hill here, and I just couldn't make the steps anymore. The leg I broke trying to make a ten o'clock class back in '53, has been giving me a little trouble lately. But there you are, the world takes its toll on all of us, and I really mustn't complain.
Data entry and page scans provided by Judy Bemis
Data entry by Judy Bemis
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