The closing line “I’ll come back to you—in the sunlight” is all I remembered from this little book. Perhaps I hadn’t read it all the way through, but likely I did. An unapologetic fan of science fiction as a kid, I must’ve picked up Beyond Belief at a fairly young age. Although it’s a Scholastic book, it is appropriate for older readers as well. I picked it up again because I start to get anxious when I can’t post about a book for a while. My current reading projects are either very long or somewhat technical, meaning they take time to finish. I’m running out of my ready stock of shorter books (mostly collections of stories from the time before book prices were hiked up and publishers felt the need to make them thicker so consumers wouldn’t feel so cheated.
I had put off reading this collection edited by Richard J. Hurley because of that one story I remembered. As a kid I recognized the name of Isaac Asimov, but probably not that of Theodore Sturgeon, Richard Willey, or Richard Matheson. These stories were masterpieces of sci-fi in its golden era. Although they seem antiquated—perhaps even quaint—now, they are the kinds of stories that inspired young pioneers of space travel and may have contributed in some measure to this strange world in which we live.”Phoenix” by Clark Ashton Smith, has stayed with me for decades. This tiny tome is old enough that I’m not going to worry about spoilers. I’m only grasping for an emotional thread with childhood.
The sun has gone out. Two young lovers talk on the eve of the earth mission to reignite the sun by a series of thermonuclear reactions. The male, of course, is on the mission, but he assures his love that he will return to her in the sunshine. Something goes wrong, of course. The ship crashes into the sun, reigniting it, but annihilating the ship and crew. As the future lady looks out on the newly illuminated world, she knows her love cannot have survived, yet he has returned to her in the sunlight. That powerful story of self-sacrifice and love left unfulfilled stung my young psyche. So much so that reading the other seven stories in this book was like reading tales I’d never heard before. Beyond Belief was a quick read interjected in much more complicated literary endeavors. Like childhood, it didn’t fail to bring a warm glow after far too many years.