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In this mid-1960s photo, we see Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970) engrossed in Penguin Science Fiction (#1638) Edited by Brian Aldiss. With a little research, I learned that this anthology (originally published in 1961 and reissued in 1965) included stories by Isaac Asimov, J.G. Ballard, and an author most people wouldn’t associate with sci-fi — John Steinbeck, who won the 1962 Nobel Prize in Literature. Yes, just one year after Steinbeck appeared in a pulp sci-fi anthology, he won literature’s highest award! You gotta love it.

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Steinbeck’s contribution to PENGUIN SCIENCE FICTION #1638 was entitled “The Short-Short Story of Mankind: A Fable.” An excerpt is included below.

The Short-Short Story of Mankind: A Fable (Excerpt)
by John Steinbeck

It was pretty draughty in the cave in the middle of the afternoon. There wasn’t any fire, the last spark had gone out six months ago and the family wouldn’t have any more fire until lightning struck another tree.

Joe came into the cave all scratched up and some hunks of hair torn out and he flopped down on the wet ground and bled . Old William was arguing away with Old Bert… 

“Where’s Al?” one of them asked and the other said, “You forgot to roll the rock in front of the door.”

Joe didn’t even look up and the two old men agreed that kids were going to the devil. “I tell you it was different in my day,” Old William said. “They had some respect for their elders or they got what for.”

After a while Joe stopped bleeding and he caked some mud on his cuts. “Al’s gone,” he said.

Old Bert asked brightly, “Sabre tooth?”

“No, it’s that new bunch that moved into the copse down the draw. They ate Al.”

“Savages,” said Old William. “Still live in trees. They aren’t civilized. We don’t hardly ever eat people.”

Joe said, “We got hardly anybody to eat except relatives and we’re getting low on relatives.”

…Read the rest of the story here.

Book cover: “Memory of the Future” by Oscar Dominguez (1938)