For today’s edition of Spring Break Short Story Recommendations (read Part I and Part II), I’m moving away, at least temporarily, from the collection 11 Great Horror Stories to look at piece from another collection, this time in the science-fiction vein. The collection, Not the Only Planet: Science Fiction Travel Stories, compiled by Damien Broderick, was published in 1998 by Lonely Planet Publications.
When I was a kid in the 1990s, Lonely Planet dominated, at least in my young mind, travel guides. They were the “cool” travel guides, that told you how to bike through Shanghai or where to get good food in Nepal. I managed to pick up a few of them at second-hand stores or book sales, and would just pour over them and their descriptions of odd places around the globe.
As such, I always thought it was cool that Lonely Planet put out a collection of science-fiction stories—naturally, about travel. My memory told me that I picked up this collection in middle school, which is plausible, but the I was out of middle school by 1999, and I picked up this book at a used bookstore. Having the means of a thirteen- or fourteen-year old, I would not have paid full-freight for it.
Indeed, I remember vividly the bookstore where I purchased it, if not the name. I was on a trip with my best friend from the time, David, to his family in Virginia (in Blacksburg, if I recall correctly; David’s father was an alumnus of Virginia Tech, and I think his mother grew up in the area). I can’t remember if it I was drawn to the book because of its strange cover art, the science-fiction travel focus, or the Lonely Planet imprimatur, or some combination of those three, but I picked it up and have enjoyed it thoroughly.
Of course, the publication date of 1998 leads me to believe that I was slightly older than my memory suggests, maybe fifteen. What I do remember is that these stories really left an impression on me, particularly one odd tale, the feature of today’s post: Gene Wolfe‘s “Seven American Nights.”
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