Thursday, August 19, 2004

Working for the Man

When I was in high school, I worked at Red Arrow Freight Lines in the summers and on Saturdays. That probably explains why Algis Budrys' "The Distant Sound of Engines" hit me so hard when I read it in the March 1959 issue of F&SF. And why I've remembered it so well for 45 years. It's not a great story, but when I read it, I thought, "I know people just like the guy telling this story. I go to work with them every day of the summer." And it had some stuff about trucks in it, too.

Not too many years ago, Joe Lansdale and I were talking at AggieCon, and he said he'd like to do an anthology of trucking stories (but he never did). I said, "There's one by Algis Budrys you really should use." I couldn't remember the name of it, of course. So when I opened the Budrys anthology I picked up at Armadillocon, the first thing I looked at was the table of contents. When I saw "The Sound of Distant Engines," I said, "That's it." And it was. I read it immediately. It hasn't dated at all. And I still love it.

There's another story in the book that I also remembered, more for the great Kelly Freas cover illustration on a 1956 Astounding than for the story. It's "The Executioner," and it's a really good story. It's about faith and politics that's just as relevant (and just as true) today as it was nearly 50 years ago, which is pretty scary. Read it if you ever run across it.

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