December 10, 2016

"Freak Men:" Gully Foyle Interviews a Robot Bartender


One of my favorite passages from what many, rightly, call "the greatest science fiction book ever written:" Alfred Bester's The Stars My Destination

'Life is so simple,' Foyle said. 'This decision is so simple, isn't it? Am I to respect Presteign's property rights? The welfare of the planets? Jisbella's ideals? Dagenham's realism? Robin's conscience? Press the button and watch the robot jump. But I'm not a robot. I'm a freak of the universe ... a thinking animal ... and I'm trying to see my way clear through this morass. Am I to turn PyrE over to the world and let it destroy itself? Am I to teach the world how to space-jaunte and let us spread our freak show from galaxy to galaxy through all the universe? What's the answer?'

The bartender robot hurled its mixing glass across the room with a resounding crash. In the amazed silence that followed, Dagenham grunted: 'Damn! My radiation disrupted your dolls again, Presteign.'

'The answer is yes,' the robot said, quite distinctly.

'What?' Foyle asked, taken aback.

'The answer to your question is yes.'

'Thank you, Foyle said.

'My pleasure, sir,' the robot responded. 'A man is a member of society first, and an individual second. You must go along with society, whether it chooses destruction or not.'

'Completely haywire,' Dagenham said impatiently. Switch if off, Presteign.'

'Wait,' Foyle commanded. He looked at the beaming grin engraved in the steel robot face. 'But society can be so stupid. So confused. You've witnessed this conference.'

'Yes, sir, but you must teach, not dictate. You must teach society.'

'To space-jaunte? Why? To reach out to the stars and galaxies? What for?' "

'Because you're alive, sir. You might as well ask: Why is life? don't ask about it. Live it.'

'Quite mad,' Dagenham muttered.

'But fascinating,' Y'ang-Yeovil murmured.

'There's got to be more to life than just living,' Foyle said to the robot.

'Then find it for yourself, sir. Don't ask the world to stop moving because you have doubts.'

'Why can't we all move forward together?'

'Because you're all so different. You're not lemmings. Some must lead, and hope that the rest will follow.'

'Who leads?'

'The men who must . . . driven men, compelled men.'

'Freak men.'

'You're all freaks, sir. But you always have been freaks. Life is a freak. That's its hope and glory.'

'Thank you very much.'

'My pleasure, sir.'

'You've saved the day.'

'Always a lovely day somewhere, sir,' the robot beamed. Then it fizzed, jangled, and collapsed. "

Clink Link for The Stars My Destination in PDF format

Posted by Vanderleun at December 10, 2016 8:21 AM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

I read it at my uncle's house when it was serialized in Galaxy and still remember Christmas Eve, 1956, when I read the part about the attack of the Outer Satellites. I've reread the book since and it doesn't have the same impact it did when I was ten. The sense of wonder isn't there, neither for myself nor, I suspect, for society at large. But it remains a highlight of my childhood.

Posted by: chuck at December 10, 2016 4:33 PM

I bet I have read it at least ten times. I still have it, I think, though it was falling apart last time I looked at it on my bookshelf. A great revenge story, among other things.

I thought I was the only one for a long time.

Posted by: jdallen at December 11, 2016 3:29 AM

It is one of the all-time best.

Posted by: mushroom at December 11, 2016 12:27 PM