Saturday Storytime: Volume PAA-PYX

My introduction to Fred Saberhagen was the Dracula book An Old Friend of the Family. I was hooked. I’ve read everything of his I could get my hands on, even his Berserkers series, which normally isn’t my sort of thing. The one thing I missed out on, though, was some of his stand-alone stories, published in magazines or anthologies before I was born and hard to find since. With the internet, however, that sort of thing has become less of a problem.

Watching his own eyes in the half-mirror of the window, the director told himself: Someone must govern, and the worldwide Party does better than the old systems did. There are no wars. There is no corruption, and no real struggle for power among Party members, because there is practically no disobedience in the carefully chosen ranks. The mass of the citizens seem content with their bread and circuses. There is only the Underground, and maybe some kind of Underground is necessary in any society.



“How do we do it? How do we attain such perfection of power that the essence of power is enough, that we have no need to constantly threaten or stupefy the citizens?”

The gay and active city below was brightening itself against the gathering night. No giant signs proclaimed the glories of the Party. No monolithic statues deified the World Directors, past or present. The Party was invisible.

Lazar seemed a bit shocked at the question. “The selfless obedience of each individual is the life and strength of the Party, sir.” A phrase from the catechism.

“Of course . . . but look, Lazar. That Citizens Policeman directing traffic down there. He wears a stun pistol, because of nonpolitical criminals he must sometimes deal with; but if one of your PolPol agents were to walk up to him and arrest him, the odds are he would offer no resistance. Now why? The Citizens Police are as well armed and I think more numerous than your men.”

Lazar studied the traffic cop below through narrowed eyes. “I can’t remember when we’ve had to arrest a Citizens Policeman.”

“Neither can I. The point is—how do we do it?”

“Superior dedication and discipline will prevail, sir.”

“Yes.” But the parroted phrases were no real answer. The Citizens Police were presumably disciplined and dedicated too. Lazar was unwilling or unable to really discuss the subject.

Such questions had not occurred to Ahlgren himself until quite recently. He could not remember ever seriously considering the possibility of himself opposing the Party in any way, even before that day five years ago when he had been accepted as a member.

Keep reading.

Saturday Storytime: Volume PAA-PYX