It would be fair to say that Michael Shaara had an interesting life. Before becoming a writer he was a Police officer with a sideline as an amateur boxer. As a heavy smoker, he almost died of a stress-related heart attack before making a full recovery and going to win the Pulitzer prize of fiction for his historical novel about the Battle of Gettysburg called The Killer Angels. Michael Shaara wrote a lot of short speculative fiction in the 1950s and I wouldn’t be surprised if some of it doesn’t feature in a future volume of Incredible Science Fiction: Amazing Tales from the ’50s and Beyond.
The scope of this story is breath-taking. It’s a story about creativity, music, longevity and evolution. In the far future society has bifurcated between cybernetically augmented Rationals (Rashes) and the small but growing numbers of Rejects, whose bodies reject the cyber implant. Wainer is a Reject, but Shaara provides a fascinating twist by revealing that it is only Rejects that have talent and creativity. Wainer goes on to become the greatest composer that the human race has ever known in a legendary narrative that makes the whole thing beautifully moving and poignant.
Here’s a 5-minute sample from the Michael Shaara story Wainer that I narrated for the Audible Edition of Incredible Science Fiction: Amazing Tales from the ’50s and Beyond Volume Two. The full-length story is 29 minutes and nine seconds.