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Simak, Clifford D. – “Eternity Lost” (1949)

07/10/2012

For 500 years, humankind has given life-continuation treatments – a “rather blundering first step towards immortality” – to “stewards” in the “unique position of being able to materially benefit the human race” while “Extrasolar Research” attempts to find another habitable planet to deal with the population explosion once the treatments are extended to the general population. Our protagonist Nelson is a slimeball of a senator who chaired the initial investigation into the treatment, and the story opens with his Party telling him that he has outlived his usefulness and they will no longer be sponsoring his treatments. In trying to scheme his way back into a spot on the treatment list, he discovers that other old-timers (mostly scientists) have been disappearing. Refreshingly, he guesses wrong – they are faking their own deaths after bribing their way into illegal treatments, they’re being shipped off to a newly discovered planet to pave the way for colonization. Everyone is so disgusted with his futile attempts to slime his way back into power that he is left on the outside for good and knows he will not live long enough to see the introduction of universal immortality.

Also refreshing: between the sections of the story we are given transcripts of some of Senator Nelson’s hearings on the process, which delve into the economic and social concerns of administering the treatment to a select few.

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