Bloch, Robert – “I Do Not Love Thee, Doctor Fell” (1955)
Our protagonist, Bromely, finds himself at Dr. Fell’s office without quite remembering how he came to have an appointment there. Bromely also can’t recall having met Fell or told him his story before, but Fell knows it anyway – that Bromely is a failing public relations agent and never-was songwriter whose work never had any individuality. “I’m at the end of my rope. When you come to the end of your rope, you swing. I’m swinging, now. I’m swinging down the lane. Down Memory Lane. I wanted to be a songwriter, once. But my lyrics sounded as if they were stolen. That’s my problem. Association. I’ve got too much association. Everything I do or say sounds like it’s stolen from somebody else. Imitation. Mimicry. Until there’s nothing original, nothing basic beneath to which I can cling. I’m losing myself. There’s no real me left.” The fakery of modern life has left Bromely rudderless and unhinged, and Dr. Fell, a figment of his imagination, ends up as the dominant personality. This is a critique of mechanistic modernity, sure, and not a subtle one at that, but I’m not sure that it could be considered science fiction. Bloch was more of a weird/horror writer anyway, which shines through in the tone of this piece and, dare I say it, its quality, which outshines most others here by a wide margin – and Bloch isn’t even one of my favorite weird writers.