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Literature / First Step Outward

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First published in 1969 by editor Robert Hoskins, this Science Fiction Genre Anthology contains thirteen stories and an extra introduction by Poul Anderson. The following stories are divided into sections according to a rough timeline.

Works in this anthology:

Tropes appearing in this work:

  • Driven to Suicide: "Sunrise On Mercury", a Short Story by Robert Silverberg, starts with Second Astrogator Lon Curtis preparing to kill himself. Flight Commander Harry Ross and the rest of Leverrier's crew are familiar with this nameless malaise, and must prevent him from succeeding while they carry out their normal mission.
  • Emphasize EVERYTHING: In "Cold War", by Kris Neville, the first half of a recruitment advertisement for the space military is given in occasional All Caps and multiple exclamation marks, even within sentences.
  • Government Conspiracy: In "Cold War", by Kris Neville, the government has been suppressing leaks of information about their military space station program, to the point of carrying out assassinations.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: In "Sunrise On Mercury", a Short Story by Robert Silverberg, the crew of Leverrier don't realize how their captain or special excursion suit disappeared. It is implied that the telepathic aliens on Mercury manipulated their memories so that Flight Commander Ross could establish First Contact.
  • Pen Name: "The Market In Aliens" is credited to K. M. O'Donnell, a false name used by Barry N Malzberg.
  • Recruiters Always Lie: In "Cold War", a Short Story by Kris Neville, the story opens with the text of a recruitment advertisement for joining the military. Ebullient phrasing is juxtaposed with banal instructions on how to sign up for military service aboard space stations.
  • Rock–Paper–Scissors: In "Third Stage", by Poul Anderson, Swanberg and Holt decide which of them will die to bring the spaceship home using a variation of Rock-Paper-Scissors called "odds or evens", where the number of fingers determines the winner (an odd total means Holt wins, and an even total means Swanberg wins).
  • Split-Screen Phone Call: In "Third Stage", a Short Story by Poul Anderson, television reporter Tom Zellman describes how the broadcast will display himself in the Cape Canaveral base and displaying Jane and her children on the other side. He also facilitates connecting her husband, the astronaut, for public broadcast.
  • Standard Sci-Fi History: Although none of these stories are taking place in the same overall setting, this Anthology groups certain stories together, based on "when" they would take place in a typical SF timeline. The first stories are about characters trying to send rockets into space, then to other planets within the solar system, then to the distant stars, and the last grouping is called "Epilog", as in, "what happens after".
  • Sword of Damocles: In "Cold War", by Kris Neville, this weapon is called a "negative defense" and "rule by threat". America has space stations set up as atomic weapons platforms, and the lowest level of response they have to another nation's militarization is to unleash a nuclear bomb on their territory. While explaining this to a senator, the President implies that it is as if the sword hangs over America's head instead of their enemies.
  • Tagline: "Blast off into the unknown with the greatest SF writers of today" — original cover
  • Telepathic Spacemen: In "Sunrise On Mercury", a Short Story by Robert Silverberg, the crew of Leverrier discover alien life on the sunside of Mercury. Somehow life relating to pools of molten zinc are able to communicate with humans in orbit around the planet. This alien life facilitated Second Astrogator Lon Curtis's attempt to kill himself, as well as the crew's escape afterward.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: In "Cold War", by Kris Neville, the military personnell who are sent to work on the space stations become so obsessed over their role as arbiters of life and death, that five of them so far have gone insane when they return home for a vacation. One of them took a butcher's knife to kill their wife and kid, and no longer remember doing so.