A bibliography for Jack Vance

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Dead Ahead

Author: Jack Vance
Published under pseudonym: John Holbrook
Year written: 1949
Author’s age at the time: 33
Year published: September 1950
Publication: Super Science Stories
Other title(s): Ultimate Quest
Genre: short story, SF


The reporters made respectful sounds. Chiram relaxed a trifle. “Estimates of the circumference run in the neighborhood of ten to a hundred billion light years. We plan to set out from Earth, assume a course almost any course. After a sufficient period of flying, at a sufficiently high speed, we hope to return from the opposite direction.”

Dead ahead lay the great wheeling galaxy. It grew huge, its arms of glowing stars spread open to embrace the ship. Chiram relaxed the field. The striations of space gripped at their atoms, the ship slowed like a bullet shot into water.

Jay turned his back to the cabin, wrote in his journal. He wrote copiously pages of introspection, fragments of quick-scribbled poetry, which he often returned to, copied, revised. He kept statistical charts: the detailed study of Chiram’s pacing, his average number of steps per square foot of deck, the pattern behind Julius’ menus. He carefully noted his dreams and spent hours trying to trace their genesis from his past. He wrote careful and elaborate excoriations of Chiram “for the record” he told himself and equally cogent self-justifications. He made interminable lists places he had visited, girl-friends, books, colors, songs. He sketched Chiram, Julius, Bob Galt time and time again.

Jay washed, shaved. Freedom was a luxury. This was living again if it were nothing but eat, sleep, look out into darkness. This was life: it would be like this the rest of his life...Curious existence. It seemed natural, sensible. Earth was a trifling recollection, a scene remembered from childhood.

Republished in Sail 25 and other stories, Spatterlight 2012.