Short Story #58: Sail on! Sail on! Philip Jose Farmer
Title: Sail on! Sail on!
Author: Philip Jose Farmer
SummaryFriar Sparks serves as the communications officer aboard the Santa Maria with Columbus. He is part of the order of Roger; that is, Roger Bacon. In this alternative universe, the Church took in Roger Bacon and pushed forward with science. As a Rogerian, he communicates on a machine with the other Friar Sparks on the Nina and the Pinta as well with the homeland. After transmitting what he needs for the night, he goes up on deck and chats with two men he finds there. They begin to ask him about the nature of the machine he uses to communicate with the other ships and how and why technology is used through the eyes of the order. Sparks engages in discussion but not without swindling their alcohol from them. The next day, Columbus convinces them to keep going one day longer and they agree. They find birds flying about--but these birds are odd in that they do not appear to have the ability to land. It shortly after this, that they realize they have gone too far and the three ships sail off Earth into space.
ReflectionIn some ways, this is a fun story in that it plays with the "what-if' and imagines a past quite different than our own. That they fall off the Earth was well-done in that as the reader, you're anticipating them finding the Americans either already conquered by another civilization or with Native Americans armed with laser cannons. Farmer also hit the mark with the ways he describes their understanding of the technology such as the radio being the product of angels sending messages back and forth. The story itself is a little dry in its character interaction as Friar Sparks philosophizes with two crewmen. Then again, this part of the story illustrates the problems still prevalent within the Church despite its technological advancements.
Short Story #58 out of 365
Rating: 3 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read: 2/24/2014
Source: A Century of Science Fiction, edited by Damon Knight. The story can also be found on this website as well.
For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.
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