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View Full Version : Help!! Short story from 9th grade, poem from a long time ago: Can you identify them?


Joe_Cool
08-08-2001, 03:16 PM
In my freshman English class, we read a story that struck me as really cool, but I can't remember the name of it or the author. Where else would I turn for help? :)

Short story:
Overpopulation has become a serious problem. As a solution, everybody (of a certain age? kind of like selective service, I think) is required to go to a carnival made up of rides. Each of the rides had a 1 in 6 chance of failure resulting in death, so each person was required to ride six rides. If you survive the six rides, you're free to go and continue with your life. Main character survives the first five rides, and feeling invincible, rides his sixth on a roller coaster with a (even more) dangerous reputation. The ride fails, and the story ends with him plummeting to the ground talking about how it's not fair.

[/quote]

Poem:
I seem to think this was a long time (maybe 15-20 years)ago, and all I can remember is imagery. The narrator is walking along the road in the middle of a dark night. (S)He sees a shape lying in the road that looks like a man. I don't remember what happens next, but at the end a car runs over it. The shape moves off down the road after the car hits it, and the narrator realizes it couldn't be a man because it survived, and it turns out to be a paper bag.

Any of that sound familiar to anybody? Please?

Drum God
08-08-2001, 04:33 PM
The story has elements of Logan's Run. In that story, people only live to the ripe old age of twenty-one. At that time, a crystal on the palm of their hand changes color and they are to report to "Carousel". On this carousel, they sort of ascend and a laser beam fries them. There was no element of chance, however -- everyone gets fried just the same.

In Logan's Run, the protaganost -- Logan -- is a Sandman. His job is to chase down and eliminate those members of society who choose not to report to their Carousel ceremony (the "runners"). He performs his Sandman duties with exceptional skill and dedication. He has the respect and admiration of all in the Sandman service. Suddenly, the society's central computer chooses Logan for a top-secret mission to infiltrate an organization of runners. His enthusiasm for the mission evaporates, however, when the computer changes his crystal prematurely. Now his Sandman buddies chase him because he has become a runner.

Okay, not the same story, but it's sorta close. Gotta run.

Interrobang!?
08-08-2001, 04:39 PM
I remember a short story in Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine that ran about 15-18 years ago. Because of overcrowding in America, people who went to some kind of big amusement park paid for everything -- rides, food, the bathroom -- by accepting a small risk of being injected with a fatal poison. The more "expensive" the ride, the greater the risk of injection.

The story dealt with an American couple and their kids talking with a foreign visitor. (Foreign visitors could use money, rather than risk death.) Throughout the story, the husband pays for everything himself -- risking himself over and over again, basically, rather than requiring his wife and kids to do it. (This is legal.) I think that the Americans are defending the concept -- the foreigner thinks it's barbaric.

The requisite zinger ending: the wife takes the kids off to the bathroom. Both of them are fatally injected. Boo hoo.

Sorry -- I have no idea who wrote the story, what it was called, or exactly when it ran. But it's a similar premise to the one you remember.

Joe_Cool
08-08-2001, 04:54 PM
Originally posted by Interrobang!?
I remember a short story in Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine that ran about 15-18 years ago...The requisite zinger ending: the wife takes the kids off to the bathroom. Both of them are fatally injected. Boo hoo...

That is VERY similar to the one I remember, but different. In mine, the main characters are a bunch of kids (four, I think), going to the park after school. And I don't know how old the story was, but I read it in either 1984 or 1985.

panamajack
08-08-2001, 06:49 PM
All these stories, and yet no one recognizes any of them yet. Well, here's my half-remembered sci-fi story along the same lines:

The economic system is set up to ease problems and control the population. No one has to work for money. Instead, there are ATM-like devices everywhere (I think it was written before ATMs) which dispense any amount of money people wish to withdraw. However, there is a proportional risk that for every amount you withdraw, you will be killed. Hence, the richest people are also the biggest risk-takers. I don't remember much else about the story, though. (I don't think it was the same as Interrobang's, but it might have been).


This theme of statistically thinning the population must be pretty popular. Probably the best known example is Shirley Jackson's 1948 short story "The Lottery", which is a bit more enigmatic about the reasons behind it. There's also a Borges story with a title something like "The Lottery in Babylon", which expands the metaphor somewhat more literally.

Zebra
08-08-2001, 09:07 PM
When I was a senior we took a class trip to Six Flags over Texas and I day dreamed about most of my class meeting their doom that day.

Does that count?

Guy Propski
08-09-2001, 07:08 AM
I think we need more clues, Joe Cool. In what year were you a 9th grader? That might help.

And any other details? For a second, it sounded vaguely like "The Lottery", but that doesn't have an amusement park.

pldennison
08-09-2001, 07:41 AM
Reminds me of another story involving overpopulation. The main characters, a family, are sitting in traffic waiting to enter a tunnel. The father is thinking about all the problems that the world faces. Everybody lives in massive high-rises; theirs is lucky enough to have a "zoo," with a cat and a fish. The payoff of the story is that, at random intervals throughout the day, as cars enter the tunnel, the ends close off and all the people inside are gassed to death. Very depressing.

Earl Snake-Hips Tucker
08-09-2001, 08:12 AM
But I will offer that Ray Bradbury wrote a number of short stories set in carnivals, where often "something wicked" happened.

Joe_Cool
08-09-2001, 08:53 AM
Originally posted by Guy Propski
I think we need more clues, Joe Cool. In what year were you a 9th grader? That might help.

And any other details? For a second, it sounded vaguely like "The Lottery", but that doesn't have an amusement park.

I read the story in either 1984 or 1985. You know how school years span the new year.

Wow, it looks like overpopulation is a more pervading scifi theme than I imagined. I don't know if I can give any more useful clues, but I'll try.

The main character (the "star") was a boy, probably in his teens, maybe early teens. He was with a girl, maybe his girlfriend, but I really don't know. He was bragging and swaggering about his appointment to go to the amusement park all day long at school that day, certain that he would survive. When they got there, he rode all the most dangerous rides, because he was confident that he was above the odds. He survived the first 5 rides, which boosted his confidence even more. The story ended with him on the way to an appointment with the pavement when his sixth ride (a roller coaster, I think) went off the tracks, and he said something like that it wasn't fair, all he had to do was survive six rides, and that was his sixth one. Something like that.

I hope that helps. Because this has been driving me up the wall for a couple years now.

GoldenGael
08-09-2001, 09:28 AM
I believe the delicious Borges story mentioned by PanamaJack was 'The Babylonian Lottery', and it (and its possibilities) has haunted me since I read it in my twenties.

elfkin477
08-09-2001, 10:28 AM
Originally posted by panamajack

The economic system is set up to ease problems and control the population. No one has to work for money. Instead, there are ATM-like devices everywhere (I think it was written before ATMs) which dispense any amount of money people wish to withdraw. However, there is a proportional risk that for every amount you withdraw, you will be killed. Hence, the richest people are also the biggest risk-takers. I don't remember much else about the story, though. (I don't think it was the same as Interrobang's, but it might have been).


Are you sure it was something you read? That is the exact plot to an episode of Sliders, once you add Quinn and Co. not grasping the concept until after using the ATM.

andrew dupont
08-09-2001, 11:05 AM
I remember reading the short story in the OP when I was in 7th grade, placing it around 1994/95. It was part of our English exam, so I didn't read it outside of the class; if I did, I probably would have remembered more of the details. However, just wanted to tell you that you're not insene, that the story does exist.

Joe_Cool
08-09-2001, 11:14 AM
Originally posted by andrew dupont
I remember reading the short story in the OP when I was in 7th grade, placing it around 1994/95. It was part of our English exam, so I didn't read it outside of the class; if I did, I probably would have remembered more of the details. However, just wanted to tell you that you're not insene, that the story does exist.

A CLUE!!

Thanks to everybody so far, the brainstorming is really interesting. And it's really good to know that somebody else remembers reading it. I'd contact my English teacher if I had any clue how to reach her. haha

Joe_Cool
08-09-2001, 09:13 PM
Nothing, huh? Figures the one thing the board can't answer would be something that's buzzing around in my head like a mosquito.

Thanks for trying, anyway.

Joe_Cool
01-02-2003, 02:18 AM
I know this is an outrageously old thread to be resurrecting, but I'm still bothered by this. I want to reread the story, but can't identify it.

Maybe the newer crop of dopers can do it?

And I suppose a moderator will want to move this into Cafe Society. :)

Snowcarpet
01-02-2003, 08:33 AM
Joe_Cool,
I think you could post this question to the Stumpers-L mailing list, assuming you've already asked this question at a library. You have great support from the Dopers that this story really exists, you know what year you read it and in what setting... So, I'd set a bunch of reference librarians to the task. Read the welcome and FAQ very carefully and have fun!
http://domin.dom.edu/depts/gslis/stumpers/

Scott Dickerson
01-02-2003, 05:38 PM
Joe,
Mightn't the Library of the school you attended still have a copy of the book with the story in it?

The Librarian might be able to help you.

Or if it was in a state reading textbook, the Department of Education may have the info.

Good luck!

don't ask
01-02-2003, 08:33 PM
The F&SF story is Spending a Day at the Lottery Fair by Frederik Pohl from October 1983.

bibliophage
01-02-2003, 10:09 PM
And I suppose a moderator will want to move this into Cafe SocietyGreat minds think alike. Off to Cafe Society.

Joe_Cool
01-03-2003, 03:01 AM
Originally posted by Scott Dickerson
Joe,
Mightn't the Library of the school you attended still have a copy of the book with the story in it?

The Librarian might be able to help you.

Or if it was in a state reading textbook, the Department of Education may have the info.

Good luck!

No good... it was a photocopied handout, and I read it about 15 years ago and 2000 miles away. :)

Any ideas on the paper bag poem/prose? I remember the feelings and imagery that I got from it vividly, but nothing more about it than what I wrote in the OP.

Ravi
01-03-2003, 07:35 AM
That would be
A DAY AT THE LOTTERY FAIR
by Frederik Pohl (I think that the title)

NetPhilosopher
03-28-2010, 10:49 AM
The answer to the poster's original question about the amusement park for population control is

"The Carnival" by Michael Fedo.

reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Carnival_(short_story)


similar to Pohl's "A Day at the Lottery Fair" but different stories.

Cheers.

BigT
03-28-2010, 07:22 PM
And it only had to wait until the OP was banned. wonder if he'll ever read it.

BTW, since the question has finally been answered, I'll report the thread to get it closed.

Marley23
03-29-2010, 05:39 AM
And it only had to wait until the OP was banned. wonder if he'll ever read it.

BTW, since the question has finally been answered, I'll report the thread to get it closed.
Done. Although now I'm wondering about that poem. Maybe someone will find an answer in another nine years.