Memories of the Space Age by J. G. Ballard

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(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“Memories of the Space Age” is presented through the consciousness of Dr. Edward Mallory. Most of the story is narrated in the third person, although a few passages, ostensibly taped by Mallory, present events in the first person and illustrate his increasingly troubled mental state.

Once employees of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Mallory and his wife, Anne, have returned to a deserted Cape Canaveral for the most ambiguous of reasons. Both Florida and the space program have been abandoned, casualties of a spreading “space sickness” brought on by a “psychic fissure” in time and space apparently resulting from space flight itself. Both Mallory and his wife are suffering from the sickness, which seems ultimately to leave its victims in a timeless trance. As a result, their journey from Vancouver, British Columbia, took them two months and their drive down the Florida coast several more weeks. However, while Anne, the sicker of the two, wants to flee, Mallory insists on remaining. Behind their ambivalent behavior looms the mysterious figure of Hinton, a one-time astronaut responsible for the first murder in space.

Mallory and Anne are staying in a deserted hotel near Cape Canaveral, and it is from there that Mallory watches a pilot flying antique aircraft over the empty space center day after day. Mallory comes to suspect that the pilot is Hinton, who has recently escaped from prison. Subsequent events seem to confirm his suspicions, for when he ventures out in a police car to scavenge food from an abandoned supermarket, he is first buzzed by a glider and then strafed by a triplane.

Suffering a return of the space sickness, Mallory wanders through an abandoned theme park into a small zoo...

(The entire section is 599 words.)