Roger Zelazny 1966. For a Breath I Tarry. 38 pp; collected in Modern Science Fiction, edited by Norman Spinrad. New York: Anchor Books 883 pp.

I think the reason I’ve been seeking this is due to mentions by researchers in AI and consciousness research. Or perhaps just in lists of classic SF, to which this surely belongs.

(Many other authors in this golden age SF anthology to be re-read: Isaac Asimov, J. G. Ballard, Alfred Bester, John W. Campbell, Arthur C. Clarke, Samuel R. Delany, Lester del Ray, Philip K. Dick, Thomas M. Disch, Harlan Ellison, Philiip José Farmer, Tom Godwin, Damon Knight, C. M. Kornbluth, Ursula K. Le Guin, Michael Moorcock, Robert Silverberg, Norman Spinrad, Theodore Sturgeon, A. E. Van Vogt.)

The Faustian character Frost is an AI in a world where humans [man] are extinct. Frost seeks to understand man from studying objects and books left behind, but realises that to understand man he must become human. Roger Zelazny alludes to The Bible and Goethe, as explained in the splendidly terse and informative wikipedia page. A strength is that much is left unexplained. This is a reminder that many of the great themes and ideas in recent science fiction were already developed in the 1950s and 1960s and this is a great anthology for exploring that era.

Also added to the intray: Roger Zelazny’s Lord of Light.

Frost’s AI partner, Beta [a nod to Shelley’s Frankestein?], is allowed the quote from A.E. Houseman’s A Shropshire Lad, from which the title is drawn:

Now - for a breath I tarry / Nor yet disperse apart - / Take my hand quick and tell me, / What have you in your heart.