Story of the Week: "The Nanny" by Thomas Wylde (and BTW, what happened to this guy?)

Asimovsjuly1983As I type this a well worn copy of the July 1983 issue of Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine sits beside my computer. The cover story is a fascinating tale by Tanith Lee; other content includes a short story by Ursula K. Le Guin. But the reason the issue stays in my mind is a story by a writer I never heard from again: Thomas Wylde.

I first read Wylde's novelette "The Nanny" when I was thirteen. My grandfather subscribed to Asimov's until his death in the mid 1980s and I probably borrowed this issue once he was finished. In fact, his mailing label is still stuck to the cover.

And did Wylde's story ever burn its way into my consciousness.

"The Nanny" concerns a NASA astronaut piloting a severely jazzed up, anti-matter powered space shuttle to Alpha Centauri. His cargo: human zygotes, the last hope for a humanity destroyed in a nuclear war. But something goes wrong on the way to the new star and, as the first line of the story says, "Eismann woke up eighteen years too early." To his horror he discovers the freezer containing the zygotes is destroyed. Unable to do anything else, he saves a male and female and raises the babies as he journeys through space, intent on these two children becoming humanity's new Adam and Eve. And that's exactly what happens, although not in the way Eismann plans.

"The Nanny" remains an excellent emotional examination of the choices people make when the fate of humanity is on the line. Because the story has held up so well even after 25 years, I've selected it as my story of the week. But the quality of the story also makes me wonder about what happened to Thomas Wylde. "The Nanny" was good enough to land in Donald A. Wollheim's 1984 Annual World's Best SF (along with being reprinted in a SF anthology titled Space Shuttles). But after publishing a handful of stories throughout the 1980s, along with two novels in Roger Zelazny's Alien Speedway series, Wylde dropped off the face of the planet. That's a shame because "The Nanny" definitely showed he could write an amazing SF tale.

BTW, this issue's coming attractions heralds another "moving tale" which would be published in the Aug. 1983 Asimov's--"The Peacemaker" by Gardner Dozois.