“Man of Distinction,” Michael Shaara, 1956 — Once upon a time, Thatcher Blitt was forgettable, as liable to be forgotten as any other businessman who doesn’t associate himself with a man of fame. However, at 25 Blitt realized that new technology could make it possible to trace one’s genetic ancestry, and now he’s building a corporate empire based on the average person’s desire to associate with greatness. Everyone has a father, Blitt realizes, and thus is possibly connected to someone of distinction–and everyone is vain or curious enough to want this. Genealogy Inc. is born with the slogan: “An ancestor for everyone.” A number of years pass before he has the itch to trace his own lineage. “Who am I?” He suddenly demands of his staff. His staff desperately searches, going back farther and farther, but there is no one of distinction in Blitt’s past. Blitt is enraged and he fires his first researcher. A second team traces his lineage back to the original first fathers, to the common humanity of man, but Blitt is hardly satisfied. Everyone has that, he realizes dismally. In fact, due to his own insistence, Blitt now has the distinction of being the only man born of totally unremarkable parentage.
Comments: Themes include hubris, genetic determinism, identity through family. Read in The Fourth Galaxy Reader. Compare with Greg Egan’s “Mitchondrial Eve” (1995). The story doesn’t consider tracing ancestry through the mothers, implying there are no “famous” women to be found.
Author: Wikipedia: “Michael Shaara (June 23, 1928 – May 5, 1988) was an American writer of science fiction, sports fiction, and historical fiction.”