“The Die-Hard,” Alfred Bester, 1958 – (short short) The last “man” on earth is visited in his rest home by the new, “adjusted” cybernetic human male. Most of the standardized males are named Tom, although they employ subtle distinctions in pronouncing “Tom” that the Old One can’t detect. The old man longs for the days when bodies, blood, and blood lust were real, and he refuses to be transformed into a cyborg. He insults the Toms’ masculinity, sometimes attacking them physically. His frustration with the new, peaceful world spikes when an alien ambassador, the Galactic Envoy, arrives to greet humanity and the new humans welcome it without suspicion, despite its having the face of a praying mantis. He rushes out of the hospital to attack it.
Comments: Read in 100 Great Science Fiction Short Short Stories. Themes of the body, difference, naturalness, cultural and generational conflict, fear of change, authenticity (of the masculine body, the human). He is essentially obsolete, an artifact, a misfit in time due to his age. A sense of invasion by the Toms. Perhaps also part of a motif of imprisonment. In “Hell’s My Destination: Imprisonment in the Works of Alfred Bester” Fiona Kelleghan finds that: “In ‘The Die-Hard’ (1958), an old man must live in a hospital because he is the last human in a cyborg society. Even when the character is not a criminal, his difference from others is often enough to lock him away. Bester’s hospitals are thinly disguised prisons.” (Science Fiction Studies, #64, Volume 21, Part 3, November 1994)
Author: Wikipedia: “Alfred Bester (December 18, 1913 – September 30, 1987) was an American science fiction author, TV and radio scriptwriter, magazine editor and scripter for comic strips and comic books. Though successful in all these fields, he is probably best remembered today for his work as a science fiction author, and as the winner of the first Hugo Award in 1953 for his novel The Demolished Man.”