“Theory of Rocketry,” Cyril M. Kornbluth, 1958 – An English teacher of the future must submit to psych exams, televised teaching, and lackluster pupils. His life is desultory until he meets Foster, the one pupil that might make something of himself–at any cost.
Comments: Themes of satire, education, literature, Henry V, the fantastic. Read in 18 Greatest SF Stories. In C.M. Kornbluth: The Life and Works of a Science Fiction Visionary by Mark Rich, Rich notes that Kornbluth submitted the story to Frederik Pohl and received a rejection. Pohl found the story “static” and “diffuse,” and he rejected the “Nixon reference” as “gratuitous” and the story as “hardly science fiction.” Rich views Pohl’s rejection of the story as a failure to understand how far Kornbluth had advanced as a “science fiction writer, as a thinker, and as a stylist” (326).
However, Robert Silverberg in Rereading Kornbluth states that: “The NESFA collection—not, alas, arranged chronologically—also shows us the late masterpieces, the 1958 stories, that indicate where Kornbluth may have been heading as an artist. ‘Theory of Rocketry,’ about a boy who wants to be an astronaut so badly that he is willing to commit any betrayal necessary, was science fiction in its day; time and the space program have made a mainstream story out of it now.”
Author: Wikipedia: “Cyril M. Kornbluth (July 2, 1923 – March 21, 1958) was an American science fiction author and a notable member of the Futurians.” Interested readers: “Re-reading Kornbluth” by Robert Silverberg. See also James Sallis’s review of C. M. Kornbluth: The Life and Works of a Science Fiction Visionary (2010) in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.