“Seven Views of Olduvai Gorge” is a 1994 science fiction novella by Mike Resnick. It is set in the far future when a group of anthropological aliens are studying the long and brutal empire of mankind.
Non-Spoiler Summary In A Nutshell:
Many centuries after the Empire of Man came tumbling down, a group of anthropologist aliens are visiting the birthplace of mankind – Olduvai Gorge in Africa. Each member of the group has one particular scientific specialty, but the narrator – know only as He Who Views – has an extra special function – the ability to morph with an artifact and re-live its story. The group finds seven different objects and consequently learn the fascinating details of each one’s existence. Through He Who Views eyes we are treated to several detailed stories spanning the age of Mankind. We learn about the aliens who visited Earth when man was little more than a violent ape; Mtepwa the slave boy who rose to become head of a great and terrible trading empire; Chelmswood, a guard in the rough shod Leakey museum; Kevin, the Maasai guide leading tourists on big game viewing safaris; Joseph, the man who accepted bribes for a terrible cover up that haunts his soul; and Thomas, the proud man who does not want to leave the land of his fore-fathers for a new planet.
But then, that is why we are here: not to compare similarities, but to study differences. And never was there a race so different from all his fellows as Man. He was extinct barely seventeen millennia after he strode boldly out into the galaxy from this, the planet of his birth—but during that brief interval he wrote a chapter in galactic history that will last forever. He claimed the stars for his own, colonized a million worlds, ruled his empire with an iron will. He gave no quarter during his primacy, and he asked for none during his decline and fall. Even now, some forty-eight centuries after his extinction, his accomplishments and his failures still excite the imagination.
My Two Cents:
• The good:
- Although “Seven Views of Olduvai Gorge” is quite long, each of the chapters (or views) is a totally different story illustrating some fascinating aspect of mankind’s history.
- If you have any interest in anthropology then you will certainly love this part-factual / part-speculative look at one of the galaxy’s most fascinating races. (Um… that would be us.)
- Mike Resnick is a great author and his story telling abilities shine through in this multiple award winning novella.
• The bad:
- There is some strong language and a few adult situations. Probably not a story for young readers.
- Although I found “Seven Views of Olduvai Gorge” fascinating and enjoyable to read, I can see how many people would view it as “anti-mankind” or “ultra-liberal.” I don’t really think it deserves those monikers, but if you consider yourself to be conservative then you should be aware of these themes.
• Page Count: 44
• Word Count: 18,858
• “Seven Views of Olduvai Gorge” garnered the following awards:
- It was the winner of the 1995 Hugo Award and 1995 Nebula Award for Best Novella.
- It also won the 1995 SF Chronicle award, the 1995 HOMer award, the 1994 UPC award (tie) and the 1996 Ignotus award for best foreign short story.
- In addition to all those impressive wins “Seven Views of Olduvai Gorge” was also shortlisted for the 1995 Sturgeon award and placed second in the 1995 Locus poll. (Whew!)
Where you can find “Seven Views of Olduvai Gorge”:
- This novella first appeared in the October / November 1994 issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction.
- “Seven Views of Olduvai Gorge” is included in Nebula Awards 30: SFWA’s Choices For The Best Science Fiction And Fantasy Of The Year.
- You can read a nice online version of “Seven Views of Olduvai Gorge” at Subterranean Press.
Some Interesting Links:
- Check out the Biology in Science Fiction web site for a unique look at this story and some of the ideas surrounding it.
- Be sure to take a look at Wikipedia to learn more about the real Olduvai Gorge and its important role in human history.
Craving More Stories?
If you enjoyed this story then you might also like The 43 Antarean Dynasties, about a proud tour guide showing three humans the remains of his planet’s once great culture, by Mike Resnick.