"Conspiracy theories are big because they're comforting. Any conspiracy is infinitely less multiplex than the real deal, which is multiplex to the point of being unknowable."
- William Gibson
||A project designed to produce a group of people with exceptionally long life.
|"The first offspring resulting from unions assisted by the Howard Foundation were born in 1875.
They aroused no comment, for they were in no way remarkable. The Foundation was an openlychartered
On March 17, 1874, Ira Johnson, medical student, sat in the law offices of Deems, Wingate, Alden,
& Deems and listened to an unusual proposition. At last he interrupted the senior partner. "Just a
moment! Do I understand that you are trying to hire me to marry one of these women?"
The lawyer looked shocked. "Please, Mr. Johnson. Not at all"
"Well, it certainly sounded like it."
"No, no, such a contract would be void, against public policy. We are simply informing you, as
administrators of a trust, that should it come about that you do marry one of the young ladies on this list
it would then be our pleasant duty to endow each child of such a union according to the scale here set
forth. But there would be no Contract with us involved, nor is there any 'proposition' being made to youand
we certainly do not urge any course of action on you. We are simply informing you of certain facts."
Ira Johnson scowled and shuffled his feet. "What's it all about? Why?"
"That is the business of the Foundation. One might put it that we approve of your grandparents."
"Have you discussed me with them?" Johnson said sharply.
He felt no affection for his grandparents. A tight-fisted foursome-if any one of them had had the
grace to die at a reasonable age he would not now be worried about money enough to finish medical
"We have talked with them, yes. But not about you."
The lawyer shut off further discussion and young Johnson accepted gracelessly a list of young
women, all strangers, with the intention of tearing it up the moment he was outside the office. Instead,
that night he wrote seven drafts before he found the right words in which to start cooling off the relation
between himself and his girl back home. He was glad that he had never actually popped the question to
her-it would have been deucedly awkward.
When he did marry (from the list) it seemed a curious but not too remarkable coincidence that his
wife as well as himself had four living, healthy, active grandparents.
|From Methuselah's Children,
by Robert Heinlein.
Published by Astounding Science-Fiction in 1941
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