A drunk in a bar reveals how he once built a time machine and used it to discover what killed off the dinosaurs. It was, it turns out, an intelligent species of dinosaur that loved the hunt more than anything else. First they hunted all the other dinosaurs and then, finally, without any other prey, began to hunt themselves.

This story was written on (!) 18 November 1941, just three weeks before the Japanese attacks on the Philippines, Singapore, and Hong Kong. (They may have attacked something else about the same time; I forget.) The US was stubbornly staying out of the war in Europe, and it was a good time for a young Jew with an eye on Nazi successes to get cynical.

(If you’re wondering why a story written in 1941 gets a “date” of 1974, it’s because the date is date of publication, not date of writing. Read on.)

“Big Game” was shopped around the various sf markets available, but none of them nibbled. Asimov set it aside and forgot about it until he was preparing The Early Asimov. He mentioned there that he had written the story, remembered nothing about it, and that it was eventually destroyed.

This turned out not to be true, because a fan soon found a copy buried in the Boston University archives. Lacking any better venue for publication—trying to sell it to the magazines must have seemed unreasonable—Asimov slipped it into Before the Golden Age.

It’s actually not that bad. The main weakness is that it’s pretty heavy-handed in the moral it’s trying to make, a fault it shares with some of Asimov’s stories written early in the Cold War such as “Hell-Fire.” As such things go, it’s actually not bad, and for Asimov’s 1941-era work, actually reasonably good.

The story may have been forgotten on a conscious level, but not the basic plot, which was repackaged as the equally anvilicious “Day of the Hunters.” I’m willing to rate this one somewhat higher than that, however, mainly because this is something of an interesting curiosity.

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