Thursday, 28 January 2016

The Kid's Show

"You must remember that Homo Sapiens has little more to contribute to the music of this planet, nothing in fact but vain repetition. It is time for finer instrument to take up the theme."
Before I leave Bowie behind entirely...

I assume he read Olaf Stabledon's 1935 novel "Odd John" - about a pan-sexual, permanently adolescent, hyper-intelligent super-being.  It seems a more probable source of the phrase homo superior than "The Tomorrow People" anyway. 

Olaf Stapledon's a rather unsung figure in British Sci-Fi. He's best known either for 1930's "Last and First Men" - in which he wrote more broadly about the future evolution of humanity, really broadly in fact, I forget how broad, millions of years - or for 1937's "Star Maker" - in which the narrator pops out for cigarette and ends up voyaging to the end of the Universe, again I forget the details, I think he meets God. Its final pages, I do remember, set out very clearly the case for war against the Nazis. Christ, imagine living then!
"A nation, after all, is just a society for hating foreigners."
With subjects these humungous (and unfilmable) perhaps it's clear why Stapledon's not more widely known, yet he relates these immensities about as sanely as any writer can I guess. There's always a sense of fun. The wit is more apparent in a work like "Odd John" though, where the human scale allows for actual dialogue. Here for example, is an eight-year-old John in conversation with a business magnate:
"It must be so snug to feel both safe and important."
I love that. 

Homo Superior's childish curiosity takes a much darker turn later on in the novel, but Stabledon's a canny enough writer to suggest that this journey - like much in nature outside the experience of homo sapiens - has nothing to safely teach us. All the quotes come from the younger John's Gulliver-like observations of life in the thirties. We've had capitalism, here's communism:
"Funny, too, what a religious fellow that Communist really is... Of course he tells you the Class War is needed to emancipate the Workers. But what really gets him about it isn't that. The fire inside him, though he doesn't know it, is a passion for what he calls dialectic materialism, for the dialectic of history. The one selfishness in him is the longing to be an instrument of the Dialectic, and oddly enough what he really means by that, in his heart of hearts, is what Christians so quaintly describe as the law of God." 
Okay, that quote wasn't so much fun... 

Maybe it was "The Tomorrow People".

Beyond Good and Evil with Pete and San

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