I now know for sure that Flowers for Algernon did influence Beggars in Spain: I have read Kress’s book Beginnings, Middles, and Ends, and her first example of a great character is Charlie Gordon. Now, that can’t be a coincidence. This, though? Suspicious, but I can’t be sure...
This is one of the used books I’ve ordered from the dealers on Amazon.com, a small old hardback from a British science fiction club, a 1962 printing of this 1953 story. There is no doubt in my mind that this story could only have been written in the early fifties – after the horrors of World War II but before the wildly individualistic Summer of Love.
In Mutant’s loosely connected “Baldy” stories, nuclear war creates genetic mutants with telepathic abilities, as well as genetically-flawed telepathic “paranoids” and “psychotics.” The premise here is that assimilation is absolutely necessary for survival, and that there is something hideously wrong with you if you don’t or can’t... and that murder is an appropriate response for those who don’t fit in.
This is one of the stories that probably established telepathy/psychic as a science fiction favorite topic, and I think it examines the life of a telepath much better than many other books (although In Conquest Born is still my favorite story) and it almost describes how telepathy could work. But not quite. As an aside, Kuttner worked in close partnership with his wife, C.L. Moore, and it is noted that it is very difficult to tell which works are his and which are hers. They also wrote under a dizzying number of pseudonyms, including Lewis Padgett and Kevin Kent.
Additionally, there was a word I didn’t know at all, which is rare, especially since this one has a biological definition as well as an English definition: tropism. In biology, it is the tendency of a creature to turn or grow given a certain stimuli. In English, it is an action that is done without cognitive thought. Funny: both definitions could apply to my sentias in the story I am working on.
This is the book I read while at Christmas holiday in Orange County. I also went to Bookman and found four more books for the list. I also read Nancy Kress’s Beginnings, Middles, and Ends. It made me look at this story in a different way, especially the opening. It also made me realize there is much more that I need to learn. I need to take that class on first chapters at the UC Extension, and I have to go to Clarion. Going is no longer a choice. I must go to Clarion.
I think (hope) it was Damon Knight who said “Science fiction isn’t describing a car. It’ s describing the car crash.” This story shows how effective it is to consider the ramifications and evolution of the telepaths’ consciousness. I like it. Need to do that with my own. Well, on to Damon Knight.