Thursday, March 13, 2014


Interesting how much of the most memorable literature is composed not of epics and sagas but of snippets and excerpts and short stories. Perhaps Ambrose Bierce's criticism that a certain novel simply had "too much space between the covers" was more vastly applicable than most novelists would care to admit. Works designed only to entertain, to occupy the mind, stretch tautologically into self-absorbed reader absorption but when the goal is thought, ideas, an intended "effect" then filling can prove too... filling... for proper digestion. Here we have a crucial observable difference between the two main branches of so-called speculative fiction, Fantasy and Science Fiction: the first makes quaint absurdist theater of its sprawling, endless series of thousand-upon-thousand-page novels while the second, the genre of ideas, makes a name for itself through vignettes and snapshots of possibility or probability.
Conversely, when discussing a SciFi short story like Mimsy Were the Borogoves, remain centered on its ideas, on questions of transcendence, brain plasticity and canalization. Don't try to make it into some after-school special.

The story used to be available online, but I'm guessing after Hollywood snatched up the rights to mangle it, the new copyright owner started suing left and right to ensure nobody can read the original without paying to justify that mangling.

I refuse to watch NewLine's disgusting pretense of adaptation. I would say it's because they made it into a children's story, but that's not strictly true when comparing it to the source material. Mimsy Were the Borogoves, though logically centered on the two children transcending human nature after being exposed to the teachings of a vastly superior post-human society, is really a parents' story. We are meant to empathize and sympathize not with the children's personal advancement but with the father's simian possessiveness over his young. Mired in human instinct, we're meant to place ourselves in the position not of progressive youths but of jealously reactionary elders. Though the two heroes walk off ninety degrees from the sunset to a realm of higher existence, we're supposed to interpret this as a sad ending because their animal caretaker was denied his instinctive need for control over them.

But of course the short story would not have become a classic had it not contained a great deal of interesting conjecture. Its attitude may have been a smidge off kilter but its ideas carried the finest of Science Fiction speculative tradition. Leave it to Hollywood to scrape any trace of intellectualism out of the gutted shell of the classic they commandeered for name recognition. Making it into a children's instead of parents' story could have resulted in a brilliant adaptation. They instead apparently went above and beyond to champion their bestial public's status quo in ways which had nothing to do with making the story less violent or less sexual or anything commonly touted as child-proofing, and you can illustrate this with one plot point from the Wikipedia description of the (gag) "adaptation."

"Mimzy explains to the children that they must use the toys as a time machine to return her to the future with uncorrupted 21st century human DNA, which the people of the future can use to correct the damage to their DNA [...]"

The whole point of the short story was that the box of toys elevated the children's thought processes from an inferior larval form (human) to that of advanced ubermenschen. It is a form of education so advanced that it amounts to transcendence.
That ain't gonna fly with the mass market though. In the Hollywoodized version, we, the apes of the present, are utterly perfect and called upon to rescue that foolish technologically-advanced post-human society. Not only that but we're intrinsically perfect depending not on any intellectual achievements but just for possessing naked ape DNA.

You, dear viewer, are speshul!
Who's speshul? You are. Yes you are. Oh, yes you are. Cootchie-cootchie-coo.

Compare and contrast the '43 and '07 interpretations of education.

No comments:

Post a Comment