“The Ideal,” Stanley G. Weinbaum, 1935 (excerpt)

“The Ideal,” Stanley G. Weinbaum, 1935 — (Excerpted in A Century of Science Fiction, ed. Damon Knight) “The Franciscan” introduces his “automaton,” to a youth, and claims that the iron head will speak at the proper time, “and reveal all secret knowledge.” But “the Dr. Mirabilis” watched the head for weeks without hearing a word. Suddenly, the image speaks: “Time is!” Bacon agrees that it is high time the automaton spoke, but the head interrupts: “Time was!” Bacon begins  to respond, but the head smiles no longer. “Time is past!” it cries, and then “burst into a thousand pieces.”

Comments: Excerpt read in A Century of Science Fiction; Damon Knight’s postscript describes this passage of “The Ideal” as a “modern version (much livelier and more readable than the original) of an incident from the play Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay by the Elizabethan dramatist Robert Greene…” He found the source by calling James Blish, “the local Bacon expert,” who also told him that “the legend of a speaking head of metal has been traced all the way back through medieval literature to Arabic sources.”

Author: Wikipedia: “Stanley Grauman Weinbaum (April 4, 1902 – December 14, 1935) was an American science fiction author. His career in science fiction was short but influential. His first story, “A Martian Odyssey”, was published to great (and enduring) acclaim in July 1934, but he would be dead from lung cancer within eighteen months.”


About jennre

Lifelong sf fan, first-time blogger
This entry was posted in 1926-1939, automata/robots, knowledge/truth/epistemology, religion/soul/spirituality, time/history/causality. Bookmark the permalink.

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