“The City of Cosmic Rays,” Nat Schachner, 1939 – The continuing adventures of Kleon, Sam, and Beltan (see “Past, Present, and Future“). Pursued by their enemies, they now find themselves in a city that celebrates individualism and difference. No two persons look alike, each citizen is biologically unique, and each possesses or wields a unique piece of technology. In fact, even though Kleon, Sam, and Beltan are from different time periods, the residents find that the trio possesses a horrifying sameness. The narrator seems critical of their desire to be as individualistic as they are, and urges them to band together to fight their enemies, who will soon arrive. At the conclusion, the city’s spokesman dies as he tries to defend the city too late. The trio escapes.
Comments: With a mission and a leader, these posthuman mutants (?) could be the X-Men. Interesting also for the opening illustration in the original publication, which shows their unofficial spokesperson as a paunchy African American man–yet, in the text, this character is highly respected and his opinion is respected by the trio, even though they disagree. They call him a man of principle, “living by his philosophy.” Also interesting for the criticism of individualism, and a bit of homo-eroticism during a scene involving a head rub and descriptions of male beauty. Read in a 1939 Astounding reprint.
Author: Wikipedia: “Nat Schachner (full name Nathaniel Schachner; January 16, 1895–1955), also appearing as “Nathan Schachner” and under other bylines, was an American author. His first published story was “The Tower of Evil,” written in collaboration with Arthur Leo Zagat and appearing in the Summer 1930 issue of Wonder Stories Quarterly. Schachner, who was trained as a lawyer and a chemist, achieved his greatest success writing biographies of early American historical figures, after about a decade of writing science fiction short stories. Schachner was one of Isaac Asimov’s favorite authors…In addition to his works of science fiction, he is the author of a number of non-genre historical novels and several biographies of early American political figures, most notably his two volume work on Thomas Jefferson.”