“The First Men,” Howard Fast, 1960

The First Men,” Howard Fast, 1960 – (Alternate title: “The Trap”) A scientific experiment in a controlled environment produces telepathic, hyper-intelligent superchildren from different races, proving that environment is “total.”  The children’s abilities progress to the point where they are able to communicate as one mind.  Clothing is no longer necessary, and they often make love to each other in front of their “parents.”

Perceiving that the less-intelligent, aggressive humans outside pose a threat, they erect a force field around the compound that is slightly out of sync with normal time. Only those gifted children in the normal population that they summon may pass through the barrier.  The superhumans hope to gather the best of humanity in one community and thus create a base from which they can attempt to save humanity from itself.  The story concludes with the intimation that the military has discovered a means for penetrating the shield and that soon “the disease” will be wiped out.

Comments: Themes of nature versus nurture, superhumans, race, evolution, aggression, community, telepathy, composite minds, sexual taboos.  Read in The Worlds of Science FictionOnline text.

Excerpt: “How shall I tell you of an American Indian boy, five years old, composing a splendid symphony? Or of the two children, one Bantu, one Italian, one a boy, one a girl, who at the age of six built a machine to measure the speed of light? Will you believe that we, the adults, sat quietly and listened to these six year olds explain to us that since the speed of light is a constant everywhere, regardless of the motion of material bodies, the distance between the stars cannot be mentioned in terms of light, since that is not distance on our plane of being? Then believe also that I put it poorly. In all of these matters, I have the sensations of an uneducated immigrant whose child is exposed to all the wonders of school and knowledge. I understand a little, but very little.

If I were to repeat instance after instance, wonder after wonder–at the age of six and seven and eight and nine, would you think of the poor, tortured, nervous creatures whose parents boast that they have an IQ of 160, and in the same breath bemoan the fate that did not give them normal children? Well, ours were and are normal children. Perhaps the first normal children this world has seen in a long time. If you heard them laugh or sing only once, you would know that. If you could see how tall and strong they are, how fine of body and movement. They have a quality that I have never seen in children before.”

Author: Wikipedia: “Howard Melvin Fast (November 11, 1914 – March 12, 2003) was an American novelist and television writer. Fast also wrote under the pen names E. V. Cunningham and Walter Ericson…Fast is the author of the prominent ‘Why the Fifth Amendment?’ essay. This essay explains in detail the purpose of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America. Fast effectively uses the context of the Red Scare to illustrate the purpose of the ‘Fifth’…Fast spent World War II working with the United States Office of War Information, writing for Voice of America. In 1943, he joined the Communist Party USA and in 1950 he was called before the House Committee on Un-American Activities; in his testimony, he refused to disclose the names of contributors to a fund for a home for orphans of American veterans of the Spanish Civil War (one of the contributors was Eleanor Roosevelt), and was given a three-month prison sentence for contempt of Congress…It was while he was in jail that Fast began writing his most famous work, Spartacus, a novel about an uprising among Roman slaves.”

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About jennre

Lifelong sf fan, first-time blogger
This entry was posted in 1960-1969, biological determinism, communication, difference/tolerance, education, eugenics/heredity, evolution, generational conflict, intelligence, love/family/children, psych/mind/madness, race/civil rights, scientific ethics, superhumans, the scientist. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to “The First Men,” Howard Fast, 1960

  1. Pingback: The Edge Of Tomorrow by Howard Fast (Bantam F3309 – 1066) | Vintage (and not so vintage) Paperbacks

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