The Battling Psychiatrists of Awake, The Long Goodbye, and “A Wild Surmise”

In Chapter Thirty-One of Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye (1953), Marlowe nurses a hangover with a drink and some light reading.  The story he chooses would likely interest most Kuttner and Moore fans:

“Ordinarily I was not a morning drinker…But I mixed a tall cold one this time and sat in an easy chair with my shirt open and pecked at a magazine, reading a crazy story about a guy that had two lives and two psychiatrists, one was human and one was some kind of insect in a hive.  The guy kept going from one to the other and the whole thing was as crazy as a crumpet, but funny in an off-beat sort of way.”

He adds:

“I was handling the drink carefully, a sip at a time, watching myself.”

Kuttner and Moore fans may recognize the plot of this story–a man with two psychiatrists, one an insect, in two realities–as identical to that of their “A Wild Surmise” (Feb. 1953, Star Science Fiction Stories).  Marlowe’s comment that he’s watching himself as he reads mirrors, in a muted fashion, the schizophrenic turmoil of K&M’s protagonist as he struggles to locate himself in reality.

The fact that this overlap between Chandler and K&M occurs in The Long Goodbye initially interested me because it was K&M’s long-time friend, Leigh Brackett, who adapted both Chandler’s The Big Sleep and The Long Goodbye for film in 1946 and 1973, respectively.  (I should mention that Brackett collaborated with William Faulkner and Jules Furthman on the former script.)  If Brackett was in contact with Chandler, might Brackett have vehiculated the plot from one party to the other?

Of course, K&M were familiar with Chandler’s work through other avenues.  K&M were mystery and detective fiction writers/fans themselves and eventually would write less for the science fiction market and more for the mystery market towards the end of their collaboration (due to Kuttner’s passing in 1958).  Their circle of friends included a number of writers in both fields, and they hardly needed to be told by Brackett to read Chandler.

The timing of the two references seems unlikely to be coincidental–perhaps there was a third text circulating earlier, one with the same plot?  To those reading, if you know of such a text or have further background information, I’d be grateful if you’d pass it on.

However, this is not what I intended to write when I began this post.  The now-cancelled television series, Awake, which ran from March to May 2012, had caught my attention due to its plot regarding a psychiatrist trapped between two worlds.  Personally, I enjoyed the series and was eager to see how it developed, although I must admit I may have been primed by Fringe (2008-2013) to view the caught-between-two-worlds motif optimistically.  Perhaps the series would have been more successful had they kept the insect idea?

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About jennre

Lifelong sf fan, first-time blogger
This entry was posted in waverlies. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The Battling Psychiatrists of Awake, The Long Goodbye, and “A Wild Surmise”

  1. Matt R says:

    Well spotted. I noticed this years ago, and have always wondered if I were the only one who had.

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