Tuesday, 26 August 2014

New York After The Change

Poul Anderson, Brain Wave (London, 1977).

New York is protected from missile attack by a force field.
The prophet of the Third Ba'al has been captured.
Gang war between Portmen and Dynapsychists has been suppressed.
At night, the city is dark with few vehicles or pedestrians.
A cafe interior is illuminated by a blue twilight generated by a new principle of fluorescence.
Tables are arranged in a spiral minimizing the distance from dining room to kitchen.
A wheeled machine extends a slate and stylus for orders, then serves food.
There is still a food shortage and little meat.
Previously famous musicians play in the orchestra.
There are some new musical instruments, no conductor and a new form of music.
Customers are from different social groups, now equal, starting afresh.
Corinth now thinks that the Rubaiyat is childish!
Corinth's and Helga's communication is mainly non-verbal, shown in brackets.

This description conveys both that the general level of intelligence has increased and that there was a time of troubles but it has passed. The novel has moved from the present day (at the time of publication) into a future that is different from any of Poul Anderson's other fictitious futures. Not the world but its inhabitants have changed.


  1. Hi, Paul!

    I've been reading your notes about BRAIN WAVE with great interest, despite my skepticism about the likeliness of many of the possibilities Poul Anderson speculates about in that fascinating novel actually coming to pass. And I've thought of one point neither PA or you seems to have thought of. Will the CHILDREN of these persons who have passed out from the "inhibiting field" also be born with the same greatly enhanced intelligence? Will they be born with the potential for enhanced intellgence or only have the normal average of intelligence people had while in the "inhibiting field"?

    I've also thought that BRAIN WAVE was in some ways a very Stapledonian novel. I think it shows PA taking over some and changing for his own purposes ideas that can be found in the works of Olaf Stapledon. I also think the four HARVEST OF STARS books shows Anderson again turning to such ideas and treating them at much greater.

    The very first time I read BRAIN WAVE was in either 1971 or in 1972 in Anthony Boucher's magnificent two volume A TREASURY OF GREAT SCIENCE FICTION. And a few years ago I rejoiced to acquire a copy of the first hardback 1955 edition of BRAIN WAVE (in splendid condition). Alas, the book jacket had long since been lost.


  2. Sean,
    Earth is out of the inhibitor field so new children's intelligence will not be inhibited.

    1. Hi, Paul!

      That is an obvious point, and one I should have mentioned. I was wondering how much our average intelligence, or ability to show such intelligence, was determined by genetics.