“The Curate’s Friend”

This week’s bit of weird fiction is odder than usual.

Review: “The Curate’s Friend”, E. M. Forster, 1911.celestialomnibus

This story is unusual in two ways. Its narrator is self-deprecating. The concluding tone is not of menace but joy.

Our narrator is, in fact, the curate. His friend is a faun. Fauns are not, we’re told right in the first paragraph, “particularly classical”. Any country with “beech clumps and sloping grass and very clear streams” can have them.

But, the curate tells us, you have to be sharped eyed to see one, and he doesn’t have a clue how he came to make friends with one. He is something of a fool, “facetious without humour and serious without conviction”. His sermons are pompous. He professes, as an unmarried man, to give advice to women on their duties as wives and widows. His “straight talks to my lads” – presumably a sort of sex ed – “led straight past anything awkward”.

However, there is Emily, his fiancé. She listens carefully to his sermons. She laughs at his jokes. She is an excellent wife, corrective of her husband’s faults yet defender of his reputation, and a good mother to her children. But Emily doesn’t become the narrator’s wife, and the why of that is where the faun comes in. Continue reading

“Science Fiction and the Mythology of Progress”

The review series on Brian Stableford’s Opening Minds: Essays on Fantastic Literature continues.

Review: “Science Fiction and the Mythology of Progress“, Brian Stableford, 1977.Opening Minds

Combining his training as a sociologist and literary criticism of science fiction, Stableford does a concise summary of the myth of human progress and how science fiction has used it.

Starting in the 18th century, the notion of progress in human affairs, “softened” manners, enlightened minds, and nations being connected by commerce, a move toward “still higher perfection” as French philosopher Turgot put it, started to appear.

It was an improvement sought in knowledge and technology.

However, soon the grandiose idea of “human perfectibility” was espoused by the French philosopher Marquis de Condorcet.

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels also saw progress in human affairs though not pushed by knowledge but its manifestations in production technologies. Continue reading