Since I mentioned this book in my last post, you get this . . .
The website From an Oblique Angle supplies the parallax on this one.
Raw Feed (2002): Jack of Eagles, James Blish, 1952.
I looked at this book several times in the Lead High School Library, but I never read it then.
First, the cover art and jacket blurb made it sound rather boring, and, second, I was less of a fan of psychic powers stories then. I read it now because it was mentioned by Damon Knight as bearing the influence of Charles Fort.
Indeed, Charles Fort and his Wild Talents are mentioned explicitly in the novel as is the Fortean Society. However, it’s unclear if Fort is brought in to dress out an idea Blish already had or if Fort inspired him. Protagonist Danny Caiden’s psychic powers are referred to as “wild talents”, and, of Fort, it is said,
He could see why writers loved the man. He wrote in a continuous and highly poetic display of verbal fireworks, superbly controlled, intricately balanced, witty and evocative at once,
So Blish seems to have admired Fort, and it’s quite possible was inspired by him. As Damon Knight notes in his Charles Fort: Prophet of the Unexplained, the head of the Fortean society in the novel, Cartier Taylor, is a thinly disguised (the name certainly is) version of Tiffany Thayer. Both are given to iconoclastically encouraging cranks (including a mention of Dianetics) and attacking political and religious institutions. Taylor, however, actually has a small but significant role in the novel when, at novel’s end, he aids Caiden.
What struck me most about the novel was that it seemed to be an attack on the notion of van Vogtian supermen and the sort of plots van Vogt would often feature.Continue reading