Thursday, 19 March 2015

"The Mightiest Man" by Patrick Fahy

 Hey guys! Did you realize that the Gutenberg Project has old science fiction? It does! (I don't know why this surprised me, but it did.) So, hey, why not read some of them and review them? Not to poke fun at the old science fiction, although there might be a little of that. No, I'm more interested in looking at what this old science fiction tells us about the worlds that were being imagined at the time. What did they think about science? Gender? Race? The eventual fate of the world?

From Worlds of If, November 1961

I can't find anything out about the author on a very cursory wikipedia-and-google search. Which is too bad, as this is the only story by this author on Project Gutenberg, and it's a doozy! It's short, but packs a hell of a wallop. One of those ones that all circles down to the final lines, and then is entirely chilling.

Because it's so short, there is not a lot of detail, even about the eponymous "Mightiest Man." All we know is that, as a human, he helped alien invaders takes over the earth, and, when they were fought off by "fungoid" defenses (shades of The War of the Worlds and the common cold), they left him with formidable defensive and offensive powers.

We don't know why he betrayed humanity. When he's put on trial, he isn't that helpful, choosing instead to control and kill the people around him, seemingly with his mind. He's more or less invincible, quite homicidal, and if he was quite willing to sell out his entire species to alien invaders, he's now quite happy to kill them all himself as a final action.

It's hard to know what else to say. I certainly don't want to give away the ending, as the prosecuting attorney tries to figure out how to a) stay alive and b) actually punish this guy. What do you do with a truly insane omnipotent being who can kill you with his brain, or just provoke intense agony?

There are no women, and presumably no people of colour, but honestly, that doesn't bother me as much in this story as it has in others, perhaps because this is such a pared down story anyway. No one is explored, even down to the motivations of the traitor.

If you're interested, try going here and check it out for yourself. This is a genuinely chilling little story. It's all an arrow aimed at the last line.

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