Shiras, Wilmar H. – “In Hiding” (1948)
If technical-manual science fiction is especially my least favorite kind, super-special-genius-child science fiction is especially my least favorite kind. This story, like Genius, is all about the superiority of homo intelligens to homo sapiens (although those terms are not used here). The editors point out that it was included because it represents the psychological trend of science fiction, replacing the physical sciences with an examination of the “adjustment of highly gifted individual to society” – surprisingly enough, it was also the most popular story published in Astounding that year and continues to be a classic of the field, because apparently science fiction fans like nothing more than being coddled and reminded that they are better than “normal” people who don’t understand them. I’m tempted here to just link John Kessel’s takedown of Ender’s Game and call it a day.
A little more about the story first, though. Timothy is a 13-year-old sent to the school psychologist by his teacher because he just doesn’t quite fit in, although she isn’t sure why. The psychologist Dr. Welles (!) spends a great deal of time with Timothy in order to get him to open up, slowly learning that the boy is a super genius who is constantly having to mask his true identity in order not to embarrass adults or draw too much attention to himself, and parallels are drawn between the boy and St. Thomas Aquinas in terms of genius hiding behind a “dumb ox” persona. Timothy is confused by the childishness of other children, knows that he will surpass even Dr. Welles in intellect some day, writes pseudonymous academic articles, journalism, and short stories, publishes serial music, has several degrees, and so on and so forth. Dr. Welles and the reader learn toward the end of the story that Timothy was born 14 months after some sort of nuclear accident that eventually claimed the lives of his parents, and that there must be other examples of homo intelligens out there for him to bond with in their mutual superiority over homo sapiens. This was the first in a series of stories later fixed up into a novel, and the second installment is featured in the next Bleiler and Dikty book. I am giddy with anticipation.
Supposedly this was a big influence on the X-men, though, so… there’s that.