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Bester, Alfred – “Oddy and Id” (1950)

07/10/2012

More than anything else, I think psychological science fiction rooted in “surprising” revelations about Freudian theory or what have you is a fossilized monster left mercifully extinct after the 1950s. Right? We’ll see, I guess.

Some time in the 30th century, Odysseus Gaul, the luckiest guy in the universe, is an undergraduate at Harvard (future Harvard being complete with tenured alien philosophers and a 3d chess set in the faculty lounge, games of which take more than a lifetime to play). One of his professors (a man considered an eccentric because he “affected 20th Century clothes and 20th Century vices” – again that fixation on historicizing the author’s present day vis a vis the future setting) recognizes Oddy’s condition: “There are accident prones. How about Good Luck prones?” This revelation, discussed with his fellow faculty, leads to such theological/philosophical non sequiturs as “He is God-like but not a God because he does this without consciousness. He is an angel.”

Politically, the solar system is divided between two warring welfare states: “The Comity of Nations” and “Der Realpolitik aus Terra,” and their conflict over “Fissionable Ore” is explicitly compared to the 20thC fixation on oil: “the situation was peculiarly similar to the Asia Minor crisis that ultimately wrecked the United Nations a thousand years before.” Peace, the professors realize, requires “the scrapping of antagonistic economic theories,” and Oddy’s magical luck is the way to bring that about, so they introduce the boy into the war effort… only to find that while consciously, he wants to help, his id wants what all the ids want, and so we end up with Oddy ruling the solar system, benevolently-or-not-so-benevolently.

Most of these stories rely on dialogue to the basic exclusion of any other kind of writing, and Bester’s use here of a faculty book club to discuss a space war reads almost like a parody of that trend.

… Almost.

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