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Clever Vegetation in Science Fiction

The weeping, speaking timber in Virgil and Dante counsel that the concept of communication with crops is of nice antiquity, however solely within the sense of transmigration of human souls into crops; the topic isn’t but actual plant intelligence in its personal proper.

Then comes the transitional instance within the early a part of William Hope Hodgson’s The Boats of the Glen Carrig (1907). Within the chapter ‘The Land of Lonesomeness’ we’re taken to an island in which there’s a wailing throughout the night time, and evil timber are liable to wrap their branches around the unwary traveller. The narrative means that human souls are by some means sucked into the timber after which beckon for extra to hitch them. The sense of horror is peculiar and highly effective. The environment is that of supernatural concern, however the work can marginally rely as science fiction.

Then comes the good age of journal science fiction, and all types of portrayals of clever crops blossom out into the literature.

Murray Leinster’s ‘Proxima Centauri’, courting from the early years of pulp SF, depicts malevolent space-travelling crops attacking human explorers. A extra refined method comes from the planet-wide vegetable intelligence within the 1931 story ‘Seedling of Mars’ by Clark Ashton Smith, the place humanity is subjugated by the promise of Utopia. Raymond Z Gallun, one other classic 1930s author, produced a extra evocative variation on this theme in ‘Seeds of the Nightfall’, the place this time humanity is gassed to peaceable demise by an alien vegetable invader within the far future. On this final story, the reader is made to really feel that the removing of the final degenerate people is not any nice loss to the world.

As a change from these threats, in Clifford D Simak’s All Flesh is Grass (1965) we really enounter a benevolent (although considerably ruthless) clever life in plant kind, although the shape it takes is that of a planetwide organic pc that works via photosynthesis, and is barely outwardly just like the flowers we all know. All Flesh is Grass is one in all Simak’s finest novels, a pleasure to learn. Proclaiming the brotherhood of all species in his mild, humane, inimitable model, there may be however nothing gentle or flabby about it, and it incorporates loads of pleasure, menace and that impingement of a wierd cosmos upon abnormal life, which is the hallmark of a sure subgenre of science fiction – what one would possibly name the small-town cataclysm.

What of plant civilization thought of in itself, with out regard to its impingement upon humanity? For this you need to go to Olaf Stapledon, to the eight pages in Star Maker (1937) by which he narrates the rise and fall of the ‘plant males’ of a small, sizzling, energy-rich world. The story of the beings he describes is dominated by the stress between their energetic night-time and their contemplative day-time natures. The steadiness is ultimately misplaced, and first one, then the opposite nature predominates, resulting in the doom of the plant males and their world. In 40 years of studying science fiction I’ve by no means come throughout something remotely comparable in depth to those eight pages, so far as the theme of plant intelligence is worried. It’s a parable of common relevance to all cultures, within the stress it lays on the important significance of constancy to at least one’s pure origins.

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