Converting Triffids

“Stupendous as this disaster is, there is, however, still a margin of survival. It may be worth remembering just now that we are not unique in looking upon vast calamity. Whatever the myths that have grown up about it, there can be no doubt that somewhere far back in our history there was a Great Flood. Those who survived that must have looked upon a disaster comparable in scale with this and, in some ways, more formidable. But they cannot have despaired; they must have begun again – as we can begin again.” This quote from John Wyndham’s Day of the Triffids brings into focus a number of themes from this blog. Initially, it is another example of the intersection of science fiction and religion, specifically the Bible. In his apocalyptic 1951 novel, Wyndham can find no better example of disaster than the Flood Myth. The Bible and science fiction have kissed each other once again.

Another recurring theme reflects on disaster and how religions deal with it. As the Gulf of Mexico oil spill begins taking on apocalyptic dimensions religion is brought into the discussion in a variety of ways: God will take care of it; it is a sign of the end times; God is punishing us for something; corporate greed must stop. Take your choice. When people feel threatened, religion is quickly brought off the shelf, dusted off, and thrust out as the harbinger of deep solutions. Those of us who deal with religion every day must be forgiven for being a bit more circumspect.

The Flood Myth is a regular theme as well. It crops up in unlikely as well as predictable locations. As mentioned yesterday, it was evident in the Mystic Aquarium (unexpected), and it constantly resurfaces in Fundamentalist rhetoric (predictable). On a previous travelogue entry I mentioned Noah’s Ark being rebuilt in Maryland (unexpected). Seeing the Flood as the benchmark of worldwide disasters in a science fiction novel may be predictable, but the troubling ethical concomitants drawn out by Wyndham are profoundly disturbing. The Flood is not longer the worst disaster imaginable, but the Bible will continue as the measure of catastrophe long after the triffids have vanished.

8 thoughts on “Converting Triffids

  1. Steve Wiggins

    This book is quite intriguing — there are definitely very creepy moments involving triffids and ethics (not sure about the early 80’s band yet, but I haven’t finished the book).

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  2. Henk van der Gaast

    Triffid salad Steve. Better than a poke in the eye with a blunt stick!

    The earlier science fictions were master pieces. I bemoan the loss of articulate plots written by erudite authors.

    Blair, Smith, Wells all the way up to and including Moorcock.

    What happened to the tenet; “you write about what you understand”?

    Far too often book writers haven’t a clue what they are writing about. 1500 pages of wieldy prose becomes 1500 pages of wieldy prose and a foreword by some verbose unknown prat.

    As much as reasonably writers like Julian May tried early in the piece, other writers like Jean M. Auel made sure that sex and drugs sell better than words and meaning.

    Science fiction and fantasy finally died in a post orgasmic eruction in 1985.

    Vale science fiction and fantasy.

    PS I actually re-established contact with a person from my “childhood” (I didnt have one, I was too self involved). She is a twelve book veteran science fiction writer . It was clear that she hadn’t opened any sort of text book since 6th grade.

    She wasn’t that smart in 6th grade IMHO.

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  3. Steve Tarr

    Steve:

    When I was 16 my very favorite book. I still have my Penguin Edition inscribed with the date I bought it: June 1967. It cost 3/6 (three shillings and 6 pence). Glad to know it still has something to say!

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    • Steve Wiggins

      Hi Steve!

      I would never have guessed this about you! I was a real sci-fi fan throughout my teenage years but dropped it until Neal made it respectable again. I’m going through a kind of literary renaissance.

      Like

  4. Henk van der Gaast

    Mr Tarr,

    my partner say thats her collection’s only ex libris. Been gone for 38 years since you nicked it.

    Better return it, I am slightly younger and possibly less creaky and prone to back strains and hip wrenches chasing thieves.

    Have I bemoaned the death of good science fiction yet?

    I see that I have. Think I’ll go hit school students with my cane.

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  5. Pingback: Trouble with Triffids | Sects and Violence in the Ancient World

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