Thursday, July 9, 2009

If the Gods Hate Kansas, Why Do They Visit There So Often?

The Gods Hate Kansas, by Joseph Millard (1941)

THERE ARE those books whose titles are, in many ways, so spectacular that one fears they might overshadow the books themselves. There is Jack Butler's Jujitsu for Christ, for example, or Dwarf Rapes Nun, Flees in UFO by Arnold Sawislak.

And there's Joseph Millard's The Gods Hate Kansas. Right from the start you know you're in for something…different. First of all, the title begs the question: Do the gods, in fact, hate Kansas, and if so, why? Well, don't hold your breath waiting for the answers. All we know is how the gods show their displeasure—by bombarding Kansas with more meteors per square mile than any other state.

Nine of them hit the Earth at the beginning of the story, the investigating scientists are zombiefied, and work begins on a spaceship. There's a beautiful (zombiefied) woman, loved by a (nonzombiefied) scientist, who, if not mad, is certainly awfully cranky by the end of the book, and there are aliens. What more could you want?

Well, how about a movie? It was filmed in 1967 as They Came from Beyond Space, but don't look for any better answers there. By comparison, the book is Great Literature.

Originally published in 1941 in Startling Stories, it did manage to predate other, better known aliens-take-over-our-minds yarns, but being first doesn't always mean being best. Millard himself went on to gain note as the writer of The Cheyenne Wars and other western non-fiction, none of which are as intriguingly betitled as this, his only sf novel.

—Bud Webster
Source: here.

Meteorites under intelligent control slamming into a field in Kansas! Local people possessed by aliens! An incredibly advanced alien race coming as conquerors, who think they are actually doing the locals a favor by enslaving us!

No, it isn't Seasons 5-7 of Smallville. It's the plot to THE GODS HATE KANSAS, a 1941 pulp science fiction story by Joseph Millard.

The first intriguing thing, other than the Oz resonances, Smallville resonances and the rest, is that in the canon of Science Fiction, this book, like Fritz Leiber's OUR LADY OF DARKNESS, is more or less suppressed by neglect. Like OUR LADY, this book is difficult to find online, impossible to order, and referenced indirectly in the sub-professional press. Intriguing. What is there in this book that has put it into the black library?

To turn from THE GODS HATE KANSAS to Doctor Who, the same basic plot was used not only in the 1967 film version of the book, relocated from Kansas to (Arthurian) Cornwall, where it pits Doctor TEMPLE and Miss MASON against the illuminating aliens, but Doctor Who has used the exact premise of the book for the Nestene Consciousness... TWICE. And had near misses several other times.

The Nestene Consciousness, besides having one of the coolest names in the history of fictional naming stuff, is a gestalt monstrosity able to animate any "plastic", which means plastic as we would think of it- plastic chairs, plastic flowers, cling film, store dummies, dolls, model kits- the works. The Nestenes themselves may resemble cycloptic giant squids with crab claws on their tentacles... Or that may be just another layer of semiotic deception.

Since Doctor Who himself, like Clark Kent, is merely a godlike alien pretending to be human(ish), how can we trust what he says or what his sympathetic chroniclers at the BBC reproduce as his adventures?

If the "real" Superman comes from Oz, we can understand why he would be afraid of chunks of the Emerald City masquerading as "kryptonite" ("ore of the unknown" ie the unrefined lead prior to its alchemical apotheosis). It can only serve to remind the immigrant from fairyland how unwelcome he would be were his true nature to be revealed. His pretense of assimilation stripped from him, he would stand revealed as a cuckoo in the nest, a hostile changeling whose mere presence defiles the Earth.