Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Wilmar H Shiras' "In Hiding" (novelette): A young boy who's "different" is forced to conform

Quote from short story titled In Hiding by Wilmar H ShirasWhile a well written story, I've actually read quite a few with similar themes - so impact on me was moderate.

Most interesting thing about this story is suspense. You know something unusual is cooking - but what? Reading the summary below is guaranteed to spoil some of the fun if you intend to actually read it.

Story summary.

There are 2 main actors - 13 year old boy Timothy Paul, & a psychiatrist Dr Peter Welles. Tim has always been a prodigy - mature beyond his years, & that has always got him in trouble. So he now conforms - consciously cuts down his visible performance to level of his peers. What he does behind the scenes - in his spare time - is another matter, as we will slowly learn.

Tim's school teacher, Miss Page, senses something unusual about him - just a hunch, though she cannot really pinpoint. She makes him see Dr Welles. Story is mostly about Dr Welles slowly gaining Tim's confidence, learning about his unusual ability, & discovering that humanity has actually split into two - genetic mutations in children born of a certain nuclear accident are probably supermen (how come it's the same mutation in many babies?).

We see a very common plot device - caring guardians that don't understand the unusual abilities of children, & nip the buds before they can bloom.
  1. In this story, it's Tim's maternal grandmother, Mrs Davis; he was raised by his grandparents - his parents fell victim to accident that gave him unusual abilities. Fearful of his possible mutation, she is especially keen to see him fit.
  2. Last year's beautiful movie - "Tare Zameen Par" (2007) - has a dyslexic child with a loving but utterly unsympathetic dad; he will also be helped by his teacher.
  3. This is also the main theme Henry Kuttner's very dark "Absalom" - there too a mutation is sweeping through the population, turning new generation much smarter than older one. A loving father who's unconsciously jealous of his son's unusual abilities is coming in the way.
  4. Judith Merril's "That Only a Mother" has a parents' mutation fears similar to Tim's grandma here - but in very unhappy circumstances. There too, mutations are caused as a side-effect of nuclear bomb radiation.
There must be at least a half dozen other stories I've posted on here that have somewhat similar story line.

Collected in.

  1. Ben Bova (Ed)'s "The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume Two B".

Fact sheet.

First published: Astounding Science Fiction, November 1948.
Rating: A
Note the author is a woman, in spite of the name!