Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Henry Kuttner & C L Moore's "Mutant" (as by Lewis Padgett) (collection, racism): Annotated table of contents & review

Cover image of the 1953 short story collection titled Mutant by Henry Kuttner and C L Moore, writing under their pseudonym Lewis PadgettThis is the first of a series of 6 posts - remaining ones on individual stories. Hopefully over the next fortnight or so.

These are important stories. Going by the imitations I've seen, they define a useful template in which to set racism stories of the genre. These are also good reads, though not among the authors' best, & in spite of occasional feel of tediousness I got. I recall having seen at least one of the stories in one of the books of "Isaac Asimov Presents Great SF Stories" series.

All but last are from 1945, the last year of WWII. Series is a reaction to Hitler's brand of racism, though he's explicitly named only once - in "The Piper's Son".

Stories are generally novella or novelette length; nothing very short here.

Stories need to be read in order; later stories make use of ideas & situations introduced in earlier ones.


A genetic mutation has created a new parallel race of humans called "baldies" (because of their remarkable lack of body hair). This is a race of telepaths.

Baldies are numerically very few compared to normal humans. They are widely resented, or at least looked upon with suspicion, because they can potentially read normals' mind without the victim knowing. Because of numerical differences, baldies could also be wiped out if scales got really tipped against them.

So baldies are very careful in their dealings with normal humans; in fact, they wear wig to hide the visible differences, & consciously not aspire to higher social positions. That's normal baldies. There are two deviant subraces too - one are mental cases, others racial supremacists who keep plotting to wipe out non-baldies.

Stories are about the fight of normal baldies against the racial supremacist baldies. Normal baldies suspect that any precipitation of crisis with normal humans will result in complete wiping out of all baldies; normal humans don't distinguish between baldy variants.

There will be much conflict, but a happy ending in last of the stories - where there is a promise that all of humanity can become telepaths - normal ones by wearing a certain device.

The world it describes, or at least the US where the stories are set, has pretty much (administratively) independent city states where every such state maintains atom bomb piles as deterrence.

Stories are all narrated via reminiscences of an accident victim who's stuck at a location where he cannot telepathically reach rest of humanity & is feeling very lonely.

Table of contents (in original order).

Note: Will add annotations with individual stories as I post the series.
My rating is in brackets.
  1. "The Piper's Son" (B); download; Astounding, February 1945: Zero tolerance for racists poisoning children's minds.
  2. "Three Blind Mice" (B); download; Astounding, June 1945: Racist organization needs to be nipped in the bud.
  3. "The Lion and the Unicorn"; download; Astounding, July 1945.
  4. "Beggers in Velvet"; download; Astounding, December 1945.
  5. "Humpty Dumpty"; download; Astounding, September 1953.

Fact sheet.

First published: 1953.
Read full text online at WOWIO. I've not read this online version, but it appears to be the right one.
Related: Stories of Henry Kuttner, C L Moore (as by Lewis Padgett).
Individual stories also listed among the stories from John Campbell's Astounding/Analog.


aline said...

I would like to download the stories but the links are broke. =/ could you post them again??

Tinkoo said...

Sorry - I won't know new locations. But Google is your friend - when I search Piper's Son, I found it rather high on first page; may be others are too.

Also, UNZ has 155 stories of Kuttner. But I haven't verified if Mutant stories are included.