Feb 17, 2018

Telepathy in 1927

In the Ekcolir Reality.
They're weird and they're wonderful. In the 1920s, some really weird stories (including a reprint of Dagon and some Cthulhu stories) were published in Weird Tales. When men such as Hugo Gernsback were inventing the science fiction literary genre, they wanted stories that were a bit less weird and that could mesh with the burgeoning enterprise of science research and technological reality.

I like to imagine that scientific advances arrived at a slightly accelerated pace in the Ekcolir Reality. Shown to the right is a patent for radio-assisted telepathy from 1927 in the Ekcolir Reality.

Sadly, in our reality, technologies such as television were just beginning in the 1920s. Reading issues of Gernsback's Amazing Stories reminds me of what it was like to read Byte magazine back in the early days of the personal computer revolution. Here is an ad from the August 1927 issue of Amazing:

global communications in 2025
In that issue, there was a strange story by E. D. Skinner about events in the year 2025. At the inspirational core Gernsback's technological boosterism was the world of electronics, radio and the dream of television.  Skinner depicted a future in which global telecommunications networks were commonplace.

Of course, nobody writing speculative fiction in the 1920s was able to imagine technological details from the coming century such as the invention of semiconductors and integrated circuits.
image source

Biology in Sci Fi
I've always been more interested in biology than the physical sciences, so it is fun for me to look at old Sci Fi stories that emphasize speculative future biology rather imaginary advances in electronic devices. I went to the August 1927 issue of Amazing to read "The Tissue-Culture King" by Julian Huxley.
interior artwork by Frank R. Paul

Huxley and his wife
(1924) source
I find it difficult to classify this story by Huxley as being part of the science fiction genre. The story makes use of a rather standard adventure plot in which a remote corner of the Earth is discovered to be the site of an amazing scientific research project. In this case, one mad scientist has been performing biological experiments on the people and animals of a remote African kingdom.

While people such as Gernsback were popularizing the new age of radio and electronics, there was a similar revolution in tissue culture during the early 20th century. Tissue culture was a well known technique in biomedical research when Huxley's name appeared on an article in 1925 called "Self-Differentiation in the Grafted Limb-Bud of the Chick".

Before the 1940s and the availability of antibiotics, tissue culture work required careful sterile techniques (see the image to the right). It is not clear that Huxley ever actually performed any tissue transplantation or culture techniques himself. The work in the 1925 article was most likely performed by Murray, Huxley's co-author.

The origins of telepathy.
"The Tissue-Culture King" starts out like a sequel to The Island of Doctor Moreau. A British scientist has been living in Africa and performing bizarre cell culturing experiments designed to please the local king and mesh with the local religion. All of the king's subjects now maintain cultures of cells from the king and believe that this promotes and supports the power and vitality of their king. In his spare time, the scientist likes to dabble in other biology experiments aimed at creating altered animals such as two-headed toads, tall soldiers and fat women.

Eventually readers learn that the scientist is also conducting experiments on telepathy. He has discovered that by hypnotizing the natives, they can synchronize their thoughts and transmit powerful telepathic signals. Luckily, by wearing a metallic hat, the scientist can protect himself from the telepathic signals.

in the Ekcolir Reality
All of these goings on in Africa are reported by our intrepid author, who accidentally stumbled upon the Kingdom of Tissue Culture. The story narrator was able to escape from Africa and feels duty bound to report his experiences as a warning about the dangers of uncontrolled scientific advancements.

During the 1920s, Huxley was probably ill with bipolar disorder. It is easy to view his story, "The Tissue-Culture King" as an expression of a manic phase in his illness. As far as I know, Huxley did not write any other fiction.

Soon after writing "The Tissue-Culture King", Huxley abandoned his university professorship and began writing The Science of Life.

It is fun to imagine that in the Ekcolir Reality, Huxley was contacted by a scientific collaborator who had discovered the existence of femtobots inside living cells. Those femtobots provided the basis for a type of technology-assisted telepathy.

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Feb 10, 2018

PoCo Dreams

Dr. They: "Reggie is William's father."
I was blissfully dreaming of a rational post-conspiracy Sci Fi wind-down of The X-Files, then we got chemtrails in episode 6 of Season 11.

Previously on The X-Files... we had Chris Carter's fantasy about bees that would cause the end of civilization by spreading a virus (or alien DNA, or something).

So, Davey, what's your dad been up to?
Look Ma, No Teeth
"Kitten" could be meaningful if it is leading to an end-of-Season 11 showdown between 1) William and his ability to make people see things and 2) some dark government/Syndicate/whoknows? conspiracy to spray evil yellow gas from airplanes and make everyone see monsters/die from the Spartan Virus/whoknows? yada yada...

Really, officer, I lost my boss... Bald Eagle.
The Good. In preparation for the Grand Finale of The X-Files, we now have Skinner, Mulder and Scully all united and working together in their struggle to find the TRUTH™. Thankfully, we did not even have to suffer through another lame pushing match between Skinner and Mulder in episode 6.

The Bald Bad. I am so ready to be done with Chris Carter's endless conspiracy mongering. I wish episode 7 would arrive quickly (yes, I'm welcoming what looks like some absurd drone army chasing Fox and Dana, but I'll take anything just to get the disgusting flavor of episode 6 out of my mouth), but Dr. They is going to make us wait three whole weeks for the next X-Files episode.

Mitch finally learns the backstory of Skinner
The Ugly. I had a horrible thought during episode 6: what if "My Struggle IV" is not going to be about William's struggle, but rather, it turns out to be Skinner's struggle?! Eww. I hate the idea that Skinner is an essential element of the entire X-Files saga. I had no desire to learn more about Skinner's past as some sort of special operations grunt during the Vietnam War.

The Annoying. Of course, in "Kitten" nothing is explained about the idiotic chemical/biological warfare mission that Skinner and his buddy "Kitten" are given while in Vietnam. Don't ask questions, just go along for the conspiratorial fear mongering. All you need to do is set off enough explosions and kill enough extras and you have successfully satisfied the requirements for making a Hollywood television program.

The Anti-William
The vampiro monster, that can only
be killed by a bamboo cheek piercing
There's the perp, wearing a silly animal skull costume and looking into the surveillance camera that happens to be out in the middle of the forest right where it can capture the images of a murder and advance the plot of episode 6. Nothing need make sense because we are in Mud Lick, where anything can happen, such as everyone failing to care if their teeth are falling out.

Golly gee willikers, now that you mention it,
my wife and I were just discussing how everyone around
these parts has been loosing teeth.
It all started long ago when Skinner was ordered to carry an LSD-dispensing M44 generator cluster deep into the jungle of Vancouver, BC. The local Canadians objected to being used for chemical warfare experiments, so the experiments were moved to Mud Lick, Kentucky.

Project MKUltra
Apparently, vast numbers of documents related to U.S. government research and development of chemical and biological weapons were destroyed in order to hide illegal human subjects research carried out by the CIA. I would not be surprised if some research into psycho-active chemicals (such as anxiety-inducing drugs) remains classified. The murky history of such research and government use of chemical/radiological/biological warfare agents provides a good starting point for Sci Fi stories with a government conspiracy plot line.

X-Files: the next generation?
Somewhere between William and Davey is Tommy, a young boy who can put monsters into the thoughts of people and even his pet cat. I suppose Gabe Rotter was involved in writing "Scary Monsters" and he waited years for a chance to write "Kitten".

"Kitten" was a jumbled mess that excelled in the Chris Carter tradition of a plot that makes no sense. The severe sloppiness of this episode might simply arise from inexperience on the part of the writer and director, but it does not bode well if this was some sort of audition for new show runners who might bring us an X-Files the Next Generation.

Absurd and not explained.
Episode 666. This steaming pile strikes me as what you get from a producer who is too young to know anything about the Vietnam War and a writer who went to Wikipedia in an attempt to create a backstory for Skinner, and a writer who could not resist splicing into their X-File various gruesome scenes from old war movies like The Green Berets and Apocalypse Now.

What, me worry? (original)
Move Along
Mr. "Kitten" is experimented on for 40 years and then he finally gets released by his tormentors? And he then sends an ear through the mail to Skinner? Or was it Davey who sent the Ear? Never explained and it does not matter. "Never explained and it does not matter" is the motto for this kind of lame Hollywood dreck that simply rushes along from one disgusting scene to another. Skinner is pinned at the bottom of the hole by a stake through his abdomen, then he is unpinned, then he is trapped at the bottom of the hole, then he gets out, then Scully applies a band-aid and Skinner is ready to go back to his office. Davey gets shot by Scully then Davey is running around and fighting with Skinner then he falls into his own booby trap. Don't even try to make sense of it.

Next: telepathy in 1927

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