Fred Hoyle (Sir Fred Hoyle, FRS)
October the First Is Too Late
London: Heineman, 1966; New York: Harper & Row, 1966
New York: Fawcett Publications, Inc., 1968 (paperback)
Richmond,Va.: Valancourt Books, 2015 (with an Introduction by John Howard)
Penny: So, how you been?
Sheldon Cooper: Well, my existence is a continuum, so I’ve been what I am at each point in the implied time period.
Penny: You’re just coitusing with me, are you?
Sheldon Cooper: Bazinga!
While doing some research on William Sloane’s novella Edge of Running Water, as part of my recent review of his collection Rim of Dawn, I came across a reference to Harlan Ellison saying that “he’d loved the book in his youth, re-read it as an adult and found it didn’t pack nearly the same punch.” Slone’s book was new to me, so Ellison’s reaction was irrelevant. I’m happy to say that I did not have the same reaction to the book now under review; or at least, not so much.
From time to time I’ve alluded to my inability to get with the Tolkien cult due to finding it impossible to read The Lord of the Rings. Apparently, it’s one of those books you have to read at around twelve or thirteen, when it becomes an obsession and sticks with you forever, or something.
This was not — at least directly — the mark of some kind of special snowflake genius, but simply the result of being enough of an outsider to fail to fall into any of the available middle school identities, including even geek or nerd.
So what was I reading? Various things, which I’ve covered before, but among them was a book I hadn’t thought about for quite a while, until the invaluable Valancourt reprinted it late last year: October the First is Too Late, by Fred Hoyle.
Here’s Valancourt’s synopsis:
Renowned scientist John Sinclair and his old school friend Richard, a celebrated composer, are enjoying a climbing expedition in the Scottish Highlands when Sinclair disappears without a trace for thirteen hours. When he resurfaces with no explanation for his disappearance, he has undergone an uncanny alteration: a birthmark on his back has vanished. But stranger events are yet to come: things are normal enough in Britain, but in France it’s 1917 and World War I is raging, Greece is in the Golden Age of Pericles, America seems to have reverted to the 18th century, and Russia and China are thousands of years in the future.
But truth is in the mind of the beholder, and who is to say which of these timelines is the ‘real’ one?
My copy was the yellowy-orange paperback shown here, so indeed I must have been at most 13 or so. Though Tolkien and Hoyle are, pardon the expression, worlds apart, the book does seem to have exercised a Tolkienesque effect on me; I can recall reading it a number of times, at the time, and ideas and situations have stayed with me all this time. It may even be the very first “serious” book I ever read.
And it seems I am not alone in this. It’s a recurring pattern in reviews, such as these from Amazon:
4.0 out of 5 stars queerly fascinating
By Nicholas Cunningham on December 13, 2005
Based on this utterly scientific study of two reviews, do not give this book to your twelve or thirteen year old unless you are comfortable with him or her becoming a professional musician or physicist. I don’t know how much “October the First is Too Late” influenced my choice to study physics, but it is compelling in a way too few of the books I read in middle school are. After more than a decade, I still remember and enjoy Hoyle’s description of reality as a series of pigeon holes filled with stories.
4.0 out of 5 stars oddly captivating
By A Customer on September 29, 1999
Very much of its 1966 British zeitgeist. It concerns the unlikely adventures of two friends, one a composer and pianist, the other a Nobel laureate physicist. The prose is glib and rather awkward at times, but something about this book is compelling in an indefinable way. Well, the social and philosophical speculation is intriguing; the glamor of the musician’s life is attractive. I first read “October the First is Too Late” at age twelve or thirteen, and it may have helped decide me to take up music professionally (so to speak).
Or, some less tender memories from the Goodreads.com site:
This old (1966) book came up in talks at LosCon [?] last year, and I remembered it as something that I read when it came out and couldn’t make any sense of at all, which means I was too young (14) when I read it. So I decided to try it again when I ran across a copy; one showed up at the FOPAL sale for $1. Definitely worth reading, and no trouble understanding it this time (though I didn’t quite get the “copies” vs. “originals” bit at the end.)
What can explain this continuing effect? Apparently not the writing. Another theme we see in these reviews is that Hoyle was wise to keep his day job (although rubbishing the Big Bang Theory — a term he himself coined, intending it as an insult — didn’t really pay off either).
Take this rather dyspeptic review of the same edition I read, but apparently minus the nostalgia:
October the First is Too Late is not a good read by any standard. Really. . . . But while this concept would be really cool to explore and in the hands of a good author would really be a heck of an adventure, Hoyle just plods along with our somewhat dreary and banal main character.
At 160 pages, this should be a fast read. However, it was incredibly boring and absurd. Not a good absurd either. It was pathetic at points in terms of novel/literature/fiction aspects. Basically, if you are reading this for exciting science fiction — forget it, you will be completely and certainly disappointed. Maybe even annoyed.
Hoyle warns us right up front that storytelling takes a backseat to science:
To the Reader
The ‘science’ in this book is mostly scaffolding for the story, story-telling in the traditional sense. [I think he means, no fancy-boy precious prose and postmodern mucking about] However, the discussions of the significance of time and of the meaning of consciousness are intended to be quite serious . . .
Fred Hoyle, 14 July 1965
But that’s not quite true. Despite his backtracking notice and the short shrift reviewers give his literary gifts, it’s clear Hoyle intended to produce a work of literary fiction, not just a “scaffolding” for his ideas (which we’ll get to in a moment). This extends beyond just giving his chapters opaque names based on musical tempi — Prelude, Fugue, Intermezzo, Tempo de Minuetto, u.s.w.
For example, as one reads the first couple chapters, Hoyle seems to be taking an enormous amount of time detailing the meeting and subsequent hiking trip of the two old friends, John the Physicist and Richard (who calls himself “Dick”) the Musician. One might wonder if this is science fiction at all, rather than a nature memoir. And yet, as we’ve frequently said, such piling up of detail is an essential technique in weird fiction.
And it doesn’t just take up time, it deals with time. One begins to notice a recurrent, almost obsessive compulsive referencing of temporal matters (shades of Sheldon Cooper):
The time seemed about right for breakfast.
It was characteristic of him that he wouldn’t move on until we had fixed the exact point where we were now standing.
As soon as possible.
The minutes lengthened to half an hour.
I saw from my watch it was already nine o’clock. Shortly after, there came a powerful knock at the van door.
I remembered to check my watch with his before he did so. There was nothing wrong with it.
It certainly seemed as if the intervening years had never existed.
Yet the intervening years were real enough.
Of course I didn’t know much about him as he was now, only as he used to be.
We had been fighting time
The pleasure lasts no more than thirty seconds. You stick it for another minute and then out you crawl as fast as you can.
You might think this is setting up the sort of “lost time” scenario we’ve seen on the X Files and elsewhere, but although John eventually disappears for thirteen hours, and returns with no memory of anything untoward, that plot point is forgotten when the big time scramble occurs, only to pop up again at the very end. The narrator ends Chapter Two with one final clue:
It was while we were drying off in the sunshine that the odd thing struck me. Back at school we had often stripped our shirts off after football. I knew perfectly well John had a strawberry birthmark, about the size of a half-crown, in the small of his back. There was now no trace of it.
So once the time shifts occur, we have two plot points: (1) Why did John disappear and return with no memory of what happened, and without his birthmark, and (2) Why is there now a multi-temporal Earth. These two points supposedly are brought together in the “Coda,” as a blogger explains:
The thought-provoking ‘Coda’ speculates that the entire time-fragmentation situation was precipitated by a higher level of future perception. That the solar modulations they’d detected were beams of information generating this strange new world of overlapping parallel time. Some kind of incomprehensible experiment, just as we “disturb a stone and watch ants scurrying hither and thither underneath it.”
Even stranger, Sinclair’s initial disappearance and lost birthmark are evidence that he had physically crossed over alternate worlds, and was now not precisely the same person as before. That the ‘real’ world of 1966 had continued unchanged, and all the events since had happened to two protagonist parallel selves. Hoyle’s fiction never went for the easy option.
“Easy” it’s not, but does it work? Here my own memory proved delusive. I had recalled that the timeshift had been caused by the future people we meet at the end, for some purpose, perhaps to set up an experiment to decide if their peaceful but stable and sterile existence is really preferable to the Earth’s violent past. Hence the choice offered to John and Dick (or their duplicates): return to their own time, or stay in the future.
Melea spoke for the first time. “The different zones of the Earth will change back to what they were before. The Greece in which we met, the temple, will be gone. It will be gone far more completely than even the ruined remains of your own time. It will be gone almost without trace. It will be gone, except for the records in our libraries. Europe too will be gone, so will the great Plain of Glass. It will only be this zone here that will remain.”
But this proves to be a typical “smoothing out” or “normalizing” false memory. In fact, Hoyle introduces the timeshift to set up his narrative and then just drops it.
In fact, it’s worse than that; the idea is internally incoherent. As Chris Winter argues,
If this sounds confusing to you, you’ve been paying attention. It is unclear how the future people, for all their advancement, can know this will happen unless they somehow created the different zones. And if they did, they should tell the men from 1966 why. But they don’t.
And that’s because, they didn’t do it in the first place. Winter points out that
A few days’ work lead [John] to the discovery that [the cause of the time shift is] a beam of infrared radiation originating from an area about five solar diameters across. John calculates that this gives it extremely low dispersion. It carries huge volumes of information, and he speculates on page 49 that it might be an interstellar or even intergalactic relay. The inference has to be that some extraterrestrial agency is responsible — one far in advance of Earth science, even the Earth science of 6,000 years from now. This whole premise is dropped when the time shifts are found, so it’s not relevant to the denouement.
This explains why fans of “hard sci/fic” dislike the book; Hoyle ought to be exploring causes and the implications of the chronological instability. Instead, Dick takes off for extended stays in ancient Greece and future Mexico, with long disquisitions on music and speculations on the nature of temporal consciousness. But as we’ll see, that’s a good thing.
This happens because, in another initially promising move, Hoyle also resists the temptation to make his narrator a scientist; while one protagonist is indeed a Nobel laureate physicist, it’s his childhood friend, a musician, who is the narrator. This compels Hoyle to present his science in the form of “parables” to an outsider, such as the reader. So far, so good.
Unfortunately, the composer is far more interesting than the physicist, even to Hoyle, and about midway his story seems to take over and become the main thread, with John the Physicist — the only reason for this musician having entree to these events at all — effectively disappearing.
If not the style or the narrative, what accounts for the strange hold this book has? The ideas! As one blogger says,
Reading this book was the first time I’d seen some of my own stranger thoughts on these matters expressed in print. The fact that it was Fred Hoyle who’d written them made this particularly satisfying.
I was by no means as (supposedly) intellectually precocious as to have already had these ideas, but nevertheless they did seem rather striking at the time, and given the opportunity by Valancourt to reread the book itself so many years later, I find they have had an odd kind of thematic role in much of my own later thinking (if that’s not too kind a word for it).
There are really three such ideas, or really scenes — so I suppose Fred wasn’t that bad a writer after all — that have stuck with me. The first is more of a clever idea. The British government is immediately concerned with ending the war — the slaughter, really — in France. (The Eastern Front is no problem since Russia is now a futuristic plain of glass.) How to convince the warring parties to accept a negotiated peace? The Americans might choose an atomic blast, as with Hiroshima, but fortunately they’re hors de combat now, and the clever Brits have a cunning plan.
The problem was solved in a simple fashion. It was solved by using one of the most remarkable feats of 1966, but one quite unmilitary in character. It was done simply with a high fidelity gramophone. Delegates from the continent were ushered through a room in which an old-fashioned tinny machine, the sort you wind up, with a little horn, was playing. It wheezed out its feeble sounds as the delegates assembled in the conference room. The delegates were at first surprised at this apparent eccentricity. Then they were shattered by a sudden switch to full volume on the 1966 equipment. All that needed to be done was to draw a simple analogy. The Prime Minister just pointed out that the weapons of his own day, of 1966, bore the same relation to the weapons being used in France, as did this new powerful gramophone to the little whining horn of 1917. He asked the German staff officers to compare their own weapons with those of the year 1860. Then perhaps they would understand how things stood. He wasn’t telling them this in order to claim a victory. He wasn’t interested in a victory as they would understand it. The important thing was to get down to a discussion of acceptable peace terms. All that was needed was a rational, reasonable approach to the problem. It was rather like a headmaster scolding a group of naughty boys.
This seemed a really neat idea to me then, and now as well; imagine the effect with today’s playback systems.
The second scene/idea occurs during Dick’s prolonged stay in ancient Greece, where, of course, music goes along with seduction, and he finds himself engaged in a musical competition with a priestess of Apollo. On re-reading, I’m sure this was the origin of my interests in ancient and non-Western music, as well as a prefiguration of my provocative (i.e., intensely loathed and hated) essays on Wagner and Harry Partch.
Right at the start of the narrative Dick reveals himself to be a typical modernist composer, aware of the dead-ending of the Western tradition but too complacently sophisticated and successful within his modern worldview to contemplate a sufficiently radical alternative:
Modern styles are no solution to the problem but neither was my piece. It was an extrapolation of the old methods. It faced the challenge of comparison with the composers of the past—for fifteen minutes. It pointed no way to anybody else.
When Dick comes to live among the ancient Greeks, he is impressed by what we might identify as their Traditionalist features, where technological gimgrackery is unknown, and instead tine, taste, talent, and vocation are devoted to simply making things the best.
While most things were meaner, evidence of better taste was to be seen in almost every article.
Only later did I realize that time was a commodity not in short supply in this community. It would have been taken as an insult, when so many were gathered together, to have spoken tersely.
Soon I was to realize that to be able to speak clearly, with persuasion and reason, was equivalent to power in this city.
The two things taken most seriously here were war and speech. Both were far ahead of sex in the estimation of the people.
The excellent acoustic properties of Greek theatres, always such a marvel to the modern world, came from the fact that the spoken word, discussion and argument, had absolute top priority. In days before the microphone and loud speaker, acoustics simply had to be good.
Everybody here was what they wanted to be, what they were interested in.
Within a week I came to think of the practice of staying up, out of bed, after the Sun has long since set, and of then staying in bed after the Sun has long since risen, as entirely absurd.
But these people knew how to lift weights. Their major buildings were an astonishing tribute to their abilities in this respect.
The essential thing was not to be in a hurry. So far as possible they never made a move which could not be reversed.
Slavery proves to be sticking point, with our modern visitors unable to resist disputing about it with the aforementioned masters of argument.
The gist of their point of view was that if you didn’t have slaves you’d have no leisure whatsoever. Plainly we were men of leisure. How else could I play the great lyre-in-the-box [the piano he’s carted along with him] so skillfully?
Still an unanswered question. As for sex,
Sex was like food, a regular necessity but not to be fussed about.
Dick even evinces a most un-British liking for olive oil in plentiful quantities, which “torments” his companions.
But when it comes to music,
Naturally I was curious as to how the music would be received by my audience. In a quite strange way, mainly with argument.
Miffed at an audience that for once pushes back, he can only condescend that “their ears were not tuned to complex sounds.” And so, when the priestess issues the challenge,
I could not help smiling for the thought of a contest between a primitive lyre and a modern piano seemed ludicrous.
With the whole of European musical literature behind me there could be no question of the outcome of the contest.
This is not the best attitude to have when entering into competition with Apollo, and even Dick expects the fate of Marsyis, though, this being the ’60s, and his story, after all, the priestess settles for a draw and takes him to her bed.
The styles were too different for a judgement of better or worse to be made. Only similar things can be compared in a direct fashion, only when they set out to obey the same rules and restrictions.
He might have better taken warning from that hi-fi demonstration scene; in fact, on re-reading the book, it finally occurred to me that the two scenes are mirrors or bookends — hey, Hoyle’s literary after all!
Along the way to the big showdown Dick hits on a number of little musical points we’ve touched on before. For example,
[Greek] instruments produced certain notes better than others, unlike the piano which produces all its notes equally.
This, baldly expressed, is in a way the essential point I had tried to make before, and is the key illusion of modern Western music. The piano facilitates harmonic composition by making every note accessible — but only by falsifying the notes themselves (so called “equal temperament”).
The music of Apollo, however, seems to be microtonal, along the lines of Partch:
The impression of a long note was given by several short notes played very close together.
This was not twelve-tone music, all the tones were not being used. Yet it wasn’t tonal in the sense of our system of keys. The structure was more complicated than anything I had heard before.
It was quite symphonic in scale, although there was no suggestion of orchestral instruments. Everything was built out of plucked notes. It lacked something of the colour of an orchestra but this can be my only criticism.
Or take this offhand remark:
At about that time [one of his companions] developed a passion for Hungarian gypsy music. It proved surprisingly popular with everybody.
This recalls Evola’s suggestion that those who are rightly seeking more authentic music than that of the European concert hall need not turn to the Afro-Caribbean world (as the popularity of jazz and rock attest) but to their own Western tradition, as found in
European folk music . . . for example, in the rhythms of southeastern Europe (Romanian or Hungarian).
Finally, there’s the third, the really big idea, and it’s a right bastard. It’s called the pigeon-hole theory of mind, and it even has its own Wikipedia entry:
John Sinclair (in the last few pages of Chapter 7) talks to Dick about his theory that might explain what has happened.
He considers each moment of time as a state represented by a pigeon-hole; the sequence in which they might be accessed might not be in time sequence. “A sequence is a logical concept in which time doesn’t really enter at all,” he says. “. . . Our consciousness corresponds to just where the light falls, as it dances about among the pigeon-holes . . . What is this light? . . . My strong hunch is that it’s the spot of light that permits decisions which lie outside the laws of physics.” He considers that there might be more than one set of pigeon-holes, but only one light. “For every different person, you need a separate set of pigeon-holes. But the consciousness could be the same.”
John thinks that their new situation, a world made of parts of the old world, might be due to a new set of pigeon-holes, made of some of the pigeon-holes in the other system.
Hoyle was much clearer in the preface to his 1963 novel Fifth Planet:
Physics regards the world as four-dimensional. All moments of time exist together. The world can be thought of as a map, not only spatially, but also with respect to time. The map stretches away both into the past and into the future. There is no such thing as ‘waiting’ for the future. It is already there in the map.
Clearly we have here the Vedantic conception of the warp and woof of the space-time continuum, or at least a scientific model compatible therewith. This was clearly setting me up for my epochal encounter with Alan Watts and, through him, Rene Guenon and the other Traditionalists.
Finally, re-reading and thinking about Hoyle’s story in terms of my own later obsession leads me to a more sympathetic reading of his convoluted non-resolution of the major plot points. Remember that piling up of everyday details? Perhaps Hoyle was, without really knowing it, doing not science fiction but weird fiction?
In fact, he tells us right out that he’s not impressed by the usual run of sci/fi, and for entirely Lovecraftian reasons. Here’s John as he tries to explain the big beam of light:
You put such a brain inside a big lizard, and bang-wallop, you have a science-fiction story. Or if you can’t be bothered with the lizard-like aspect of the story, you simply put the human brain in a human creature, and call it a humanoid. To make the story go, the humanoid is usually set up as more intelligent than ourselves, with a better technology. Then the story turns on how the dear old magnificent human species manages to deal with the alien threat. It boils down to a new version of Indians and cowboys. . . . If this rather simple-minded notion stopped at science-fiction it wouldn’t be so bad. But as soon as we try to think seriously about intelligence outside the Earth that’s exactly the way our concepts go.
“The dear old magnificent human species really hits the Lovecraftian note of human irrelevance, too. And at the end, in the “Coda,” Dick (note the bookending: beginning/end, John/Dick) muses that
What is quite certain is that the affair was brought about from a higher level of perception than our own. That we ourselves are unable to comprehend the thoughts, the actions, the technology perhaps, of an intelligence of a higher order also seems reasonable. Disturb a stone and watch ants scurrying hither and thither underneath it. . . . It emerges quite clearly that humanity can also be stirred up at any time, just like ants under a stone.
The real failure, then, is not Hoyle’s inability to tie up the loose ends, but rather the human chauvinism of those sci/fi fanatics who think the loose ends can be tied up, in a nice, homey, humanly understandable package. Whether he knew it or not, Hoyle was not writing run of the mill science fiction but weird fiction, designed to invoke the Lovecraftian sense of cosmic strangeness.
What it is, only God knows. In terms of matter I suppose the thing Ammi described would be called a gas, but this gas obeyed laws that are not of our cosmos. This was no fruit of such worlds and suns as shine on the telescopes and photographic plates of our observatories. This was no breath from the skies whose motions and dimensions our astronomers measure or deem too vast to measure. It was just a colour out of space—a frightful messenger from unformed realms of infinity beyond all Nature as we know it; from realms whose mere existence stuns the brain and numbs us with the black extra-cosmic gulfs it throws open before our frenzied eyes.
Lovecraft’s life was thwarted in many areas, but perhaps none rankled him more than his failure to master mathematics, which doomed his hopes of becoming an astronomer. Even so, Lovecraft maintained that his discovery of astronomy “did more to shape his entire world-view than any other single event.” Although personal immortality did not play a role in that world-view, perhaps a note could be left in the appropriate pigeon-hole to let Old Grandpa know that he was on the same wavelength as Sir Fred Hoyle.
1. The Big Bang Theory, “The Spaghetti Catalyst” (2010). As we’ll see, Dr. Cooper is as misguided on the nature of personal identity as he is on cosmology.
2. “On The Blunt Edge of Weird Fiction: Two Short Novels by William Sloane,” here.
3. Until the movies came out, I felt I could get by on Henry N. Beard and Doug C. Kenney’s 1969 parody Bored of the Rings (according to Beard, it was done with Tolkien’s approval; see “‘This Ain’t Funny, this is Genocide!’ The Rise & Fall of the National Lampoon,” my review of the movie Drunk, Stoned, Brilliant, Dead, here). Can you tell the difference? Take the quiz here.
4. Perhaps Naked Lunch as well: “Still, “Naked Lunch” serves a very valuable and reliable purpose. Get to it early enough, somewhere between The Hardy Boys and Holden Caulfield, and the fatigue and tedium will inoculate you against all sorts of intellectual malfeasance. You’ll never swallow the line that obscenity is a hallmark of genius, or that the road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom (usually it leads to the palace of excess, except when it leads to the hovel of incomprehensibility). Dismiss Burroughs as a pull-my-finger bore and you’re ready to dismiss Matthew Barney, Damien Hirst, the Chapman Brothers, Jonathan Littell and a host of others too dull to mention.” Stefan Beck, “The Immortal Awfulness of Naked Lunch,” Salon, April 21, 2010, here. Oddly enough, I did read Naked Lunch in my unsupervised middle school years — an example of what Beck calls “a clear-cut case of child abuse by neglect” — and it had quite the opposite effect.
5. “Hey, I haven’t read Tolkien in a week!” — a line attributed to the impossibly geeky “hero” of The Final Sacrifice (Tjardus Greidanus,1990) during the Mystery Science Theater 3000 Experiment #910.
6. See, for example, Greg Johnson’s “Interview with James J. O’Meara,” here and reprinted in my collection The Homo & the Negro (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2012).
7. Valancourt is an invaluable publisher that reprints unjustly forgotten works, from Gothic thrillers, fin de siècle decadents like Baron Corvo, and Edwardian “gay” fiction to midcentury “Angry Young Men” like Colin Wilson and John Braine, which I have frequently reviewed on Counter-Currents, here.
8. That’s Professor Sir Fred to you Tolkienites! “Professor Sir Fred Hoyle was one of the most distinguished, creative, and controversial scientists of the twentieth century. He was a Fellow of St. John’s College (1939-1972, Honorary Fellow 1973-2001), was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1957, held the Plumian Chair of Astronomy and Experimental Philosophy (1958-1972), established the Institute of Theoretical Astronomy in Cambridge (now part of the Institute of Astronomy), and (in 1972) received a knighthood for his services to astronomy. Hoyle was a keen mountain climber, an avid player of chess, a science fiction writer, a populariser of science, and the man who coined the phrase ‘The Big Bang’.” St. John’s College website, here.
9. When I mentioned this to the publisher, he replied that “It’s funny what you say about it being the first “serious” book you read: I received a letter a couple weeks ago from Sir Fred Hoyle’s great-grandson, 10 years old, saying how much he loved the book and that he’d already read it several times!”
10. Neither did I; we’ll see that confusion over that ending is not really the reader’s fault.
11. The “dreary and banal lead character,” remember, that inspired some people to become musicians because of his glamourous lifestyle; your mileage may vary, as the kids say.
12. Speaking of the passage of time: “I had heard of motorists in the United States who gave a lift and then beat up and robbed their unsuspecting passenger but I could recall no such case in Britain.” I wonder if this is still true? Even at the time, which was, of course, the moment I’ve designated as The High Point of Western Civilization (circa 1972), we teens and preteens in Detroit thought nothing of hitchhiking all around the city; today that would be suicidal.
13. See, for instance, the essays on Lovecraft and Henry James reprinted in The Eldritch Evola … & Others (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2014).
14. Get your minds out of the gutter; he’s talking about jumping in a cold stream on a hot day.
15. What one reviewer calls “a vegetarian, magnetic-powered Mexican future,” perhaps a suitable home for Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz.
16. Cf. the pink beam of light in Philip K. Dick’s Valis.
17. Apart from his being in demand at all kinds of fancy festivals and a hit at parties, he’s seldom far from one or more chicks; this is the ’60s, remember? Think: Austin Powers, International Serialist.
18. On another level, though, John’s “disappearances” are a key plot point, but as we’ve seen Hoyle rather bungles it.
19. One blogger raises the interesting question of whether, if Europe were in, say, 1942, the 1960s Brits would be seeking a negotiated settlement with Hitler. Hoyle I guess is trading on the legend of the Brits in the ’30s being so traumatized by WWI that they tried to “appease” Hitler; a notion consistent Leftists like Christopher Hitchens dismissed with the rhetorical question “When was the British Empire ever officially pacifist?” Depending on how far back you think Their Plans go, you might find it questionable whether the demand for “unconditional surrender” from Germany would ever have been dropped. “The foundation of the Great War of 1914-1918 (World War I) was laid at the Congress of Berlin, thanks to the dirty work of the Globalist-Zionist Benjamin Disraeli.” M. King, The Bad War: The Truth NEVER Taught About World War II.
20. Another blogger notes that Hoyle’s set-up, at least before the future people show up, leave Britain in control of the world situation, and fits in with the mid-’50s to mid-’60s attempts by the Brits to remind the world of how important they are; most notably, of course, the James Bond super-spy character. See Kingsley Amis’ The James Bond Dossier (1965), especially Chapter 8: “We may be slow, but . . .”, and now Jef Costello’s The Importance of James Bond (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2016). As the Amazon reviewer said, “Very much of its 1966 British zeitgeist,” and for me at least that’s a good thing.
21. For obvious reasons, another British meme; see Amis, op. cit., where the “naughty schoolboy” theme is illustrated in Bond’s encounters with not only villains but with M himself.
22. Hoyle does pretty well in the “science fiction as prediction” area; the future Mexicans have Dick’s entire works records on a single, though not-so compact, disc. On the other hand, as a reviewer at Goodreads.com points out, he “believes several hundred million bits a second (or a thousand trillion bits of information a year) is a massive amount looking like the information exchange in the brain . . . I wonder how many terabits of data [are] downloads into a small town looking at uTube movies let alone the whole world?”
23. It wasn’t until this re-reading that I realized this scene bookends the “latest in gramophone” scene. Chris Winter (op. cit.) throws out the tantalizing suggestion that “the structure of this novel bears some resemblance to that of Homer’s Odyssey,” but other than suggesting that John “served as Mentor to the narrator’s Odysseus,” he leaves it undeveloped.
24. See “My Wagner Problem — and Ours” and “Our Wagner, Only Better: Harry Partch, Wild Boy of American Music,” reprinted in The Eldritch Evola … & Others.
25. Although Sir Fred would later promote the theory of exogenesis, he thankfully does not fall for ancient astronaut theory.
26. For the classic treatment, see Josef Pieper, Leisure: The Basis of Culture.
27. Rather like the contemporaneous novel A Dandy in Aspic where the Russian mole has “never pruned his taste buds, considering food nothing more than a basic necessity to be completed as painlessly and quickly as possible.” When it comes to sex, though, Eberlin has managed to bare it down completely, living as an ascetic “dandy.” (Gollancz, 1965; reprinted Silvertail Books, 2015).
28. A character in Amis’ Lucky Jim “made himself ill by stuffing himself with filthy foreign food of his own preparation, in particular, Dixon gathered, spaghetti and dishes cooked in olive oil . . . washed down, no doubt, with ‘real’ black coffee of high viscosity.”
29. The priestess is another character, like the ones we’ve met in Sloane (op. cit.) and Stapledon (see the essays on Odd John collected in my Green Nazis in Space [San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2016]), who manifests an alien beauty: “The hair was of the usual light brown, but the eyes were grey. At first I thought she seemed tall because she had the advantage of the steps. Then I realized that indeed she was tall, of almost my own height. Yet possibly she was too tall to be attractive to the average Greek male.”
30. Ride the Tiger, p. 163.
31. Remember, “The discussions of the significance of time and of the meaning of consciousness are intended to be quite serious.”
32. Wikipedia notes that “This pigeon-hole theory is similar to and predates the one developed by Julian Barbour in his book The End of Time, as Barbour himself acknowledges (Barbour J., The End of Time (paperback); Phoenix Books; 2000; p.358).”
33. Also now available from Valancourt: here.
34. See “The Corner at the Center of the Universe” in The Eldritch Evola … & Others.
35. See “There & Then: Personal & Memorial Reflections on Alan Watts (1915-1973),” here.
36. See, for example, The Symbolism of the Cross.
37. “The Colour out of Space.”
38. S. T. Joshi, “Time, Space and Natural Law: Science and Pseudo-Science in Lovecraft,” reprinted in Lovecraft and a World in Transition (New York: Hippocampus, 2015).