Entry updated 13 September 2021. Tagged: Theme.
Brian W Aldiss has given the name Shaggy God Stories to stories which provide simple-minded sf frameworks for Biblical myths. A considerable fraction of the unsolicited material submitted to sf magazines is or was reputed to consist of stories of this kind, the plot most frequently represented being the one in which survivors of a space disaster land on a virgin world and reveal (in the final line) that their names are Adam and Eve. Understandably, these stories rarely see print, although A E van Vogt's "Ship of Darkness" (February 1948 Fantasy Book) was reprinted in Fantastic in 1961 as a "fantasy classic"; another example is The Unknown Assassin (1956) by Hank Janson. Straightforward variants include "Another World Begins" (November 1942 Blue Book; vt "The Cunning of the Beast" in Strange Ports of Call, anth 1948, ed August Derleth) by Nelson S Bond (the most prolific writer of pulp Shaggy God stories), in which God is an Alien and Adam and Eve are experimental creatures who prove too clever for him; and "Evolution's End" (April 1941 Thrilling Wonder) by Robert Arthur, in which an old world lurches to its conclusion and Aydem and Ayveh survive to start the whole thing over again. Charles L Harness's "The New Reality" (December 1950 Thrilling Wonder) goes to some lengths to set up a framework in which a new universe can be created around its hero, his faithful girlfriend, and the arch-villain (Dr Luce), and uses the idea to far better effect. In Roger Zelazny's For a Breath I Tarry (March 1966 New Worlds; 1980 chap), an AI protagonist is tempted by a serpent in Robot form to gain understanding of extinct mankind, leading to Reincarnation in human form with a fellow-AI as new Adam and Eve figures. More elaborate sf transfigurations of Biblical mythology include George Babcock's Yezad: A Romance of the Unknown (1922) and Julian Jay Savarin's Lemmus trilogy opening with Lemmus One: Waiters on the Dance (1972); a more subtle and sophisticated exercise along these lines can be found in Shikasta (1977) by Doris Lessing. A late manifestation of the Shaggy God approach is film director Ken Russell's Mike and Gaby's Space Gospel: A Novel (1999).
Adam and Eve are, of course, frequently featured in allegorical fantasies, notably George MacDonald's Lilith (1895), Mark Twain's Extracts from Adam's Diary (1904) and Eve's Diary (1906), George Bernard Shaw's Back to Methuselah (1921; revs 1921-1945), John Erskine's Adam and Eve (1927), John Crowley's "The Nightingale Sings at Night" (in Novelty, coll 1989) and Piero Scanziani's The White Book (1968; trans Linda Lappin 1991).
The names Adam and Eve – particularly the former – are frequently deployed for their metaphorical significance. Adam is a natural name to give to the first Robot or Android, and thus we find Eando Binder writing a biography of Adam Link, Robot (January 1939-April 1942 Amazing; fixup 1965), and William C Anderson chronicling the career of the Cyborg Adam M-1 (1964), who is eventually paired with Eve M-2. Adam Link was provided with an Eve Link, but what if anything they did together remains a matter for speculation. Villiers de L'Isle-Adam had earlier described the creation by Thomas Alva Edison of the perfect woman in The Eve of the Future (1886). The metaphor is found also in some Superman stories, including two novels entitled The New Adam, one by Noelle Roger (1924; trans L P O Crowhurst 1926), the other by Stanley G Weinbaum (1939), and in prehistoric romances, most notably in Intimations of Eve (1946) and Adam and the Serpent (1947) by Vardis Fisher and in the final volume of George S Viereck and Paul Eldridge's Wandering Jew trilogy, The Invincible Adam (1932), where much is made of the matter of the lost "rib". Alfred Bester's last-man-alive story "Adam and No Eve" (September 1941 Astounding) uses the names in an ironic vein. No men survive in the Space Habitat that seems the only refuge from the End of the World in Neal Stephenson's Seveneves (2015), whose "seven Eves" resort to parthenogenesis as the initial step towards restoration of the human race.
More ambitious sf Creation myths of a vaguely Adamic kind can be found in stories in which human beings are enabled to play a part in cosmological processes of creation or re-creation (see Cosmology). One example is van Vogt's "The Seesaw" (July 1941 Astounding; integrated into The Weapon Shops of Isher, fixup 1951); others are James Blish's The Triumph of Time (1958; vt A Clash of Cymbals) and Charles Harness's The Ring of Ritornel (1968). The spacefarers of Poul Anderson's Tau Zero (June-August 1967 Galaxy as "To Outlive Eternity"; exp 1970) travel and observe the transition (though without affecting the process) from one cycle of an expanding/contracting universe to the next; and become the Adams and Eves of the new creation. Saint Augustine's hijacking of the original story as an explanation of original sin, with Sex serving as a central engine and stain, seems not significantly to underlie modern sf takes on the material.
Shaggy God Stories briefly became popular alternatives to orthodox history in the works of Immanuel Velikovsky and Erich von Däniken, and it is likely that they will continue to exert a magnetic attraction upon the naive imagination. [BS/DRL]
- Gordon Van Gelder, editor. Go Forth and Multiply: Twelve Tales of Reproduction (Vancleave, Mississippi: Ramble House/Surinam Turtle Press, 2017) [anth: pb/Gavin L O'Keefe from Lorenzoe de Ferrari, "Adam and Eve with the infants Cain and Abel"]
previous versions of this entry