THE DEEP ONES: "Baby Is Three" by Theodore Sturgeon
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Discussion begins on February 26, 2020.
First published in the October 1952 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction.
SELECTED PRINT VERSIONS
The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume IIA
The Mammoth Book of Vintage Science Fiction: Short Novels of the 1950s
Baby Is Three
Something I find interesting in this story is the contrast between the psychiatric session between Gerry and Stern, on the one hand, and the interactions between Gerry and the kids he lives with. It's all described very matter-of-factly, very contemporary and realistic. What's going on in the clinical dynamic is mundane, and what's going on in the home dynamic is anything but typical, but it's all described using the same language. This approach allows the weirdness to creep in, or perhaps to enter the story without it being obvious. This continues through this novella, and is evident in the other 2 novellas making up the book proper.
Incidentally I did not spot any differences between the novella as published in Galaxy, and as published in the novel.
I think that this is one of the truly groundbreaking early SF tales that really pointed the way onward & upward for the genre.
Sometimes I wonder if the Weirdness of these scenes has been diluted through repeated use in Science Fiction tales and comics. Maybe it has been. Another way it's been diluted, though, is Sturgeon's prose: everything is succinctly described, that we might not find it normal but it's very clear what happened so the reader might miss the import of it all. In fact, in this novella, the primary mystery and tension is linked up with Gerry's psychological break (why can't he remember why he killed someone?). If there were more mystery in the description of the bleshing, it might come across as Weirder. But it's not, all of the bleshing and odd behaviour is described very straightforwardly, very clearly (if at times incomplete), there's little tension around it. But the mystery should still be there.
This story left me a bit cold though I'll acknowledge it's skillfully done. Gerard's dialogue reminded me, at the opening, of film noir tough guy conversation.
Partly, I'm just not one for these stories sympathetically presenting the next clade that will replace humans. And I'm not much for psi stories especially with children. To me, Philip K. Dick's "The Golden Man" is a nice riposte to stories like this.