The Andro-Entitling Man

Louis Strimpl illustration from an early edition of The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells.

Louis Strimpl illustration from an early edition of The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells.

In the 1897 issues of Pearson’s Weekly there appeared a serialized story by H. G. Wells. It concerned a scientist who had developed and tested on himself a method of altering the refractive index of the human body so that it neither reflected nor absorbed light. That same year, the complete story was published in novel form as The Invisible Man. Not as fondly remembered as The Time Machine nor as far-reaching a story as Things to Come. It was, however, the first of many science fiction stories to bear a title of the form /The \w+ Man/. At least, that’s how you’d put in PERL regular expression syntax. If you prefer grep, then it would be ‘The [a-zA-Z]+ Man’. However you like your regular expressions, it’s a title that begins with “The”, ends with “Man”, and has a single word in between, usually a compound, interesting, and somewhat technical adjective.

My first literary encounter with this title form was a short story called The Non-statistical Man (1968, Raymond F. Jones), the story of statistical analyst who gets a firsthand experience of the powers of intuition. Later, I ran across Isaac Asimov’s Hugo and Nebula winning The Bicentennial Man (1976), a short story about a positronic robot’s 200 year journey to be accepted as an equal in human society. I recently read the misogynist and so-bad-it’s-fun novel, The Reassembled Man (1964, Herbert D. Kastle) in which a sexist jerk is kidnapped by aliens and agrees to having his body disassembled for research purposes provided the aliens will reassemble him according to his ideals of the perfect man. Stephen King wrote a novel called The Running Man (1982, as Richard Bachman) which was turned into an Arnold Schwartzenegger movie a few years later. I’ve not read the original story but the movie is about a wrongly convicted and imprisoned man who escapes prison only to be recaptured and sentenced to die on reality TV.

That exhausts the stories I’ve read but there are still more I’ve only heard about. I recently managed to locate and purchase a copy of the long out of print Colin Kapp novel, The Transfinite Man (1964) and I’ve just started reading it. Philip K. Dick wrote the reasonably well-known novel, The Unteleported Man (1964) and also published a much earlier novella called The Variable Man (1953). Both are on my reading list.

There’s something I find appealing about that adjective in the middle of the title, especially when it includes an unexpected prefix like un- or dis- (e.g. unteleported or disassembled). Think of all the interesting prefixes that have become common in the last couple of decades thanks to science and technology. There’s the entire range of Si unit prefixes like pico-, nano-, tera- etc., common scienctific prefixes like omni-, contra-, hyper-. It seems like an inexhaustible supply.

While writing this, I noted with interest that three of the above books were published in the same year: 1964. Maybe there was a fad among authors or publishers for using this title format during the early 1960s? The last usage I could find was Stephen King’s The Running Man over 30 years ago. I think we’re overdue for a resurgence of this form. My question for anyone reading this is, what other stories, science fiction or otherwise have been published with this title configuration. I’m willing to be flexible enough to include other genres besides science fiction, so anything from comic books to journal articles are fair game.

While it’s not exactly what I’m after, I’d even be curious to hear close but slighly different title formats such as The Man Who Folded Himself by David Gerrold or The Woman Who Would Not Die by Carolyn Busey Bauman), though I think that form is likely to be much more common.

Update: How about some mini-reviews of the ones I’ve read so far? (in order of publication date)

The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells

The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells, 1897. A mysterious stranger, named Griffin, arrives in a small town. He wears a coat, hat, glasses, gloves, and covers his face with a scarf or bandages at all times. When the villagers get suspicious of his activities, he reveals that he’s invisible and goes on a rampage through the country side. His back story is slowly revealed and we learn that he was a psychopathic scientist obsessed with perfecting a method of making living creatures invisible. He develops a system that involves special drugs and exposure to radiation. After testing it on himself his equipment is destroyed. His secret is stored in three notebooks written in code. Griffin is set on becoming the ruler of the land, starting with this one tiny village but a fellow scientist, Kemp, is on to his plan. Kemp assists the local authorities in defending against Griffin’s attacks. It’s a short book and one of the classics so definitely recommended.

The Dupicated Man by Blish & Lowndes

The Duplicated Man by James Blish and Robert Lowndes, 1953, Columbia Publications. Horrible, horrible book. I found this almost unreadable (which is saying something for me – I love old badly written pulps most of the time!) Over half of this short book is a painfully slow setup of an overly complex political situation involving a war between Earth and an Earth colony located on Venus. Military officials on Earth run across Paul Danton, a political subversive who happens to look just like a Venusian official. They also dig up a weird human duplicating machine from the past and make five duplicates of Danton, all of which are randomly inaccurate copies. Confusion ensues. Not recommended.

The Variable Man by Philip K. Dick

The Variable Man by Philip K. Dick, 1953, Space Science Fiction magazine (I’m reading the Aegypan Press book reprint). Cover art on the original magazine (and reprint) by Civiletti. Earth, in the year 2136, is surrounded by an alien stellar empire and unable to expand into the galaxy. Politicians determine Earth must go to war to survive. R&D labs work around the clock as government statistical computers calculate odds of Earth winning a war with each new weapon. When the odds are in Earth’s favor, war will be declared. Meanwhile, an Earth scientist testing a new FTL drive is killed in a spectacular failure, creating a huge explosion. Defense contractors realize the failed FTL drive is actually the ultimate weapon and plan to launch it into the primary star of the alien race. The computers evaluate their plan, leading to winning odds and a declaration of war. But, after the declaration of war, the researchers run into trouble duplicating the failed FTL experiment. Then an accident by a historical time research team results in an unknown variable – a fix-it man from the early 1900s has been dragged into the year 2136. The fix-it man has an unnatural ability to fix any machine, even machines of 2136. The odds computers break down, unable to calculate the effect of the new variable. The government wants him dead to eliminate his effects on the war effort. The defense contractor developing the FTL bomb wants him alive because he’s the only hope of fixing their weapon. One way or another he’ll determine Earth’s survival.

The Non-Statistical Man by R. Jones

The Non-Statistical Man, Raymond F. Jones, 1956 (The book with the same title is 1964, Belmont Productions, Inc., B50-820, Cover art by Ralph Brillhart). At 80 pages, this is sometimes classed as a short story and other times as a novella. It was originally published in 1956 and then in a collection of four Jones stories found in this book by the same title. For a full review of the book, see my more in-depth review of The Non-Statistical Man. The short story is one of the most well-known science fiction treatments of the human characteristic of intuition. The title character, a statistician, is on the trail of potential insurance fraud when he stumbles onto what may be the next step in human evolution. By today’s standards the science is totally outdated and there’s a bit of sexism in the author’s stereotypical assumption that males are logical and females intuitive (though to be fair, the females turn out to be right so maybe it all balances out). The story is well written and still an enjoyable read. Recommended if you can find.

The Reassembled Man

The Reassembled Man by Herbert Kastle

The Reassembled Man by Herbert D. Kastle, 1964, Fawcett Publications. Cover art by Frank Frazetta. The most sexist, misogynistic book I’ve ever read. It was so bad I actually enjoyed it like a really awful movie. Edward Berner is a cowardly sexist jerk who is abducted by curious aliens. They offer Berner a deal. They want to disassemble his body down to the molecular level to study humans. If he’ll agree to let them do it, they’ll reassemble him with any improvements he wants. So he asks to be stronger, braver, and more intimidating. He wants a bigger penis and hypnotic-like sexual attractiveness to women. The rest of the book is a series of sexual exploits interspersed with visits to restaurants where he eats “manly” meals consisting of steak and large quantities of milk. There are frequent incidents of swaggering, fisticuffs, arm wrestling, strong arming, and a couple of gun and knife fights. He eventually dumps his long-suffering wife for a teen age girlfriend. Meanwhile, the aliens realize they’ve created a monster who might eventually ascend to control the Earth and return to fix their mistake. If you enjoy a really awful book, this is worth tracking down and reading.

The Transfinite Man

The Transfinite Man by Colin Kapp

The Transfinite Man by Colin Kapp, 1964, Berkley Medallion Books. Cover art uncredited, possible Paul Lehr. Ivan Dalroi is a private detective with a shady past who’s out to discover the secrets of Failway Terminal, a big corporate-owned building that serves as a sort of multiverse transit station. The corporation has a monopoly on transit so they essentially own entire universes full of real estate. Lots of political intrigue and action. The author has a strange obsession with “bogies” – those rotating wheel assemblies on the bottom of railroad cars. The hero is always jumping onto and off of railway car bogies (for never explained reasons trains are used to move between the alternate universes). The book provides a plot-twist ending similar to an old Twilight Zone episode. Readable if you run across it but a little below average and not worth seeking out.

The Artificial Man by L. P. Davies

The Artificial Man by L. P. Davies, 1968, Scholastic Book Services. Cover art is uncredited and, though a signature is visible, it’s unreadable. Davies is a British author whose novels bear similarities to those of American author Philip K. Dick in that they frequently deal with consciousness and reality. This novel is the story of Alan Fraser, a man who lives in a small English village in the year 1966. Fraser is a writer and is working on a science fiction novel set in the year 2016. The handful of others who live in the tiny village interact with him and often offer suggestions to help with his novel. Fraser begins to sense something odd about his life and begins to believe something is wrong with his reality. His friends seems to pop in and out of life as though their actions were scripted, the ideas they suggest to help him with his writing seem a bit too good. One day, while walking alone in the woods, he meets a girl from outside the village and both realize that something very strange is going on. She believes it’s the year 2016. Together they set out to discover whether Fraser’s world if real or an artificial construct. The book has a surprising number of similarities with the British Television series called The Prisoner. While I was less than satisfied with the ending, the book is very well written, very readable, and overall, very enjoyable. Recommended.

The Double Man by Eando Binder

The Double Man by Eando Binder, 1971, Curtis Books, Modern Literary Editions Publishing Company, New York, NY. Cover art by Jack Faragasso. Like most stories by “Eando Binder” (the pseudonym for brothers Earl Binder and his brother Otto Binder), this is a readable and moderately enjoyable, if unexceptional science fiction story. Wayne Durk returns to Earth after an experimental space flight to find that an exact double has taken his place. He has to work out who the double is and where he came from. Meanwhile, an alien virus is killing off the Earth’s best and brightest by targeting only humans with high IQs. Durk (and his double) are the two smartest scientists left and saving the world may depend on them working together. An enjoyable read and recommended if you happen to run into it but not worth seeking out.

6 thoughts on “The Andro-Entitling Man

  1. Though not in the SF category, there’s always the classic detective story, “The Thin Man” by Dashiell Hammett.

  2. Three more recently discovered titles:

    The Duplicated Man by James Blish and Robert Lowndes, 1953, Columbia Publications, Inc.

    The Artificial Man by L.P. Davies, 1965, Doubleday & Co.

    The Double Man, Eando Binder, 1971, Curtis Books

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