Share via Email One of the problems with science fiction is that it usually takes itself awfully seriously. This is also a problem with a lot of conventional fiction. You can see how it happens: all that business of keeping your imaginary world together tends to impose the straight face. Think, after all, of the island of Laputa.
|Published (Last):||4 January 2013|
|PDF File Size:||20.19 Mb|
|ePub File Size:||1.67 Mb|
|Price:||Free* [*Free Regsitration Required]|
Share via Email One of the problems with science fiction is that it usually takes itself awfully seriously. This is also a problem with a lot of conventional fiction. You can see how it happens: all that business of keeping your imaginary world together tends to impose the straight face.
Think, after all, of the island of Laputa. I thought I had the measure of John Wyndham, albeit only via film versions of The Midwich Cuckoos and The Day of the Triffids - sinister apocalypses, that was his schtick, surely?
So what is this I think I can see why Trouble with Lichen might have fallen off the map, compared with his other books. Penguin are reprinting five of his sci-fi novels, and I picked on this as it was the one I was least familiar with. First published in , the story deals with the discovery of a rare lichen that slows down the ageing process - so that a human lifetime can be extended to or even years. This becomes significant. A widower, he treats his children with the drug without telling them; but Brackley, whose suffragette great-Aunt went to prison in for throwing fire-crackers in Piccadilly, has another idea: she sets up a beauty clinic which attracts the wives of the powerful and gives them the drug without telling them, the idea being to inspire a feminist revolution.
And, moreover, the British satiric tradition, when it addresses anything progressive, tends to poke fun at it. Diana Brackley is simply too sympathetically drawn, although an unreconstructed male in would have been pretty terrified of her. The scene in which she makes a complete fool of a BBC interviewer is a delight. We are occasionally reminded that there are serious issues here, and when one cabinet minister worries that the results of an anti-ageing drug entering the marketplace could be "apocalyptic", a civil servant assures him that that is "the mot juste".
Plot summary[ edit ] The plot concerns a young female biochemist who discovers that a chemical extracted from an unusual strain of lichen can be used to slow down the ageing process , enabling people to live to around — years. Wyndham speculates how society would deal with this prospect. The two central characters are Diana Brackley and Francis Saxover, two biochemists who run parallel investigations into the properties of a specific species of lichen after Diana notices that a trace of the specimen prevents some milk turning sour. While Francis uses it only on himself and his immediate family without their knowledge , Diana founds a cosmetic spa, and builds up a clientele of some of the most powerful women in England, giving them low doses of Antigerone, preserving their beauty and youth. Diana tries to cover up the real source of the drug, since the lichen is very rare and difficult to grow, but when it is finally discovered she fakes her own death in the hope of inspiring the women of Britain to fight for the rights she tried to secure for them. Francis realizes that Diana may not really be dead, and tracks her down to a remote farm where she has succeeded in growing a small amount of the lichen.
John Wyndham - Trouble with Lichen
Diana takes her degree in biochemistry, and goes to work for a private research institution, where, one day, she notices a peculiar result from a stray contamination of some milk by a new sample of lichen just arrived from Mongolia. She works on it privately, and comes to a very startling conclusion after months of tests and retests. He could easily have launched himself on a gung-ho imperialist adventure of takeover and Americans and international intrigue for the secret, but no: he chose the far more interesting route of looking at social structures. There is a lot here about the influence of good women teachers, one of whom gives Diana the clue to her future use of the lichen: simply, to give women more time to do something in their lives. But the lichenin products work, and Diana begins to build up a carefully selected group of women clients who are enjoying their increased youthfulness, and also beginning to realise their worth and their value in society. Self-esteem is a very powerful political tool.