in postholocaust landscapes--these are the acts of mythmakers, men and women
who live lives larger than those around them and thereby establish the ideals
and traditions that sustain cultures. The prologue and epilogue to The Road
Warrior, which reveal that the story is being told in flashback by the wild child
who saw it happen, show that the warrior has assumed mythic proportions in
the imaginations of the people he saved, and his legend will inspire and sustain
the colony as it grows and matures. The pattern repeats in nearly all postholocaust
narratives. Science fiction does not offer practical answers, but it does dramatize
the need to search for answers.
As a variation on the stock figure of the wild man, the cuckoo places postholocaust narratives in the tradition of cultural criticism which has been the
conscience of the West since the twelfth century. As a descendant of Simplicissimus, Frankenstein's monster, Nemo, and other fictional outsiders, he is the
culmination of a process of literary evolution which symbolizes the inner change
and growth necessary to sustain the health of the cultural body--that is, the
constant need for new myths as old ones age--and which reenacts the exercise
of creative will required to counter the inevitable inertia that bleeds a culture if
it does not continually revitalize its mythic dimension.
William Golding, "Androids All," Spectator, February 24, 1961, p. 263.
James Gunn, "Heroes, Heroines, Villains: The Characters in Science Fiction,"
in The Craft of Science Fiction, ed.
Reginald Bretnor ( New York: Harper & Row, 1976),
John Wyndham, "The Chrysalids", in The John Wyndham Omnibus ( New York: Simon & Schuster, 1964), p. 410.
Stephen Vincent Benet, "By the Waters of Babylon," in Selected Works of Stephen
Vincent Benet, vol. II ( New York: Farrar & Rinehart, 1942), p. 483.
Edgar Davy Pangborn ( New York: Ballantine Books, 1964), p. 7.
Russell Hoban, Riddley Walker ( New York: Washington Square Press, 1982),
Interestingly, postholocaust heroes frequently travel toward the East. The general
drift of Western culture has, of course, been toward the West.
Scott Sanders, "Invisible Men and Women: The Disappearance of Character in
Science Fiction," Science-Fiction Studies II ( March 1977), pp. 14-24.
The following discussion is based on two excellent studies of the wild man: Richard Bernheimer
, Wild Men in the Middle Ages ( Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1952), and Hayden White, "The Forms of Wildness: Archaeology of an Idea," in The
Wild Man Within, ed.
Edward Dudley and
Maximillian E. Novak ( Pittsburgh: University
of Pittsburgh Press, 1972), pp. 3-38.
Bernheimer, p. 116. See also
Peter L. Thorslev Jr., "The Wild Man's Revenge,"
in The Wild Man Within, p. 281.
Eric Bentley, "Preface," to
H. J. C. von Grimmelshausen, The AdventurousSimplicissimus