Sunday, February 26, 2023

Casual Shorts & the ISFdb Top Short Fiction #19: Mimsy Were the Borogoves by Lewis Padgett

Padgett, Lewis (Henry Kuttner & C. L. Moore). "Mimsy Were the Borogoves." Astounding Science-Fiction, February 1943.

This article is part of my attempt to read all the 155 stories currently (as of 1 November 2022) on the ISFdb's Top Short Fiction list. Please see the introduction and list of stories hereI am encouraging readers to rate the stories and books they have read on the ISFdb.

ISFdb Rating:   9.08/10
My Rating:        8/10

"There's no use trying to describe either Unthahorsten or his surroundings, because, for one thing, a good many million years had passed since 1942 Anno Domini, and, for another, Unthahorsten wasn't on Earth, technically speaking."

In the distant future, a man experiments with a time machine and sends some of his children's discarded toys into the past--to 1942. There a seven year-old boy named Scotty finds the box and takes it home where he and his two year-old sister, Emma, play with the toys, not realizing how educational these odd, advanced toys are. These toys of the future educate children differently than children of today--or of 1942--are accustomed to, and hence the children evolve more rapidly. Moreover, they appear to be developing their own method of communication. While the parents are both curious and concerned of their children's behaviour, they act slowly, and by the time they recognize potential danger, the children have moved too far ahead with their plans that incorporate, as the title suggests, Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass and it's nonsense poem "Jabberwocky."

A clever story, highly entertaining, and even tragic.

Lewis Padgett is the combination of the husband/wife writing team Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore.

Like Alfred Bester's "Fondly Farenheit," "Mimsy Were the Borogoves" was selected by the Science Fiction Writers of America to be included among the thirty best science fiction stories published before 1965, and as a result was included in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume One (Doubleday, 1970).


Todd Mason said...

The HOF volume (and other anthologies before and after) would've contributed mightily to a number of these stories rating so high up, as you've probably noted early on.

This was one of the relatively few stories I'd read ahead of finding it in V1 of the SF HOF, having picked up a Roger Elwood paperback in some sort of secondhand sales-place, THE LITTLE MONSTERS, mostly horror (which this in a sense verges on) involving children.

The film version, THE LAST MIMZY, can be considered an Acceptable Try. Oddly enough, film-chat fora were not too receptive to the suggestion the short fiction is the better artistic experience.

Casual Debris said...

Most of the stories on the list are major award nominees/recipients or have been adapted to film or tv, since it is more of a popular vote. And many from the major anthologies such as HOF are on the list as well (since many are also major award nominees/recipients).

I believe I read Mimzy when I was (too) young & did not fully understand the story. I haven't seen the film but may seek it out. Interestingly, two versions of the story are now on the ISFdb list (the list has expanded by about twenty stories since i began my project): the version published under the Padgett pseudonym & the one published under Kuttner/Moore.

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