Opin­ion

David Lang­ford re­veals the bare facts

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - News - Il­lus­tra­tion by Andy Watt

One of our colum­nists bids farewell this is­sue.

Not a lot of peo­ple know that Hugo Gerns­back, the SF mag­a­zine pi­o­neer af­ter whom the Neb­ula Award isn’t named, liked to pub­lish spoofs of glossy US jour­nals as sub­sti­tute Xmas cards. His 1945 ef­fort, copy­ing the de­sign of Time mag­a­zine but called Tame, was dated Christ­mas 2045 and re­viewed the first cen­tury of the Atomic Age. In this 2045, maybe thanks to a long his­tory of ra­dioac­tive fall­out, nor­mal Earth­lings are bald and an ac­tress with hair is pro­moted as a weird throw­back. Tame’s cover shows a bald sec­re­tary think­ing cor­re­spon­dence into her “mind­writer” ma­chine...

Did this in­spire Arthur C Clarke’s 3001: The Fi­nal Odyssey, in which bald­ness is among the bare ne­ces­si­ties for work­ing with fu­ture tech­nol­ogy? Hair gets in the way of the Brain­cap in­ter­face that lets you use Clarke’s amaz­ing Thoughtwriter and ( un­less you have huge pow­ers of con­cen­tra­tion) send mes­sages full of asides like “Sorry again – trou­ble with Thoughtwrit­ers – hard to stick to point –”

HG Wells made his baldy pre­dic­tion long be­fore Clarke or Gerns­back, in the 1893 es­say “The Man Of The Year Mil­lion”. This sci­en­tif­i­cally imag­ines Fu­ture Us as big- brained and big- eyed, with shrunken body and limbs over­shad­owed by that mighty hair­less in­tel­lect. Wells’s own Martians in War Of The Worlds are like this only more so, and the tra­di­tion car­ries on to other bad baldies such as the Mekon.

In comics, an­other fa­mously wicked bone- dome is Su­per­man’s neme­sis Lex Luthor, whose en­tire life was warped by pre­ma­ture hair loss. His vaunted sci­en­tific ge­nius is some­how un­able to come up with the kind of so­lu­tion imag­in­able even to the rudi­men­tary mind of Don­ald Trump.

For­tu­nately some bald chaps are on the side of the an­gels, like Pro­fes­sor Xavier of the X- Men and Cap­tain Pi­card of Star Trek: The Next Gen­er­a­tion. Not to men­tion most of the psi- pow­ered Baldies in Mu­tant ( 1953) by Henry Kut­tner and CL Moore, where those gifted with the power of telepa­thy are marked from child­hood with hair­less pates so or­di­nary folk can per­se­cute them. Per­haps the fu­ri­ous men­tal ac­tiv­ity of thought- trans­fer fries your fol­li­cles.

All this brings us to the ter­ri­fy­ing real- life pre­dic­tion made by US psy­chic The Amaz­ing Criswell, who played him­self in the leg­endary Plan 9 From Outer Space. His “sen­sa­tional best­seller” Criswell Pre­dicts of­fers a defini­tive sce­nario for the fu­ture, in­clud­ing: “I pre­dict one of the most hor­ri­fy­ing things to be­fall any woman. I re­gret to pre­dict that women will lose their hair. I pre­dict that sci­en­tists will try to prove that the cause of this fall­ing out of the hair is due to the gaseous fumes pol­lut­ing the city’s air.” Fool­ish sci­en­tists.

Yes, apoc­a­lypse looms in St Louis, Mis­souri, with “law suits, di­vorces, mur­ders, de­ser­tions and even mas­sacres ... male hair­dressers will be mur­dered ... beau­ti­cians will be beaten, slashed and shot. Di­vorce courts will be swamped with irate hus­bands seek­ing free­dom from their bald- headed wives.” Surely not if they look any­thing like the shaven ladies in Star Trek: The Mo­tion Pic­ture ( Per­sis Kham­batta) or Dune ( Francesca Annis).

For­tu­nately Criswell cal­cu­lates that af­ter three grim months, “new hair will be grown as mys­te­ri­ously as it dis­ap­peared.” When will this hor­ror be­gin? The sched­uled date of our psy­chic’s in­fal­li­ble 1968 prophecy is, er, Fe­bru­ary 1983.

“For­tu­nately some bald chaps are on the side of an­gels, like pro­fes­sor x”

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