ROBERT SHECKLEYS THE HUMOURS from STORE
FUTURE WONT JUST HAPPEN- IT WILL SNEAK UP ON YOU a little
at a time
So reads the back flap of my 1960 Bantam edition.
HUMOURS originally written in 1958 for Galaxy magazine is the
41 pages long story that became the novel Cromptons
Divide (one of RSs best and also the inspiration for
a track on my Reality Quake CD).
contains one of the most incisive sentences Sheckley has ever written:
His personality was monolithic, his desires predictable and
his fears apparent to everyone.
And an even better third to fifth sentence (I paraphrase):
Painfully thin, eyes glassy. He looked like a clerk. He was a clerk.
Next Sheckley rolls out the adjectives-
petty,punctilious, cautious, nervous, puritanical, resentful,
driven, circumspect, repressed.
By now youre getting a pretty good picture of our anti-hero
Sheckleys characterisations are second to none as he painstakingly
builds a believable profile that leaves you thinking:
Who would want to be Alistair Crompton?
Sheckleys not finished with him yet though:
He is a sad farce on humanity.
Wondering whether to have pity or disgust for this weak man we read
To make matters worse, Crompton was aware, fully and completely
of his thin, misshapen, predictable personality; aware of it, enraged
by it, and unable to do anything about it except hate the well-meaning
doctors who had brought it about.
Ah, so we should pity him then?
There is slender hope for Crompton- 35 is the age at which he can
go for personality reintegration. He would have a chance- a
vanishingly small one, says his Doctor.
Born to Lyle and Beth Crompton of Amundsville, Antarctica his Dad
was a foreman at the Scott Plutonium mines.
There were developmental problems though.
Early symptoms of virus schizophrenia which occasionally breaks
out into epidemics such as the classic dancing craze of the Middle
Quasi-science kicks in to move the story along.
Durier bodies, growth-androids with an estimated 40 year adequacy
As youll know from listening to Reailty Quake
I was taken with the phrase surrealistic dungeons of his mind
very trippy sixties!
But why did SF writers of that time persist in using locations (foster
homes in the case of Crompton) on Mars and Venus!
So against medical advice AC decides to attempt reintegration with
Edgar Loomis of Elderberg, Mars and Dan Stack of East Marsh, Venus.
Some people call me Loomis
Som people call me Dan
Some people call me Crompton
I dont know where it began
Some people call me good, some people call me evil
Some people think Im saintly, but Im followed by the
(Lyrics of Crompton Divided from Paradox One- Reality
Quake (Neurosis Records, 2000)
The title The Humours refers to ancient (and not so
ancient) medicine with Crompton being a classic case of the element
Water- melancholic caused by too much cold, dry black bile.
Loomis the Hedonist is the Fire to Acs Water- the stereotype
of the sensualist or a gigolo depending on how you look at
Loomis doesnt want to integrate with Crompton of course but
is left no choice. He naturally becomes increasingly infuriated
by ACs prudish, puritanical outlook. This is potentially catastrophic
but, with Robert Louis Stevensons Jekyll and Hyde
in mind, RS invents another of his fantastically ingenuous scientific
solutions- antidols- not fully understood little entities
like leuocytes in his bloodstream.
To complete Cromptons misery, Stack turns out to be a sadistic
homicidal maniac also inclined towards berserker tendencies.
There are two fiendish surprises at the end of the story.
A classic tale of human nature and character.