May 21, 2024


Business – Your Game

Mood and Action in a Tale of the Far Future – Seeds of the Dusk

The story “Seeds of the Dusk” by Raymond Z Gallun, published in 1938, is a gem of classic SF. Its 31 pages give us an insight into the lives and fates of three species: an alien invading plant intelligence; the descendants of crows; and the descendants of Man. Into this short tale are packed great events and an unforgettable, haunting mood which is well encapsulated in the title.

The tone of the author’s narration is relaxed, not exactly “chatty” but informally reflective, with a sprinkling of “perhaps”s and hesitations and even self-questionings in the descriptions and explanations given, which paradoxically strengthen our imaginative belief, our sense that we are being shown something real.

…It seemed entirely a plaything of chance. And, of course, up to a point it was…

…And now, perhaps, the thing was beginning to feel the first glimmerings of a consciousness, like a human child rising out of the blurred, unremembering fog of birth…

A sentient vegetable? Without intelligence it is likely that the ancestors of this nameless invader from across the void would long ago have lost their battle for survival.

What senses were given to this strange mind, by means of which it could be aware of its environment? Undoubtedly it possessed faculties of sense that could detect things in a way that was as far beyond ordinary human conception as vision is to those individuals who have been born blind.

You see the kind of style I mean: hesitant, split into probing questions and explanatory answers. Gallun makes no attempt to hide the fact that he is a narrator of our time telling us a tale of many millions of years ahead. In a way, therefore, he is distancing himself from the story he is telling; but by doing so, he leaves himself free to make bridging comments, to give explicit clarifications, adapted to our needs as readers, which he would not be able to do if he took on the actual voice of the future viewpoint himself.

The tale hots up as the invading spore from Mars takes root and grows and propagates, using its intelligence and defensive powers to prepare for the clash it knows is coming with Earth’s dominant race, the Itorloo:

Men. Or rather the cold, cruel, cunning little beings who were the children of men.

Of the three protagonist species in this story, the reader will most likely sympathize most with the birds. Kaw, the intelligent descendant of crows, alarmed at the invading plants, decides that the devil one knows is preferable to the devil one knows not, and flies to warn his herediitary foes, the Itorloo. But the degenerate Children of Men believe they can go it alone, that the way to defeat the invading plants is to sterilize Earth of all except human life….

The plants win, and they and many other living things are saved. Man, who has become the foe of all, succumbs. The reader actually feels a kind of relief that Man, or his Itorloo descendants, is gone, and the world can live in its dusky peace.

It’s quite a thought – or it will be, when we cease to take our SF heritage for granted – that this story was written way back in 1938. In fact it’s not the only SF story that presciently echoes some of our contemporary environmental concerns. Primarily, though, Seeds of the Dusk is remarkable as an ageless, timeless classic of haunting mood.