The tension, in much Radium Age science fiction, between scientific certainty and cosmic awe is a critical one; few juggled this binary opposition more compellingly than British author J.D. BERESFORD (1873–1947). In 1911′s The Hampdenshire Wonder, for example, the birth of a “supernormal” child — the titular Wonder — can be chalked up to his parents’ fervent desire to have a son born without habits. “Entirely alone among aliens [i.e., adults] who were unable to comprehend him… whose opinions were valueless to him,” the young mutant reads his way through a library and then pronounces his kosmische judgment on the sum total of human knowledge: “So elementary… inchoate… a disjunctive… patchwork.” Had the Wonder lived to adulthood (he is murdered), perhaps he might have turned out like Jasper Thrale, a key character in Beresford’s other terrific sf novel, Goslings (1913), in which a plague wipes out nearly every male in England, leaving women — who’ve never been permitted to learn self-sufficiency — to struggle. Thrale explains the plague like so: “Do you realize how some outside control has always diverted man’s progress; how when nations have tended to crystallize into specialized government, some irruption from outside has always broken it up?” Miracles, it appears, will never cease.
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READ MORE about men and women born on the cusp between the Anarcho-Symbolist (1864–73) and Psychonaut (1874–83) Generations.