Fire in the Stone
Prehistoric Fiction from Charles Darwin to Jean M. Auel
Publication Year: 2009
Published by: Wesleyan University Press
At the beginning of H. G. Wells’s story “The Grisly Folk” (1921) the narrator, contemplating the scanty remains of prehistoric human beings in a museum case, borrows the words of the prophet Ezekiel to ask, “Can these bones live?” (607). By the end of the story, the long dead relics do seem to have come back to life. The narrator, acting as ...
I originally planned this book to show how the enlarged temporality opened up by the Darwinian revolution acted upon the imagination of the later nineteenth century and in the process brought the genre of science fiction into being. The first half was to have been on the fiction of our prehuman origins, the second on the fiction of our ...
Notes on References
In the main text and endnotes, the abbreviation “q.v.” following a name refers to the entry headed by that name in the Works Cited section. It is used chiefly to refer to whole works or to identify unpaginated sources such as Websites. If unfamiliar foreign words or phrases...
Introduction: The Fiction of Hominization
Prehistoric fiction will here be taken to consist of novels and stories about prehistoric human beings.1 For reasons soon to be made clear, none of these works is more than 150 years old. Most are set, however, a very long time ago during human prehistory; that is, during the period between the emergence of the first hominids and the invention ...
I. GENERIC EVOLUTION
1. From Boitard’s Paris before Man to London’s Before Adam
The central issue of the first French pf was the existence of the “fossil man” so categorically denied by Cuvier.1 Paris avant les hommes (Paris before man) (1861) by Pierre Boitard (1789–1859) was a posthumously published work by a writer who died in the annus mirabilis. Though no literary masterpiece, “the first Darwinian narrative” ...
2. From Rosny’s First Artist to del Rey’s Last Neanderthal
The most important figure in French pf is J.-H. Rosny aîné (Rosny the elder; 1856–1940), who was also a leading figure in the development of French sf. Rosny is little known in the English-speaking world, though there is a strong argument for considering him more accomplished than Jules Verne at deriving aesthetically successful fictional ...
3. From Fisher’s “Testament of Man” to Auel’s “Earth’s Children”
In September 1940 four French teenaged boys, searching for a dog that had trapped itself in a hole on a hillside in the upper V
II. THEMATIC EVOLUTION
4. Nature and Human Nature
Many of those great literary works that succeed in offering profound insights into human nature, such as Shakespeare’s Hamlet (1603–4), Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment (1866), or Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler (1890), do so very indirectly. Such works provide elaborate psychological portraits of protagonists whose difference from the average ...
5. Sex and Gender
The biblical account of human origin, while vague about many other aspects of the divine creation, is unequivocal about how there came to be two human sexes and what the difference between them signifies. A male God first created from the dust of the earth a male human being in his image to tend Eden. Later, as an afterthought, he created ...
6. Race or the Human Race
No nineteenth-century thinker was more committed to demolishing the prejudices generated by the scriptural account of human origins nor more eloquent in his appeal to educated people to subscribe to the Darwinian “New Reformation” than T. H. Huxley. It was Huxley who in Evidence as to Man’s Place in Nature concluded that there was no ...
7. A Cultural Triad: Language, Religion, Art
In Huxley’s view, Victorian man’s humiliation at his discovery of his cousinship to the lower animals might be partly assuaged by the realization that he is a member of a uniquely gifted species: “He alone possesses the marvelous endowment of intelligible and rational speech, whereby . . . he has slowly accumulated and organized the experience ...
Coda: Baxter’s Evolution and Post-Hominization
Our highly adaptable species has, to adapt Darwin’s preferred terminology, descended with many modifications, some of them possibly unprecedented in Nature. If we are to survive into futurity, then further modifications must surely occur. What they will be is unforeseeable, but it is safe to say that if we endure, it will likely be in a posthuman ...
A Prehistoric Chronology