Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Corrected and Expanded Introduction to PLAN FOR CHAOS by John Wyndham, edited by David Ketterer and Andy Sawyer (Liverpool University Press, 2009)

[Corrected and expanded from the Liverpool University Press 2009 1st edition. The Penguin paperback edition is due for publication January 7th.]


INTRODUCTION: A GROUND-BREAKING CLONED NAZIS THRILLER
by David Ketterer

With the publication of The Day of the Triffids by ‘John Wyndham’ in 1951, first in New York, then in London, John Wyndham Parkes Lucas Beynon Harris (1903-69), the author of four previously published, largely forgotten, English novels (of which two were science fiction) and of relatively routine ‘American’ sf stories, was catapulted from obscurity into the realm of best-sellerdom. [1] For the rest of his career--with two exceptions--he would have little difficulty in publishing to acclaim his subsequent sf novels. The second exception was the posthumously published Web (1979). The first was an sf novel submitted under the title Plan for Chaos, the writing of which was combined with that of The Day of the Triffids and completed later. Submitted first, like Triffids, in America (the market for which both typescripts were prepared), it failed to find a publisher there and then failed to find one in Britain.

Why was the one novel so acceptable and the other not? Both were the product of JBH's matured talent. [2] There are some problems with Plan for Chaos which JBH was aware of but it is at least as original as Triffids if not more so. Perhaps it was too far ahead of its time. Plan for Chaos is the first work of fiction I am aware of that deals with the theme of cloned Nazis. The American writer Ira Levin (1929-2007) enjoyed considerable success with his treatment of the same theme twenty-five years later. His cloning Hitler thriller, The Boys from Brazil (which became a 1978 film), was published in 1976, seven years after JBH's death. [3]

In some ways, Plan for Chaos might be described as Triffids' shadow novel and not just because it was written around the same time and completely overshadowed by Triffids' success. The two novels shadow or mirror one another thematically. There are no Nazis in Triffids but genetic experimentation is the causal factor in both narratives. More importantly, however, Plan for Chaos throws into relief a thematic aspect of Triffids which has largely escaped notice--fear of the female.

Four Rejected Typescript Novels Including Fury of Creation/Plan for Chaos

It is only since May 1998 when, thanks to a Heritage Lottery Fund grant, the University of Liverpool's Sydney Jones Library acquired the John Wyndham Archive and interested researchers have been able to investigate JBH's papers including his unpublished novels and stories. In addition to the Plan for Chaos typescripts, the Archive includes typescripts of three other completed novels.

Two of the unpublished novels are related to Foul Play Suspected (London: George Newnes Ltd., 1935) by ‘John Beynon’, JBH's first detective novel featuring Detective-Inspector Jordan of New Scotland Yard. A pasted slip on the title page of Murder Means Murder by John Beynon gives the composition dates as ‘8th Oct.-1st Dec. 1935’ (Wyndham 2/1/2). A pasted slip on the first page of the carbon typescript of Death Upon Death by John Beynon gives the composition dates ‘14th. Sept.-21st. Nov. 1936’ (Wyndham 2/2/2). Murder Means Murder, or Murder Breeds Murder as it was also titled, also exists as a ribbon typescript retitled Burn that Body (Wyndham 2/2/1). Letters in the 1931-39 incoming correspondence file (Wyndham 11/2/1) indicate that Murder Means/Breeds Murder began the round of publishers and rejections in June 1936; in June 1938 it began the round again under the title Burn that Body. Death upon Death began the same round in December 1936. There is also evidence that years later, after his 1951 onwards success as ‘John Wyndham,’ JBH again attempted to place these two detective novels. The carbon typescript of Murder Means Murder includes a rectangle of paper pasted on its first page with this information: ‘MURDER MEANS MURDER by JOHN WYNDHAM.’ The ribbon typescript of Death Upon Death is also, according to a skilfully tipped in replacement title page, ‘by JOHN WYNDHAM’. Newnes had published JBH's first sf novel, The Secret People (by John Beynon), earlier in the same year as Foul Play Suspected but JBH presumably persevered in writing detective novels because he knew the market for that genre was much larger than that for sf.

The other dated typescript novel, Project for Pistols by John Beynon, forms a pair with the parallel titled Plan for Chaos. Both novels are set after World War II and deal with the theme of resurgent Nazis. Project for Pistols survives (1) as a one page diagram of the action (with some different character names), (2) as a corrected holograph manuscript of 222 pages, (3) as the carbon of an intermediate typescript of 298 pages (plus 64 pages of ‘addenda. March 1948’ and twelve pages of ‘Extracts from top copy’--i.e., the otherwise missing ribbon copy from which the carbon copy derived), and (4) as the bound final ribbon typescript (typed after March 1948) of 347 pages (with the literary agency stamp ‘Pearn, Pollinger & Higham’ on the first page). (For the holograph plus action diagram following page 1, the ribbon typescript, and the carbon typescript, see Wyndham 2/3/1-3.)

Anticipative in some ways of William Goldman's Marathon Man (1974), Project for Pistols is an espionage thriller which effectively combines Nazi cells in London, rationing and the black market, the police and secret service, and a muted love story. The novel begins strikingly with a no-holds-barred fight between two women: Stella Heyves, who was imprisoned in a German concentration camp, and Hedda whom Stella has recognized during a tube journey as a guard and sadistic torturer in that camp. It is very much a case of JBH's strong women to the fore. [4] Hedda is a very nasty piece of work indeed and the reader is both horrified and delighted when she is very painfully killed in the final chapter. In spite of the novel's strengths which include a convincing depiction of the trials of life in a devastated post-war London--strengths which I believe could sustain a case for publication today-- publishers in the late 1940s were not interested.

Plan for Chaos survives as two-part, variously hand corrected (at different times) 421-page ribbon and carbon typescripts (Wyndham 2/4/1/1-2 and, titled Fury of Creation, 2/4/2/1-2). A number of the later revisions in the carbon typescript lightly de-Americanise the text. Consequently, as finally revised, Fury is intended for a British publisher while Plan remains intended for an American one. Both parts of Plan, the ribbon typescript, are bound between dark green, cloth covered, cardboard covers. The first blank page bears the same ‘Pearn, Pollinger & Higham’ agency stamp as appears in Project for Pistols. The hand-written attribution ‘by John Beynon’ has been added to the title page. The last page of both parts bears the stamp ‘John Beynon Harris / 22, Bedford Place / London, W.C.1’, his second Penn Club address (except for a 1943-46 period of service in the Army Signals during the war) from 24 October 1938 until 1963. In 1963, following his 26 July registry office marriage to the just-retired schoolteacher, Grace Isobel Wilson (who had occupied room 44 next door to his room 45 in the Penn Club and whom he had known since 1931), he and Grace (both aged 60) moved to a modest house named Oakridge in the village of Steep, Hampshire, near his beloved old school, Bedales.
[5]
The carbon typescript, similarly bound as two volumes has a ribbon copy chapter titles list page not present in the ribbon typescript, and a new title page with the typed words ‘FURY OF CREATION by John Lucas’ on it. Correspondence evidence indicates that Fury of Creation was JBH's original title; here he is reverting to that title in place of his final American choice, Plan for Chaos. [6] The ‘John Lucas’ attribution here is the only presently known usage of this particular combination of two of his six names. I suspect that JBH's intention was a post-1951 move to distinguish Fury of Creation/Plan for Chaos from the work of both ‘John Beynon’ and ‘John Wyndham’ in much the same way that he would distinguish his quasi-hard-sf novel, The Outward Urge (1959), from his ‘Wyndham’ work by attributing that title to a fictitious collaboration between ‘John Wyndham and Lucas Parkes’. In spite of the evidence that JBH vacillated in his title choice and may finally have opted for the Shaw quote Fury of Creation, Andy Sawyer and I have chosen the Plan for Chaos title (taken from JBH’s own words on page 185LUP/Penguin 153 because that is the one settled on in JBH’s correspondence with his American agent Frederic Pohl (see the next section of this introduction), because it is suggestive of the catastrophe novels on which Wyndham’s reputation is based, and because it could be applied to the frame story seed of Plan for Chaos in the 1933 JBH framed story that became The Day of the Triffids (see the discussion below of ‘The Puff-Ball Menace’).
The address stamp on the inside front cover of both parts of the carbon typescript (Fury of Creation) is ‘Row Cottage, Steep, Nr. Petersfield, Hants’. Row Cottage was the home of Harry (‘Biff’) Barker, his wife Eileen, and their two daughters, Marion Tess and Jean Leslie. ‘Biff,’ who was in charge of the Workshop at Bedales where he taught woodwork, metalwork, mechanical drawing, silversmithing and jewellery making from 1930 to 1964, was JBH's particular friend. They may have first met at an Old Bedalian's [annual] Meeting in 1923.[7] From 1932 until the move to Steep in 1963, JBH was a regular house guest of the Barkers. A typewriter was kept for him at Row Cottage and he did a good deal of work there. Row Cottage, as the address stamp clearly indicates, was JBH's second home in a very real sense, his country retreat alongside his beloved Bedales. And the Barkers were a surrogate family for JBH; childless himself, Tess and Jean were his surrogate children. And it might be suspected from the address label that Fury of Creation/Plan for Chaos was largely written at Row Cottage. Neither the ribbon nor the carbon typescript include any indication of the composition dates for this work.

Plan for Chaos is a novel of twenty chapters, 1-9 comprising Part One (questions), 10-20 Part Two (answers). Each chapter has a one, two, or three word title derived from a quotation, usually from Shakespeare identified as ‘W.S.’ All the quotes, which are relatively familiar with a couple of exceptions, are identified only by their authors' initials. See the ‘Chapter Epigraphs’ list for full identifications. Chapters 1 to 7 were typed on one typewriter, and chapters 8 to 20 on another with smaller type. The paper used throughout seems to be all from much the same batch.

The Composition and Submission of Fury of Creation/Plan for Chaos

There is nothing in the Wyndham Archive to prove exactly when JBH began composing Fury of Creation and when the first version was completed. Virtually no business correspondence for the period 1940 to 1956 is included. Because Hitler's suicide is important to the plot, the novel could not have been begun before that event or indeed much before 6 October 1946 when JBH's army record states that he was "Released to Army Reserve." Begun on her 45th birthday on 26 August 1948 (and continued until dementia took hold in 1989), Grace's dairies (which I own) often document when ‘J’ worked on his novels and stories. The fact that she makes no reference at all in her diary to Project for Pistols, JBH's other resurgent Nazis thriller, is consistent with the evidence that it preceded Fury of Creation and was composed before she embarked on her diary. A reference to what may be Fury of Creation is this for 22 October 1950: ‘J really thinking his story . . . .’ It is followed on 10 March 1951 by this, presumably for Plan for Chaos: ‘J's new novel - identical offspring. [F]ar too long for me as I am not much interested.’ These entries may be related to information available in Frederik Pohl's 25 March 1950 to 19 October 1963 correspondence file with JBH--the best source of information about Plan for Chaos. [8] Pohl (the famous sf author and editor) was JBH's American literary agent from early 1950 until he stopped being a literary agent in late 1953. The first reference in the correspondence is to the title Fury of Creation on 17 November 1950 but, on 20 March 1951, JBH records having mailed Pohl the revised typescript of what is titled Plan for Chaos, which must be the typescript that Grace records glancing at ten days earlier. There is no evidence of the work having been previously submitted to any publisher. As we shall see, further evidence indicates that a first version entitled Fury of Creation was begun in 1948 or perhaps 1949 and completed in 1950.

The evidence for the beginning date is oblique largely because JBH seems to have deliberately expunged Plan for Chaos from the record of his writing career although not as thoroughly as he expunged/suppressed his first novel, The Curse of the Burdens. Plan for Chaos is preserved in the Archive, The Curse of the Burdens is not. In the following account of what he wrote after the war in the context of brief typed biographical notes, JBH refers to only one pre-Triffids novel; although not named, it is clearly Project for Pistols:
1946: Start again. U.S conditions changed. English magazines all dead. Try topical thriller. Mistimed and topicalities out of date in a month or two in an era when it took 18 months at least to publish.

Revert to stories for U.S.A. (Wyndham 13/2/4)
He seems to have written these notes for the short bio which accompanies the abridged, initial publication of ‘Compassion Circuit’ in the Sunday Chronicle for 29 August 1954. It includes this sentence: ‘After the war he wrote a topical thriller which was badly timed, and then the best seller “The Day of the Triffids”.’[9] Clearly, Project for Pistols was written for the English market mainly in 1947; 64 ‘addenda’ pages were added in 1948. JBH may have been working on a version of Triffids (begun in 1946?) around the same time. On discovering that no English publishers were interested in Project for Pistols, he started (in 1948) writing once more for the American market. It is difficult to know for certain whether The Day of the Triffids or Plan for Chaos should be described as his first novel written specifically for the American market because in early 1948 Triffids was reconceived as an "American" novel.

In describing for sf historian Sam Moskowitz's benefit what he wrote after the war, JBH omits all mention of both Project for Pistols and Plan for Chaos and focuses on the composition of Triffids:
I knew the ending was no good, so I told the typist to lay off for a bit while I thought of another. About eighteen months later I remembered that it was still lying there unfinished, and managed to contrive a conclusion--of a sort. [10]
Very early in 1950, JBH passed the completed typescript of Triffids (with a carbon copy) to his friend Walter Gillings, the sf editor in Ilford, Essex, who was acting in England for the Dirk Wylie, i.e., Frederik Pohl, agency in New York. (That was how Pohl became JBH's American agent.) The eighteen month (or longer?) ‘lay off’ period must, then, have included all but the final one or two months of 1949 and the preceding eight or so months of 1948. [11] Fury of Creation must have been drafted during that ‘lay off’ period. Perhaps the period began with the revision of Project for Pistols--the 64 pages of ‘addenda. March 1948’ followed by the creation of the final typescript of Project for Pistols. If that were the case, it is plausible that JBH began writing Fury of Creation in April or May 1948. That said, a 1949 start date is also possible.

There is one element in the novel--the German flying saucers always referred to as “saucers” (e.g., 101 LUP/Penguin 101)--that could not have existed prior to late June or early July 1947 following the American pilot Kenneth Arnold’s sighting of what would later be termed UFOs and his likening them to saucers skimmed on water. The supposed crashed saucer Roswell incident occurred in July 1947. JBH’s uncomfortable saucers are of terrestrial origin. Was he right? The recent television documentary, The Real Flying Saucers (viewable on YouTube), provides evidence that, in 1944, Nazi Germany was in fact producing prototype vertical takeoff flying discs (which are not rendered useless by bombed runways) at the Skoda factory near Prague. After the war, many of the scientists and engineers involved with these “saucers” moved to Russia or the USA where they may have further developed them. Is this another lucky hit on JBH’s part, like his genetically modified crop in Triffids?

The reference to ‘Camp Detrick’ (155 LUP/Penguin 123), the Frederick, Maryland, centre for the US biological weapons programme (1943-69), is also consistent with a 1948 composition date. It was generally unknown until January 1946. In Day of the Triffids, JBH combines biological weapons with the idea of military artificial satellites.

JBH's brother Vivian (1906-87), a RADA-trained actor and a novelist in his own right, refers in a couple of places to an unpublished post-war, pre-Triffids novel (assuming that in the first instance ‘story’ means ‘novel’). Like JBH, Vivian mentions only one such work but, in Vivian's case, he seems to have collapsed Project for Pistols and Plan for Chaos into one novel. Five days after JBH's death from a heart attack, Vivian recalled in a letter dated 15 March [1969] to their solicitor and Vivian's co-executor, Brian Bowcock, that ‘Jack . . . came back from the war changed his name and wrote a detective story’ before cobbling together the two stories that became The Day of the Triffids (Wyndham 13/2/4). Because Project for Pistols is better described as a spy thriller than as a detective story and because Plan for Chaos begins in the manner of a detective story, we cannot be sure which of these titles Vivian had in mind. Certainly JBH had not adopted the ‘John Wyndham’ byline before writing Plan for Chaos.

In the lengthiest account of his brother's life that Vivian left, an undated, almost indecipherable, hand-written memoir (probably composed in 1969), he again refers to a single post war, pre-Triffids work. [12] The relevant passage begins with a reference to a breakdown that Vivian suffered during the war: [13]
I was recovering from my nervous breakdown & he [Jack] suggested I should try writing. So I set to work and[,] using one of his early books as a guide to punctuation & layout[,] completed a humorous book after several months of hard work. I think this surprised him because[,] before the war[,] application had not been my strong point. He gave me an introduction to Curtis Brown, then his agent[,] and within a short time it was sold outright. I promptly started another while he got back to work at the Penn Club on a thriller in which people were splattered on water & burst on pavements like poached eggs. Nobody seemed too keen on this and while it was going round the publishers I wrote another book[,] sold it & signed a contract for [two] three more. It wasn't that my books were any good as anything but time-wasters and laugh providers but it upset him to find a mere amateur was getting away with it while a professional couldn't. So he took stock of this and decided to move away from space opera & move nearer a combination of himself and H. G. Wells. He took an old short story[,] amplified it, humanized it, added his own brand of sentiment & compassion to it, and produced ‘The Day of the Triffyds[sic][,]’ still selling steadily after all these years. [14]

It would seem reasonable to assume that the ‘thriller’ here is the same work, or the same confusion of two works, as the ‘detective story’ in his 15 March 1969 letter.

From the plot details in the memoir account it is apparent that Vivian is referring to the first chapter of Plan for Chaos. In that chapter, Choice photographer Johnny Farthing, the narrator-protagonist, describes two photographs (his own and that in a French magazine) which indicate how two identical looking women met their deaths: one apparently fell from a fire escape to the ground of a yard, the other apparently threw herself from a bridge over a river only to land on the hatch cover of a motor barge. It would seem that Vivian did not know much about the complete plot of this novel. If he did, he would surely have described it as ‘science fiction’ or as a ‘science fiction thriller,’ not as simply a ‘thriller’ or as a ‘detective story.’ Perhaps he had only read the first chapter; that does indeed seem like the first chapter of a detective thriller. Vivian's first novel, Trouble at Hanard was published in April 1948 or slightly earlier; the British Library copy bears this inside-front-cover inscription: ‘To Jack with love from Viv / April 1948 “Your godchild”’. So the paragraph from Vivian's memoir would seem to be consistent with my April or May 1948 possible starting months for Plan for Chaos. Unfortunately, however, Vivian's sense of chronology is often shaky and can be proved to be so in the quoted paragraph. It is evident from the correspondence with Pohl that Plan for Chaos was first submitted to publishers in 1951. The novel that Vivian mentions ‘going round the publishers’ post April in 1948 (the year he published both his first and second novels) could not have been the novel indicated by his description of details in its first chapter. The novel that was submitted for publication in 1948 was obviously Project for Pistols.

The fact that Vivian refers to only one post-war, pre-Triffids novel in both his 15 March 1969 letter and in his memoir suggests that Project for Pistols and Plan for Chaos were collapsed together in his mind. The similar titles might have abetted this confusion as would the shared Resurgent Nazis subject matter and the thriller form. But the mix-up might also have come about because JBH was writing additions to Project for Pistols in March 1948, around the same time as he might have begun Fury of Creation.

The strategy of beginning Fury/Plan as a detective novel and segueing into sf was a consequence of JBH's ambition to write a kind of sf that would interest the general reader. The readership of detective novels was much larger, especially in Britain, than the readership for sf. As he explained to Pohl in a 28 April 1951 letter, ‘there was a preliminary idea that if the beginning [of Plan] were to be presented in the more familiar style of a detective-story [Vivian's 1969 term] a number of people who customarily scorn s-f might be brought to start it and trapped into going through with it.’ This means the reader is led to believe the novel is set in the present and only subsequently becomes aware that it is actually set in the future. A clue in Chapter 11 indicates that the year is 1973.

Although we cannot conclusively prove when JBH began writing Plan for Chaos, thanks to his rich correspondence with Pohl, we can be fairly precise about when he finished it and learn something of the intervening period. The first mention appears in JBH's letter to Pohl of 17 November 1950. While waiting a decision from his friend Robert Lusty of the publishers Michael Joseph about The Day of the Triffids (which is already forthcoming from Doubleday in New York), ‘I am getting along with another booklength--provisional title, Fury of Creation--and when I can get the last two chapters into tolerable shape, will start typing it.’ This is the only evidence that Fury of Creation was his first title choice. A JBH letter to Pohl of 20 March 1951 opens with this line: ‘I have sent off to you this morning a thing called Plan for Chaos.’ This novel has presented problems: ‘I've messed about with the thing so much that I've lost all perspective, and any hope of seeing the wood from the trees.’

Pohl responds on 24 April. He found problems ‘with large sections of the first third’ and with ‘The essential Englishness of the American hero.’ But ‘through the last pages of the first volume and through all of the second I felt you had hit your stride and things were going beautifully.’ Collier's, who had published an abridged Triffids as ‘The Revolt of the Triffids’ in five parts (6 January-3 February 1951) have turned it down but Pohl expects Doubleday to accept it with revisions. He closes by assuring JBH ‘I think it is a good book, [and] will be a better one.’ On 28 April JBH expresses his relief at Pohl's response. Collier's had apparently objected to the Nazi subject matter (presumably Pohl had enclosed the Collier's report) but JBH defends it on the grounds of supplying credible motivation. He also counters Pohl's objection to the first third with the ‘detective story’ ploy. But he does accept the main character problem: ‘The attempt to suggest that he was an American only in name, having been brought up in Europe until he was 17 or so, evidently failed dismally to register any effect.’ The alternatives would appear to be make the main character ‘plainly an Englishman’ or an American or ‘the drastic remedy of starting the whole action over here [i.e., in Britain].’

JBH's letter of 11 May 1951 indicates that he has a solution in mind:
I think a blundersome Englishman of Scandinavian descent trying to behave, not at all convincingly, as an American, is probably the angle. But what I want out of Doubleday--since the whole thing is obviously a lot too long--is a line on best areas for surgery.


He further explains to Pohl on 18 May that Plan was intended not as ‘what the enthusiast classifies as science-fiction, but, I hope, more what the general public thinks s-f to be.’ That is to say, Plan for Chaos and The Day of the Triffids are both after the same broader appeal. However, Timothy Seldes of Doubleday was not enthusiastic and, on 18 June, Pohl informs JBH that, having retrieved the typescript, he has submitted it somewhere else. Then, on 13 July, he has further bad news: Gold Medal Books have rejected Plan ‘(on no particular ground)’. Doubleday, however, do seem to be interested in a revision. But on 18 July JBH responds positively to the suggestion (from both Doubleday and Pohl) that Plan be shelved for a while; nevertheless, he will continue ‘retyping it and show it to [the London publisher Michael] Joseph's when it is done.’ ‘If the worst comes to the worst we might try it as a one-shot sometime under another name, but not yet.’ Up to this point, then, JBH had regarded Plan as a ‘Wyndham’ novel. It was only later that he considered using first the ‘John Beynon’ byline and then the ‘John Lucas’ one.

On 18 July Tim Seldes of Doubleday finally got around to writing JBH a rejection letter: ‘my problem was that I couldn't become interested in either the multiplication of human beings or the recrudescent nazism. I had the feeling that your ability as a writer was suffering, this time, from a cumbersome plot.’ But ‘I could be wrong about chaos and perhaps by drastically cutting the first section and emphasizing the pace of the second half it could turn into a good piece of science fiction.’

On 1 September (six days after the Michael Joseph publication of The Day of the Triffids), JBH tells Pohl that he has done as much as he can in the way of revising Plan. He is ‘so fed up with it that I shall take the second half to a typist to be finished off--this week, I hope.’ He has decided that ‘the best thing to do . . . is to put it under Beynon or any other name, as more or less of a one-shot.’ He elaborates on 10 September: ‘I've not been able to improve that chaos much, I'm afraid, but I've put it out to be retyped . . . .’ On 20 September, he writes that ‘Re-typing should be through in a week or so now.’ According to Grace's diary entry for 3 November (her apparently third and only other reference to Plan), "P.P.H[.]'s reader has given Design for Chaos a good though queer report so J is relieved." The report seems not to have survived.

On 15 November, JBH wrote Paul Scott, his agent at ‘P.P.H.’, Pearn, Pollinger & Higham, that he had four copies of Plan, and on the same day he wrote to Pohl that ‘I now have the revised copy’ of Plan:
In general I have not been able to change it much. Chief points are that I have emphasized that the leading character is a Limey trying to be adaptable. Otherwise, it is mostly a few cuts, a bit of condensing, rephrasing, and tidying--the main trouble has been that all the people I have shown it to have disagreed as to which parts are the weakest.


He further informs Pohl that ‘A copy [presumably of the revision] has now gone to Joseph's’. On 29 November, he writes that

Plan for Chaos went off to you by Surface on 17th Nov. Copy goes to Miss [Jean]Leroy [who handled JBH's serial and short story rights at Pearn, Pollinger & Higham] in a day or two. No word yet on Michael Joseph's reaction to it. Can I suggest that you use the copy that's on the way to try for a serial? If you want another copy for book publishers, let me know, and I'll hustle it over to you right away.

No record of Michael Joseph's decision seems to have survived but that it was negative JBH informed Pohl on 8 January 1952. Plan will be offered elsewhere in England ‘as a John BEYNON . . . . if it does not go with one of three or four likelies, I think we shall put it on ice for a time.’ He suggests, however, that Pohl ‘offer [serial but not book rights to] it as a BEYNON or a WYNDHAM--whatever you think will . . . be likely to be the better market policy.’

Over the next couple of years Pohl's life, in contrast to JBH's, becomes increasingly hectic and fraught. He and Judith Merrill divorce and, on 7 July 1953 (after the success of his collaboration with C. M. Kornbluth, The Space Merchants), he informs JBH of his decision to retire from agenting which he describes as a ‘7 year experiment.’ During this time, The Kraken Wakes is published (July 1953) and Plan gathers more rejections. Horace Gold, editor of Galaxy Science Fiction, turned it down according to Pohl's 13 March 1952 letter. Serial rights also went nowhere in Britain. According to Pohl's letter of 15 December 1952, he is renewing his efforts to place Plan but ‘I seem to be almost alone in my fondness for it . . . .’ A year later, on 4 December 1953, Pohl mentions having

nagged Ballantine into taking another look . . . they have the manuscript though I have explained to them that any dealings will be through Scott [i.e., the Scott Meredith Agency], not me. I like that book; I want to see it published.
But Ballantine said no again.

Pohl's faith was not rewarded but it never wavered. He was sufficiently keen in fact as to propose revising Plan himself: ‘If you concur, I think I could rework it, dividing the by-line and income evenly, for a reasonably good sale.’ This 3 December 1954 letter continues with Pohl's sale projections: ‘I'm quite sure I can sell it at least as a book for no less than a thousand dollars, and perhaps as a serial as well for considerably more.’ He has in mind a radical reworking: ‘I suppose the entire Nazi element needs to come out, and the narrator, I think, will have to become either more American or less so . . . .’ JBH responded on 7 December by noting (reasonably I think) that he
couldn't find a substitute for the Nazi angle. But if you think you can, and you would like to try, I'd certainly be delighted for you to do it. (As far as I can remember, in the revised version the protagonist was an Englishman who was trying hard, but not very successfully to be American--and, as you say, probably quite a bit will have to be done about that, too.) So by all means go ahead and get it from Scott and see how you feel about it after a re-reading.
For whatever reasons--perhaps because his ideas for the reworking were not particularly sound--Pohl did not follow through. And there the matter rested for the remainder of JBH's life and all the years since.

Has the world been deprived of a collaboration that would have rivalled Pohl's first collaboration with Kornbluth? I do not think so. The resurgent Nazis theme is essential to the plot. And why should the narrator/protagonist not be a transplanted Englishman? Plan for Chaos is a successful, ground-breaking novel as it stands. It seems people did not want to read about victorious alternate world Nazis until the 1960s (notably, Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle of 1962) or about resurgent Nazis in this world until the 1970s when Ira Levin cashed in. It would not have helped that most of JBH's Nazis were female and ambiguously associated with a hardline feminism. In this regard, it should be noted that JBH had read Katherine Burdekin's Swastika Night (1937) which was republished by the Feminist Press in New York in 1985. [15]

Incest, Cloning, the Feared Female, and The Day of the Triffids

Johnny Farthing, the news photographer narrator of Plan, (and one of JBH’s typical mild-mannered, self-deprecating alter egos), is an Englishman in an American city, presumably New York. [16] It is that which justifies the oddities of his uneven, Raymond Chandleresque, quasi-American, hard-boiled narrative style. But it is his Swedish background which is emphasized in the first chapter. He expects to marry his first cousin, Freda Darl, in spite of the degree of kinship. That the degree is not prohibitive would seem to be both confirmed and undermined by this confusing statement: ‘Seeing that there is more empiric bunk talked about sex than pretty near anything else, you might think that I'd not fall for my cousin’ (41 LUP/9 Penguin). Freda is the daughter of Uncle Nils (and Nils' second wife), his mother's brother who changed his last name Dahl to Darl. The consanguinity issue is highlighted by the title of Chapter 2, ‘Where I Love,’ which comes from Thomas Moore's ‘Love and Marriage’: ‘Where I love I must not marry.’ In this chapter we learn of Uncle Nils' (Marta’s brother’s) opposition to 'cousinly marriages' (43 LUP/11 Penguin). But there is also Aunt Marta's personal history to consider and the genetic taint she may carry. At not quite eight years old, the fair-haired Marta Dahl ‘was a golden child’ (45 LUP/13 Penguin). She went to school in Germany and fell under Hitler's sway. She renounced her Swedish nationality and became Fräulein Gerda Daele, a fanatic Nazi. ‘She had been, according to witnesses, some part at least of those last days in the historic bunker in Berlin . . . anyone of three or four unidentifiable bodies might have been hers’ (47 LUP/15 Penguin). But it is Freda's striking resemblance to three young women who have recently died in suspicious circumstances that initiates the plot. Clearly, there are connections to be drawn between the dangers of recessive genes and consanguinity, the existence of duplicates, and the sudden deaths of three duplicates.

It turns out that Gerda Daele (Dahl, the common Swedish last name, was anglicized to Darl in Freda's case) did not die in Hitler's bunker. Twenty-eight years later, her ambition is to build up a new Germany consisting of duplicate females (who resemble Freda) and a lesser number of duplicate males (who strongly resemble Johnny). She is the Mother of the New Germany (based somewhere in the tropics or sub-tropics) and her followers-—‘my children’ (159 LUP/127 Penguin)--are all brothers and sisters, all members of one giant family, ‘the most powerful family that has ever existed’ (208 LUP/176 Penguin).

The duplicates are explained in Chapter 11, ‘Not Nature’ (from ‘Accuse not nature, she hath done her part’, line 561, Book 8 of Milton's Paradise Lost). Aunt Marta has gone in for the mass production of human beings. A technique of fission has been perfected to make zygotes (fertilized eggs) divide. The resultant identicals are not called clones but that is what they are. They are clones in the sense that identical twins are clones because they are the result of the asexual fission of the fertilized ovum. The term ‘clone’ and the genetics of cloning did not become common in sf until the late 1960s. For Marta, cloning is the next stage-—perhaps the ultimate stage—-of the Nazi eugenics programme. What is called the Eidermann process in Plan is indebted to the Bokanovsky Process in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World (1932). The genetic scientist Eidermann, who it is emphasized does not resemble the duplicates and so is not their father, justifies his process by quoting the King of Brobdingnag's famous claim in Swift's Gulliver's Travels that

whoever could make two ears of corn[,] or two blades of grass to grow upon a spot of ground where only one grew before, would deserve better of mankind, and do more essential service to his country[,] than the whole race of politicians put together. (Minus two commas, quoted 208 LUP/176 Penguin)

The Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning in Brave New World makes a parallel boast about the bokanovskified egg ‘Making ninety-six human beings grow where only one grew before.’[17]But while Bokanovski's process makes possible batches of 96 clones, Eidermann's creates batches of 512.

JBH is vague about the details but it seems that, as in Huxley's novel, sperm is required to fertilize the egg. The alternative, so much in the news today and anticipated at the conclusion of Plan, is to transplant the nucleus from a body cell into an egg cell (an ovum) from which the nucleus had previously been removed. The ovum would then be induced to develop without fertilization and the resulting embryo would be entirely derived from the single implanted nucleus. In that situation the female duplicates would derive from an Aunt Marta body cell and the male duplicates from an unidentified male cell from a close relative. All Aunt Marta's duplicates appear to have a genetic mother (Aunt Marta) and an unknown genetic father. There is one likely candidate: the farmer Uncle Nils. He is Freda's father and could be (perhaps unwittingly) the father of the duplicates. There is no way of knowing but the emphasis on keeping things in the family and his concern about consanguinity and incestuous or quasi-incestuous relationships (based on past experience?) means that, given the lack of other information, the finger of suspicion must point at Uncle Nils—Marta’s brother, ‘afraid’ of her when she was ‘still a schoolgirl’ (145 LUP/113 Penguin).

The mysterious missing father--what might be termed the Absent Father Theme--is something that I have speculated about in an article on what I regard as JBH's most significant novel, The Midwich Cuckoos (1957).[18]In that novel some mysterious alien entity fulfils the father role for the fair-haired Children (with which compare the fair-haired duplicates in Plan). An aspect of JBH's biography is relevant here. His parents separated acrimoniously when he was eight and thereafter JBH and his brother lost touch with their father George to the point that, when their father was dying, the brothers only heard about it ‘via a BBC SOS . . . .’ [19] Who exactly was his father, JBH must have wondered. Or what? Some kind of alien perhaps? The alien father motif crops up in both Stowaway to Mars and The Midwich Cuckoos. With the disappearance of his father from his life at such a young age, did JBH feel himself to be some kind of abandoned cuckoo or alternatively the offspring of a single parent and therefore a kind of clone? Certainly, living in a series of hotels with his brother and their non-domestic, strong-willed (perhaps tyrannical) mother, JBH was predisposed to consider the viability and perhaps superiority of a matriarchal society.

At the end of the novel Johnny worries about the possibility that the papers explaining the Eidermann process, which his pregnant wife-to-be Freda is responsible for saving, might lead to the creation of a ‘monosexual race’ (416 LUP/Penguin 228) of women, perhaps resembling that which JBH would describe in ‘Consider Her Ways’ (1956). JBH is here anticipating today's parthenogenic mode of cloning independent of any need for fertilization by male sperm. Johnny fears that Freda will see ‘things differently when her baby comes--particularly if it's only one’ (263 LUP/Penguin 231). After all, she could incubate 512 like her mother. Johnny believes that all knowledge of the Eidermann process should be obliterated: ‘I can't help it if that would entail the deaths of hundreds of my cousins [or children]--the thing's too dangerous for that to count’:

The next step is as plain as a billboard: in no time at all somebody ups with a scientific method of motivating the ovum--a monosexual race--an entirely female--

‘This thing is the first stage in a potential destruction of the species’ (260 LUP/Penguin 228). We are told, however, that Freda, like her aunt, believes the Eidermann process is ‘constructive not destructive’ (261 LUP/Penguin 229). Eidermann himself, incidentally, has a face which resembles that of the older JBH (see the description on page 207 LUP/Penguin 175); he is a sympathetic character.

The obtuse Pentagon official to whom Johnny is speaking figures that the threat of male extinction and an all-female world could be headed off by ‘a taboo’ (like that against incest) or by the equivalent of a religious interdiction: ‘Good heavens, man, if perfectly healthy women can be persuaded to immure themselves in convents, there'll not be much difficulty in handling this’ (261 LUP/Penguin 229). This is a weirdly prescient statement because in 1956, the atheist JBH was horrified to learn that Marion Tess Barker, one of his friend ‘Biff’ Barker's two daughters, was to become a cloistered nun. As Sister Bede, she still lives at St. Cecilia's Abbey on the Isle of Wight. JBH felt obliged to change his will. Instead of both daughters benefiting, he made the children of Tess's sister Jean the beneficiaries of his literary estate. Of course, what the official fails to recognise (aside from the determination of a woman like Tess)--and what may be deliberate on JBH's part--is the irony of his particular example. A convent is an all-female society in microcosm.

It should be noted that the cloning methodology of today that Johnny anticipates provides a solution to the reproductive risks that Uncle Nils associates with Johnny marrying his first cousin. The fear that shared recessive genes might lead to abnormal or damaged offspring is countered by the possibility of offspring genetically identical to either Johnny or Freda.

However, Uncle Nils' supposedly lesser fear that a normally procreated child of Johnny and Freda might inherit one or more of mad Aunt Marta's disturbing traits seem to be justified if Freda, taking her aunt's plan a couple of stages further, did eventually harbour the ambition to create an all-female society along the lines that JBH would describe in ‘Consider Her Ways’ (1956). JBH took the view that women were indeed the stronger sex and the more crucial to the survival of the human species. He could envisage a Darwinist scenario in which, in the natural or artificial course of things, women supplanted men. And hence a major theme in Plan: the feared female, deadlier than the male. It is a theme implied by JBH's original and perhaps final title, Fury of Creation. Its source, a line from Act I of George Bernard Shaw's Man and Superman, is quoted in Chapter 18 (‘And some . . . have in their hearts . . . millions of mischiefs’): ‘”Vitality in women,” Shaw once said, “is a blind fury of creation"’ (quoted 249 LUP/217 Penguin).[20] Certainly Aunt Marta exhibits such a fury and is, indeed, identified as a mythological ‘Fury’ (46 LUP/14 Penguin), as is one of her female followers (68 LUP/36 Penguin).

Because the composition of Plan alternated with the composition of The Day of the Triffids, it makes sense to look for areas of overlap in theme and subject matter. Some of those areas—competing factions, for example--are obvious but one that is not--fear of the female--is made more apparent in Triffids by its prominence in Plan.

The two most obvious shared elements are genetic engineering and artificial satellites. The Eidermann process and the triffids are both the result of genetic engineering. The triffids are what we would today call a genetically modified crop. Because these two novels are unusually prescient in regard to genetics, it would be helpful to know what sparked JBH's interest. I will get round to the answer shortly. Artificial satellites circle the Earth in both novels. It is part of Aunt Marta'a plan to use armed artificial satellites to fool America and Russia into thinking the one country is attacking the other. The expected result is that America and Russia will wipe each other out with nuclear weapons and Aunt Marta's family will take control of the entire world.[21] Some of the satellites in Plan's world ‘re-broadcast television programmes’ (224/). Although the first communications satellite, Telestar, was not launched until 1962, JBH knew Arthur C. Clarke and would surely have read Clarke's pioneering ‘Extra-Terrestrial Relays’ when it first appeared in Wireless World in 1945. In that famous article, Clarke shows how three triangularly-positioned, geosynchronous satellites could relay radio signals around the world. JBH’s satellites originated in Plan and (as the result of compositional interpenetration) were added to the mainly holograph MS of Triffids where he first describes them in the context of a 14 page ‘addend[um]’ to Chapter 2 and where he expands Chapter 15 by inserting three unnumbered pages (see Wyndham 1/3/1). In Triffids there turns out to be a strong probability that something weapon-related on board one of Earth's artificial satellites, when released by comet debris (the green shooting stars), was responsible for the well-nigh universal blinding of humanity. It is this blindness which makes human beings vulnerable to triffids, plants which had been created as a benefit because they are the source of a superior oil. In both novels JBH is pointing to the dangers, whether by design or accident, of scientific and technological advances.

There is, however, another more specific point to be made about the presence of military artificial satellites in both Plan and Triffids. It seems likely that JBH was among the earliest writers, if not the first, to speculate in fiction about the military use of artificial satellites as distinct from inhabited space stations (as in Robert A. Heinlein’s 1948 Space Cadet). From Clarke’s communication satellites to armed satellites is an imaginative leap that takes us close to the US policy known as ‘Star Wars.’ The logical visionary JBH glimpsed that far ahead in 1948.

Near the end of Plan and part of its very effective expanding climax, there are three brief clues which indicate (in JBH’s typically understated way) its full interpenetration with Triffids. The first clue is this first reference to the mysterious ‘paramecium reticulata’ in answer to Johnny’s asking where the German Headquarters are:


You’ve seen the forest outside? Well, now, there’s only one part of the world where you can find the paramecium reticulata growing wild, isn’t there?’ (247 or Penguin page 215).

The speaker here, a German doctor, clearly assumes that Johnny is familiar with the actual species although perhaps not with its Greek-Latin name. Johnny makes it clear that he has no knowledge of what part of the world the doctor is referring to. He has only been able to narrow his location to somewhere in the tropics or sub-tropics. In The Day of the Triffids, the first reports of triffids walking come from ‘places in the neighbourhood of the equator’ (Penguin page 39). In Plan, a few pages on, there is a follow up Pentagon querying reference to paramecium reticulata (assumed to be an unknown microscopic organism) and ‘the Tropics or sub-Tropics’ location (258 or Penguin page 226). Presumably the term paramecium reticulata is the invention of a Nazi scientist in that location and not known in relation to triffids or anything else outside that location. It may be reasonable assumed that Johnny in fact does not know the local technical term for triffis, a term which includes the microscopic animal thing--the paramecium--that has turned some genetically modified plant into a triffid. Only his experience at the secret location has informed Johnny that there is one part of the world where triffids grow wild.

The third clue is the plant related revelation that ‘the photo-synthesis’ records have disappeared (262 or Penguin page 230. As in Triffids, food production is a major concern. A photosynthetic food application in Plan is described as “a pale green, pâté-like substance” (165 or Penguin page 133; see also 170 or Penguin page 138). Triffids are valued for their cheap, high grade, edible oil. Is the green substance some kind of triffid paste?


The combined term ‘paramecium reticulata’ does not exist in our world. Clearly what is being implied is that Eidermann (not shot dead after all?) and his team of scientists are responsible for some kind of genetic modification, an animal-plant hybrid that Johnny recognises as triffids (after all, he has his sight at the time of Plan but perhaps not at the later time of Triffids). So, just as the satellites were carried over into Triffids, those animal-plants were carried over into Plan. The forested part of the world where the secret German Headquarters is based is presumably related to a detail in one of the two relevant late holograph inserts in the Triffids manuscript, both of which combine the satellite weapons with the triffids from Venus scenario (the latter being a late alteration lure JBH mistakenly thought--until corrected by Frederik Pohl and a Doubleday editor--would appeal to sf-addicted US readers) that features in the first and now apparently lost early 1950, 375 page Triffids typescript, the one initially submitted to Pohl that anomalously appeared in the Collier’s abridged text (for example, the satellite material was cut), the first published version of the novel. On the first of the three page holograph insert which follows holograph page 307A (after ‘build something better’ on Penguin page 245), Bill Masen says of the triffids from Venus, ‘They might have grown into the monsters they are in their home forests . . . ’ (Wyndham 1/3/1). This detail does not appear in the Collier’s text (if in the lost first complete typescript, it was cut) and, of course, it is not part of what JBH claimed in a letter to Pohl to be a reverted-to-terrestrial scenario that would be embodied in the surviving 411 page second complete typescript (prepared between late March and early May 1950) on which the Doubleday and Michael Joseph editions of Triffids were based.

So it is reasonable to conclude that triffids/paramecium reticulata are native to a particular forested region on Earth (a setting transferred from Plan to the Venus-scenario Triffids and not vice versa) and Germans, not Russians as implied early on in Triffids, were the true originators of triffids. What is ultimately implied by the three apparently throwaway clues in Plan is a further plan (possibly a utopian one) that eventuates (perhaps in a disastrously botched form) in Triffids. Plan, then, with its rampant loose ends, is ultimately revealed to be a covert prequel (or prologue) to The Day of the Triffids, a prequel (or prologue) that allows for and encourages a startling whole new reading of that classic novel.

It should be noted in this regard, that ‘The Puff Ball Menace,’ the 1933 seed of Triffids (see endnote 14), is also the essential seed of Plan for Chaos. ‘The Puff Ball Menace’ has a frame narrative set in a small un-located principality named Ghangistan where the puffball-seeds-plan-for-chaos to destroy the Western world is developed. The plan eventually fails because it turns out that, after two or three generations, the puff balls did not breed true and were no longer lethal parasites. However, in the closing frame, it is revealed that the nephew of the ‘ancient’ (i.e., a family member) who came up with the puff ball plan has other plans for chaos as well. The German conspirators of Plan for Chaos also have a variety of plans.

Those plans include bacterial and chemical warfare. This (like the later dropped Venus scenario) is linked to the discussion of satellite weapons, that element which most obviously knits Plan to Triffids. In the Triffids holograph MS, that discussion first appears near the end of penultimate Chapter 16 in the context of a post-eighteen-month-break-concluding-pages revision in a deleted passage on holograph pages 332 and 333 (after ‘get our land back from them for us’ on Penguin page 260). Those revised concluding holograph pages 330-43 all display the same ink page numbers and text and are preceded by all-the-same-but-different-ink insert holograph page 229A. The preceding deleted page 229 (the last of a deletion of eight too didactic pages) ends with the first two words of a sentence--‘They’ve no’ (Wyndham 1/3/1)--that does not continue on to page 230 because the original page 230, and all the concluding pages that originally followed it, no longer exist. Page 230 begins with a new sentence, ‘A little later . . .’, which became the final ribbon and carbon typescript ‘On a day in the summer of our fifth year’, a ‘sixth year’ handwritten correction of which appears in the US ribbon typescript and the UK carbon typescript (see Wyndham 1/3/3 and 1/3/2, and Penguin page 241). The deleted passage which appears two holograph pages on was shifted back into the above mentioned three pages of insert material in the previous chapter (corresponding to Penguin pages 245-48--‘Josella demurred . . . . their very own’) with the addition of Venus scenario material. Around the same time as that shift, the satellites and the Venus scenario are first introduced in the novel in the lengthy fifteen page holograph addendum written for the beginning of Chapter 2 (corresponding to the later revision of same which appears on Penguin pages 25-37).

What I am calling the ‘holograph MS’--in spite of its first three chapters consisting of 57 re-ordered typed pages of an original 61 (with holograph inserts and missing typed pages 7-8, 17, and 30)--combines a version written for UK publication and an eighteen month or more later version written and typed for US publication. The distinction can be established by the use of British words like ‘flat’, ‘tin’, ‘lorry’, and ‘pavement’ or American words like ‘apartment’, ‘can’, ‘truck’, and ‘sidewalk’. The eleven part--in the telling--sequence of UK and US texts [with two non-extant parts--pages at the beginning and the end of the original holograph MS--that can be inferred placed within square brackets] are as follows: (1) the one holograph page ‘Foreword’ written by editors of Bill Masen’s account at an unspecified future century date (post-preliminary-parts-3-and-5-typed pages so US intended text but no US words because none are needed); (2) the one holograph page familiar opening paragraphs (‘When a day . . . . in a hospital’ in the published novel) replacing the flatter typescript opening page of part 3 (no US words but US intended); [(3) missing holograph pages 1-63 written for UK publication]; (4) the pre-holograph typed pages of Chapter 1 (US words); (5) the fifteen page holograph Chapter 2 insert dealing with military satellites and the Venus scenario involving Umberto Palanguez who also figures in the eventual published replacement, partly parallel, terrestrial scenario (US intended text with one US word: ‘airplane’ on holograph page 2 is altered, by hand, to the UK ‘aeroplane’ on page 32 of the Michael Joseph carbon typescript (see Wyndham 1/3/2 and Penguin page 27); (6) the remainder of the pre-holograph typed pages: the balance of Chapter 2 and all of the typed Chapter 3 which encroaches on the published Chapter 4 (US words); (7) holograph pages 64 to 307A (UK words); (8) the three unnumbered holograph insert pages about the Venus scenario and the military satellites (US intended text with one US word: ‘can’ on the second unnumbered holograph page and on complete final typescript page 371 appears as ‘tin’ on Penguin 246 in accordance with JBH’s holograph correction on the carbon typescript page); (9) holograph pages 308 to 329 (UK words); [(10) missing concluding holograph pages 330-3?? written for UK publication]; and (11) replacement holograph pages 329A to last page 345 (US words).

Nine of these eleven parts came into being in the following nine stage order: 3, 7, 9, and 10; then, 18 months latter, 4, 6, 11, 5, and 8 (or, less likely, 8 and 5). This can be expressed as follows: [A3], B7, C9, and [D10]; then E4, F6, G11, H5, and I8 (or I8 and H5). I have left out holograph parts 1 and 2 because, although 1 was written at some point after typescripts E4 and F6, and 2 at some point after typescript E4, there is no way of knowing exactly when in relation to any of the holograph part stages that followed. The material with UK words (the original holograph MS—parts [3], 7, 9, and [10]) was written in 1948 or earlier before the 18 month break in the composition of The Day of the Triffids. The US intended pages involving the satellites and the Venus scenario (notably here the satellite weapons information in holograph parts 5, 8, and 11, or stages G11, H or I5, and H or I8) and other material with US words were written in 1949 or later after the 18 month break and after the initial composition of Plan for Chaos. We can also conclude (as I have assumed above) that the 57 typed pages that precede the holograph ones are not the opening of an earlier version. Rather those typed pages (with their US words) replace now lost holograph pages 1 to 63 and initiate the American Triffids text of the published novel; the outer space explanation involving satellites and the Venus material followed later. There is no reason to suppose that the lost holograph pages 1 to 63 would have included anything beyond an account of terrestrial triffids.

This table summarises the necessarily rather complicated two paragraphs above:

1. ‘Foreword’—a further future frame of four paragraph (later dropped) on one holograph page [US text]
2. Two paragraph holograph page replacing first two and a bit paragraphs on typed p. 1 (Penguin page 7 up to ‘hospital.’). [US text]
[3. Missing holograph pages 1-36 (Penguin pages 7-24). Stage E [UK text]]
4. Typed pages of Chapter 1 (Penguin pages 7-24). Stage E [US text]
5. Fifteen page holograph insert (up to ‘world.’ on Penguin page 37). Stage H
[US text]
6. Typed pages of remainder of Ch. 2 and all of original Ch. 3 (up to ‘instinct was.’ on Penguin page 63. Stage F [US text]
7. Holograph pages 64-307A (up to ‘myth?’ on Penguin page 245). Stage B [UK Text]
8. Three page holograph insert (up to ‘mess’ on Penguin page 248). Stage I [US
text] 8. Three page holograph insert (up to ‘mess’ on Penguin page 248). Stage I [US text]
9. Holograph pages 308-29 (322-29 deleted) (up to ‘asked.’ on Penguin page 258). Stage C [UK text]
[10. Missing holograph pages 330-3??. Stage D [UK text] ]

Parts 3, 7, 9, and 10 above--the pre-Plan for Chaos, no artificial satellites version of Triffids--was written before a date in the first half of 1948; the remaining material which is bolded--the post-Plan revised Triffids with Plan’s artificial satellites--was written in 1949 after eighteen or more months had passed.

In both Plan and Triffids, in addition to, or as alternatives to, atomic warheads, some of the satellites are equipped with radioactive dusts, fungi, viruses, and bacteria (see 155-56 or the Penguin Plan pages 123-24 and the Penguin Triffids pages 28 and 247). In Triffids, it should be noted that the phrase ‘fissile materials, radio-active dusts, bacteria, viruses’ only appears in the final typescript and the published US and UK texts derived from it and not in the between-pages 307A and 208 three page holograph insert context (with its cancelled page numbers 4, 5, and 6 and no replacement numbers). That passage on Penguin page 247 and the corresponding one on Penguin page 28 were both added at the first or second complete typescript stages. The first of these typescripts, which began with the ‘Foreword’ (part 1), was submitted to Pohl who submitted it to Doubleday and Collier’s. The abridgement that Collier’s published cut the ‘Foreword’ and, as mentioned above, the satellite weapons material. The same complete typescript stages scenario applies to this disquieting first of two new sentences in what also originated in the same three insert pages context of Bill’s suggestion that something aboard one or more of those satellites might have caused the mass blindness: ‘And there was that plague, too: it wasn’t typhoid, you know. . .’ (Penguin page 247). This mystery is not raised in relation to the military satellites anywhere else in Triffids. It is now raised for the only time in a sentence inserted at both or only the second of the complete typescript stages in what originated as the three page holograph insert involving those satellites that was written after JBH had completed a first version of Plan.

Readers of Triffids alone will now suddenly suspect that both blindness and the plague were caused by satellite weapons; human beings are somehow responsible for both catastrophes. Readers of Triffids who have now also read Plan for Chaos will link germ/chemical warfare in both novels with the paramecium reticulata references in Plan and suspect that cloned Nazis were responsible, deliberately or accidentally, for mass blindness, the accompanying plague, and the triffids. Perhaps the Germans took advantage of the comet trail as a smokescreen. In the final complete typescript added sentence which directly follows the ‘wasn’t typhoid’ one, Bill finds it ‘just the wrong side of coincidence . . . to believe that out of all the thousands of years in which a destructive comet could arrive, it happens to do so just a few years after we have succeeded in establishing satellite weapons . . .’ (Wyndham 1/3/3 and 1/3/2, and Penguin pages 247-48). Here, at the final typescript stage (and perhaps the missing preceding one), in two new key sentences, one following the other, Bill is voicing for the first time the idea that everything that has happened is part of an enemy plan. However, that idea first appeared in a similarly phrased cancelled passage, transcribed below, on the preceding-holograph-typescript page 18, i.e., at what I designate above as composition stage F6. JBH, in writing that typed-pages-preceding-the-holograph passage, cancelling it, and then shifting it to the typescript of Chapter 15, would have had in mind the enemy identified in Plan for Chaos. The triffids, the plague, and mass blindness may now all be understood--if plans were successfully executed--as preliminary to, or alternative to, Aunt Marta’s nuclear plan for chaos.

It is helpful to compare the details of the cancelled passage which probably originated on one of the lost holograph 1-63 pages with what, many months later, replaced it in one or both of the final typescripts. This is the stage F6 cancelled typescript passage:

The triffids, they [many people] suggest, did not merely take advantage of the Calamity [comet-caused mass blindness], but in some mysterious way were actually concerned in bringing it about. There is no proof whatever of this. Adherents accept it on faith, leaving time to throw up the evidence, and pinning that faith on distrust of coincidence. ‘When,’ they say, in the space of sixteen or seventeen years you find two major violations of normality--with the second acting to the direct advantage of the first--something more than chance is at work. . . .’ (Wyndham 1/3/1, page 18; ellipsis in original)
The ‘sixteen or seventeen years’ refers to JBH’s first conception of the comet appearing in 1965 (a date superseded by a later one when the satellites entered the Triffids narrative, a date that is accidentally present in the pre-holograph-text typescript pages) following the first awareness of terrestrial triffids in 1948 or ’49. At that composition stage, satellite weapons were not part of the plot of Triffids. In the corresponding typescript sentence quoted in my paragraph above, the number of years between the discovery of triffids in 1948 or ‘49 and the existence of satellite weapons, presumably around 1970, is not specified but would be a good many more than ‘sixteen or seventeen’. Much more relevant, however, and stated, is the very small time gap between the establishment of satellite weapons and mass blindness. The really important difference between the two passages is that the consciously hostile plan basic to both is, only in the complete typescript case, related to the satellite weapons that originated in Plan for Chaos and the German plot in that novel to make hostile use of those satellites.

There is evidence, in the form of two untitled holograph fragments of 13 and 25 pages (Wyndham 7/1/10 and 7/.2/5) also written, like Plan, in relation to Triffids, that JBH projected a centuries-later sequel to Triffids, perhaps around the time of the dropped ‘Foreword’ to Triffids. They tell how the natives of the remote Pacific island of Waimori were not affected by the 1976 comet--the green trailed comet of Triffids that is not year-dated in Triffids--because the ash and smoke from the island’s erupting volcano screened the islanders from the display. In the first fragment set in 2001, a white anthropologist on the island, claiming to replace mythology with the facts, establishes the idea (minus any mention of artificial satellites) that the comet caused irrationality and bellicosity in the parts of the world where it was visible (a simplified, metaphorical translation of the actual mass blindness caused). In the second fragment (which was actually written first), at a date more than 300 years after the comet’s appearance, Lui, one of the Waimorians, the hybrid descendant of a native woman and Lewis Brent, a white American (the sole Westerner on the island for more than twenty years before the comet), sets out with some companions, to discover what has actually happened to the rest of the apparently (nuclear?) devastated world. As an example of increased irritability after the 1976 comet in this first written fragment, mention is made of an “incipient clash between Russia & America” (holograph page 19). It is clear, then, that in the early years following WWII, JBH envisioned the Cold War stretching decades into the future. Both fragments indicate that Triffids begins in 1976, three years after the events of Plan, and that, had JBH not abandoned the Waimori novel (because Plan was not published?), Plan would have been the opening loose-ended volume not of a pair of novels but of a future history trilogy (concluding, presumably, with a follow-up to the secret history outlined in Plan entwined with the intermediate world history). Would The World Beyond Waimori have been an appropriate title for the sequel? And Fury of Creation for the trilogy as a whole?

There is, incidentally, one place in the world actually named Waimori; it is in East Timor. If that was indeed the name source for JBH’s island, perhaps he had researched East Timor as the secret location for the Mother’s Headquarters. The eastern part of East Timor includes the Iralataro tropical dry forest area (transferred briefly to Venus?) that is sparsely inhabited and home to unique plants and creatures. Northern Australia is the nearest land mass to East Timor. This would be consistent with the fleeing saucer’s landing in Australia in Chapter 19 of Plan. If these speculations are correct, it would follow that Plan and the Waimori fragments were written around the same time or that those fragments were written shortly after the completion of Plan.[22] An attentive reader of the published Triffids alone might well suspect that the artificial satellite material was a late insertion. While adding to the story it is not essential to it. No such satellites figure in the film version, the two television versions, or in the three comic strip versions. In the novel, they simply add the possibility, or even probability, that human beings are as responsible for the mass blindness phenomemon in Triffids as for the triffids themselves. The artificial satellites are only essential to Triffids considered as the central volume of a future-history trilogy. The concluding three centuries hence, proto-Chrysalids novel that I have entitled The World Beyond Waimori would have included the discovery of a backstory about World War III, the result of Plan’s satellites with nuclear warheads being accidentally or deliberately ‘dropped’ in the latter part of the twentieth century.

While the feared female theme is an overt element in Plan, it is equally or more important (albeit less overtly) in The Day of the Triffids. JBH's fear and respect for female power partakes strongly of the mythological equation between Woman and Nature. His belief in an all-powerful, chthonian female nature is close to that elaborated by Camille Paglia in Sexual Personae.[23] Thus the deadly plants in The Day of the Triffids and the inchoate aliens from the sea in The Kraken Wakes (1953) are both best understood as manifestations of the fury of that female nature. I have made a detailed case for fear of the female as the underlying theme in Triffids (and Kraken) in ‘John Wyndham: The Facts of Life Sextet.’[24] Here I will only point to the description of a triffid funnel ‘head’ as an image of the threatening vagina dentata (note the metonymic transfer of the narrator’s father’s teeth back of his blowing moustached mouth into the triffid ‘head’ on pages 37-38 of the Penguin edition) and the parallel between the at-one-point tethered yellow-headed triffids and the at-one-point tethered, blonde-headed heroine, Josella Playton. The fact that Plan was written around alongside Triffids means that the fear-of-the-female theme in the one novel clarifies and reinforces its role in the other.

The elements that the two novels have in common add up to an expression of JBH's belief that, in any conflict between Nature and Science, it is Nature that will win. In Plan this statement about the power of nature—‘It's what makes the dandelion split the paving stone’ (175 LUP/143 Penguin)--should be set up against this statement about the power of science: ‘You stimulate the zygote . . . and you split the foundations of human life . . .’ (187 LUP/155 Penguin). Aunt Marta's plan for instigating World War III and replacing a society made up of nuclear families with one modelled on ‘the beehive, or the termitary’ (186 LUP/154 Penguin), like that in ‘Consider Her Ways,’ is unsuccessful because of the power of nature--specifically, the female urge to mate and procreate naturally. For JBH, the conflict between Science and Nature aligns broadly with that between male and female, reason and emotion, creative planning and chaos.

Plan, as noted above, was largely written during an eighteen month gap when JBH stopped the professional typing of Triffids because of his sense that there was a problem with its last two chapters. After the gap he solved the problem by deleting pages 322 to 329 in the holograph MS of the penultimate chapter of Triffids in which was expounded what he regarded as a too preachy plan or blueprint for the development of a viable new community on the Isle of Wight.[25] It rather looks as if the writing of Plan for Chaos solved the Triffids ending problem by indicating the ways in which, due to the human element, any more or less rational ‘plan’ is prone to go chaotically awry.

Dorothy Joan Parkes: The Biographical Key

The plot of Plan depends totally upon the consanguine relations between Johnny, Freda, and Aunt Marta. It is because Freda and Johnny are first cousins that the female and male offspring of their aunt so strongly resemble respectively her and him. If Plan were the only JBH novel to feature cousins in love there would be no especially compelling reason to suspect some kind of biographical angle. But in fact Plan is one of three such novels. This has not been observed because the first of these novels, Foul Play Suspected, a 1935 detective story, has never been republished and so remains largely unread. It was not a success in 1935 and only the fanatical admirers of his famous 1951 onwards, Penguin-published titles would seek it out. Even those fans would not have known about Plan, the second novel featuring cousins in love, before 1999, the year my now superseded ‘Autumn 1998’ (in fact 1999) article on the novel was published. [26] Before May 1998, when the University of Liverpool acquired the Wyndham Archive, almost no one was aware of the existence of Plan.

‘Wyndham’ readers would have been aware of the cousins in love in The Chrysalids (1958); they could not, however, have been aware that this was JBH's third novel featuring cousins in love. There surely has to be a biographical reason for his returning twice to that particular kind of consanguine relationship. As one might suspect, it is the unread first novel in this series which is the most biographically revealing; The Chrysalids, the third, is the least. David Strorm, the telepathic narrator of Chrysalids, is in love with another telepath, ‘my cousin Rosalind.’ [27] He later identifies her more specifically as ‘my half cousin, Rosalind Morton’ (29); her father is ‘my half-uncle, Angus Morton’ (39). The ‘tall, slim’ Rosalind (93), with her ‘bronze-gold hair’ (149), resembles Aunt Marta and the female identicals. Because David's family and Rosalind's were enemies--and not because of any ‘incest’ taboo—‘we had to make love in a snatched unhappy way when we did meet, wondering miserably if there ever would be a time when we should not have to hide ourselves’ (93).

Foul Play Suspected includes the fullest version of the cousins-in-love theme in JBH's fiction and it seems likely that that version corresponds in some particulars to JBH's own experience. The cousins in Foul Play Suspected are would-be architect Derek Jameson and Phyllida Shiffer (previously Woodridge) who has recently returned to southern England from India. Phyllida would never have married the now deceased Ronald Shiffer if she had known the emotionally dense Derek was in love with her. Their marriage and honeymoon at the novel's end could be read as a wish fulfilment fantasy on JBH's part. He had a beautiful blonde, eight and a half month older, first cousin named Dorothy Joan Parkes who was always known as Joan.

Aside from the fact that Joan is the only contender, a link between her and Phyllida can be textually established. When Derek and Phyllida visit her uncle, Seymour Franks, the uncle tells her, ‘You know, I never cease to think of him [Derek] as a small boy in a sailor suit.’ [28] In the first chapter fragment (probably written in 1977 or 78) of what was planned as a book-length memoir entitled Jack and Me: Growing Up with John Wyndham, Vivian recalls that, as young boys, he and Jack and their first cousins Michael and Joan (the children of Arthur Parkes and his wife Edith) visited ‘Grandpa's house’--that of Birmingham iron master, John Israel Parkes, the father of Arthur Parkes and of Gertrude, Jack and Vivian's mother:
Jack and I were dressed in white sailor suits with H.M.S. Colossus on the hat band in gold. Joan and Michael were more normally dressed. As Jack and Joan were [supposed] the eldest, they were supposed to pair off but they never hugged as they hated the sight of each other, beautiful though Joan was.[29]
When JBH became an adolescent and his attitudes changed, it may be assumed that hate turned into love. However, JBH's love, or infatuation, was not fully reciprocated (if at all). Aged 24, Joan became the second wife of 38-year-old Robert Hamilton Ferguson, a company director, on 4 January 1927.

Since I have attempted, in a very detailed way, to fit together all of the now available puzzle pieces that evidence a ‘relationship’ between first cousins JBH and Dorothy Joan Parkes in ‘The Case for Rape in Stowaway to Mars: Joan Shirning and Dorothy Joan Parkes,’ Chapter 4 of my critical biography of JBH, I shall not repeat that lengthy exposition here.[30]The salient points are these. Widow Joan Ferguson died on 28 September 1966 but I did track down one of her two daughters: the now also deceased widow Mrs. Sara Jean Balharrie who lived on the Isle of Skye. Mrs. Balharrie provided a good deal of pertinent information including the fact that her mother was indeed beautiful and had been photographed by Cecil Beaton. She also mailed me a photograph of a portrait of her mother when she was a young woman. JBH wrote a series of seven what might be called ‘time schism love stories’ in which, thanks to some kind of time switch, a male character meets up with the woman he should have married. The first of this series, ‘The Man Who Returned,’ an unpublished story which survives as a typescript dated 10 October 1931, provides the clearest example. The hero, Ivan Sturdee, travels back in time in order to meet and marry Mary Fording, the woman he should have married all those years ago (while his later co-researcher, Jimmy Millbank, is destined to marry someone named Joan).[31]

Versions of Dorothy Joan Parkes are encountered throughout JBH's fiction--often melded with features and/or characteristics of a second idealized woman (with dark hair), whom JBH thought he should have married. [32] Notable examples are Joan Falkner/Shirning, the heroine of ‘The Lost Machine’ (1932) and Stowaway to Mars (1936), and Josella Playton (which contains in order the letters of the name ‘Joan’), the heroine of The Day of the Triffids who was named Dorothy Forbes in the source story, JBH's ‘The Puff-Ball Menace’ (1933), and who knows an ideal retreat named Shirning Farm. I take the name ‘Shirning’ to be a combination of ‘She,’ ‘her,’ and ‘yearning’ (adding up to ‘yearning for her’). If Josella Playton is, as seems likely, a fudged anagram of ‘Joan,’ ‘Sally,’ and ‘Ple[a]to’ (suggestive of a Platonic ideal), then the relevant given name of JBH's second Mrs. Right should be Sally unless, as I assume, ‘Sally’ was as close as JBH could come to ‘Molly’ if his anagram (alternatively and exactly ‘Jomolla Playton’?) was to sound appropriate. It should be noted that, while ‘Joan’ is the female name that crops up most frequently in JBH’s published and unpublished fiction (ten times beginning, prior to 1929, with the unpublished and incomplete ‘Johannes Pays a Call’), it is closely followed by ‘Mary’ (eight times, excluding its twice occurring diminutive ‘Molly’ beginning with the unpublished ‘Man Who Returned’ in 1931), and then by ‘Sally’ (six times beginning with the unpublished 1936 detective novel Death Upon Death). [33]


My conclusion has to be that first cousins Johnny Farthing and Freda Darl in Plan for Chaos derived from JBH and Dorothy Joan Parkes, and that the highly original (albeit somewhat contrived) plot of that novel derived from JBH's speculating about a way in which he and Joan might have children without fear of any negative genetic consequences. The form of asexual cloning envisaged at the novel's conclusion would allow for John and Joan having a virtually unlimited number of children that, instead of resulting from the combination of their genetic makeup with the risk of recessive overlap, were either clones of him or clones of her. He does recognise, however, as the novel warns via its feared female theme, that this would not necessarily be a ‘happily ever after’ situation for him, for men generally, or indeed for the entire human race. The lack of differentiation that cloning entails is not a circumstance likely to ensure a species' survival.

What is perhaps the oddest chapter in Plan for Chaos, Chapter 8, “Hard Rock,” has significant additional point once it is aligned with some knowledge of JBH’s infatuation with his first cousin. The saucer conveying Johnny and various clones to Mother Daele’s secret Headquarters has to make an emergency landing in a rocky gully in between mountains after being shelled by a hostile (American?) plane. The chapter title comes from The Tempest, specifically Caliban’s complaint about Prospero stying him “In this hard rock . . . .” Prospero explains that “I have us’d thee, / Filth as thou art, with human care . . . till thou didst seek to violate / The honour of my child [Miranda].” Caliban responds as follows: “O ho, O ho! Would’t had been done. . . . I had peopl’d else this isle with Calibans” (I.ii, 343-50). The implication is that, just as Caliban has been denied Miranda (which led to the attempted rape), so JBH has been denied Dorothy Joan Parkes and so rendered childless. A second saucer shortly rescues the party and transports them to the subtropical Headquarters. The setting of Chapter 8 would seem, then, to have been contrived to contrast a cold, barren mountainous landscape with a hot fecund one in order for JBH to make an imagistic point. On the level of plot, Chapter 8 functions mainly as a pause while Johnny takes stock of his situation, but the inhospitable unnamed mountain environment adds to his sense of disiortentation and so emphasises the secret location of the James-Bondish-style Headquarters. (Of course,The Tempest inspired 8 and 10 chapter titles imply a magical transference to a mysterious other world.) The deliberate destruction of the damaged saucer should be related to the 1947 Roswell incident. JBE has provided a possible explanation for the “evidence” of that crashed flying saucer.

There seems to have been a degree of inbreeding on JBH's father's side of the family (a lineage his father had attempted to construct) which should be related to JBH's concern about the marriage of first cousins. In answering the second of Sam Moskowitz's biographical questions, JBH writes that his
‘father was a Welshman--though he might dispute that, claiming as he did that he came of a pocket of English somehow cut off by the wild Welsh some centuries ago, and consenting to intermarry with them only reluctantly when centuries of inbreeding seemed to make it advisable.’ [34]

Had cousins within the Lucas branches of the family (including the particularly posh English one that fancied a connection with Sir Charles Lucas, the Royalist leader executed during the Civil War) married each other and had children?

JBH and Grace, the woman he met in 1931 and did eventually marry in 1963, never had any children in all the years since their relationship became more committed in May 1935. [35] Grace seems not to have wanted children but a genetic factor may well have entered into her and JBH's thinking on the subject. A number of the male children in her family tree had inherited a rare genetic abnormality which usually appears in late childhood or adolescence but does not affect life expectancy. Her now deceased nephew, David Wilson, writes:
It was my aunt's view that her father [the Rev. Josiah Wilson, a Methodist minister] suffered from what is now known as Charcot Marie Tooth's Disease [or Peroneal Muscular Atrophy]. It is a progressive illness affecting the ankles and feet [and then the hands and forearms], necessitating leg irons from the age of 40 in my grandfather's case. It seems to be a recently discovered hereditary disease which affects only [mainly] males and is transmitted only by females similarly afflicted.[36]
Grace's decision not to have children must have had something to do with a determination not to risk passing this defect on. She worried about having inherited the disease herself. Her diary entry for 14 December 1952 includes the following: ‘muscles tired - Charcot Marie Tooth?’ (Readers of The Day of the Triffids may recall that an ill-starred location in Chapter 12, ‘Dead End,’ is named Charcott Old House.) There is, I should point out, no evidence I am aware of that Charcot Marie Tooth's Disease made its way into Grace's father's family tree as the result of any kind of consanguine relationship. But Grace's possible inheritance in that area no doubt contributed to JBH's interest in genetics generally and the genetics of cloning in particular.


NOTES
1. To the three English novels published in London by George Newnes, Ltd.--The Secret People (1935), Foul Play Suspected (1935), and Planet Plane (1936; retitled Stowaway to Mars in 1953)--has recently been added a paperback entitled The Curse of the Burdens, by John B. Harris, Aldine Mystery Novels No. 17 (London: The Aldine Publishing Company Ltd., 1927). For some of the internal evidence on which this attribution is based, see note 10 to David Ketterer, '”Vivisection”: Schoolboy “John Wyndham”'s First Publication?’ Foundation: The International Review of Science Fiction 29 (Summer 2000): 79-80. The Secret People and Planet Plane/Stowaway to Mars are science fiction.
2. The intials stand for John Beynon Harris, the names he used in his daily life.
3. It would appear that eight plus years before his death, JBH was aware of Ira Levin. He wrote the name ‘Ira Levin’ and Levin’s New York address on the back of a 25 August 1960 letter from his publisher Michael Joseph (Wyndham 11/2/5, Wyndham Archive, University of Liverpool).
4. For pioneering accounts of JBH's depictions of strong female characters, see Don D'Ammassa, ‘Consider His Ways,’ Mythologies, no. 13 (November 1977): 17-30; and Thomas D. and Alice S. Clareson, ‘The Neglected Fiction of John Wyndham: “Consider Her Ways,” Trouble with Lichen and Web,’ in Science Fiction Root and Branches: Contemporary Critical Approaches, ed. Rhys Garrett and R. J. Ellis (London: The MacMillan Press, 1990), 88-103.
5. JBH first moved into the Penn Club in 1924 when it was at its original location: 8, 9, and 10 Tavistock Square (now the site of Lynton House). Named for William Penn and founded by a Quaker group in 1920, its rooms could be rented by non-Quakers like JBH and Grace Wilson. See David Maxwell, The Penn Club Story: A celebration of the first 75 years of an independent Quaker-based club in Central London (London: The Penn Club, 1996).
6. It may be that JBH simply wanted to allow for the possibility of resubmitting under the title Fury of Creation a novel that had been rejected by a publisher years earlier under the title Plan for Chaos. The title change ruse had worked with some of his early short stories; rejected under one title, they were subsequently resubmitted under another, accepted, and published. Thus ‘Venusian Rescue’, rejected by Wonder Stories in 1931, was resubmitted to Wonder Stories as ‘The Man from Beyond’ and published under that title in 1934.
7. I am indebted to Marion Tess Barker (Sister Bede at St Cecilia's Abbey on the Isle of Wight with whom I had two extended interviews on 24 May 1997) and to her sister Jean Case (who lives in Tasmania, Australia) for information about the Barkers and their relationship with JBH.
8. The file is among the Pohl Papers at the University of Syracuse Library.
9. ‘Compassion Circuit’ bio, Sunday Chronicle (29 August 1954): 2.
10. Sam Moskowitz and John Wyndham, ‘Questions and Answers: The Life and Work of John Wyndham,’ ed. David Ketterer, The New York Review of Science Fiction 16 (March 2004), 9. JBH is here answering number 20 of Moskowitz's 30 questions.
11. Walter Gillings, ‘The Writer People Believed In,’ Cosmos, no. 2 (May 1969): 10-11. Gillings had the impression that the ‘lay off’ period was longer than 18 months; he refers to the ‘two years’ it took JBH to find the ending to Triffids (11).
12. My transcription of the memoir appears, with annotations that are not always reliable, under the slightly expanded title ‘[My Brother,] John Wyndham, 1903-1969’ in Foundation: The International Review of Science Fiction 28 (Spring 1999), 18-35. The memoir itself may be located in a ledger-sized, memorial notebook Vivian entitled The Heavy Change among the Vivian Beynon Harris Papers at the University of Liverpool's Sydney Jones Library (VBH 1/2/1). For some corrections to my annotations, see David Ketterer, ‘”Vivisection”: Schoolboy “John Wyndham”'s First Publication?’ Foundation, no. 79 (Summer 2000), n15 (82-83).
13. Brian Bowcock: ‘Viv . . . had an unfortunate experience during the War, details of which I never fully found out, but it was something to do with an experience when working as an air raid warden in Derbyshire’ (letter to Ketterer, 27 January 1997). According to Corinne Blundell, a friend of Lila Grettan's, Vivian's long time companion, and the beneficiary of Vivian's will after Lila's death from cancer, Vivian's nerves were shot because of the air raids and the carnage he witnessed (telephone conversation, 26 August 1997). Vivian himself left a graphic description of the precise circumstances of his breakdown in a detailed, hard-to-read, hand-written account of his life that may be located in the same memorial notebook that contains the memoir material (VBH 1/2/1). Vivian had joined the Alderwasley Fire Service in Derbyshire in 1938 and was called out one night during the war to investigate a downed plane (a Lancaster). The scene included the decapitated head of the rear gunner. Vivian also describes his earlier nervous breakdown in 1928 during his acting career.
14. ‘[My Brother] John Wyndham, 1903-1969,’ p. 24. Vivian's published novels (as distinct from at least five completed unpublished ones which include a good sf novel, Son of the Morning) are Trouble at Hanard (London: Partridge Publications, 1948), Confusion at Campden Trig (London: Museum Press Limited, 1948), One Thing Constant (London: Museum Press Limited, 1949), and Song for a Siren (London: Museum Press Limited, 1951). The ‘old short story’ that became The Day of the Triffids was ‘The Puff-Ball Menace,’ originally published under an editor's title as "Spheres of Hell," Wonder Stories 5 (October 1933): 231-39. Vivian frequently, as in this quote, employed the Welsh spelling ‘triffyds.’
15. Swastika Night is about a Nazi-dominated Europe 500 years hence in which women are breeding animals and Hitler is deified. JBH refers to Swastika Night by ‘Murray Constantine’ (Burdekin's penname) in his essay ‘Roar of Rockets!’ John o'London's Weekly 63 (2 April 1954): 333-34. In the same essay he also refers to the important little known novel by ‘Sarban’ (pseudonym of the British career diplomat John William Wall), The Sound of His Horn (1952), which is about an alternate Germany 100 years after the Nazis have won World War II. Writing in 1954, these two particular examples of the best kind of sf-—‘the implicatory story’-- would have come to JBH's mind precisely because of his failure to place his own sf novel about Nazis.
16. JBH, it should be noted, was an accomplished photographer. Andy Sawyer informed me (on 22 February 2010) of a possible relationship between the name ‘Johnny Farthing’ and ‘Johnny Dollar’ of the long running CBS radio serial Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar which first aired on 14 January 1949. Dollar is a hard-boiled Freelance Insurance Investigator. It is just possible that JBH became aware of this very popular US fictional character in 1949.
17. Aldous Huxley, Brave New World (1932; London: Flamingo, 1994), 4.
18. David Ketterer, ‘”A Part of the . . . Family[?]”: John Wyndham's The Midwich Cuckoos as Estranged Autobiography,’ in Learning from Other Worlds: Estrangement, Cognition, and the Politics of Science Fiction and Utopia, ed. Patrick Parrinder (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2000; Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2001), 146-77 (esp. 152-57). The first name of Johnny Farthing’s father is “Georg” (42 LUP/12 Penguin).
19. Letter to Ketterer from Miss M. M. Raymer, 4 January 1997. Mollie Raymer, a contemporary resident at the Penn Club, was a friend of JBH's and Grace. See also Vivian Beynon Harris's letter to Cyril H. Robinson of 10 April 1969 (VBH 13/2/1), George Beynon Harris’s probated will dated 19 January 1934, and David Ketterer, “John Wyndham and the Sins of His Father: Damaging Disclosures in Court,” Extrapolation 46 (Summer 2005): 163-88.
20. There are several references to Shaw in JBH's work including this one in The Midwich Cuckoos (1957; London: Penguin Books, 1960) anticipative of Trouble with Lichen (1960): ‘G. B. S. proposed, you will remember, that the first step [to further development] should be to extend the term of human life to three hundred years’ (124). It is useful to know that JBH was familiar with Shaw's work because Shaw's influence on the development of sf has been difficult to document.
21. Plan shares the theme of an engineered conflict with JBH's first publication after the war, ‘The Living Lies’ by John Beynon, the lead story in the second issue of the British magazine New Worlds 1 (October 1945): 2-20. This story was written just before the war. In the final archived example of JBH's early correspondence, a letter of 11 July 1939 to his recently acquired American agent, Otis Adelbert Kline, he encloses a typescript of ‘The Living Lies’ with a comment about its being related to the current situation (Wyndham 11/2/2). The story gains horrifically in tragic impact because of the intervening war. Containing one reference to anti-semitism, it is about a failed attempt to expose the way in which colour differences (white, black, red, and green) have been artificially created among the originally all-white colonists of Venus in order to create divisions and to financially benefit a white élite. See David Ketterer, ‘Race in SF and John Wyndham’s Color-Schemed Future,’ Science Fiction Studies 34 (November 2007): 527-29.
22. Unfortunately there is no way of proving exactly when the Waimori fragments were
written; they lack a composition date. And because there is no mention in those fragments of mass blindness or of triffids, it could be argued that they pertain to a quite different comet story that preceded The Day of the Triffids. Perhaps JBH first began a novel based on a revision of Wells’s comet and then used the same comet in Triffids? That was, in fact, my original view. I had decided that JBH picked on the comet year 1976 because it multiplied by factors of 10 the year 1946 in which he wrote the fragments. However, he might also have arrived at the year 1976 by adding 7 times 10 to 1906, the year in which In the Days of the Comet was published. My current conviction that the Waimori fragments were written alongside Triffids or, more probably, shortly after the publication of the Michael Joseph edition depends upon the accumulative force of the following ten arguments that should be related to the East Timor speculation.

(1) It is hard to understand the reason for the rather distant future comet date of 1976 if the Waimori fragments were written in 1946 or earlier as part of a longer work entirely unrelated to The Day of the Triffids and any dating in the earliest extant Triffids manuscript.

(2) Louis or Lewis Brent, the white recluse who had lived on Waimori for more than twenty years before the eruption, is an American. This is an indication that JBH aimed this novel, along with Plan and the revised Triffids, at a US publisher. It was by 1948 that he despaired of finding an English publisher for his fiction and hence the important American character makes it most likely that the fragments were written during the period 1948-51.

(3) Elements in the Waimori fragments became part of The Chrysalids, the novel JBH began in 1951, under the title ‘Crying for the Moon,’ shortly after the publication of the UK edition of Triffids. Both are set centuries hence and deal with the true understanding of a post-catastrophe world (a nuclear war catastrophe in the case of Chrysalids and probably also in the case of the Waimori story). The false myth promulgated by ‘The Book’ in the Waimori fragments is paralleled by the cruel and limited doctrines enshrined in the book Repentances in The Chrysalids. There are characters named Brent in both Triffids and Chrysalids: Dennis and Mary Brent, the owners of Shirning Farm, and nine-year-old Walter Brent, one of the mutant children in Chrysalids. According to Chrysalids narrator David, ‘One odd thing I discovered was that he was probably some kind of distant relation; my grandmother’s name had been Brent’ (Penguin page 81). Is Louis/Lewis Brent distantly related to the Brents in Triffids and/or Chrysalids?

(4) The Waimori fragments can be understood as an elaboration of the paragraph in The Day of the Triffids (on Penguin page 245) in which Josella expresses her notion of the need for an incentive-providing myth for any descendants. This paragraph has its slightly variant counterpart in a cancelled paragraph on page 307 of the holograph MS which precedes the artificial satellite inserts (and the linked triffids from Venus inserts) in that holograph MS. The paragraph is cancelled because it was replaced by this variant version on holograph page 307A:

‘Could we,’ she suggested, ’--should we be justified in starting a myth to help them? A story of a world that was wonderfully clever, but was so wicked that it was destroyed or destroyed itself, by an accident? That wouldn’t crush faith in them--it could leave them the incentive to build and this time to build something better. And ^after all^ would it be so very far wrong?’ (Wyndham 1/3/1)

Compare the Book version of the anthropologist’s “explanation” in the second sequel fragment with the Pepentances mythology in The Chrysalids.

(5) The Waimori fragments constitute the opening moves of what might be considered the generic sf plot--the ‘pocket universe’ story of ‘conceptual breakthrough’ or ‘philosophical apocalypse.’ An old misconception of reality is to be replaced by a true understanding. If the hybrid Lui is to discover that The Book is right, that the comet did magically increase world tensions (in contrast to the magical benevolent comet of Wells’s novel) and bring about World War III, then so what? That is not much in the way of revelation. And JBH preferred logical explanations to magical ones. But perhaps of most relevance here are the hints in the Waimori fragments that JBH is ironically undercutting blind faith in The Book.

(6) Although there is no mention of mass blindness in the Waimori fragments there is a metaphoric reference to blindness which may contain a deliberate ironic charge for the reader who knows Triffids: ‘it rapidly became impossible for the most wilfully blind to ignore there was a marked loss decline in standards of self-control . . . .’ (Wyndham 7/2/5, p. 19). Triffids, of course, is peopled by the unwilfully blind.

(7) Several passages in the Waimori fragments appear to build on details in, or add to the information in, Triffids and therefore appear to be written later than Triffids. For example, this passage in Triffids, with its reference to Hampstead Heath, is quite specific to London:

They say thousands of people are out in the parks and on the Heath watching it all. And on all the flat roofs you can see people standing and looking up. (Penguin page 13)
A corresponding passage in the second of the Waimori fragments reads as a generalised paraphrase of the Triffids passage:

Even in the cities where the night sky goes customarily unnoticed the green streaks in the caused as much attention ^as^ in the country. Open spaces & flat roofs were crowded with watchers. And they had plenty to watch. The display was continuous & spectacular. The sky was never devoid of morning green sparks and at such times as several large meteors fell simultaneously the glow was bright enough to bathe the countryside for miles around in an unearthly green glow half-light. (Wyndham 7/2/5, p. 16)
Here JBH is referring to open spaces and flat roofs all over the world. As for additional information in the Waimori fragments, the comet there is described as parabolic and so ‘it will not return to us’ (Wyndham 7/2/5, p. 14). For the same point, note the deleted line from Bill Masen’s narration on page 10 of the typescript opening pages of the otherwise holograph first surviving MS of Triffids (an alteration from page 33 caused by the switching of the first two chapters of Triffids):

^It was insisted^ that anyone who missed such a show would regret it all his life^.^and that the comet – if it were a comet – was of the something-or-other type – meaning the kind that never returns. ^All in all^ The general idea ^had^ seemed to m^b^e to convince me that I was missing the very thing I was born for. (The inserts are holograph; Wyndham 1/3/1)
Slightly variant versions of the sentences before and after the deletion appear on page 14 of the Penguin text. (Note the deleted ‘if it were a comet’ caveat, presumably a relic of the early, perhaps original, invasion via an alien-flying-object scenario.) Further examples of specific information about the comet are present only in the Waimori fragments. Thus there is no mention in the published or early typescript texts of Triffids of ‘certain unknown ^elements among the^ metallic vapours composing it’ (Wyndham 7/1/10, p. 5), or its oblique angle of approach.

And also not in Triffids is any mention of the fact that the meteorite shower following Earth’s passage through the tail of any comet occurs over several days. In the earlier Waimori fragment, the green flashes caused by the falling meteors ‘continued for a week’ (Wyndham 7/2/5, p. 17). In the later written one, this becomes just ‘Three nights’ (Wyndham 7/1/10, p. 8). In Triffids, the majority of Earth’s human population is blinded as, apparently, the result of one night’s witnessing of the meteor shower. This could be interpreted as proof that it was the collision of one or more meteors with one or more artificial satellites and the release of some kind of militarily engineered virus which caused mass blindness over just one night. After all, if the meteors were the true cause (and unless maximal intensity was a factor), Masen and others would have been rendered blind on the second night of the shower. Perhaps what is involved here is a plot difficulty in Triffids that JBH simply side-stepped. Perhaps the sequel to both Plan and Triffids would have revealed that one of the Nazi factions from Plan arranged a plan for chaos whereby some artificial satellite virus release was deliberately made to coincide with the first or most spectacular night of the meteor shower.

(8) The earliest text we have of Triffids begins with an insert handwritten page describing, as a further-future frame, the provenance of narrator Bill Masen’s account:

The editor^s^ wishes to make it clear that the following account is the personal story of one man involved in disaster, and the opinions expressed are his personal views. . . .
To us a great deal that was taken for granted in 20th century civilization must seem fantastic . . . .
It is hoped that this account, as a supplement to documented history, will serve to give the reader a more sympathetic comprehension of the period it covers. (Wyndham 1/3/1)


Clearly, humanity has survived into the twenty-first century as in the Waimori fragments. This twenty-first-or-later-century Triffids frame allows for the Waimori sequel’s developing a future history that follows from both Plan and Triffids.

(9) A further line of argument depends upon dates in the typescript section preceding the holograph MS of Triffids (1965 dates) and in the Waimori fragments (1976 dates). Triffids begins famously with this line: ‘When a day that you happen to know is Wednesday starts off by sounding like Sunday, there is something seriously wrong somewhere.’ In the initial Triffids typescript pages, the narrator is first introduced to a triffid when he was a child ‘in 1949 or early 1950’ (a deleted detail on typescript insert page 14A). The earliest date for the comet mass blindness aftermath on the initial Triffid typescript page 7 (changed from 31) is ‘Tuesday, 8 August’ ‘1965’ corrected to ‘Wednesday, 8 May’ ‘1965’. Since 8 August 1965 was a Sunday and 8 May 1965 was a Saturday, JBH miscalculated first by four days and then by three days. In picking on the year 1976 for the comet in the Waimori fragments (a further-future setting made necessary by the artificial satellites imported from Plan into Triffids—and the linked soon discarded Venus explanation in Triffids) JBH picked on a year eleven years on from 1965 (nine years plus two leap years). This meant that a particular day date in 1965 would recur in 1976.

According to the Waimori fragments, it was ‘On the night of May 19th [1976] that Earth met the comet debris’ on page 6 in Wyndham 7/1/10 (set in 2001) and the following morning is 19 October 1976 on page 16 in Wyndham 7/2/5 (set over three centuries in the post 1976 future). However, the later time-set fragment was written before the earlier time-set fragment. The 19 October 1976 date (perhaps a mythological adjustment encouraged by the ‘fall’ of the meteorites) preceded the 19 May 1976 correction. Sentences with corrections in Wyndham 7/2/5 are repeated without the corrections in Wyndham 7/1/10. (The fact that ‘Lewis’ Brent is corrected to ‘Louis’ Brent in Wyndham 7/2/5 but appears as ‘Lewis’ Brent in Wyndham 7/1/10 implies that Lewis Brent was settled on as his real name). 19 October 1976 was a Tuesday not a Wednesday but 19 May 1976, JBH’s final choice if the Waimori fragments were not written before Triffids was indeed a Wednesday albeit not the Triffids Wednesday on the night of which Earth met the comet debris and the green meteor showers ensued. That would have happened on a Thursday in 1976. Nevertheless, the 8 August, 8 May, 19 October, 19 May sequence of dates increasingly approaches the required Wednesday. Would a critical editor of The Day of the Triffids be justified in correcting the 7 May Tuesday date (Penguin page 12) and the 8 May Wednesday date (Penguin page 8) in that novel to 19 and 20 May?

(10) Finally, there is the matter of narrator Bill Masen’s age as stated in this cancelled passage on initial typescript page 1: ‘On the day when the Great Calamity put an end to the world I had known for almost thirty years, I happened to be in bed with a bandage all round my head and over my eyes.’ The age bit is repeated in the typescript and correspondingly mentioned for the first and only time in the published Triffids with Masen’s reference in Chapter 3 to ‘nearly thirty years of a reasonably right-respecting existence’ (Penguin page 53; cf. typescript 49). This age works perfectly if Masen’s age and triffid-introduction year in the initial typescript pages culminate with the comet year 1976 of the Waimori fragments but not with the, it has to be assumed, mistaken/superceded comet year 1965 which occurs in a deleted passage on typescript page 31 (altered in blue ink to page 8) and, as originally written, on typescript page 23 (‘August 1965’ revised on Penguin page 46 to ‘that fatal May years later’). If we assume that Masen is essentially JBH and shares JBH’s 10 July birthday, counting back from 1976, he would have been born in 1946 while, counting back from 1965, he would have been born in 1935. On typescript page 14A, the reader is informed, in a later deleted detail, that Masen saw his first triffid ‘in 1949 or early 1950.’ He goes on to describe how his father lifted him up so that he could look into the funnel-like (and vagina-dentata-like) head of a half-grown (i.e., three and a half foot tall) triffid. Masen would have been three years old if he was nearly thirty when the comet arrived. If Masen had been born in 1935, his father would not have needed to lift him in late 1949 or early 1950 so that he could look down on a three and a half foot triffid. So the 1976 comet date in the Waimori fragments would have been chosen as the year in which Masen turns 30 in order to allow for his being 3 in 1949 or early 1950. The ‘1965’ typescript year can only be understood as a mistake--probably an accidental copying from an earlier (and now non-extant) pre-artificial satellites manuscript--since it figures in the same surviving initial 57 pages (out of an original 61) typescript account which has the almost 30 year old Masen being a child in 1949 or early 1950.

The year date of the prequel Plan had, of course, to precede that of the comet in Triffids. 1973, or possibly 1974, must have been arrived at after the at-least-notional 1976 dating of the Triffids comet. Presumably one reason the sequel to Triffids was never completed was because Plan, the projected basis of more than half of the sequel, was not published. Instead, that sequel, as indicated in (2) and (3) above, was transmogrified into The Chrysalids.
23. Camille Paglia, Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990).
24. David Ketterer, ‘John Wyndham: The Facts of Life Sextet,’ in A Companion to Science Fiction, ed. David Seed (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2005), 375-88 (especially 377-83).
25. See a letter in praise of JBH's sociological insight in Triffids from Adam Kelso dated 19 March 1954 and JBH's reply of 14 April 1954 in which he characterises the deleted material (Wyndham 12/2/27 and 12/2/28).
26. See David Ketterer, "Plan for Chaos/Fury of Creation: An Unpublished Science-Fiction Thriller by John Beynon /John Lucas (aka John Wyndham," Foundation: The International Review of Science Fiction 27 (Autumn 1998): 8-25. When I wrote and published this version I was not aware of, and had not read, JBH's correspondence with Pohl and so, although I figured out a 1948 composition start date correctly, I did not know about the revision and the post-Triffids-publication end composition date. And I did not have the information I have now about Dorothy Joan Parkes. For the purposes of this much revised ‘Introduction’ version of my article I have here omitted the detailed plot summary that appears there. I thank Graham Sleight, the current editor of Foundation, for permission to reprint what remains of my 1998 article.
27. John Wyndham, The Chrysalids (1955; London: Penguin Books, 1958), 6, 33, cf. 166. Subsequent page references appear in parentheses.
28. John Beynon, Foul Play Suspected (London: George Newnes, Limited, 1935), 146. Back in November 1996 when I began my JBH research, David Maxwell, then Resident Friend at the Penn Club, mentioned that Dorothy Ellis, one of JBH and Grace's contemporaries at the Club, knew of JBH's involvement with a cousin. When I finally tracked her down and attempted to phone her at a convalescent home in Carlisle, Cumbria, on 4 July 1998, I was informed that she had died a few months earlier.
29. See page 46 of my transcription of VBH 1/12/10: ‘Jack and Me: Growing Up with John Wyndham,’ Foundation: The International review of Science Fiction 28 (Spring 1999): 44-48. As for thr probable 1977 or 1978 composition date of the memoir, solicitor Brian Bowcock responds to a previous communication from Vivian as follows in his letter of 1 december 1977: 'What a splendid idea for you immediately to embark on a biography!' (VBH 2/2/24)
30. See (eventually, I hope), Trouble with Triffids: The Life and Fiction of John Wyndham which is currently seeking a publisher. (Extended revisions of the articles cited in endnotes 18, 19, 24 and 26 above appear as chapters 10, 2, 11, and 9.) I am grateful to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada for a 1997-2000 Research Grant which covered the expenses related to the early stages of my JBH investigations.
31. Six time-schism love stories are asterisked in this list of ten stories (novels are excluded) in which a character based on Dorothy Joan Parkes figures importantly: ‘The Man Who Returned’* (written in 1931, unpublished), ‘The Lost Machine’ (1932), ‘The Puff-Ball Menace’ (1933), ‘Unnatural Selection’ (written in 1948, unpublished), ‘Affair of the Heart’ (1952), ‘Chronoclasm’* (1953), ‘Opposite Number’* (1954), ‘Stitch in Time’* (1961), ‘Random Quest’* (1960), and ‘Modification’* (written in 1964, unpublished).
32. In a biographical piece based on an interview, John Barrows asks the 57-year-old JBH why he ‘never married. “I met the right person twice but on each occasion she met a righter person,” he said with characteristic wit.’ See Barrows, ‘Living Writers--4: John Wyndham,’ John o'London's 70 (2 March 1961), 225. Unfortunately, no descriptive account or letter evidence of JBH’s relationships with these two Mrs. Rights (outside of his fiction) seems to have survived.
33. In fact, the second Mrs. Right was indeed someone known as ‘Molly,’ the dark-haired, social historian, screen writer, prolific author, and long-time friend of JBH's named Mary Irene Cathcart Borer (1906-94). (She married the archaeologist Oliver Myers in 1935; they divorced in 1939.) A preference for Josella over Jomolla (and Josalla) aside, JBH may have substituted ‘Sally’ for ‘Molly’ because he did not want any confusion between Molly Borer and Mollie Raymer (see note 19 above). But there is an alternative or additional explanation. Sally, the reference librarian in Plan who engages in some banter with Johnny about marriage and what should be his interest in her rather than a tall, blonde Freda look-a-like, would seem to be a portrait of Molly Borer; she is ‘small and dark’ (55) like the five foot, two inch brunette Molly Borer. Perhaps, in naming Molly ‘Sally’ in Plan, JBH had carried over that same alias hidden in the name Josella Playton in the same-time written Triffids. Furthermore, compare the name Mary Borer with Mary Fording in ‘The Man Who Returned,’ the ‘Forbes’ part (combining bits of ‘Borer’ and ‘Parkes’) of Dorothy Forbes in ‘The Puff-Ball Menace,’ and Mary Gore in ‘Chocky’ (1963) and Chocky (1968). For evidence that Chocky is the last of JBH’s ‘time schism love stories’ referred to in end note 31 above, see David Ketterer, ‘John Wyndham’s Chocky (1968): The First Covert Alternate World?’ Science Fiction Studies 35 (July 2008): 352-55.
34. Sam Moskowitz and John Wyndham, ‘Questions and Answers,’ 6. JBH is here answering Moskowitz's question number 2.
35. JBH and Grace were both within months of turning 32 in May 1935. I arrive at this date by counting back from ‘May 1944,’ the date of an anniversary sonnet that JBH wrote for Grace which opens with the line ‘Nine years abloom with dearest precious things’ and closes with ‘Nine years, my lovely Sweet, is not enough’ (Wyndham 8/4/3). The relationship apparently began on 15 May 1935 to judge from the presence of the date ‘15 May 1944’ at the end of another of JBH’s May anniversary sonnets for Grace: ‘Now will I weave the gossamer that I dream’ (Wyndham 8/4/2). JBH first met Grace, some months after September 1930 when she began her teaching career at the Roan School for Girls in Greenwich, London, and moved into the Penn Club. There is no evidence I am aware of, that Grace (who died in 1991) ever became pregnant. Both JBH and his brother Vivian were childless.
36. Letter to Ketterer, 24 July 1998.

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