Four months ago, March 08, 2012 I sent lunch.com the first of three reviews showcasing 1907 Nobel Prize winner Rudyard Kipling as a pioneer science fiction writer:
I followed that up March 23 with
Then came on June 17
Be it known that I consider
the "Forbidden Planet" niche of lunch.com the premier internet home of great SciFi reviewing. I hope that my three earlier reviews have convinced you of Kipling's SciFi credentials. If not, read this fourth review of Kipling as SciFier for some other reason, please!
Joseph Rudyard Kipling is, I grant you, not thought of primarily as a science fictioneer as is, for instance, Poul Anderson or Ray Bradbury. But the fact is that a sixth of Kipling's publshed fiction spreads across the spectrum of FANTASY......SCIENCE FICTION.....FUTUROLOGY. For examples, see my three earlier reviews mentioned above.
Today let me share with you some nuggets from the first family-authorized biography of our renowned SciFier and Nobel Prize winner -- 1955's RUDYARD KIPLING: HIS LIFE AND WORK by Charles Edmund Carrington. You may already know some of Carrington's biographical and historical writing on such persons as Lawrence of Arabia and on the rock of Gibraltar.
If ever a writer rooted his written work in his own life as lived, remembered and imagined, it is Bombay-born writer Rudyard Kipling. Carrington says there are four geographic points on which Kipling's life is gridded:
in the East -- India,
in the West -- the USA (where he lived for four years after 1892, married to American Caroline "Carrie" Balestier and where the Kiplings had their first two of three children),
in the North -- the United Kingdom (especially Southsea, public school at Westward Ho! on the north Devon coast and his dream home at "Bateman's" in Sussex) and, what may surprise you in the South
-- Capetown and South Africa where he spent close to ten English winters and did journalistic work during the Boer War.
Kipling's first five years were spent in Bombay, India where he was born December 30, 1865. There he learned to speak Hindustani before English and heard from his baby ayah and his man servant tales of talking animals, gods like Ganesha and Kali, beliefs of Islam, Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism. Later during seven journalistic years (age 16 - 23) first in Muslim Lahore and later in Hindu Allahabad (yes, Hindu majority despite the city's Muslim name) he supervised 170 Indian newspaper workers, prowled day and night among the little people of India, both native and white, and learned to speak the language of the common man. He learned much from his father, curator of the Lahore museum and a great student of Indian and Tibetan buddhism.
By 1890 his first year as a resident writer in London, Rudyard had long exhibited an insatiable curiosity about machinery and technology that then or later produced SciFi tales of a cargo ship that created its own soul during a maiden voyage, of American locomotives that understood what their humans were saying but communicated only with other trains. Long before he died in 1936 Kipling was imagining the worlds of 2000 and 2010, both years unified by professional technical people (not politicians or democrats) running a global system of aerial transportation.
Carrington's biography of Kipling will toss out insights almost from nowhere into Kipling that were later picked up by American and English SciFi writers. Just three days ago, for instance, I saw in Carrington for the first time the source of the title used by editors David Drake and Sandra Miesel for their 1989 SciFi collection HEADS TO THE STORM: A TRIBUTE TO RUDYARD KIPLING. (For details see my March 08, 2012 review for lunch.com.) Where did Drake and Miesel find that title? They do not say.
Please bear with me for a longish answer to that question. I will end this review shortly thereafter. You will find all sorts of literary trivia of this sort in the Carrington biography to tickle a SciFier's fancy.
Kipling's 18 year old son John died in 1915 at the World War One Battle of Loos -- one of a million so to die and most to be buried close to where they fell. His body was never found. Kipling spent much of his later years on the British War Graves Commission writing inscriptions and having a tomb of an unknown soldier placed in London's Westminster Abbey. John was a near-sighted second lieutenant in the Irish Guards. Kipling spent more than half his writing time for the next several years writing a two-volume history of the Irish Guards. As prologue to this military history, Rudyard Kipling penned a poem beginning
"Old Days! The wild geese are ranging,
Head to the storm as they faced it before!
For where there are Irish their hearts are unchanging,
And when they are changed, it is Ireland no more!
Ireland no more!"
If you know the history of British Protestant persecution of Irish Catholics, you will immediately pick up on the "flight of the wild geese, "i.e., Irish Catholic earls under Queen Elizabeth I. Know also that while Kipling officially identified with his sober, pragmatic Yorkshireman father John Lockwood Kipling, he was also very much plugged in and indebted in many ways to his mother's Macdonald clan: a maternal side entirely Celtic: highland Scots, Welsh and Irish. Scholars like to root Kipling's imagination, fantasy and SciFi in those Celtic genes.
Charles Carrington's biography RUDYARD KIPLING: HIS LIFE AND WORK is the best text I know rooting a great writer's literary output in the joys and sorrows of his daily life. The values that were Kipling's from beginning to end appear very firmly in his best known and lesser SciFi short stories: the world is propelled by little men and women in the boiler rooms, below decks, the "Sons of Martha," who seem to exist so that the "Sons of Mary" get all the ease as well as the credit for history's onward march.
Take this book and eat it up!
What did you think of this review?