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Barrington Bayley

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  • Barrington Bayley

    Such a shame he isn't better known, I think he was one of the greatest philosophically inclined scifi writers - definitely up there with PK Dick and in terms of his brilliance and breadth of vision unsurpassed. The Knights of the Limits in particular is a masterclass in multiversal thinking and every one of his short stories in that collection just blows my mind. Mutation planet by far the best exploration of alien psychology and the perils of anthropomorphism (that so many scifi authors fall foul of) I have read, The Problem of Morley's Emission just a brilliant treatise on what one might refer to as quantum sociology, The Cabinet of Oliver Naylor is also hilarious and full of clever scifi meme busters. I also love the Jasperodus books - such a clever pisstake of Asimov. Many of his novels have been hard to find but I have managed to get most over the years and see that SciFi Gateway has opened up access to more. If you haven't read Bayley you don't know what you are missing.

  • #2
    For some reason known only to my pre-conscious, I tend to get him mixed up with Neil Barret Jr.

    I read The Zen Gun way back when, but any memory of it, besides the cover, has sank without a trace under waves of forgetfulness.

    Maybe it's time to give him, like I recently did with RA Lafferty, another chance.
    Last edited by Heresiologist; 11-04-2014, 01:00 AM.


    • #3
      An extract from a book which claims that science has proved the non-existence of the soul and which begins with a synopsis of Barrington Bayley's metaphysical short story, The God Gun.

      You don’t have a soul: The real science that debunks superstitious charlatans

      Trust science, not myth: Religious hucksters with claims of immortal souls are lying. Let's embrace reality, Julien Musolino. Jan 25, 2015

      Excerpted from "The Soul Fallacy: What Science Shows We Gain From Letting Go of Our Soul Beliefs"

      Every atom in your body came from a star that exploded. And, the atoms in your left hand probably came from a different star than your right hand. It really is the most poetic thing I know about physics: You are all stardust.

      —Lawrence Krauss, “A Universe from Nothing,” 2012

      One July night in a small English village, sometime near the end of the twentieth century, Harry stood by his friend Rodrick as the radio engineer calmly explained his plan to strike at the creator of the universe. Rodrick had decided that he wanted to kill God, and he thought he knew how. This desire was motivated in part by his conviction that the universe should exist on its own, but mostly it was fueled by Rodrick’s deep contempt for the unfairness of existence for which he held God responsible. He explained to Harry that even though God was not material, He must possess at least some material characteristics, for otherwise He would not have been able to create the physical universe. When prompted to explain how he might be able to reach God, Rodrick remarked that the information had been available to us for a long time: “And God said, Let there be light: and there was light,” (Genesis 1:3).

      The machine that Rodrick built to carry out his plan was an elabo*rate framework of lasers, mirrors, and prisms, all precisely arranged and calibrated, sitting on the workbench in his home laboratory. He reasoned that it should be possible to generate a self-sustaining pattern of light that would reinforce itself indefinitely, transcending space and time to reach the Creator, striking God with a deadly bolt of energy. The two men adjusted their goggles and Rodrick flipped on the switch. Through the dark lenses, they could make out the pattern of light in front of them as the beams fol*lowed their geometric paths. Gradually, the light intensified, and the brightness started to expand, swallowing the mirrors, the workbench, and the entire room. An instant later, the light was gone. “That’s it,” announced Rodrick dryly. “God is dead.”

      Harry looked around, and everything seemed perfectly normal. “Non*sense!” he snarled. Rodrick then removed his goggles to inspect the room, and it was at that moment that the truth was revealed to Harry. He saw his friend’s empty eyes. . . . Rodrick had indeed killed God, and in the process, he had destroyed every living creature’s soul. Life went on, and the vast clockwork of the universe continued to tick according to mechanical laws, but all you had to do now was look into people’s eyes to realize that they were all dead inside. There was no beauty, no meaning, no inner life. This is what God supplied when he was alive, after all, reflected Harry. And now it was all gone.

      This is a summary of the short story called “The God Gun,” by science fiction author Barrington Bayley, which was written in the early 1970s. Today, in spite of considerable advances in technology, most people would find Rodrick’s quest futile and hopelessly simpleminded, to say nothing of its evil nature. But Bayley’s story remains powerful because most of us share his intuition that human beings are more than mere collections of physical parts. There must be something else in addition to the atoms and cells that make up our bodies—an essence, a spirit, something precious and beautiful. In short, a soul. This intuition is deeply rooted in the human psyche and has been shared by people across cultures from antiquity to the present day. As Mark Baker and Stewart Goetz observe in their book “The Soul Hypothesis,” “Most people, at most times, in most places, at most ages have believed that human beings have some kind of soul.”

      Have to say, Bayley's sadly abridged story is about the most convincing part of the extract.


      • #4
        You should read The Rod of Light - the sequel to Soul of the Robot - both brilliant books (my favourite robot stories - I'd ignore the stupid review by John Clute who should know better) but the Rod of light in particular is also very much rooted in Zoroastrian philosophy and concepts of the soul as the inner light of consciousness.

        btw that story reminds me of Mike's sad End of time story about the tragedy of Dafnish Armatuce and her son.

        In a similar vein Charles L. Harness wrote one of my favourite short stories about a similarly ambitious scientific experiment with unforeseen global consequences - The New Reality


        • #5
          Definitely need to read some Barrington Bayley.