The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Two of C. M. Kornbluth’s most famous stories, the novelettes “The Little Black Bag” (1950) and “The Marching Morons” (1951), posit the same future. Twenty generations from now, prolific, low-IQ groups vastly outnumber intelligent people on Earth because of the latter’s low birthrates. The moronic majority thrives only through the labors of the intellectuals.

The earlier story introduces elderly Bayard Full, a ruined, slum-dwelling, dipsomaniac medical doctor. An accident sends a doctor’s black bag from the future into his possession. Designed for use by idiots, the bag yields its secrets readily to Dr. Full and his accidentally acquired assistant, Angie. Reinvigorated and reformed, Dr. Full begins performing miraculous operations and nurturing a new self-image as benefactor of humanity. Angie, however, has less humanitarian goals and succeeds in destroying the hopes of both herself and Dr. Full.

“The Marching Morons” more fully explores the future world dominated by idiots. The intelligent minority faces one central problem: what to do about the ever-worsening population disparity between idiots and geniuses. The minority receives a windfall in the form of real estate salesman Honest John Barlow, revived from a state of suspended animation accidentally achieved in the twentieth century. Barlow agrees to solve the problem if he is given dictatorial power, a request that is granted readily. Barlow then suckers the general...

(The entire section is 539 words.)