Darker than You Think by Jack Williamson

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Darker than You Think Analysis

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Jack Williamson occupies a unique position in science fiction. Born in 1908, he sold his first published work to Hugo Gernsback’s Amazing Stories for $25 in 1928. From that day, he was committed to a lifetime of writing science fiction.

As a student of psychology, nuclear physics, and later linguistics, he always infuses science and technology into his fiction. It is difficult to call him innovative, but he has always been a prominent figure in American science fiction and has been a respected peer and personal acquaintance of Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, and many others.

Williamson sold the original version of Darker than You Think to Unknown in 1940. In 1948, he rewrote the book as a novel and sold it to Fantasy Press. It did not sell particularly well but has been reprinted several times. The book has always been well known among the science-fiction cognoscenti, but it is difficult to claim that it has “classic” status, though some blurbs have gone so far as to call it the finest werewolf story. What sets the book apart from others is its ending: Not only does the werewolf side of the character prevail, but the protagonist, Barbee, also accepts himself as a werewolf, which implies that he regards himself as an enemy of humankind. Being a werewolf in Williamson’s anthropology is not merely a matter of having an irresistible thirst for human blood, nor is it a mere character flaw. If humans have werewolf genes, they are evil in proportion to the amount of tainted blood in their veins.

Although werewolf stories generally are regarded as being in the realm of fantasy, science and technology are essential to Williamson’s depiction of werewolves in at least two ways. First, there is the matter of how werewolves can change shapes, transport themselves across spaces, and literally pass through walls. Williamson offers a detailed explanation for these actions. The key to their ability is quantum physics, particularly the uncertainty principle. Walls, even steel walls, are not precisely solid but instead are composed of an arrangement of molecules, constantly in motion, with empty spaces...

(The entire section is 532 words.)