The Mind Parasites Critical Essays

Colin Wilson


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

British author Colin Wilson achieved fame with the publication of his first book, The Outsider, in 1956 at the age of twenty-four. His prolific output since then has explored the outsider theme, creativity, and the potential of the mind. His works fall into the realms of philosophy and psychology; literary criticism; studies of crime, sex, and the occult; and fiction, including thrillers, mysteries, and science fiction. In all these works, Wilson is concerned with those glimpses of meaning, visionary experiences, and paranormal phenomena that point to a meaningful universe and with those creative individuals whose strength of will and intensity of vision overcome the habitual mental laziness of the human species.

In his Introduction to the New Existentialism (1966), Wilson writes that it is as if there were invisible parasites preventing humanity from using its powers. In his first science-fiction novel, The Mind Parasites, published a year later, he took this idea literally and embedded it in a novel of ideas garnished with Lovecraftian elements such as the great old ones and enormous vistas of history. The American edition contains a preface explaining how he came to write a Lovecraftian novel after being so critical of Lovecraft in his earlier study, The Strength to Dream: Literature and the Imagination (1962). Wilson’s theme is “men like gods,” or as Karel Weissman puts it in the story, “Man is an animal who is trying to evolve into a god.”

The Mind Parasites is similar to Eric Frank Russell’s Sinister Barrier (1943) in dealing with parasitism; in both works, unsuspected entities prevent human development. Many plot elements are also similar. The treatment by the two British authors, however, is radically different. Russell’s novel is primarily one of action, suspense, romance, and breezy dialogue, a story of invasion and resistance. Wilson’s often reads more like a philosophical discourse: There are no chapter breaks, there is little dialogue or action and no romance, and the object seems not so much to entertain as to teach or awaken the reader to the potentials of inner space. The outer space episode late in the novel seems hurried, and the introduction of lunar influences appears excessive. Wilson’s enthusiasm, however, communicates itself to the reader and stimulates thought. The novel is an adventure of ideas.