GREAT AND SMALL

   One of the commonest fantastic devices in literature and legend is the alteration of scale. MYTHOLOGY and folklore abound with giants and miniature humans, and different perspectives dependent upon changes of scale are central to many of the SATIRES recognized today as works of PROTO SCIENCE FICTION, most notably Jonathan SWIFT's Gulliver's Travels(1726) and VOLTAIRE's Micromegas (1750 Berlin; 1752 France; trans 1753). Mark TWAIN's uncompleted works include "Three Thousand Years among the Microbes" (written 1905; 1967), in which a germ called Huck inhabits the body of a tramp, recalling Morgan ROBERTSON's earnest medical fantasy "The Battle of the Monsters" (1899). Modern satires using distortion of scalein other ways include Joe Orton's Head to Toe (1971), J.G. BALLARD's "The Drowned Giant" (1965; vt "Souvenir") and Jessamyn WEST's The Chilekings(1967). The first SCIENTIFIC ROMANCE of the microcosm was "The Diamond Lens" (1858) by Fitz-James O'BRIEN, in which a scientist discovers a tiny humanoid woman in a water-drop. The tactic of shrinking human beings to insect-size in order that they may observe the small-scale wonders of the natural world is common in didactic sf, ranging from Alfred Taylor SCHOFIELDEN's Travels in the Interior (1887; as by Luke Courteney) throughEdwin PALLANDER's The Adventures of a Micro-Man (1902) and Bob OLSEN's "The Ant with the Human Soul" (1932) to Donald SUDDABY's Lost Men in the Grass (1940) as by Alan Griff. More ambitious didactic microcosmic fantasies can be found in George GAMOW's Mr Tompkins Explores the Atom (1944). Adventure stories in which humans are pitted against giant insectsand monstrous spiders are commonplace, ranging from Sara Coleridge's curious fantasy Phantasmion (1837) through the stories assembled in Murray LEINSTER's The Forgotten Planet (1920-53; fixup 1954) to the series begunwith Spider World: The Tower (1987) by Colin WILSON; a duel with a spider is the high-point of the film The INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN (1957) based on Richard MATHESON's The Shrinking Man (1956).The idea that there might beworlds within worlds was popularized by the Rutherford-Bohr model of the atom as a tiny "solar system" with electrons orbiting the nucleus. The notion that all the atoms of our Universe might be solar systems in their own right, and all of our Universe's solar systems themselves atoms in a macrocosm, was developed by several writers, appearing first in The Triuneverse (1912) by R.A. KENNEDY. The PULP-MAGAZINE writer who made thetheme his own was Ray CUMMINGS, whose works in this vein include the microcosmic romances The Girl in the Golden Atom (1919-20; fixup 1921), The Princess of the Atom (1929; 1950) and Beyond the Vanishing Point(1931; 1958) and the macrocosmic romance Explorers into Infinity (1927-8; 1965). Other pulp writers who borrowed the theme from Cummings include Harl VINCENT, for "The Microcosmic Buccaneers" (1929), S.P. MEEK for "Submicroscopic" (1931), Donald WANDREI for "Colossus" (1934), Jack WILLIAMSON for "The Galactic Circle" (1935) and Festus PRAGNELL for The Green Man of Kilsona (1935 as "The Green Man of Graypec"; 1936; vt The Green Man of Graypec 1950 US). Numerous other pulp-sf stories featured miniaturized men, including "A Matter of Size" (1934) by Harry BATES, "He who Shrank" (1936) by Henry L. HASSE, whose protagonist is both giant and miniature man while shrinking through a whole series of worlds-within-worlds, "Fury from Lilliput" (1949) by Murray LEINSTER, "Chaos in Miniature" (1952) by H.J. CAMPBELL, and the classic "SurfaceTension" (1952) by James BLISH. Despite the inherent logical flaws in the notion (to do with the relationships between mass, strength and organic complexity) the idea of human miniaturization has retained sufficient fascination to encourage writers to continue to fudge the issue; it crops up in such novels as Atta (1953) by Francis Rufus BELLAMY, Cold War in a Country Garden (1971) by Lindsay GUTTERIDGE and The Men Inside (1973) byBarry N. MALZBERG, and in such films as DR CYCLOPS (1940), The Incredible Shrinking Man, FANTASTIC VOYAGE (1966) and INNERSPACE (1987). The process of fudging can be ingenious, sometimes recruiting the notion of the expanding Universe, as in the playful "Prominent Author" (1954) by Philip K. DICK and Land of Dreams (1987) by James P. BLAYLOCK. An interestingattempt to accommodate the microcosmic romance to more modern atomic theory is "Nor Iron Bars" (1957) by James Blish. An intriguing recomplication of the theme involves the depiction of miniature worlds whose time-flow is more rapid than ours, as in "Pygmy Planet" (1932) by Jack Williamson, "Microcosmic God" (1941) by Theodore STURGEON, Edge ofTime (1958) by David Grinnell (Donald A. WOLLHEIM) and DRAGON'S EGG (1980) by Robert L. FORWARD, which is set on a NEUTRON STAR, the rapid time-flow being a relativistic consequence of the huge surface GRAVITY. Miniature worlds constructed for specific purposes are featured in "The Tunnel under the World" (1954) by Frederik POHL and Counterfeit World (1964 UK; vt Simulacron-3 1964 US) by Daniel F. GALOUYE.Giants are usually treated lesssympathetically than very tiny characters, for obvious reasons; the oversized heroes of The Food of the Gods (1904) by H.G. WELLS and Titan's Daughter (1961) by James Blish are notable exceptions. The giant ALIENS inRaymond F. JONES's The Alien (1951) and Blish's The Warriors of Day (1953) are menacing, although the one in Joseph L. GREEN's Gold the Man (1971; vt The Mind Behind the Eye) isn't. In films which invert the theme of TheIncredible Shrinking Man, including The AMAZING COLOSSAL MAN (1957) and Attack of the 50-Foot Woman (1958), the central characters become figures of menace, although the charismatically gargantuan star of KING KONG (1933) has always generated sympathy, as has his one-time saurian rivalGOJIRA. When human beings must live as scavengers in worlds populated by alien giants, as in Kenneth BULMER's Demon's World (1964; vt The Demons), William TENN's OF MEN AND MONSTERS) (1963 Gal as "The Men in the Walls";exp 1968) and the tv series LAND OF THE GIANTS, they are the obvious heroes, but when humans are the giants sympathy usually attaches to the tiny aliens, even when - as in A. Bertram CHANDLER's "Giant Killer" (1945) - they are not humanoid. The notion of social stratification based on moremoderate differences of size is cleverly developed in the fantasies of Sharon Baker (1938-1991) set on the planet Naphar, including Quarrelling,They Met the Dragon (1984).John CHRISTOPHER's The Little People (1967) is the most sciencefictional of the many notable juvenile fantasies which feature tiny races living fugitive lives in the human world; others include T.H. WHITE's Mistress Masham's Repose (1946) and the two series begun with The Borrowers (1952) by Mary Norton (1903-1992) and Truckers (1989) by Terry PRATCHETT. By far the best modern fantasy to includeaspects of microcosmic romance is John CROWLEY's Little, Big (1981), and it is to the realms of FANTASY that most of the themes dealing with microcosms and macrocosms really belong.
   BS
   See also: COSMOLOGY; FANTASTIC VOYAGES.

Science Fiction and Fantasy Encyclopedia. . 2011.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Great and small — Small Small (sm[add]l), a. [Compar. {Smaller}; superl. {Smallest}.] [OE. small, AS. sm[ae]l; akin to D. smal narrow, OS. & OHG. smal small, G. schmal narrow, Dan. & Sw. smal, Goth. smals small, Icel. smali smal cattle, sheep, or goats; cf. Gr.… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • great and small — of all sizes, classes, or types all creatures great and small * * * ˌgreat and ˈsmall idiom of all sizes or types • all creatures great and small Main entry: ↑greatidiom …   Useful english dictionary

  • great and small — of all sizes, classes, or types. → great …   English new terms dictionary

  • great and small — everyone, from the big to the little …   English contemporary dictionary

  • All Creatures Great and Small (TV serial) — infobox television show name = All Creatures Great and Small caption = format = Comedy/Drama runtime = 50 mins creator = Bill Sellars writer = James Herriot producer = Bill Sellars director = Peter Grimwade starring = Christopher Timothy Robert… …   Wikipedia

  • All Creatures Great and Small (film) — Infobox Film name = All Creatures Great and Small caption = director = Claude Whatham producer = writer = James Herriot (book) Hugh Whitemore(Script) starring = Simon Ward Anthony Hopkins Brian Stirner Lisa Harrow music = cinematography = editing …   Wikipedia

  • All Creatures Great and Small — Seriendaten Deutscher Titel: Der Doktor und das liebe Vieh Originaltitel: All Creatures Great and Small Produktionsland: Großbritannien Produktionsjahr(e): 1977–1990 Produzent: Bill Sellars …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • All Creatures Great and Small — may refer to: * All Creatures Great and Small (film) , a 1975 film adaptation of James Herriot s first novel * All Creatures Great and Small (TV serial) , a BBC television adaptation of James Herriot s novels * A compilation volume of James… …   Wikipedia

  • List of All Creatures Great and Small episodes — This is a list of television episodes from the British Television Series All Creatures Great and Small . Dates shown are original air dates on BBC One.Episode list References …   Wikipedia

  • Cottage and small scale industries in Pakistan — In Pakistan cottage or household industries hold an important position in rural set up. Most villages are self sufficient in the basic necessities of life. They have their own carpenters, blacksmiths, potters, craftsmen and cotton weavers. Many… …   Wikipedia

  • Oz: The Great and Powerful — Directed by Sam Raimi Produced by Joe Roth Screenplay by Mitchell Kapner David Lindsay Abaire Based on …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.