- MELVILLE, Herman
- (1819-1891)US writer best known for such radically symbolic novels as The Whale (1851 UK; vt Moby-Dick 1851 US); the great whale of this novel is an archetype of the more METAPHYSICAL variety of sf MONSTER, and the spirit of the book has permeated much sf, notably Roger ZELAZNY's "The Doors of his Face, the Lamps of his Mouth" (1965) and, rathersuperficially, Philip Jose FARMER's "sequel" to HM's original, The Wind Whales of Ishmael (1971). HM's blending, in Moby-Dick, of rationalexplanation and romantic openness with the inexplicable was later to become typical of sf. In The Confidence-Man, His Masquerade (1857), HM's violent conflict with the dictates (or concept) of a manipulative destiny may well have provided some sf writers with inspiration for contemporary sf tales of justified PARANOIA.Of more direct sf interest is HM's short story "The Bell-Tower" (1855), which appears in The Piazza Tales (coll 1856); rather reminiscent of the work of his friend Nathaniel HAWTHORNE,it is the story, set in Renaissance Italy, of the construction of a MACHINE-man whose function it will be to strike the hour on a large bell,but which in the event kills its maker. The story can be read as allegorical of mankind's hubris, and a comment on the implications of the new era of mechanical invention and science that HM was beginning to witness.JC/PN
Science Fiction and Fantasy Encyclopedia. Academic. 2011.