“The Golden Man” by Philip K. Dick explores mutants hunted in a long short story, or short novella, from 1954, long before Stan Lee’s X-Men emerged!
It is set in a post-apocalyptic world where atomic radiation has produced mutated human beings.
A government task force has been created to hunt down these mutants.
SPOILER WARNING for “The Golden Man” an 11,600-word science fiction short story written by Philip K. Dick and published in the April 1954 issue of If magazine.
Mutants are either neutered or killed, depending on the strength of their abilities, so that they cannot harm humanity.
But the one mutant still at large is the elusive Golden Man who is always a step ahead because of his ability to see the future.
PKD explored a future where the next step in evolution may very well leave humans behind.
He explored the idea of the next superior being as neither a benevolent leader-type, nor a malicious genocidal dictator-type, but rather a Magneto-like being that would set a course of natural selection that would replace humanity in favor of a new mutant race.
Evolution itself, after all, is a natural process with no malicious intent behind it. Human beings simply would not be able to compete.
The comparison between the X-Men nemesis, Magneto and his mindset, cannot be ignored here, though PKD preceded Magneto’s invention by close to a decade.
This practical perspective is rather interesting and refreshing.
Superheroes, essentially mutants, have dominated popular culture for quite some time. Heroes, like the Justice League of DC comics, have helped lead humanity where villains, like Magneto of X-Men, are more interested in leaving humanity behind.
“The Golden Man” alludes to a more plausible Darwinian approach that seems to encroach on Magneto’s thoughts and arguments, at times, but stands alone in its insightful approach to the mutants in the story.
This novella was the inspiration for the movie Next with Nicolas Cage.
Ironically, similar to that of iRobot, the studio borrowed just one small concept from the entire story in its adaptation.
Surprisingly, the only similar parallel these two works share is the elusiveness of both characters when avoiding arrest.
Hollywood certainly had a fun time showing off this skill with Cage during the casino chase.
Although Nicholas Cage has the similar ability to see into the future, he certainly does not have the Golden Man’s secondary traits and his philosophy that make him so extraordinary. If you are a fan of film adaptations (as I am) you may find this interesting.
The Forgotten Fiction Grade: YEA (read it!)
“The Golden Man by Philip K. Dick Explores Mutants Hunted” was written by Peter Maisano.