Mimsy were my memories
As I remember it – and memory is all I’ve got, now that the lawyers have had at the versions once freely available online – it’s an elegantly creepy story about a box of educational child’s toys that are sent backward in time from the far future, to wash up on a creekbed in Smalltown, U.S.A. circa 1940. Where, of course, they are discovered by local kids who at once set about absorbing lessons in transdimensional “x logic” from them, with predictably hair-raising results.
Like the children in Clarke’s later Childhood’s End, it’s the youngest who disappear into the manifold first, their as-yet unstructured brains far better able to adapt to the alien concepts being fed to them. I still have a vivid sense of how well the story conveys the parents’ helplessness and desperation, as they watch their baby daughter Emma disappear irretrievably into some curled-up dimension inaccessible to their docilized adult minds.
The story never once failed to send a shiver up my spine. Its dense rush of ideas – that there were such things as non-Euclidean geometries and non-observable dimensions, that there was a strict mathematical logic encoded in Lewis Carroll’s work, that evolution wasn’t over – supplied a kick I foolishly believed (and continued to believe for many years) that I would routinely find in science fiction. Even the way “x logic” sat on the page terrified me. Must’ve been the italics.
And now, well. I haven’t seen it yet, but do they have to dumb everything down? Why, for example, was it necessary to change the contents of the box from “Jabberwocky” to a cyborganic pet “mimzy,” and, in so doing, apparently eliminate anything that might have sent inquisitive kids back to the truly mind-blowing Lewis Carroll? No, don’t tell me. I know the answer, and it depresses me too much to think about.
In fact, all I can offer you by way of argument for the original’s superiority is this heavily-branded excerpt, which is in itself disheartening. (And that’s without even considering the idea that Carroll, with his known pedophile tendencies and so on, is probably too hot to handle in the charged, knives-out milieu of contemporary education.)
Looky here: if I believed for the space of a heartbeat that this film version would enlarge its viewers’ worlds (and minds) the way “Mimsy” did mine, I’d be its strongest advocate. But I just don’t see it happening.