Flashback Fridays:An unusual friendship . . .

You’re a father whose son has always seemed to have an imaginary friend that he talks to.  Even as he gets older, the conversations continue . . . and then your son starts being able to do things that astonish you.

Do you remember:

Chocky by John Wyndham (Penguin, c1968)

If you don’t know the name John Wyndham, then it’s worth looking into his works–particularly if you have an interest in science fiction. John Wyndham Parkes Lucas Beynon Harris used the pen name John Wyndham  to publish most of his science fiction stories.  The most famous of them is no doubt The Day of the Triffids (1951)a post apocalyptic story that’s considered a classic.    Other well-known novels include The Chrysalids (1955) and the The Midwich Cuckoos (1957) (though most of us probably know it better by the movie, The Village of the Damned.

The last book published prior to his death is probably one of his least well known, and that is Chocky.  A short children’s SF book that relates a story of a boy–Matthew– with a mysterious friend named Chocky.  Adults think this is just Matthew’s imaginary friend, and that the one-sided conversations that the boy keeps having are just part of that game.  What they don’t realize at first is that there’s much more to it and none of it is imaginary.  When Matthew starts demonstrating abilities for things like binary code mathematics, his parents finally have to come to terms with the fact  that something very odd is happening.  And then Matthew tells them about Chocky, the alien friend who is living inside his head.

The covers for this book are decidedly bizarre.

It’s an odd story, particularly one set outside Wyndham’s usual futuristic and post apocalyptic landscapes.  And I wouldn’t have known much about it except for a chance encounter with an airing of the British TV series by the same name.  It seems that Chocky was adapted for television in 1984 for British audiences, with six episodes in total.  It later had two sequels: Chocky’s Children (1985) and Chocky’s Challenge (1986), each one of these also a six-part series.

What I think I liked so much about Chocky is that it had a completely different idea for how an alien intelligence might contact us across the stars.   Rather than spaceships and laser guns, here we have powerful minds that can reach out and travel across galaxies to discover what other sorts of life and intelligence might exist.  John Wyndham’s science fiction tended toward the human side of things.  Less interested in the tech and hardware aspect, he wrote of how humans responded to it and survived in the wake of future changes.

While Wyndham’s work is less familiar here in the States, he’s still one of the classic science fiction writers who contributed to the field and influenced its readers and future creators.   Chocky may struggle to find an audience today given that it was written as a contemporary science fiction novel.  But it’s one that many older readers will probably remember coming across when they were kids.

Any John Wyndham fans out there?  Comments welcome!

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About Stephanie Whelan

I'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.

Posted on January 24, 2015, in Flashback Fridays, General Posts and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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