Blogging the Hugos: The Parliament of Beasts and Birds

“The Parliament of Beasts and Birds”
John C. Wright
Category: Best Short Story

book_of_feastsJohn C. Wright returns in this, his most ponderous work yet (on the ballot at least, there’s probably worse out there). It’s intended to be something of a Christian fable, and to get that effect Wright uses a style filled with archaic language, pompous dialogue, and long, convoluted sentence structures. It works, if what he wanted was to make us feel like kids sitting in church wondering when the particularly dull Bible passage was going to be over.

We’ve discussed some of my literary pet peeves in this series already, and it’s time to introduce another one: talking animals. C.S. Lewis once wrote, regarding a proposed TV adaptation of the Narnia series, “Humanized beasts can’t be presented to the eye without at once becoming either hideous or ridiculous.” If only he’d followed this to its natural conclusion—talking animals look ridiculous in the mind’s eye as well. Unfortunately for me, this story is nothing but talking animals.

What happens here is that humans have mysteriously disappeared, and a bunch of animals (or one archetypal representative per species) get together to discuss it. Since this is a John C. Wright story, the reason all the humans are gone is that the apocalypse has happened and everyone has gone to either heaven or hell. Very late in the process the animals suddenly realize it’s unusual that they can talk. Now the story could have ended right here and it would have just been the most boring ever version of the Hobbin and Nobbin joke (look it up) but sadly there’s more. Turns out they are transforming into humans, and if they accept the change they will be saved and become the new masters of the earth; if not they’ll remain animals in the wild.

That’s right, accept Jesus humanity into your heart and you can become a real boy! Or don’t and be damned forever. But you only get one chance so choose quick and don’t ask questions! It’s a good thing John C. Wright’s sermonizing isn’t very persuasive, because if I believed in his angry, arbitrary, authoritarian god I’d join the other team.