Thrown off the Throne

What if the human race is not entitled to its self-proclaimed superiority? Such a question is posed in the early science fiction novel “The Coming Race” (1871) by Edward Bulwer-Lytton. The narrator discovers that deep within the mines lives a parallel civilisation with far more advanced technology, language and governmental structures than his own.

Through the encounters with the advanced civilisation, the narrator is both amazed but also unable to control his intrinsic barbaric tendencies. This reflects a striking contrast between the human and the foreign race, who reacts with stoicism by sending the narrator into unconsciousness once he goes astray:

“At this I secretly demurred; (…) I could not allow that my cerebral organisation could possibly be duller than that of people who had lived all their lives by lamplight. However, while I was thus thinking, Zee quietly pointed her forefinger at my forehead and sent me to sleep”. (Bulwer-Lytton, p. 47)

Thus his concerns are never articulated, and the race shows little interest in his endeavours to impress the foreign race. A slight hint of pity and mockery can also be traced in the foreign race. Therefore, title “The Coming Race” does not necessarily refer to the future evolution of the Homo sapiens. Rather, the narrative indicates that this parallel and advanced civilisation could overtake the human race if it wished to do so. In this way, Bulwer-Lyttons narrative expresses the Homo sapiens fear of being thrown from its self-proclaimed throne. And not even by something that mankind created nor has control over, which may be even more disturbing to us.

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