Damon Knight. The Country of the Kind. (The Magazine of Fantasy of Science Fiction, February 1956.)

Read in Judith Merril’s The Year’s Greatest Science Fiction and Fantasy, 1956.

A rather dark, disturbing story from Knight, somewhat at odds with the rest of the volume (and possibly the majority of SF in the mid-50s).

The protagonist is a wholly unlikeable person. In a future where want has been removed, and people live a life in co-operative luxury, he has been born with a unique genetic disposition to violence, and, indeed, committed a murder. Rather than incarceration or capital punishment, he is banished, but within the community. Nobody must speak to him or acknowledge him, and other than having his capacity to commit violence against others removed, he has free rein to do as he wishes.

This freedom is exercised twofold – by creating mayhem and destruction of property, but also by the creation of works of art, something that is no longer done in this future world. He ponders that great art in the past was created in times when violence and want were rife – are the acts of creation and destruction linked?

Being a psycho/sociopath-cum-incel make the protagonist wholly unlikeable, and it seems rather a heavy-handed approach to considering what a non-violent future world might be like.

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