Crown of Creation and the Chrysalids

As a fan of SF as well as SF’s 60’s era music, it was a shock to me to read John Wynham’s novel¬†The Chrysalids. A post-atomic war apocalyptic novel concerning the rise of more highly evolved humans and their battles with the older, reactionary generation. Not unusual, especially back then, but the shock came towards the end of the book where two characters essentially quote Kantner’s Crown of Creation back and forth to each other.¬† Hard to read without singing it to oneself. Since the book was published in 1955, I waited for an epic plagerism trial on the level of George Harrison’s “theft” of He’s So Fine. Nothing.

Thanks to generationterrorists, here are some quotes from the book:

“Your work is to survive. Neither his kind, nor his kind of thinking will survive long. They are the crown of creation, they are ambition fulfilled – they have nowhere more to go. But life is change, that is how it differs from rocks, change is its very nature.”

“They have become history without being aware of it. They are determined still that there is a final form to defend: soon they will attain the stability they strive for, in the form it is granted – a place among the fossils…”

“In loyalty to their kind they cannot tolerate our rise; in loyalty to our kind, we cannot tolerate their obstruction.”

Compare this to the lyrics of Crown of Creation, thanks to sing365:

You are the Crown of Creation
You are the Crown of Creation
and you’ve got no place to go.

Soon you’ll attain the stability you strive for
in the only way that it’s granted
in a place among the fossils of our time.

In loyalty to their kind
they cannot tolerate our minds.
In loyalty to our kind
we cannot tolerate their obstruction.

Life is Change
How it differs from the rocks
I’ve seen their ways too often for my liking
New worlds to gain
My life is to survive
and be alive
for you.

Sorry Paul, it’s a great song, but you need to send some royalties to Wyndham’s heirs. Too bad Motown didn’t publish the book.


Crown of Creation and the Chrysalids — 8 Comments

  1. If Wyndham and Heinlein were OK with the way Kantner weaved the language and ideas he got from the science fiction he so loved into his own musical narratives, then I’m certainly OK with it. Ever since capitalists moaned about the wonderful way hip-hop artists of the ’80s thread familiar beats and snippets of melodies and spoken-word into their pastiches, we’ve been much more of a finger-pointing society, so obsessed with giving individuals credit for individual creations than with sharing ideas. Woody Guthrie would have been dragged across the coals today for taking Carter Family melodies and putting his own words to them. Borrowing and reconfiguring doesn’t diminish the originals in any way, shape or form. I think it adds to them. Sigh

  2. I agree that they were a great band. Kanter was a big SF fan. I do feel that Wyndham should have gotten some credit–when I first read the Chrysalids after hearing Crown of Creation, I realized that Kanter didn’t merely quote the book, virtually all the lyrics were direct quotes from the book. That is a little too much for me to overlook. Thanks, though, for taking the time to comment.

  3. I grew up on Wyndham, and also grew up on Airplane, and it was a great joy to me., back around 1970, that I noticed that Airplane were, if not quoting, then paraphrasing Wyndham.

    They also drew from Heinlein and even more heavily on A A Milne, but a great band for all that before success took it’s toll, about the time of Bark.

    For a few brief years, and a few albums, they were something very special.

    As a matter of fact, I remember reading that the case about My Sweet Lord and She’s so Fine was settled out of court, with George paying money, and the people claiming it accepting that the alleged plagiarism was not deliberate.

    David B

  4. I read the Chrysalids in high school, and being raised on Jefferson’s Airplane because of my dad, I recognized the lyrics right away and have always wondered why Wyndham wasn’t credited on the album. Apparently, it was with permission, though. (Wikipedia says so.)

  5. Given the comment in the following link,

    in which Kanter apparently wrote Robert Heinlein for permission to use ideas from Methesulah’s (sp) Children in Blows Against the Empire and received permission, it may very well be likely that asked Wyndham so I stand corrected.

    However, stumbling on the Chrysalids after Crown of Creation, it did leave a bad taste in my mouth that there was no credit on the album.

  6. I appreciate the reference, but lacking the book, I cannot check it out. Given that the words of the entire song are mostly verbatim from the book, I believe that john Wyndham should have been listed as co-writer or at least acknowledged in some way.

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