The Country of the Kind
|"The Country of the Kind"|
|Published in||The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction|
|Media type||Print (Paperback)|
|Publication date||February 1956|
"The Country of the Kind" is a science fiction short story by American writer Damon Knight. It was first published in the February 1956 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and has been reprinted several times, including in In Deep (1963), The Science Fiction Hall of Fame (vol. 1) (1976), and The Golden Age of Science Fiction (1981).
The story is set in a future world in which violence and crime have been almost entirely eradicated. The main character is a man who is capable of antisocial behavior and who considers himself “the king of the world.” He is allowed to do what he wishes, take what he wants and go where he pleases without reprisal, so long as he does no violence to another human being. The “humane, permissive” society in which he lives has adopted a threefold solution for someone who is, by their standards, insane. The first is excommunication - no one is to interact with him or even acknowledge his existence, other than by the apparent worldwide directive identifying him and calling for this punishment. Secondly, he is thrown into an epileptic seizure whenever he attempts to commit violence against another human. Thirdly, his body and waste give off a highly offensive odor, undetectable by him, to identify him, warn others of his presence and drive them away.
The story ends with a desperate plea from the protagonist for someone, anyone to join him in his rebellion against what he perceives to be a wholly passive society, which has lost any spark of creativity or will to achieve greatness.
The story links violence to artistic expression. The protagonist "invents" drawing and sculpture, only later realizing, from old books, that these things had existed in the past, and notes that all great artists had lived in especially violent times.
In 2004, Strange Horizons described the story as "interesting enough", but "pallid". James Nicoll calls it "a fairly representative example of the alienated man", but commends the story for avoiding "Fans Are Slans"-style elitism.
In 2001, John Derbyshire wrote a column for the National Review, in which he analyzed the concept of normality within the context of demographic shift, and cited "Country of the Kind" as an example of the value of abnormality (while misrepresenting the protagonist as having been officially licensed to break into homes and vandalize their contents).
- Index to Science Fiction Anthologies and Collections
- Reviews: Yesterday's Tomorrows: Robert Silverberg's The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, reviewed by Colin Harvey, at Strange Horizons; published March 15, 2004; retrieved July 3, 2014
- Situation Normal, by John Derbyshire; originally published June 11, 2001 at National Review; retrieved July 3, 2014