Group Read 27: The Big Book of Science Fiction
Story #70 of 107: “Mondocane” by Jacques Barbéri
“Mondocane” by Jacques Barbéri is another one of those entries that felt like a fictional essay rather than a story. All I can say is this story reminded me of a wordy version of Hieronymus Bosch’s painting “The Garden of Earthly Delights.” I just don’t consider this kind of work science fiction. Sure parts of it can sound science-fictional, but my quibble is it sounds like an art form from an alternate reality where science fiction’s intent was strangely different.
The hives of homunculi were born out of necessity. The occupants of the nuclear bunkers were found, for the most part, buried under hundreds of meters of sand. Initially, the women, crushed by a powerful lethargy, saw their volume increase considerably; their limbs atrophied, and only their head remained, at the tip of a gigantic flaccid body. Inversely, the men decreased in volume and started to live in the folds of flesh of the female bodies. But it was a matter of becoming animal only in appearance, cerebral functions diminishing not at all. Except the social instinct, of collective life, was intensified. The first eggs were tended in doubt and fear. Then the first larvae made their appearance. And, supplied with burrowing snouts, they set about fighting their way towards the surface. The desert is now a gigantic network of tunnels and reproduction chambers. The hives presently stage the form of life that is the most evolved, most adapted, of the planet. All things considered, the homunculi would prefer to remain underground, and come out only very rarely, mainly to hunt.
I felt this story descends from Poe rather than Verne or Wells.
James Wallace Harris, 1/7/22