HENRY KUTTNER’S GALLOWAY GALLAGHER

“Are you a technician or a driveling idiot?”  — “The Proud Robot” (1943)

The story goes that science-fiction writer, Henry Kuttner, named his inebriated and gifted scientist “Gallagher” while writing “The Time Locker” then mistakenly called him “Galloway” when writing its sequel. And after realizing his error, Kuttner combined the names giving “Galloway Gallagher” his full name.

This story – be it fact or fiction – not only gives us a sense of the fever and speed with which Kuttner wrote in those early days of science fiction, but fits the character perfectly since Mr. Galloway Gallagher is a man divided.

He is the modern Homo sapiens happily picking his way through the overgrowth of technology as the clock on his VCR cheerfully blinks 12:00. Nevertheless he creates the very technological jungle that hems him in.

On one hand, Galloway Gallagher is a layman, possessing only enough technical savvy when sober to press a button. On the other, Galloway is a somnambulist and technological virtuoso. But in order for the laymen to give way to the virtuoso, he must rely on Dionysian wine — when Gallagher drinks, he loses himself and when he does, the subliminal Gallagher or Gallagher Plus emerges, takes charge and invents.

The name “Gallagher” is telling since it means “foreign help” and ironically describes the subliminal Gallagher. This subliminal Gallagher is amoral and he wanders the strange climes of his subconscious excavating designs he later sets loose upon the world.  Similarly the name “Galloway” means “land of foreign Gaels” and echoes the meaning of his surname.  So the name “Galloway Gallagher” tells us that Kuttner’s hero is doubly strange, and he has little trouble living up to his name.

Now Gallagher is much more than a man—he is a symbol.  He is the modern Homo sapiens happily picking his way through the overgrowth of technology as the clock on his VCR cheerfully blinks 12:00. Nevertheless he creates the very technological jungle that hems him in.

Similarly you and I are Galloway Gallagher.  Separately we are often baffled by the technology we consume and use, but collectively – where culture absorbs the ego, we are an inventive species, oftentimes inventing without understanding the ethical consequences our inventions.

By locating Gallagher’s inventive genius in his hero’s subconscious, Kuttner suggests that we are a culture of drunken technophiles whose inventions vex our conscious minds.

I wonder if the same subconscious force that sways Galloway Gallagher swayed Henry Kuttner?  Was Kuttner’s renaming his hero really a mistake or was it a hidden intent escaping the censorship of the author’s conscious mind?  After all, the Gallagher stories epitomize how creativity springs from foreign climes to bedevil our conscious minds.

 

©2012 Kent Gutschke.  All rights reserved.