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Reviews of Age of the Tail, the (1955)

Review by kirwar4face (2004-02-06)
A sincere exercise in sociological science fiction, The Age of the Tail (not really a novel but a fictional essay) is probably as amusing now as it was in the 1950's, but I doubt it raised many guffaws even then. Smith could be delightfully vulgar or bawdy (e.g., his fable about the origin of the name 'Bangkok', or his insistence that the middle finger of the human hand ought to serve *some* useful purpose) but his instincts seem to have mostly abandoned him in this case. The general lack of naughtiness is seconded by the artist, Leo Hershfield, who amazingly goes out of his way *not* to draw a tail if he can possibly get out of it. Nowhere does he picture the human tail attached to the human posterior; nowhere does he picture the human posterior at all. Hershfield was a lively cartoonist and could have had a rowdy field day with the material provided him, but instead he chooses to be prissy as an old maiden aunt, and I'm not talking about your auntie on

What we do get is quite a bit of creative thinking on the engines of human vanity, had humans suddenly begun to be born with tails. For instance there is the solution to designing a toilet seat to accomodate a tail...simply turn the whole seating arrangement around and modify the tank to serve as a comfortable arm-and-book rest. 'We should have thought of that before tails,' one designer comments. And there is a popular TV panel show, 'Whose Tail is That?' in which only the contestants' tails appear, waving through a hole in a barrel.

Most science-fiction writers set their world-changing developments in the far future at least a few decades; Smith sets the onset of tails in 1957, just a couple of years after the publication of his book. By now the human race has lived with the tail for nearly fifty years. Not a lot has changed.

©Steven Jeffery /, 2017
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