The redevelopment of Stockport (Story) Museum is, of course, going to highlight some famous, iconic or influential names when thinking of who comes from Stockport and who helped shape it in to the town it is today. This is a topic I have already considered in a previous Find it Friday HERE whilst discussing Wimbledon champion Fred Perry. But through my research I uncovered another Stockport born chap that was a pleasant surprise to me.
My hobby is collecting books, I am an avid reader and I enjoy a number of genera’s and authors. However one of my favourites (in fact, he is one of my top two) is Edmund Cooper. Cooper was a Science Fiction writer of short stories, novels and poems.
He was born in, surprise surprise, Stockport!
Born in Marple, Stockport in 1926 Cooper shares a home town with many, notably Karl Davis who portrayed Alton Lannister in TV’s Game of Thrones.
Cooper was in the British Merchant Navy until 1945 and trained as a teacher when he left. After World War II had ended he began to publish short stories and his first novel, ‘Deadly Midnight’ which was later renamed ‘The Uncertain Midnight’ was published in 1958, and it’s a good one! That is, if you enjoy speculative futuristic stories of what life will be like when everybody is assigned a personal android. As a rule, I don’t but I thoroughly enjoyed this one.
Earlier, in 1957 one of Cooper’s short Stories ‘Brain Child’ was adapted into the movie ‘The Invisible Boy’ which stared Robby the Robot from the 1956 movie ‘Forbidden Planet’. The movie was adapted by Cyril Hume, the screenwriter behind ‘Forbidden Planet’ and ‘The Great Gatsby’ (1949).
Edmund Cooper was a prolific writer and wrote under at least four confirmed pseudonyms, including Richard Avery, the name of the main character in one of his books, ‘Transit’, which is possibly my favourite Cooper novel. Cooper was one of the most published Science Fiction authors of his time, an authority that led to him becoming an influential Science Fiction reviewer for The Sunday Times, London in 1967 until his death in 1982.
Unfortunately, we have no collection objects relating to Edmund Copper in the collection but that’s not to mean we cannot explore his work using other objects.
As is all too common in museums, some of the collection is made up of objects with no information. They could have been accepted into the collection with little or no provenance or that information could simply have been lost over time, but that doesn’t make these objects less important. Various objects can be used to explore various things… a fox for example, can be used to talk of urbanisation or geology pieces can be used to address the evolution of industry, textiles or civilisations.
Therefore, for this week’s Find it Friday I have chosen my three favourite Edmund Cooper novels and I am going to find objects within our collection, objects from the stored collection that are not currently on display to help illustrate them. I am not, however, going to stick to objects with limited documentation, after all, even if they are the most documented museum objects of all time, if they are stored away why shouldn’t they be revived and used to help tell more new and exciting stories?
Hopefully, the objects can provide the books with a new dimension and the books possibly give the objects the freedom to enter the imagination, to encapsulate the visions Edmund Cooper wrote down, celebrating his work despite not being directly related to Copper.
1. The Overman Culture (1971)
“Michael was quite young when he discovered that some of his playmates bled if the cut themselves, and some didn’t. For a long time he didn’t think about it. Nor did it seem strange to see Zeppelins being attacked by jet fighters above London’s force field, or glimpse Queen Victoria walking with Winston Churchill in the Mall. Not at first.
But later he thought about these things – he couldn’t help it. The world was real, and yet unreal. It was all desperately worrying. So Michael and his friends formed a society to investigate the world around them.
Despite the terrible things they discovered, things that made some of them insane, they never actually guessed the truth about the Overman culture. Untill Mr Shakespeare told them.”
The objects I chose for ‘The Overman Culture’ are:
– A bonnet, once owned and worn by Queen Victoria.
– A portrait of Sir Winston Churchill.
– Books by William Shakespeare, Mary Shelley, Charles Darwin and Florence Nightingale.
– A Lizard.
As the objects are to illustrate Coopers books, if they have a provenance or not I will not be exploring that here. In relation to ‘The Overman Culture’, the main character Micheal Faraday has numerous encounters with Queen Victoria and Winston Churchill throughout the novel, these are the real deal. However, he obviously shares a name with the scientist Faraday, and his best friend Emily Bronte has a recognisable name also…
It is made clear that the adults don’t want the children learning to read words, and they certainly don’t have books. That is until Micheal and his friends find an abandoned library filled with books written by people who share the same name as their teachers, Miss Shelley and Mr Shakespeare and soon the truth is revealed to them by Miss Nightingale, and ‘fragiles’ like Charles Darwin, and Michael and his friends discover a way out from under the force field over London they have always known and in to a barren wilderness, dominated by crashing ocean waves and oversized sleeping lizards…
2. Sea-Horse in the Sky (1969)
“At first he thought it was all part of some crazy nightmare. But it wasnt.
Russell Grahame, M.P. was only one of a handful of passengers flying from Stockholm to London. One moment flying peacefully in the sky, the next lying in an un-Earthly green coffin.
Grahame was the first to emerge from this strange resting place. But for him, as well as for the others, it had been only the first ecliptical experience. Soon all were to find the themselves lost in a bizarre world of Mediaeval knights, Stone Age warriors, and gremlins, caught unalterably in the weirdest cocoon of Time.”
The objects for ‘Sea-horse in the Sky’ are:
– A doll’s house.
– Lego Knights.
– Flint flakes (Stone age tools).
The passengers wake up on a street consisting of a hotel, a shop and other building that appear fake, much like a film set. They set up camp in the hotel and begin to explore the areas around them leading to encounters with Knights and “cave men” who, as it transpires, are just as lost as the human population.
It soon comes to light that their surroundings are not one that anyone from Earth is familiar with and the seahorses in the sky have something they want to say…
3. Transit (1964)
“He was the subject of an experiment seventy light years away from earth.
It lay in the grass, tiny white and burning. He stooped, put out his fingers. And then, in an instant there was nothing. Nothing but darkness and oblivion. A split second demolition of the World of Richard Avery.
From a damp February afternoon in Kensington Gardens, Avery is Precipitated into a world of apparent unreason. A world in which his intelligence is tested by computer, and in which he is finally left on a strange tropical island with three companions, and a strong human desire to survive.
But then the mystery deepens; for there are two moons in the sky, and the rabbits have six legs and who is speaking to them via a self typing teletypewriter and how?”
The objects for ‘Transit’ are:
– A typewriter.
– A Rabbit.
– Spear heads.
Richard Avery reaches down to touch a shiny, clear diamond like object in the grass, and is whisked 79 light years away from Earth where he finds himself and three other people in a battle-to-the-death situation against alien humanoids, the “Golden Ones”, who have been deposited in the same place, and are equally confused why they are there. When the protagonist finally reaches the spear wielding “Golden Ones”, they are of the opinion that it is merely a game, with the killing of human beings the prime objective.