… you can at least stop the dead air by saying “Ever hear of the writer Philip Wylie?”
— the pop-culture connections alone are wilder than anything in his science fiction.
You can spin off all sorts of tangents. His brother’s famously murdered daughter was attempting to escape the very sort of domestic-treadmill trap that fostered the smothering, emasculating Mothers Wylie denounced so scandalously in Generation of Vipers.
There’s no doubt Gladiator describes the first “scientific” superhero (unless you count Frankenstein’s creation) and shows that the downside of the concept was there from the start. A super-human would be feared and hated as much as adored, according to Wylie, and would be unable to live as a heroic figure. (As I’ve said, I think the legend of the Golem may underlie the tragic super-being concept, but Wylie’s book is also part of the foundation.) His brother was the force behind The Flying Nun, so you got two airbornes from the same family.
True confession: I’ve found Wylie a little tedious to read and glided over much of his prose to explore his interesting ideas, scenes and propositions.
PS: Now you know where Captain Crunch came from (heheheh).