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Saturday, March 23, 2024

"Bohassian Learns" by William Rotsler

First appeared in Ted White's Amazing. Reprinted by Martin Harry Greenberg, Joseph D. Olander, Patricia Warrick, Isaac Asimov.


A baby is born:

"Bohassian was being born and he didn't like it."

The first telepath sloshing happily in its womb encounters not only light but his first minds.

Analysis (with Spoilers if that's possible):

A brilliant opening, if you'll pardon the double or triple entendre.

This is the third of Rotsler's stories, and only that was more reprinted. It seems to be as much about itself as the author learning his trade. That language is rudimentary but fits with a subject: the awakening of a mind.

The flaw here (or at the unexplained) is that it suggests that the mind only awakens when given birth. Why then? Why not before? Why not after?

But it remains fascinating. How would the telepath first awaken and how steep would that learning curve be? It probably not understand its relationship to the world and may well destroy, if it could, minds it perceived as potentially harmful although, not being telepathic, how would they know that a telepath existed unless the unformed mind communicated in some fashion? But it seemed like it was more probing other minds than communicating. However, the portrayal is convincing: Were telepathy real, something like this might occur, allowing us to recognize them.

A Google search yielded so few instances of "Bohassian" that one can reasonably guess the origin: Igor Bohassian: an essayist first published two years after this story, writing about various science issues such as the energy crisis and that the pyramids were actually astronomical observatories. The writer seems reasonably intelligent although the conclusions don't feel especially unusual. 

Two possibilities: 1) Igor is a friend perhaps encountered at a science fiction convention. 2) Igor is a pen name of the author or a friend. Since so few instances of the name occurs, I'm learning toward the latter. The surname suggests "bohemian" which, according to Oxford, means "a socially unconventional person, especially one who is involved in the arts"--a definition with two parts, both of which strongly correlate with Rotsler. Bohassian writes something shy of a dozen articles then disappears. So either Igor is Rotsler or someone with strong spiritual kinship. Given that the name doesn't appear in Google, it seems most probable that Igor is Rotsler. 

As mentioned earlier, one of Bohassian's article discussed the Egyptian pyramids and other ancient cultures. For further evidence, see his story "Patron of the Arts":

"The very old civilizations interest me the most.... Babylon, Assyria, Sumer, Egypt, the valley of the Euphrates. Crete seems like a newcomer to me. Everything was new then. There was everything to invent, to see, to believe."

One expects some seismic story shift, inverting our readerly expections, but none arrive. There are no surprises. It just presents the idea itself . While profound and thought-provoking, it doesn't feel like an ending. Perhaps it was part of something longer he'd wanted to develop and decided to send it off, as is.

Rotsler's most famed story--"Patron of the Arts"--will be discussed here shortly with further thoughts on the writer and character.

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