Sunday, March 20, 2011

After his story is rejected, Benny is near despair, but his vision of this future won’t let him go, it keeps intruding on his present. After yet another exhortation by the mysterious preacher, he lets his visions take over and he writes more DS9 stories.

Pabst is furious. He had offered Benny the next cover as compensation for his rejection, but Benny came back with more stories about the same Negro captain that caused his first story to be rejected. Pabst accuses him of being insane, and Benny wonders if he might be insane, but the two are talking about different things. Benny has been having flashes in which he sees Kay Eaton as Kira, and Willie Hawkins as Worf. It's not clear whether he consciously or unconsciously has based characters on the people he knows, since we never hear about his stories. But his sudden visions surprise and trouble him.

Then the tongue-tied Albert comes up with a suggestion—what if at the end of his story it turns out to be a dream...a dream about the future of a Negro in the 1950s? Pabst allows that this might work. Benny, who has rejected Pabst’s ultimatum to make the Captain white, accepts this idea. He seems to be doing so as an acceptable compromise to get the story published. But in an unacknowledged symmetry, it reflects reality: his stories in fact are the dreams of a black man in the 1950s yearning for and imagining a better future.

Benny is jubilant, and the change in his prospects visibly loosens him up, makes him more confident and outgoing and frankly masculine. (Avery Brooks does a lot of this with body language.) But the preacher is there on the street to warn him: “You are only at the beginning of your journey...The path of the prophets sometimes leads to darkness and pain...hope and despair walk arm in arm.”

(Note: the rocket ship on the table is an actual Hugo award, given for excellence in science fiction. Since this award wasn't given out for the first time until 1955, its presence here as a kind of knick-knack is a visual joke. )

No comments: