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I'm trying to recall a story I read in the 1960s or 1970s, but which I suspect was older than that.

It was about a quasi-immortal family in the twentieth century who lived in a rural area and kept a low profile. It was a stand-alone story and only the family, and perhaps distant relatives, had unusual powers. I don't think they were aliens, just some offshoot of humanity.

They were of varying ages, ranging from relatively young to thousands of years old. They had lived in Europe before immigrating to the American colonies. Each person had a distinctive set of psi powers, ranging from the grandpa, pa, ma and son. I believe the youngest, just called Baby, was the most powerful and least human looking, and lived in the attic. He slept most of the time.

Nothing remains in my memory of the plot.

As I recall, the story had a Theodore Sturgeon feeling to it, with a humorous, ironic touch, but it probably wasn't his. I haven't been able to identify it from looking at a list of his works.

I probably read it in an anthology, but I might have seen it in an old magazine. I'm just not sure.

If anyone can help me identify it, I'd be grateful. Then I can scratch that mental itch.

  • Is it possible you're mixing up two stories? Sturgeon did have a novella called "Baby is Three" which involved a gestalt being that lived like a family, each with different psi powers (including teleporting twins), with "Baby" being the brain. It was later made into "More than Human." But IIRC, the children were all young, not quasi-immortal (or at least, too young to say for sure), – starpilotsix Nov 25 '16 at 20:31
  • @starpilotsix I'm open to being convinced, simply because I can't recall all the details, but I don't think so. I remember clearly that the older family members had lived for centuries at least. However, because I remember it had a Sturgeon-feeling, I'll look for that story to see if I can confirm it one way or the other. Thanks! – rosesunhill Nov 25 '16 at 20:49
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    I marked the other one as the Duplicate on account of this being the better question. The other one doesn't have an accepted answer, but it does have a comment from the querent saying it's the right one. – FuzzyBoots Nov 26 '16 at 2:57
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    @FuzzyBoots I was pondering whether they are duplicates, seeing as one question is asking about the series and the other is asking about a "standalone story". I think I'll ask a meta question about that. – user14111 Nov 26 '16 at 3:59
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    @rosesunhill Happy reading. Apparently there are 4 stories in the series. The 1941 story "The Old Army Game" (which I haven't read), according to ISFDB, "Features a hillbilly character named "Hogben", but the story is not SF and is not otherwise related to the subsequent series of Hogben stories." – user14111 Nov 26 '16 at 4:43
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Sounds like the Hogben series by Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore, which was also the answer to the old question "Hillbilly-type family with supernatural powers". Here is a video ad by Neil Gaiman for The Hogben Chronicles.

You probably read the first story in the series, "Exit the Professor", originally published in Thrilling Wonder Stories, October 1947 which is available at the Internet Archive (click here for download options). Any of these covers look familiar?

They were of varying ages, ranging from relatively young to thousands of years old. They had lived in Europe before immigrating to the American colonies.

Grandpaw's the oldest one of us all and he gets kinda mixed up in his language sometimes. I guess the lingo you learned when you're young sorta sticks with you. One thing, he can cuss better than anybody I've ever heard.

"Shucks," I said, "I was only trying to help."

"Thou puling brat," Grandpaw said. "'Tis thy fault and thy dam's. For building that device, I mean, that slew the Haley tribe. Hadst thou not, this scientist would never have come here."

"He's a perfesser," I said. "Name of Thomas Galbraith."

"I know. I read his thoughts through Little Sam's mind. A dangerous man. I never knew a sage who wasn't. Except perhaps Roger Bacon, and I had to bribe him to—but Roger was an exceptional man. Hearken:

"None of you may go to New York. The moment we leave this haven, the moment we are investigated, we are lost. The pack would tear and rend us. Nor could all thy addlepated flights skyward save thee, Lester—dost thou hear?"

[. . . .]

"How old is your grandfather?"

"Gosh, I dunno."

"Homunculi—mm-m. You mentioned that he was a miner once?"

"No, that was Grandpaw's paw," I said. "Tin mines, they were, in England. Only Grandpaw says it was called Britain then. That was during a sorta magic plague they had then. The people had to get the doctors—droons? Droods?"

"Druids?"

"Uh-huh. The Druids was the doctors then, Grandpaw says. Anyhow, all the miners started dying round Cornwall, so they closed up the mines."

"What sort of plague was it?"

I told him what I remembered from Grandpaw's talk, and the Perfesser got very excited and said something about radioactive emanations, as nearly as I could figger out. It made oncommon bad sense.

"Artificial mutations caused by radioactivity!" he said, getting real pink around the jowls. "Your grandfather was born a mutant! The genes and chromosomes were rearranged into a new pattern. Why, you may all be supermen!"

"Nope," I said. "We're Hogbens. That's all."

I believe the youngest, just called Baby, was the most powerful and least human looking, and lived in the attic. He slept most of the time.

The baby was called Little Sam:

Time we ran off the Haley boys with that shotgun gadget we rigged up—only we never could make out how it worked, somehow—that time, it all started because Rafe Haley come peeking and prying at the shed winder, trying to get a look at Little Sam. Then Rafe went round saying Little Sam had three haids or something.

Can't believe a word them Haley boys say. Three haids! It ain't natcheral, is it? Anyhow, Little Sam's only got two haids, and never had no more since the day he was born.

[. . . .]

"S'pose I go to New York with you, like you want," I said. "Will you leave the family alone?"

He halfway promised, though he didn't want to. But he knuckled under and crossed his heart, on account of I said I'd wake up Little Sam if he didn't. He sure wanted to see Little Sam, but I told him that was no good. Little Sam couldn't go to New York, anyhow. He's got to stay in his tank or he gets awful sick.

  • I just read it and that's the story. Thanks so much! – rosesunhill Nov 25 '16 at 21:26

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