17

It was most probably a short story, where a young son of one the brightest scientists surpasses father's intelligence while fresh out of kindergarten. At the end of the story father becomes overly jealous and the son with his fellow little colleagues leaves him for good on his way to become a posthuman.

  • 13
    So I guess you could say the son is... pretty bright? *puts on sunglasses* – Broots Waymb Mar 19 '18 at 13:49
  • I immediately thought of Robin Cook's Mutation, though this is most likely not the book you're referring to – Black Mar 20 '18 at 12:43
  • I remember a story, probably in Asimov's in the 80s, that includes a bit of discussion where the father tells his son that while the boy's technically smarter, the father still knows more things. I don't remember the title or author, only that snippet. Does that fit with your memories? – Ask About Monica Mar 27 '18 at 19:56
28

If it's old, there is a good chance this is the 1946 story "Absalom" by Henry Kuttner. The son and his fellow mutants at the end psychically modify the dad so he can't harm the son in any way. But he can still nurse a secret hope for revenge, when the son himself has a child...

More information here: "Henry Kuttner's "Absalom" (short story, non-genre): Generation gap can be a major source of parents' heartache", Variety SF

16

I realise the other answer has been accepted but I'm adding this for completeness.

Another story mostly fitting the description by OP is "Odd John", by Olaf Stapledon (1935). John is physically underdeveloped but superhumanly intelligent, eventually developing abilities like telepathy.

There is a chapter-by-chapter summary at the Wikipedia page. For chapter 2:

The First Phase. His parents, and his life from birth (around 1910) to five years of age. At the age of four, he learns to speak; nine months later, he learns to count. He claims to learn all of mathematics, and develops an ability to visualise n-dimensional space.

The article also mentions that there were other earlier books following this general "Übermensch" plot, such as The Hampdenshire Wonder (1911, J D Beresford). I can add another: H G Wells' The Food of the Gods, although in that case the children also develop to physically enormous size (and the intelligence is a consequence of the larger brains, from what I remember).

In both Odd John and The Food Of The Gods the children surpass their parents' intelligence at an early age (although somewhat later in TFoTG, from what I remember) and ultimately leave them for good. I haven't read the Hampdenshire Wonder, though.

The only part of OP's description that may not match these is the father's jealousy; I can't remember that and it's not mentioned in the online summary for Odd John.

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    The food of the gods does not cause the children to develop greater intelligence. They simply have enough intelligence to realise that they are being treated like animals, and to react against that. They are normally intelligent, so they realise what advantages their greater size gives them, but that's all. – Graham Mar 19 '18 at 18:14
  • @Graham I would not agree. They're not super-intelligent in the rather simplistic sense of Odd John (or more recently that Lucy film), but the second half of the story is basically about the contrast between them and the small-mindedness of the 'little folk' like Caterham. It may be a metaphor for HGW's criticisms of the England of his period, but I've just re-skimmed it (gutenberg.org/cache/epub/11696/pg11696.txt) and I'd still say it's there. I can't find the part about the brain size though; I may be confusing that with another story. – tardigrade Mar 21 '18 at 11:21
  • I think it's partly metaphor and partly a fantasy thought experiment of "change what's familiar to us". I don't see the leaders of the giants talking any differently from how their parents talk, or how Wells has other leaders talk. The giant Caddles, born to lower-class parents, is clearly curious but not highly intelligent. – Graham Mar 21 '18 at 14:07
  • @Graham Yes, I don't feel particularly strongly either way - happy to remove it completely if you want. At the same time, I wouldn't want to do so because the story is "partly metaphor and partly a fantasy thought experiment" since that's basically the definition of SF ;) – tardigrade Mar 21 '18 at 15:38
  • 1
    Agreed on SF. :) It's important to remember how deeply ingrained in class Wells was though. However important his lower-class characters (Kipps, Polly) may be, Wells never grants his lower-class characters the intelligence to really achieve anything or to move out of their class. The leaders of the giants are all children of the upper class (or at least upper-middle), because for Wells they're the only people with true agency and intelligence. We can't really compare them to Wells's image of lower-class everyday humans which is generally rather two-dimensional at best. – Graham Mar 21 '18 at 16:28

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