Editor’s Note: Finney and others in his generation, as in all prior generations, have tapped into something common, something evil, something lurking in the psyche of humankind. Is it real? Is it imagined? Is it alien? Or perhaps, it’s right there next to you on your kitchen table, in those bills and bank statements. Read more about Voodoo Dolls of the Elite.
I Dynamo Body Snatchers was one of a number of books of the mid to late fifties dealing with the loss of identity. One by Richard Matheson was titled I Am Legend. Another was The Blob from a story by Irving Milgate. They were all made into motion pictures and because they dealt with a real problem experienced by the whole population of the US have survived in memory becoming ‘cult classics.’
Finney tackles the problem in the most direct and comprehensible manner. The problem was becoming apparent about 1954-55 when I Am Legend and Body Snatchers were written. It took a poet’s mind to see it. I am not aware of the date of Millgate’s story but as the movie The Blob was conceived about ’56-’57 the story is in the same time frame.
The problem was that the doctrine of the Freudian unconscious was beginning to subvert the American consciousness. Operative from the beginning of the twentieth century Freud’s views were accelerated by the mass exodus of Freudian analysts from Europe to the US during the 1930s. The analysts were concentrated in the US cultural capitols of New York and Los Angeles. After WWII ended Freudian doctrines were promulgated from the publishing capitol of New York and the entertainment capitol of Los Angeles/Hollywood.
The average American was A-bombed, literally, out of his mind by these doctrines which were alien to him. As Finney suggests metaphorically they descended on him from outer space. Formerly normal people were now pathologized as ‘sick.’ This was the era of sickness- sick humor, sick novels, sick movies, everything was sick. You were sick, I was sick, everyone was sick. No one was normal.
Finney caught the malady perfectly, and early, in his Body Snatchers. Indeed, the wife, the husband, brother, sister, mother, father everyone you thought you knew seemed to be someone else. They seemed the same on the outside as Finney indicates but they were somehow different. They were being taught that all their ideals, morals and beliefs were wrong. Thrown into doubt they had no real defences as these ideas had ‘drifted down from outer space.’ Authorities told them that Freud was right and they were wrong. Oh, they hated Freud as one hates any other oppressor because they had to be responsible for their actions but they gobbled up his fraudulent sexual theories because they liked that, they readily accepted that, as they were controlled from the subconscious, they should not repress themselves, that they should abandon self-control but they were no longer able to discriminate between good and bad, right and wrong.
Their minds were opened to all the wrong influences while all the wrong people were in control of the hypnopaedic media. Movies, television, records, books, magazines, and newspapers all directed them on to self-destructive paths. Thus in Finney’s sense a body snatcher grew an identical person with a different set of values replacing each.
In the book the Body Snatchers got no further than Mill Valley but in real life they captured or neutralized the majority while retaining control of the hynopaedic media leaving only a minority to resist. Matheson’s legend- The Omega Man. The battle goes on.
It has taken sixty years for the intelligent to begin to organize but as evil can never triumph no matter how close it may come, the tide has now turned. Decency will triumph just as it did in Finney’s prophetic novel- The Invasion Of The Body Snatchers.