In brightest day, in blackest night,
No evil shall escape my sight.
Let those who worship evil’s might,
Beware my power, Green Lantern’s light!!!
Did you know that this version of the Green Lantern oath, used by Hal Jordan and others to this day, was created by SF author Alfred Bester?
When you think of the giants in literary SF, who do you normal think of? Probably guys like Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clark, Ray Bradbury. What about Alfred Bester? It’s not a name you hear a lot but he was a giant in the field as much as any of his peers. He won the first Hugo Award for The Demolished Man. In his lifetime he wrote nine novels and 13 short stories. He was named a Grand Master in the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Writers of America (SFWA) in 1988 and was inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall Of Fame in 2001.
He was immortalized in the TV era by J. Michael Strazynski’s naming his Psi Cop character after him, played by Walker Koeing. According to JMS he was friends with Conceptual Consultant Harlan Ellison. From the “jms speaks” section of the Lurker’s Guide entry for “Mind War”
In a tip of the cap to an SF writer, the Koenig character in “Mind War” is named Bester.
The direction and intent and background of the Psi Corps is *very* different from Bester’s “The Demolished Man.” What may cause some of the confusion is that when I decided to name the Psi Cop we’ll be seeing, knowing of Alfie’s work in the genre in general, and knowing that he was a close friend of Harlan’s, I decided it would be a nice testimony to the man to name the Psi Cop Bester. There’s nothing beyond that.
JMS is refering to the telepaths that are in Bester’s story.
The Demolished Man is a science fiction police procedural set in a future where telepathy is common, although much of its effectiveness is derived from one individual having greater telepathic skill than another.
In the 24th century, telepaths—”Espers” (short for Extrasensory perception), colloquially known as “peepers”—are completely integrated into all levels of society. Espers are classed according to their abilities: Class 3 Espers, the most common, can detect only conscious thoughts at the time they are formed and are often employed as secretaries or administrators; Class 2 Espers can dig more deeply, to the pre-conscious level, detecting subliminal patterns, epiphanies and tenuous associations, and they are employed in the professional middle class—lawyers, managers, psychologists, etc. Class 1 Espers can detect all of the foregoing plus sub-conscious primitive urges, and they occupy only the highest levels of power in fields such as the police, government and medicine (such as psychiatry). All Espers can telepathically communicate amongst themselves and the more powerful Espers can overwhelm their juniors. Telepathic ability is innate and inheritable but can remain latent and undetected in untrained persons. Once recognized, however, natural aptitude can be developed through instruction and exercise. There is a guild to improve Espers’ telepathic skills, to set and enforce ethical conduct guidelines, and to increase the Esper population through intermarriage. Some latent telepaths are undiscovered, or are aware of their abilities but refuse to submit to Guild rule. Some are ostracised as punishment for breaking the rules. One character in the story suffers this fate for 10 years, leaving him desperate for even vicarious contact with other telepaths.
While the ultimate direction may be different it’s easy to see how the society Bester enviosened in that story influenced the development of what would become the Psi Corp. Aside from his achivements in the SF field, he was also a writer of comic books.
In 1942 two fo the editors at John W. Campbell’s anthology magazine Astounding Science Fiction got jobs at DC comics and convinced Alfred to join them. Over the time he was there he wrote for Superman, Batman and The Green Lantern. Wikipedia credits this info to Julius Schwarts 2000 book Man of Two Worlds: My Life in Science Fiction and Comics. New York: Harper Collins. pp. 67–68. ISBN 0-380-810514.
At the time the Green Lantern oath was .
.and I shall shed my light over dark evil.
For the dark things cannot stand the light,
The light of the Green Lantern!
This was during the Alan Scott run, although according to source #22 on the Wikipedia page about the Green Lantern oath, there were other oaths used during that time. The source listed is an entry from a blog called Dial B for Blog. From the blog entry...
With minor changes in preposition or phrasing, this was the oath the original GL used for the next several stories. He was first seen using it while recharging his ring in All-American Comics # 18 (Sep., 1940).
Though, as I mentioned, this was far from the only oath—minor deviations understood—that Alan Scott used. Here are the other oaths he used in ring-charging scenes over the years:
“Let the light of the lantern penetrate the dark places of ignorance and wrong, setting all minds right and overthrowing all servants of evil!”, from Green Lantern # 5 (Fall, 1942)
“I shed my light upon the darkness! Evil has no place to hide itself! Green Lantern goes forth to conquer!”, also from Green Lantern # 5
“My rays strike the darkest corner, banishing all wickedness!”, from All-American Comics # 45 (Dec., 1942)
“Let all power and triumph be mine in whatever right I do!”, from Comics Cavalcade # 1 (Winter, 1942-3)
“The light of the Green Lantern pierces darkness and mystery, and its radiance will strike at the heart of evil!”, from Green Lantern # 6 (Winter, 1942-3)
“As the green rays strike forth into darkness, so may all black evil be exposed and driven away!”, from All-America n Comics # 47 (Feb., 1943)
The best guess as to why GL’s oaths occasionally deviated from the “. . . I shall shed my light over dark evil . . . “ version would be that those particular stories were scripted by writers other than regular GL writer Bill Finger.
According to the blog, in mid 1943 Alfred Bester took over writing the series and created the oath we see today. It was origonally used by Alan Scott for the first time but Hal Jordan started using it as well when he took over . The oath as wrtten by Bester had the line In brightest day, in darkest night, but by 1945 darkest was changed to blackest. The unnamed author of the blog post has a quote from DC Comics colorist, writer and editor Anthony Tollin suggesting that the change occured when Henry Kuttner. The quote has no source and I found no match for anything when i googled it so take it for what it is.
... which is one of the key methods researchers use to discern when Henry Kuttner succeeded Alfred Bester as GREEN LANTERN scriptwriter. And as much as I liked Alfie (who gave me all his original SHADOW radio scripts) and love his writing, Kuttner’s slight revision was indeed an improvement. “ —Anthony Tollin.
No matter what, the Green Lantern quote is one of the iconic phrases in comics and we have Mr. Bester to thank for that. One last thing I found interesting. Per Wikipedia he had no children and left everything to his bartender. I found that very interesting and while i’m sure ity worked for him, if you have a relationship tight enough with your barkeep that he’s in the will, that might be a sign you have a drinking problem. Well that’s all I got for you all. I’ll see you tomorrow, here at Fact Of The Day.
Fact Of The Day is the daily column where RobGronkowski’sPartyBusDriver shares some random tidibt of science fiction, fantasy or horror knowledge. If there is a show or movie you would like to see done, leave a note in the comments below. You can see the full archive of past columns here.