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Elektro (Monsterbus p.426)

This is Kirby the prophet at his purest! This story is unique, and very interesting. It's not a regular story, it's a message. All realism is rejected* in order to have the clearest, simplest message possible: if we make something smarter than ourselves then it will control us. Kirby seems determined that nobody should miss the message. He dispenses with the usual layers and science. The creature is created by a magical flash and finally defeated by effectively flipping  a switch. How he was made and how defeated is not important. Even the things he does are not important: in effect he can do anything. The message is that we cannot understand or control him.

This is the most common warning in all Kirby stories, the Frankenstein message, and Kirby does not want the slightest ambiguity. Elektro is not out to entertain us, he is out to warn us, in a way that nobody can miss: do not create things more intelligent than human!!!!!

Even the name of Elektro is prophetic. Electricity can perform any miracle imaginable: an understanding of electricity has the widest impact. And crucially, our own brains run on electricity. Kirby understood the big picture.

*Why? And why now?

The lack of layers or realism made me wonder if Lee had written this. But Lee stories are not big on ideas, and usually have a twist ending. It feels like Kirby, because Kirby has been saying this same thing all along, But today he dispensed with anything that might detract from the message. Why?

Kirby routinely followed the science news to create his stories. This one would have been written around August 1960 (6 months before the Jan 1961 cover date). 1960 is when the DEC PDP-1 was hitting the science news. It was prototyped in late 1959, and delivered to customers in early 1961, so 1960 is when  it was being hyped, saying in effect "this machine can do anything! Buy it!!"

The PDP-1 changed history. It was notable for a number of firsts: first computer game, first telephone hacking, first word processor, etc. Perhaps most important, it inspired the hacker culture, the culture of using computers in ways not narrowly controlled by their creator. This is the message of the Elektro story: as of 1960, computers can do anything, and can no longer be controlled. This is serious!!!