Demon Seed: On Doris Lessing's 'The Fifth Child'

Episode 95 · March 31st, 2021 · 1 hr 25 mins

About this Episode

Doris Lessing's uncategorizable oeuvre reached strange new heights in 1988 with the publication of her short novel The Fifth Child. The story couldn't be simpler. In the England of the 1970s, a couple determined to live out a dream that many of their generation have rejected -- the big family in the old house with the pretty garden -- conceive a child that may or may not be human. From that moment on, the boy, their fifth, becomes the alien force that will tear their dream to pieces. Profoundly ambiguous and unsettling, The Fifth Child is a weird novel that raises questions about parenthood, family, and the impenetrable depths of nature.

Header Image: The Changeling by Henry Fuseli (1780)

Additional music: "Fast Bossa Nova: Falling Stars" by Dee Yan-Key


Doris Lessing, The Fifth Child
Doris Lessing, Shikasta
M. R. James, weird fiction author
Anne Rice, Interview with the Vampire
Weird Studies, Episode 67 on “Hellier”
Victoria Nelson, The Secret Life of Puppets
David Icke, conspiracy theorist
Deros, underground beings from the fiction of Richard Sharpe Shaver
Hieronymus Bosch, Dutch Renaissance painter
Weird Studies, Episode 86 on “The Sandman”
Slavoj Žižek, The Puppet and the Dwarf
Louis Sass, “The Land of Unreality: On the Phenomenology of the Schizophrenic Break”
Louis Sass, Madness and Modernism
Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life
Richard Thorpe (dir.), The Wizard of Oz
Frank L. Baum, The Wizard of Oz
Weird Studies, bonus episode on Adventure Time
James Hillman, The Soul’s Code
Doris Lessing, Ben in the World
Roman Polanski (dir.), Rosemary’s Baby
Richard Donner (dir.), The Omen
Donald Cammell (dir.), Demon Seed