Sep 8, 2015

The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet

When I first moved to L.A. in 1985, I met 40-year old David Cameron, a lawyer involved with historic preservation and gay politics -- and a connection to my earliest childhood.

When he was nine years old, he asked his mother to write a story for him and his best friend, Chuck Fabian, about a "little planet just their size."

The result was The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet (1954), one of the first books I read on my own (another was The Spaceship Under the Apple Tree), a fascinating evocation of the world of a gay child whose gayness is known but not yet consciously acknowledged.

David becomes David Topman, "tall and quick, with freckles and sun-bleached brown hair that flopped over his eyebrows."  Chuck became Chuck Masterson (the gay S&M references obviously unintentional), "shorter and squarer with brown skin and dark hair."

Their call to adventure is a newspaper ad for boys to build a space ship.  They build one, and deliver it to an odd little man named Mr. Bass, who lives in an observatory on the outskirts of town. Soon all three are en route to his home planet, Basidium, which orbits the Earth at a distance of 50,000 miles (a lot closer than the Moon), for some clever critiques of modern bureaucracy and a crisis to resolve.

When I was very young, I found in Mushroom Planet "a good place," a precursor to Earthfasts,  The Tripods, or The Lord of the Rings.




1. Everyone insisted on misunderstanding the boys I liked, calling them "buddies" rather than boyfriends.  But in Mushroom Planet, no one mistakes David and Chuck for buddies.  They are most obviously partners, with a bond that is unstated but as strong as any true love. There is no question but that they will be together forever.

2. Everyone insisted on misunderstanding my friendships with girls, calling them "girlfriends" rather than buddies.  But in Mushroom Planet, no girls are gazed at, thought of, or even mentioned, except for the boys' mothers.  The planet Basidium is occupied entirely by little men (later we discover that they reproduce through spores, like mushrooms).

I didn't realize at the time that there were sequels: Stowaway to the Mushroom Planet, Mr. Bass's Planetoid, A Mystery for Mr. Bass, Time and Mr. Bass.  The boys grow older, and the plotlines more elaborate and mature.  But through it all, Basidium remains a good place.