mutant n.

a being that has arisen by genetic mutation, esp. one with freakish or exceptional anatomy, abilities, etc.

SF Encyclopedia

  • 1934 N. Schachner 100th Generation in Astounding Stories 94/1 page image Nat Schachner bibliography

    Evolution had done its worst as far as he was concerned. Everything about him was unhuman, from the tough warty skin that inclosed him, through the rubbery dangling fingers…. Lorn must have been a mutant, somewhere in the earlier generations, that had bred true and increased its divergence from generation to generation.

  • 1936 S. G. Weinbaum Proteus Island in Astounding Stories Aug. 107/2 page image Stanley G. Weinbaum bibliography

    Was this girl, too, a mutant, a variant of some species other than human, who had through mere chance adopted a perfect human form?

  • 1938 ‘S. Lane’ Niedbalski’s Mutant in Astounding Science-Fiction May 133/1 page image Clifton B. Kruse bibliography

    I am what you have made me—the ultimate of that one sensitive mutant.

  • 1938 ‘S. Lane’ Niedbalski’s Mutant in Astounding Science-Fiction May 137/2 page image Clifton B. Kruse bibliography

    And yet I have, even in age, one source of joy. Man no longer calls me the ‘strange mutant’. My card reads simply: ‘Niedbalski’—the name of the man I love.

  • 1938 E. Hamilton He That Hath Wings in Weird Tales July 72/1 page image Edmond Hamilton

    Muller, of the University of Texas, has demonstrated that gene-patterns can be greatly altered by radiation, and that the offspring of parents so treated will differ greatly from their parents in bodily form. That accident produced an entirely new gene-pattern in the parents of this child, one which developed their child into a winged human. He’s what biologists technically call a mutant.

  • 1947 ‘L. Padgett’ Tomorrow and Tomorrow in Astounding Science-Fiction Jan. 29/2 page image Henry Kuttner C. L. Moore bibliography

    Was it possible that he, himself, might be a latent mutant? And that the mutation could become dominant under certain conditions—and use supranormal powers?

  • 1955 ‘J. Wyndham’ Chrysalids ii. 21

    A number of wooden panels with sayings…burnt into them… Blessed is the norm, and… Watch thou for the mutant!

  • 1965 J. Brunner Altar at Asconel in Worlds of If 32/1 page image John Brunner bibliography

    We have a girl here who can apparently read minds—a mutant, obviously.

  • 1982 J. Saul God Project (1986) xviii. 289

    He was something else, something she was unfamiliar with. A mutant.

  • 1992 L. Niven & S. Barnes California Voodoo Game iii. 35

    For fifty years squatters had haunted MIMIC. They ate whatever they could find in its cupboards, sold whatever they could scavenge. It was squatters who had promoted the myth of radiation-spawned mutants.

  • 2003 New Yorker 12 May 112/1

    The first film…concerned a team of ‘mutants’—creatures who, more often than not, resemble human beings, but each of whom possesses an unusual or protuberant talent.

  • 2019 N. Okorafor & V. Ayala Living Memory in Shuri (#10) Sept. (unpaged) Nnedi Okorafor

    ‘Shuri, look! I can literally read the stories in the Djalia through my hands! I never knew my mutant powers could do something like this!’ ‘I’m glad you’ve finally found yourself, Muti, but we’ve got more immediate concerns!’ ‘Right, right. Giant space bug.’

Research requirements

antedating 1934

Earliest cite

Nat Schachner, in Astounding

Research History
Mike Christie found a 1943 cite from Fritz Leiber.
Kevin Wald then found a reference to a May 1938 story called "Niedbalski's Mutant", by Spencer Lane, and Mike Christie then found more citations in that story.
Sue Surova found a cite in a reprint of Edmond Hamilton's "He That Hath Wings"; the OED verified this in the July 1938 original in "Weird Tales".
Cory Panshin located a reference in John Campbell's editorial in the January 1938 Astounding. This usage is figurative, rather than direct, and we would still like other cites antedating the Hamilton or Lane stories.
Jesse Sheidlower found a 1934 cite from Nat Schachner, and a 1936 cite from Stanley Weinbaum, both in Astounding.

Earliest cite in OED2 was 1954 in the sf sense: updated June 2003 to 1938.

Last modified 2021-01-07 03:09:10
In the compilation of some entries, HDSF has drawn extensively on corresponding entries in OED.