Ah, those were the days! “Two Complete Novels 35 cents”–remember those, the Ace Double Novels?
One of them that I do remember is Master of Life and Death by Robert Silverberg, a 1957 Ace Double Novel that was teamed up with The Secret Visitors by James White, which I don’t remember at all. I find it hard to believe I read this when I was only eight years old, but I don’t think I could have read it any later than 1959.
In this tale, Silverberg imagined a world overpopulation crisis in the year 2232–7 billion people on the planet (which we have already, in 2019, without a crisis) and the United Nations world government has to take really serious action! Otherwise we’re all gonna die, etc. Where have we heard that before? So they set up a Bureau of Population Equalization, complete with euthanasia and forcibly relocating people to less densely-populated areas, etc., and the protagonist becomes head of “Popeek,” as the Bureau is affectionately known, and inherits one helluva mess. Including a crisis on Venus, an embassy from another planet in another solar system, and an awful lot of angry people who want a piece of him.
What I remember most is being appalled, even at such an early age, by the whole idea of any government having this much power. Almost every science fiction novel I’ve ever read presupposes a world government, like it’s carved in stone, totally inevitable, better learn to like it. Now I wonder why. What is it about science fiction that gravitates to world government?
I used to read science fiction for fun, but now, looking back on it, I see it was filled with a lot of ideas that were either creepy, somewhat less than intelligent, or downright preposterous–or some combination of the above.
The Ace Double Novels are history, but we still have plenty of science fiction movies that are every bit as fat-headed as Ace’s very worst efforts.
I am always dumbfounded by how many stupid smart people there are, calling the shots in this fallen world, and by just how stupid they are. Really–is our “science” even real science anymore? We put men on the moon when our scientists used slide rules and a single computer filled a whole room. Now we can’t.
Herrick provides enough proof to choke a horse that in our popular culture, “science” and science fiction have merged into a hash of wishful thinking, unbridled speculation, and pure, unadulterated poppycock.
“When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school, it’s a wonder I can think at all” –Paul Simon
Well, Paul, I’ve got news for you: the crap doesn’t stop when you leave high school, and most of us don’t stop “learning” it. And science and its joined-at-the-hip twin, science fiction, are among the chief purveyors of culture-killing horses***.
Would it surprise you to hear that a lot of people can’t tell the difference anymore between science and science fiction? Some are not even aware that there is a difference.
Culture-killing, and stuffing people’s minds with made-up piffle that they wind up thinking is true, are serious matters indeed. I think I’d better post the review I wrote for Chalcedon, going into this subject in more depth.
And speaking of science fiction… Today’s temperature is a balmy Globble Warming 4 degrees!
See, they might be so profoundly different from what we expect, we wouldn’t even realize they were intelligent life. It depends on what “is” is. Like, for aliens that resemble, say, handfuls of sand and have a life-span of millions of years, interstellar travel would be no big deal. Anyway, the “top scientist” says we ought to step up our search for intelligent extraterrestrial life. He does not say why.
To look at it from another angle, we might be so totally different from them, that they wouldn’t even recognize us as being living things, let alone intelligent life.
This could lead to some really cool science fiction stories and movies–if there were still some really cool science fiction writers around to write them. C.L. Moore, James Blish, Theodore Sturgeon–ah, what you could’ve done with this material!
Anyhow, say the activists–great gloms, am I sick of activists–science fiction is about “advanced societies” which are bound to embrace every kind of aberrant sexuality you can think of. And that there are not enough “gay” characters in the movies–just try to guess what’s coming–“creates an unsafe environment”! What–no “climate of fear”? You left out “climate of fear”?
It doesn’t occur to these activists that maybe one of the reasons studios don’t like to pack their films with deviants is because then a lot of people wouldn’t go to see them. And never mind bringing the kiddies! I’m afraid the real world isn’t quite as enamored of homosexuality as the activists like to think. (If it were, they wouldn’t have to constantly resort to the courts to impose their agenda on the rest of us.)
Besides which, you twollops, this is Star Wars! So what if the Amoeba-thing from Zontar is “gay”? Like, how could you tell? Since when is the famous “Star Wars bar scene” not “diverse” enough?
But a day without making yet another new demand is, for the activists, a day not lived.
I’ll never outgrow Edgar Rice Burroughs–best known as the creator of Tarzan, but that was only one part of his achievement. Still when you write as many novels as ERB did, some of them are bound to turn out… well, not so good as others.
Lost on Venus–which first appeared as a magazine serial in 1933, and as a book in 1935–is full of stuff that reminds us that a lot of loopy ideas were floating around in the culture, back then. You can’t say they were spawned by the Depression, because they all have roots easily traceable into the 19th century.
Burroughs swallowed ’em all, hook, line, and sinker.
I’d say the biggest howler in the book is a single line: “Nothing is impossible to science.” It is spoken by an official in the city of Havatoo, a utopia created by rigorously breeding human beings, like farm animals, to yield a better product. This is the now-discredited pseudoscience of eugenics. Back in the 1930s, all the smart people believed in it. You were a real ape if you questioned it. But it kind of fell into disrepute when Heinrich Himmler took it literally and became the eugenics poster boy.
On Venus, as Burroughs followed the Progressive will-o’-the-wisp, there’s no religion because all the people are way too smart to believe in God, and anyhow they don’t need God because their Science has given them an immortality serum and they all get to stay young and beautiful and healthy forever. Yeah, right.
The best thing about the Venus books (Lost is No. 2 of 4, with a posthumously published novelette tacked on) is the physics and cosmography cooked up by Venusian scientists who have never seen the heavens, the sun, stars, etc., because of Venus’ impenetrable cloud cover. Absent these observations, what they come up with is simply astounding: and all of its contradictions can be resolved by multiplying all the numbers by the square root of minus one: an imaginary number, and a wonderful little joke by Burroughs.
Hey, wait a minute! Was he the sucker, or am I? Like, didn’t he just show that the whole Venusian system of science was based on a completely erroneous model of the universe? Was he having a long, long laugh at all the wise men of his day?
P.S.–If you don’t see what I’m getting at, try it yourself. Multiply any number by the square root of minus one and see what you get.
I think the popular culture is telling us what’s going to be the next big thing in crazy social experiments, once the transgender mania has run its course.
Today I received an email from a publicist touting a novel–apparently self-published–about some guy who has a romance with a “beautiful synthetic entity”–that is, a robot. I am not naming the author because I don’t want to hurt her feelings, and I’m not naming the title because I don’t want to be blamed if anybody buys this book.
This novel is science fiction, a genre which used to be a lot of fun but is now just a lot of twaddle.
The year is 2262. No way it’s going to take that long to get around to this perversion. The protagonist is a guy who writes comic books about superheroes. The thought that such piffle will still be around, 200 years from now, is a depressing one. He’s also “self-contained,” the 23rd century euphemism for autistic.
Anyhow, he falls in love with this robot and it gets a lot of fancy technical modifications “so she can achieve romantic love.” Oh, please. “Together they embark on an adventure that will change everything.” I’m sick of dorks who want to change everything.
So when they’re done beating us over the head with transgender, I think they’ll move on to pushing sex with machinery. It fits the pattern: this is even more ridiculous than transgender, and they will push it even harder. By “they” I mean the academics and the teachers and the media and the politicians who are always trying to change everything.
Toldja they wouldn’t settle for “gay marriage.”
Coming up: some evidence that, more’s the pity, I’m probably right about this.
In regard to the guy in Pensacola who crashed his car into first one shop and then another, saying he was trying to drive through a “time portal” (see yesterday’s post), reader Marge Hofknecht observed, “I have met individuals who take certain aspects of science fiction as the gospel truth…”
Yes, I know what kind of individuals she means. The kind who tell you, in all seriousness, “Jesus was a hybrid. He was half-extraterrestrial. That’s how he was able to do the things he did.”
Think about it. We have the vastest, most expensive education system ever devised by man, with more schools, colleges, and universities than have ever existed and millions more people in them, sitting in classrooms for many more years than is good for them… and what have we got to show for it?
I don’t even like to guess how many people believe categorically in space aliens, in super-intelligent ET philosopher-kings secretly manipulating history on earth, in planets where the native super-race is just waiting for the right moment to help humanity over the top, and on and on, without a single scrap of evidence.
We may not spend much time in the Bible, or in church, but we sure have time for science fiction movies and TV, comic books, video games, and all the other apparatus of self-instruction.
I’ve grown up loving science fiction. It’s fun. Years ago it was even more fun, when you had all those wonderful magazines like Galaxy, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Amazing Stories, Analog, and others. But we didn’t take it seriously!