Monday, January 16, 2017
Choose your poison
Some of the writers of Science Fiction seek to tell stories of a positive future, where mankind has overcome the struggles of the present. Some ignore the present and write of the worlds elsewhere, to throw a different focus upon our norms and reality. And some use their words to question the present, using exaggeration to bring into full view areas of concern. Authoritarian government, Theocratic government or society, the decay of society due to nuclear war or pandemic all bring the fears and worries of the present into view.
Science FICTION is especially powerful as a means of inquiry. This is because the author is free to question the society and create the paradigms free from worries about hurt feelings, and the like. Fiction based on wide imagination allows the reader to consider the issues at hand, and then see them in their own life.
However the society presented in each book arrived at being an authoritarian system, they all have numerous ideas in common. A desire to achieve conformity of the individuals, the lack of rights, ethnic minorities and other smaller groups are often kept from full membership and thereby access to benefits, and there is always the implicit threat of violence should the society member decide upon resistance. Some believe that Nazi Germany inspired much of the Dystopic government stories, but it simply isn't true. Many of the great stories were written and conceived prior to World War Two. But it doesn't mean Hitler wasn't absolutely lock step with the template.
I've been told that the law of entropy means that Order decays into chaos. Society being order breaks down into chaos. In the Dystopias found in many of the books an event happened, chaos ensued and someone instilled order.
A great fear some people have is an enormous pandemic of killer flu or other infection. World wide germ warfare is one thing, that is human created, but, humans have not yet eradicated some horrific germs, and have allowed certain bacteria to become resistant to our antibacterial drugs. The world is ripe for such a horrible event, and wherever it comes from, it is right to fear it. The Last Man by Mary Shelley therefore is an amazing book, written before most people understood the power of germs, despite the knowledge of the Black Death and such. She was first among the many the Science fiction authors to tell a story where the earth is quickly, and brutally depopulated. It would happen quickly, and when finished, society would be hard pressed to continue, in any meaningful fashion.
And then there was, THE BOMB. Since World War Two the fear of nuclear war, accidental war, nuclear plants having accidents, and more. The idea of the power of atom held in the hands humans is a bit worrisome. Having the power of the atom and thousands of warheads scares me and a lot of other people. Science fiction looks at it all in many varieties of ways, none of which are frivolous, none of which are foolish, and none feel wrong. Nevil Shute's ON THE BEACH is a book that brings the focus down to life's smallest point, how do you want to die, since we are all going to die. If anyone thinks it is at all not perfect, I'll eat their hat. The point to all the books is not that WE WIN! but that, in the Nuclear Age, use of these weapons means, WE LOSE, THEY LOSE, WE ALL LOSE!