In the Cold war years, fiction, like reality, explored the benefits and consequences of scientific discovery. Predictions of mutually assured apocalypIn the Cold war years, fiction, like reality, explored the benefits and consequences of scientific discovery. Predictions of mutually assured apocalypse became so frequent, many sci-fi fans were surprised to reach the 21st century unscathed. But the peaceful end to the Cold War was followed by natural and political tsunamis. Science fiction rang more cowbells of apocalyptic despair.
Recently, some close-flying asteroids and our expanding awareness of the fragility of life on Earth have given us a new imperative to explore space. We've also seen how fiction can inspire scientific discoveries. This has inspired some sci-fi writers to come out of the doldrums of dystopia, towards a new realm of possibilities.
Visions III, Inside the Kuiper Belt, edited by Carrol Fix, explores those possibilities. It's an anthology of futuristic stories, written by an international group of writers, set in the Kuiper Belt, a region of the solar system beyond the orbit of Neptune.
Why so far? Well, we are talking about space travel - go big or go home. Visions III is not always optimistic, but takes the position that humankind will have gotten as far as the Kuiper Belt because most problems have a solution.
This anthology, published when New Horizons and photos of Pluto were all over the news, mixes newfound reality with imagination. Pluto is heart-shaped but dating is still dangerous. People look back to the time before they were cyborgs, but love still matters. In this great empty, like in the old days of the pioneers, Beings survive or don't with faith. Leading others is still tough. There are irising doors, space stations all over the solar system, drag racing, wage slavery and repo men. It's still not nice to mess with Mother Nature. Some old problems are solved, some new ones emerge.
Carl Sagan said “we make our world significant by the courage of our questions and the depth of our answers.” Visions III shows that our greatest strength is our curiosity and innovation. ...more
A very helpful how-to book that's practically a bible for comic artists. My only gripe is - I bought the Kindle version first, and it was full of wonkA very helpful how-to book that's practically a bible for comic artists. My only gripe is - I bought the Kindle version first, and it was full of wonky characters and misaligned formatting. I had to buy the print version in addition to the Kindle, just so I could make some sense of the text. They need to fix the Kindle version - ...more
* now changed to a 5 star book because of newly-recognized relevance.
“It Can’t Happen Here” is Sinclair Lewis’ satirical prediction of how an All-Amer* now changed to a 5 star book because of newly-recognized relevance.
“It Can’t Happen Here” is Sinclair Lewis’ satirical prediction of how an All-American dictatorship, led by personable, patriotic deal-maker Berzelius “Buzz” Windrip, could rise.
Most of the story takes place in a small town in Vermont, and it’s told through newsman Doremus Jessup’s eyes. Jessup is an established liberal newspaper editor with a capable, unimaginative wife. His family and friends are a full cast of characters. Lewis wrote this when he’d just returned from Germany in the early thirties, and he saw a number of different reactions to Hitler’s rise. Some people saw the danger, some didn’t, and some enthusiastically cheered the Nazis on. I’d guess that some real-life reactions inspired his characters.
Windrip is an interesting villain. “The one thing that most perplexed [Jessup] was that there could be a dictator seemingly so different from the fervent Hitlers and gesticulating Fascists and the Cæsars with laurels round bald domes; a dictator with something of the earthy American sense of humor of a Mark Twain, a George Ade, a Will Rogers, an Artemus Ward. Windrip could be ever so funny about solemn jaw-drooping opponents, and about the best method of training what he called “a Siamese flea hound.” Did that … make him less or more dangerous?”
As a newsman, Jessup he feels the need to stand up for free speech and human rights, but as a social democrat, he believes that the system is sound. It supported his comfortable lifestyle, it gave him what he needed. It must be capable of repairing itself. He says “The hysteria can’t last; be patient, and wait and see, he counseled his readers. It was not that he was afraid of the authorities. He simply did not believe that this comic tyranny could endure.”
And, of course, he was wrong. Most Americans don’t think it can happen here. We believe our Constitution protects us from demagogue wannabes. That’s the genius of this book. Lewis shows us how a master dealmaker could wrap himself up in the flag, carry a cross for good measure and with the right steps in the proper order, shred the Constitution and our system of checks and balances.
Just in case anyone was looking for warning signs, the 7 steps for becoming an All-American dictator are:
1. Give them what they want. Doremus Jessup describes Windrip’s folksy appeal: “watching Senator Windrip from so humble a Boeotia, could not explain his power of bewitching large audiences. The Senator was vulgar, almost illiterate, a public liar easily detected, and in his “ideas” almost idiotic, while his celebrated piety was that of a traveling salesman for church furniture, and his yet more celebrated humor the sly cynicism of a country store.”
2. Attack first amendment rights. Encourage Americans to spy on each other. In the book, the problem started in the colleges where “Any member of the faculty or student body of Isaiah who shall in any way, publicly or privately, in print, writing, or by the spoken word, adversely criticize military training … shall be liable to immediate dismissal from this college, and any student who shall, with full and proper proof, bring to the attention of the President or any Trustee of the college such malign criticism by any person whatever connected in any way with the institution shall receive extra credits in his course in military training, such credits to apply to the number of credits necessary for graduation.”
Jessup recognizes this as “fast exploding Fascism”.
3. Attack the fourth amendment – claim that you’re doing this for security or our ‘own good’
4. Build up an army of goons from an angry downtrodden group. Arm, train and encourage them.
5. Make outrageous, clearly pie-in-the-sky promises. Use goons and fervent followers to threaten anyone who isn’t fooled.
6. After you’re elected, don’t follow through on the promises you’ve made.When people are justifiably angry, call the protests a “Crisis”, declare Martial Law and shut down all dissent. This, of course, is for our ‘security’.
“[Windrip compared] the Crisis to the urgency of a fireman rescuing a pretty girl from a “conflagration,” and carrying her down a ladder, for her own sake, whether she liked it or not, and no matter how appealingly she might kick her pretty ankles.”
7. Sit back, enjoy the spoils, and watch your back.
One Amazon reviewer from Soviet Russia noted that “It Can’t Happen Here” was forbidden in the USSR because Stalin’s censors knew that an imagined fascist hell in America would look too familiar for readers in a “socialist paradise”.
Whenever we’re faced with a boorish racist lout who encourages his followers to beat up dissenters we ask “is this another Hitler?” Maybe he is, or maybe he’s another Mugabe, Erdogan, Assad, Charles Taylor, Papa Doc Duvalier. But although America flirts with the lunatic idea of a ‘benevolent dictator’, it hasn’t come to pass because generally pragmatic and self-reliant Americans would not tolerate it.
That’s the central message behind “It Can’t Happen Here”. We can’t depend on the system to protect us. We have to act to protect ourselves.
Are we still self-reliant and pragmatic, or are we becoming like the characters in Lewis' dystopia? It’s not clear. That's why I recommend this book. ...more
I bought this book because I entered a screenplay-writing contest and wanted to know the basics. But it also helped me with the character developmentI bought this book because I entered a screenplay-writing contest and wanted to know the basics. But it also helped me with the character development and structure of the novel I'm writing. There are charts for the left-brainers and ideas for the right brainers. Very useful...more
I bought this book to look at the beautiful pictures, but also managed to learn a little about Vienesse & European attitudes during Klimt's lifetiI bought this book to look at the beautiful pictures, but also managed to learn a little about Vienesse & European attitudes during Klimt's lifetime. Definitely worthwhile -...more