Saturday, 14 December 2013

Social Chaos

Poul Anderson's "The High Ones" posits a future world-wide Soviet dictatorship. Usually, a story with such a premise would describe oppression on Earth. Instead, we are shown how the Terrestrial regime affects the crew of a spaceship exploring another planetary system, although one crew member reminisces about his childhood in Soviet-dominated North America.

Reading "The High Ones" made me reflect on the social upheavals that led to the establishment of the Soviet regime - a tidal wave of world events overwhelming any group trying to achieve a positive outcome. Anderson conveys exactly that feeling in his Psychotechnic Future History and in the parallel text, Planet Of No Return.

The first Psychotechnic story, "Marius," begins inauspiciously for a future history. It is raining and cold and the street lights have not been restored. There is dusk between ruined walls where tattered people dwell among rubble. This is the aftermath of a World War III so close to the "present," the time of writing, that the viewpoint character, Etienne Fourre, chief of the Maquisard Brotherhood and French representative in the United Free Europe Supreme Council, had been a partisan in World War II.

Fourre's coup, described in the story, leads to the social application of the new science of psychotechnics and the Psychotechnic Institute's uphill struggle against mass irrationality is described in "The Sensitive Man" but the Institute is later overwhelmed by social upheavals that are meticulously described in four pages of The Snows Of Ganymede. In "Brake," a world in turmoil plunges down towards the Second Dark Ages.

No comments: