time travelers

July 3, 2020

The problems we’ve experienced this year, 2020, are probably the result of too many time travelers arriving here and trying to fix things – because the future is one god-awful feckin’ mess, boys & girls.

On the surface, I was calm: in secret, without really admitting it, I was waiting for something. Her return? How could I have been waiting for that? We all know that we are material creatures, subject to the laws of physiology and physics, and not even the power of all our feelings combined can defeat those laws. All we can do is detest them. The age-old faith of lovers and poets in the power of love, stronger than death, that finis vitae sed non amoris, is a lie, useless and not even funny. So must one be resigned to being a clock that measures the passage of time, now out of order, now repaired, and whose mechanism generates despair and love as soon as its maker sets it going? Are we to grow used to the idea that every man relives ancient torments, which are all the more profound because they grow comic with repetition? That human existence should repeat itself, well and good, but that it should repeat itself like a hackneyed tune, or a record a drunkard keeps playing as he feeds coins into the jukebox…

Must I go on living here then, among the objects we both had touched, in the air she had breathed? In the name of what? In the hope of her return? I hoped for nothing. And yet I lived in expectation. Since she had gone, that was all that remained. I did not know what achievements, what mockery, even what tortures still awaited me. I knew nothing, and I persisted in the faith that the time of cruel miracles was not past.

Stanisław Lem
Solaris

Humans were still not only the cheapest robots around, but also, for many tasks, the only robots that could do the job. They were self-reproducing robots too. They showed up and worked generation after generation; give them 3000 calories a day and a few amenities, a little time off, and a strong jolt of fear, and you could work them at almost anything. Give them some ameliorative drugs and you had a working class, reified and coglike.

Kim Stanley Robinson
2312

Location

June 4, 2020

A car crash harnesses elements of eroticism, aggression, desire, speed, drama, kinesthetic factors, the stylizing of motion, consumer goods, status — all these in one event. I myself see the car crash as a tremendous sexual event really: a liberation of human and machine libido (if there is such a thing).

J G Ballard
Interview in Penthouse September 1970

If poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world, science fiction writers are its court jesters. We are Wise Fools who can leap, caper, utter prophecies, and scratch ourselves in public. We can play with Big Ideas because the garish motley of our pulp origins make us seem harmless.

Bruce Sterling
Burning Chrome


First sightings of UFOs in Northern Italy – you were warned!

Sometimes I think Earth has got to be the insane asylum of the universe. . . and I’m here by computer error. At sixty-eight, I hope I’ve gained some wisdom in the past fourteen lustrums and it’s obligatory to speak plain and true about the conclusions I’ve come to; now that I have been educated to believe by such mentors as Wells, Stapledon, Heinlein, van Vogt, Clarke, Pohl, (S. Fowler) Wright, Orwell, Taine, Temple, Gernsback, Campbell and other seminal influences in scientifiction, I regret the lack of any female writers but only Radclyffe Hall opened my eyes outside sci-fi.

I was a secular humanist before I knew the term. I have not believed in God since childhood’s end. I believe a belief in any deity is adolescent, shameful and dangerous. How would you feel, surrounded by billions of human beings taking Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the tooth fairy and the stork seriously, and capable of shaming, maiming or murdering in their name? I am embarrassed to live in a world retaining any faith in church, prayer or a celestial creator. I do not believe in Heaven, Hell or a Hereafter; in angels, demons, ghosts, goblins, the Devil, vampires, ghouls, zombies, witches, warlocks, UFOs or other delusions; and in very few mundane individuals–politicians, lawyers, judges, priests, militarists, censors and just plain people. I respect the individual’s right to abortion, suicide and euthanasia. I support birth control. I wish to Good that society were rid of smoking, drinking and drugs.

My hope for humanity – and I think sensible science fiction has a beneficial influence in this direction – is that one day everyone born will be whole in body and brain, will live a long life free from physical and emotional pain, will participate in a fulfilling way in their contribution to existence, will enjoy true love and friendship, will pity us 20th century barbarians who lived and died in an atrocious, anachronistic atmosphere of arson, rape, robbery, kidnapping, child abuse, insanity, murder, terrorism, war, smog, pollution, starvation and the other negative “norms” of our current civilization. I have devoted my life to amassing over a quarter million pieces of sf and fantasy as a present to posterity and I hope to be remembered as an altruist who would have been an accepted citizen of Utopia.

Forrest J. Ackerman
Another Time Another Place

Listen, are we helpless? Are we doomed to do it again and again and again? Have we no choice but to play the Phoenix in an unending sequence of rise and fall? Assyria, Babylon, Egypt, Greece, Carthage, Rome, the Empires of Charlemagne and the Turk: Ground to dust and ploughed with salt. Spain, France, Britain, America — burned into the oblivion of the centuries. And again and again and again. Are we doomed to it, Lord, chained to the pendulum of our own mad clockwork, helpless to halt its swing? This time, it will swing us clean to oblivion.

Walter M. Miller, Jr.
A Canticle for Leibowitz

On the cliff

May 3, 2020

Science-fiction balances you on the cliff. Fantasy shoves you off.

Ray Bradbury
Introduction to The Circus of Dr. Lao (1956)