Sunday, 7 April 2013

Politics In The Heart Stars Novels

One aspect of the politics of the UN world government in James Blish's two Heart Stars novels, set in 2050-53, emerges only in dialogue near the end of the second novel, Mission To The Heart Stars (London, 1980):

"'...we have done all this [managed an abundant economy, see previous post] without infringing any freedoms except the size of the family, and the right of the franchise. Any high-energy society is forced to do both...'" (p. 101)

Is it? I would have thought a high-energy society would be able to afford to educate and inform a large population with universal suffrage? And those are two major freedoms that have been infringed, especially since Dr Langer goes on to say that it is not just the size of the family that has been restricted. The unemployed majority can neither vote nor procreate. They have not restricted family size but no families!

No wonder Langer adds:

"'...I assure you that a twentieth century man suddenly imported into our century [potential time travel story] could only conclude that the most drastic kind of revolution had taken place since his death - and what's more, he'd be right!'" (pp. 101-102)

But such a revolution would encounter mass resistance and therefore could not possibly be accomplished either so quickly or so easily. The character "Sandbag" Stevens earned his nickname because he was caught up in one of the riots in New Chicago. I should think so. If people rioted, then they were obviously not as happy as Langer made them sound in his account of the high-energy economy. Riots are not natural disasters but confirmation of massive social conflicts.

Blish addresses important issues but rightly says in the Foreword:

"I didn't arrive at any solution for this very complicated problem..." (p. 10)

- by which he meant:

"...the future of human freedom in a high-energy culture like ours." (p. 9)

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