Friday, 5 April 2013


James Blish states in the Foreword to Mission To The Heart Stars (London, 1980) that this juvenile science fiction novel addresses "...the future of individual human freedom in a high-energy culture..." (p. 9). In such a society, he says, the pace of events accelerates requiring quicker decision-making. Therefore, power is concentrated in the hands of fewer people, many of them unknown to the public, and the time in which a decision can be made is shortened. Thus, the few executives and technicians are unable to consult the public.

"Furthermore, in a novel nobody expects or even welcomes blanket answers." (p. 10)

- so he was able simply discuss the question without prescribing any single solution.

It emerges that the Heart Stars, by subordinating all other values to mere social stability or stasis, have got it wrong and that the UN world government, at least according to the juvenile hero's mentor, Dr Langer, seems to be getting it right.

"'An unstable culture and a short lifetime are both positive goods - not handicaps...'" (p. 123)

Longevity can mean wisdom but can also mean stagnation or senility.

The UN has restricted the rights to vote and to procreate to the employed [now a minority], thus ensuring, in a complex technological society, an intelligent electorate while limiting "'...the multiplication of the incompetent...'" and the cadet system "'...keep[s] the talent pipelines filled...'" (p. 101). Langer calls this a "post-civilization," dynamic equilibrium or "'...experiment in world control of people's lives...'" which "'...preserve[s]...the freedom to be dissident in one's own mind...'" (p. 102).

I don't see that it does. Control preserves freedom? What good is it to be "dissident" if most of us cannot express our dissidence even by voting? Also, there are socioeconomic ways to encourage birth control other than merely denying the right to procreate. However, I welcome Blish's discussion of these issues in a juvenile sf novel.

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