If one of the domains of science fiction is to extrapolate a present phenomenon into an imagined future outcome, the anthology of stories by husband and wife writing team Henry Kuttner (1915-1958) and Catherine Lucille Moore (1911-1987), Clash by Night, is an exemplar of the genre that has weathered time more handsomely than most.
Published in 1980, but containing stories that were already decades older, I lost my copy to the Brisbane flood of 2010/2011, along with hundreds of other books. To my knowledge the book has not been reprinted, and the authors are now largely forgotten in the Sturm und Drang attending the rapid, enforced obsolescence that is a hallmark of the internet-driven cult of the new. Fortunately I was able to replace this one recently, and made it my bedside reading for a few nights earlier this month.
In this small opinion piece I will give you the reasons journalists and bloggers are too slack or ignorant to table when ‘reporting’ on the reasons given by the Electronic Frontiers Foundation (EFF) and the Tor Project for opposing a ban on the American neo-Nazi hatespeech vehicle, Daily Stormer.
All the reasons cited by the EFF to oppose censoring the Neo-Nazi Daily Stormer web site by denying it registration, DNS propagation, and CloudFlare services are impeccable.
If the underlying premisses were realistic.
At the core of the EFF’s thinking is the assumption that policy and law in a functioning democracy should be the transparent levers by which unacceptable conduct is addressed.
US President Donald Trump’s prevarication on calling out white supremacists as terrorists and subversives resonates with the chilling 2001 BBC film, Conspiracy, about the Wannsee conference at which SS General Reinhard Heydrich bullied other representatives of the Nazi German hierarchy to accept the SS’s ‘Final Solution’ to the ‘Jewish question’.
By a string of coincidences I came across Otto Skorzeny’s memoirs again a few days ago. They are freely available through the Internet Archive as a scan of the book, and several execrable versions of the OCR. Worse, it is a badly translated, hardly proofread book, filled with run-on sentences, typographical and grammatical mistakes, missing words and inconsistent formatting.
But all that seems almost appropriate when considering the book as a whole. As an historical artefact and symbol of the story it represents. But more of that later.
My original online search was for Israeli counter-intelligence activities. This yielded up the names Dan Raviv and Yosse Melman as authors of several books on Israel’s espionage operations. One of the searches under those names offered up a link to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, featuring an article the pair had written about Otto Skorzeny, advancing as declassified insider-information the almost bizarre suggestion that he had been an Israeli hit-man! A story so bizarre, on the face of it, that it couldn’t have come out of Hollywood. And yet it’s an apparently accurate account of an Israeli mission to neutralise German rocket scientists working for Egypt in the 1950s and ‘60s. A mission overseen, among others, by Yitzhak Shamir, former head of the Mossad, and former Israeli Prime Minister.
Isaac Asimov, The End of Eternity. Originally published by Doubleday, 1955. The cover illustration is from the 1959 Panther edition.
NOTE: This book is now so old and well-known that I will not take any care to obfuscate the plot for those who haven’t read it.
I’m always on the hunt for bedside reading material: light and fluffy stuff that won’t suffer for being used to put me to sleep, but that won’t just bore me to distraction.
Unlike years ago, my bedside reading ‘stack’ is now just a tablet with an ebook library. That encouraged me to start duplicating old paperback faithfuls with digital counterparts. A recent spurt of acquiring old science fiction as new ebooks included a swag of Asimov. That guy was a factory!
By one of those synchronicities of action and interconnected information that others like to call ‘coincidences’, ‘weird’, or even ‘fate’, I had just finished re-reading the Cordwainer Smith short story ‘The Dead Lady of Clown Town’ (1964) when I happened to watch Cloud Atlas (2012) again.
I was surprised to find a similarity of theme and content I had not heard mentioned before.
The Cloud Atlas script is credited to its directors: Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer, and Andy Wachowski. That it is based on David Mitchell’s novel of the same name is less well advertised, as is the influence on him and the Wachowskis of mystic and/or philosopher Ken Wilber. In the segment telling of the rebellion by ‘fabricant’ Sonmi-451, cloned for slave labour, against a society she regards as unjust for consigning her and others to a less than human status, to be treated like animals, and killed off at whim.
Maybe it was always there and I didn’t see it, or didn’t care. Or maybe it is a more recent phenomenon. Perhaps a bit of both: it might have been that I didn’t care for the isolated instances of bad or missing judgement, but now that they are popular, populist, and even ‘trendy’, I find myself galled almost daily by their intrusive ever-presence.
In 2010 I remember reading about US General Stanley Allen McChrystal, the warrior monk runner, eating only one meal a day, and subsisting on four hours’ sleep in every 24. Rolling Stone’s Michael Hastings painted him as a bizarre figure, like George C Scott’s Buck Turgidson, or perhaps just as a consequence of Hastings’ antipathy for the military in general and McChrystal in particular.