CHAPTER THREE Dystopia and Apocalypse SFU ca

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42 Dystopian Enlightenment, quickly dashed they did manage to provoke increasingly worried re. flection on the likelihood of nuclear war, That worry left its mark on the popular imagination through a. genre of science fiction that depicts natural disasters of planetary scope. the cooling of the sun the awakening of long frozen monsters from. another era collision with another planet Sontag 1969 Like the. threat of nuclear war such catastrophic events suspend the day to day. conflicts of human history energies must suddenly be mobilized be. yond mere political rivalries in the interests of species survival Written. up as science fiction the making of the bomb would be just another. example of the disaster genre with the conclusion left up to the read. er s imagination, While one type of postwar science fiction spread apocalyptic fears. another played on emerging dystopian anxieties Literary projections of. totally administered societies offered an ever more believable descrip. tion of America in the 1950s Television and generalized bureaucrati. zation while perhaps not quite as efficient as the techniques imagined. by Huxley and Orwell applied intense conformist pressures Dystopian. fiction reflects a new society in which the principal social cleavage di. vides the masters of the modern technical system from those who work. and live within it, These early responses to the new society were soon overshadowed. by anti Communist hysteria The dominant culture repressed open hos. tility to the technocratic trend in America and projected dystopian im. agery onto the Soviet rival Dystopianism became a mass phenomenon. for the first time in this twisted form replacing New Deal liberalism as. a popular interpretation of history, In the 1960s an attempt was made to cast the Vietnam War in the.
cold war mold with disastrous results Films provide a good index. of the growing crisis although surprisingly few were made about Viet. nam at the time Instead the real war films of the period were light. hearted spy adventures that enjoyed enormous popularity at the height. of the conflict The second part of this chapter analyzes the emergence. of popular dystopianism in these films, Their strangest feature is their vision of the Enemy in most of. them an underdeveloped society exemplifies technocratic dictatorship. The Enemy never employs the guerrilla tactics of the Viet Cong instead. it possesses an antlike army supplied with technologically advanced. weapons helicopters and nuclear devices The hero a Westerner is. captured and working from within destroys the Enemy s technology. Dystopia and Apocalypse 43, with his bare hands Here underdevelopment represents the power. of machines over men while the West is the haven of humanism The. viewers are encouraged to identify with James Bond in a guerrilla war. against Third World technocracy, The absurdity of this projection and the war in Vietnam it justified. soon became too obvious to deny Other strands in the popular culture. of the period focused on the technocratic threat in the advanced soci. eties themselves Dystopianism shifted targets and found a new focus. at home The rejection of conformity and expertise grew hand in hand. in this period as more and more Americans began to see themselves. as rebels against a rationalized order Advertising capitalized on these. confused feelings of revolt to market products identified with the new. individualism Meanwhile real revolt stirred in the rapidly expanding. youth culture The third part of this chapter traces these developments. The concept of dystopia implies the impossibility of escape in this. period social critique actually foresaw its own disappearance in the. face of the mounting success of modern technology Yet paradoxically. the notion of the disappearance of critique was a powerful stimulus to. critique and more than that to action Radical protest banished along. with communism as the cold war got going returned in a new guise as. the New Left was born from the mood of antidystopian resistance. AN END TO HISTORY,I suppose there s no way of putting the mushroom. cloud back into that nice shiny uranium sphere,Isaac Asimov 1972b 236.
S C I E N C E F I C T I O N IN T H E N U C L E A R AGE. Science fiction at least a significant fraction of it is the literature of. the other culture the culture of science and technology Its double. audience has always included not only scientists and technicians but. also the general public in search of diversion It communicates the ex. perience and speculations of the former to the latter representing the. scientists worldview to those who participate only passively in an in. creasingly mechanized society Bainbridge 1986 chap 3 This was. particularly true after World War II With the invention of the atom. bomb the dilemmas confronting scientists and technicians became uni. versal concerns,Dystopian Enlightenment, The late forties and early fifties were times of unusual literary activ. ity by scientists and engineers John Campbell editor of Astounding. began to encourage scientists to write science fiction prior to World. War II In the wake of World War II this participation increased dra. matically both in quantity and quality Stover 1973 The war and its. aftermath apparently struck some resonant chord that drew serious sci. entists and engineers like Fred Hoyle Isaac Asimov Arthur C Clarke. and Leo Szilard into the world of the imagination Indeed many of the. themes still treated in science fiction by nonscientists acquired their. current forms in the postwar scientific community, In the immediate postwar period American scientists were caught. in a contradictory situation about which they had ambivalent feelings. American society was experiencing a quantum leap in the concentra. tion of capital and the size of government The trend toward big sci. ence organized on the corporate bureaucratic model was greatly ac. celerated by the war its ultimate implications had become visible to. all at Los Alamos Greenberg 1967 chap 6, The individualism of little science in some ways comparable with. artisanal status gave way to mild forms of the corporate collectivism. conformity and alienation already typical of the world of big business. and government The old ideal of the wise and gentle mathematical. poet incarnated for many by Albert Einstein was replaced by the real. ity of the academic entrepreneur the middleman between a more bu. reaucratically organized scientific community and the government that. Thus the creation of the atom bomb traumatized the scientific com. munity by shattering its traditional self image once and for all Sud. denly the detached and obsessive wise man of little science became the. sorcerer s apprentice in thermonuclear power politics As Robert Op. penheimer 1955 88 put it In some sort of crude sense which no. vulgarity no humour no overstatement can quite extinguish the phys. icists have known sin and this is a knowledge which they cannot lose. Of course some scientists gained an immensely increased power and. sense of power from this change while most others found their ma. terial situation dramatically improved On the whole the new era was. well received and scientists felt their usefulness was recognized at last. But even so increased influence implied increased dependency and top. down control and traditional value systems and role models were sub. verted by the new organization of scientific labor A widespread sense. of wrongness in the scientific community was expressed in hostility. Dystopia and Apocalypse 45, to government control the new security systems worry over the b o m b. the fate of Oppenheimer and related issues These concerns appeared. metaphorically in the science fiction of the period which can thus be. viewed as a reflection of the problems confronting this social group. Kevles 1 9 7 9 chap 2 3, T h e physicist Arthur Roberts captured the contradictory spirit of.
the times in satirical songs which were widely circulated among scien. tists in the late forties T h e lyrics of one of them quoted here may. take the place of volumes of sociological analysis. How nice to be a physicist in 1947, To hold finance in less esteem than Molotov or Bevin. To shun the importuning men with treasure who would lend it. To think of money only when you wonder how to spend it. Research is long and time is short,Fill the shelves with new equipment. Order it by carload shipment,Never give a second thought. You can have whatever can be bought, How nice to be a physicist in this our year of grace. To see the scornful world at last admit your rightful place. To see the senators defer to every wise pronouncement. To fascinate the women s clubs and star at each commencement. Research is long and time is short,Drink your fill of adulation.
Glory in the new sensation,Never give a second thought. Sinatra holds a place that many sought, But have you sought a physicist and place for him to dwell. And searched the town in vain to find a vacant dungeon cell. Or tried to teach a thousand students who can t do a sum. The girls who d like to be Greer Garson finding radium. Research is long and time is short,Board the thesis drive the student. Physics was his choice imprudent,Never give a second thought. Brains are still a thing that can t be bought, Oh did you write a book on fission that you tried to sell.
Or wonder while you lectured what you could or could not tell. Or try to get declassified some nuclear equations, Or wonder if the work you do was done at secret stations. Research is long and time is short,If you find a fact essential. Classify it confidential,Never give a second thought. The FBI s approval must be sought,Dystopian Enlightenment. How nice to be a physicist in 1947, How long do you think it would take to learn something about.
uh butterflies, Like Roberts s song much science fiction of this period expresses. ambivalence moral doubt and anxiety in the face of the nuclear age. Of course the new scientific statesmanship also addressed the issues. of the day in articles and lectures on public policy But the political. leaders of the scientific community were willing to make major conces. sions to get what they wanted increased funding disarmament nego. tiations and so on Science fiction was freer to express the full depth. of scientists anxiety and even opposition Judith Merrill 1971 74. exaggerates only slightly when she says that in the McCarthy era sci. ence fiction became for a time virtually the only vehicle of political. Viewed in this light science fiction resembles the positivist philoso. phies of Saint Simon and Comte which at a much earlier date also. attempted to universalize the worldview of the new technical strata. generated by nineteenth century capitalism in opposition to the domi. nant values and institutions The popular form of this new expression. of science is clearly a ruse like the borrowed voices of Szilard s dol. phins through which alone scientists can convince others to listen to. their views on world problems, Leo Szilard s story The Voice of the Dolphins 1961 is in fact a. metaphor for science fiction itself It is a charming summa of the ratio. nalistic approach to world problems that fascinated many scientists. in the fifties But the voice of science is ignored until a group of re. searchers pretend to have understood the language of the dolphins. from whom they obtain the solutions to all outstanding world prob. lems from hunger to disarmament Szilard s dolphins are presented. to the public and accepted as alien and superior intelligences but. there is irony in the fact that these intelligences walk among us incog. nito in the person of scientists In science fiction too science borrows a. voice from literature in order to make itself heard and understood. MONSTERS FROM THE ID, The building of the bomb was the most blatant transformation of. knowledge into power in human history Those who accomplished this. technical feat believed themselves uniquely qualified to govern its ap. plications They at least could understand that a turning point in the. Dystopia and Apocalypse 47, human adventure had been reached A scientists movement arose. from the bomb builders realization that they had provided humanity. with the means to destroy itself despite their personal dedication to the. humanitarian mission of research, In the postwar years a constant theme recurs both in serious essays.
on public policy by scientists and in science fiction knowledge of man. has lagged behind knowledge of nature and the rift between the two. explains the apocalyptic results of natural scientific inquiry Man has. the power now he needs the wisdom to use it even if he must surpass. Newton in the discovery of new sciences and Socrates in the control. of his own destructive impulses The moment of truth has arrived in. which humankind will fulfill its highest potentialities or disappear like. the dinosaurs, Soon after the destruction of Hiroshima these sentiments motivated. scientists to call for the transcendence of national rivalries In 1946 Op. penheimer 1955 12 spoke for the scientific community in arguing. Many have said that without world government there could be no. permanent peace and that without peace there would be atomic war. genre of science fiction that depicts natural disasters of planetary scope the cooling of the sun the awakening of long frozen monsters from another era collision with another planet Sontag 1969 Like the threat of nuclear war such catastrophic events suspend the day to day conflicts of human history energies must suddenly be mobilized be yond mere political rivalries in the interests

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