From Heroes Fighting Communist Space Dictators to Post-Capitalist Utopias

Well before the Cold War, even many years before World War II, speculative fiction writers saw and forewarned of the dangers of Communism. In Burroughs’ Tarzan series, Tarzan himself goes up against communist agents and assassins sent by Stalin on a number of occasions!

Yet by the 40s, after Europe had been thoroughly wrecked by two conflicting socialist ideologies, you had nudniks writing into Science Fiction magazines talking about post-scarcity society and proclaiming that once we were all socialists, space would be so great and safe that the notion of heroes fighting villains and dictators among the stars would be unthinkably silly.

Like Burroughs, Kline, who was by all reasonable standards a forward thinking writer with all sorts of progressive notions of tough, powerful and independent women, equality of man, suffrage, yadda-yadda-yadda, was unafraid to make the tyrannical evils of a space communist society something for his fighting man to topple.

Swordsman of mars

Originally serialized in Argosy Magazine in January and February of 1933.

Harry Thorne has been sent to Mars to act in the stead of a young Martian noble:

“As Borgen Takkor, you are, of course, son of Sheb, the Rad of Takkor. If he were to die, your name would become Sheb. As it is, you are the Zorad of Takkor. Zorad, in your language, might be translated viscount, and Rad, earl. The titles, of course, no longer have meaning, except that they denote noble blood, as the Swarm has changed all that.”

“The Swarm?”

Lal Vak nodded.

“I can think of no other English equivalent for our word Kamud. The Kamud is the new order of government which took control of Xancibar about ten Martian years, or nearly nineteen Earth years ago. At that time, like other Martian vilets, or empires, of the present day, we had a Vil, or emperor. Although his office was hereditary, he could be deposed at any time by the will of the people, and a new Vil elected.

“For the most part, our people were satisfied. But there suddenly rose into power a man named Irintz Tel. He taught that an ideal community could be attained by imitating the communal life of the black bees. Under his system the individuals exist for the benefit of the community, not the community for the befit of the individuals.

“Irintz Tel did not gather many followers, but those who flocked to his banner were vociferous and vindictive. At length, they decided to establish their form of government by force. Hearing this, Miradon, our Vil, abdicated rather than see his people involved in a civil war. He could have crushed the upstart, of course, but many lives would have been lost, and he preferred the more peaceful way.

“As soon as Miradon Vil was gone, Irintz Tel and his henchmen seized the reins of government in Dukor, the capital of Xancibar. After considerable fighting, he established the Kamud, which now owns all land, buildings, waterways, mines and commercial enterprises within our borders. He promised us annual elections, but once he was firmly established as Dixtar of Xancibar, this promise was repudiated. Theoretically, like all other citizens, Irintz Tel owns nothing except his personal belongings. But actually, he owns and controls all of Xancibar in the name of the Kamud, and has the absolute power of life and death over every citizen.”

“What do people think of this arrangement?” asked Thorne. “Do they submit to such tyranny?”

“They have no choice,” replied Lal Vak. “Irintz Tel rules with an iron hand. His spies are everywhere. And those detected speaking against his regime are quickly done away with.

“Some are executed, charged with some trumped-up offense, usually treason to the Kamud. Men in high places are often challenged and slain by Irintz Tel’s hired swordsmen. Others are sent to the mines, which means that they will not live long.”

During his adventures on Mars, Thorne finds himself assigned to be the personal guard of the Dixtar’s beautiful daughter–a virtual death sentence:

“It is a fatal beauty that corrupts our most loyal followers and makes traitors of our stanchest patriots. And today we are constrained to part with two more of our best swordsmen. They were her guardsmen, but they chose to let their hearts rule their heads. For such a malady, where our daughter is concerned, we have a most effective form of surgery.”

“What is that, excellency?”

“In order that the heart may no longer rule the head, we separate them. A bit drastic, we will admit, but it never fails to cure. We sent for you and this prisoner because we must replace the two excellent swordsmen. Our daughter, as you know, must be well guarded.”

Kline even lampshades the hypocritical ostentatious largess communist dictators indulge in:

The size and magnificence of the suite reserved for the daughter of this apostle of simplicity who would make all citizens equal, was astounding.

To the communist nudniks infiltrating fandom, this sort of slander against their perfect system of life and governance is unthinkable and intolerable and therefore must be denigrated as unserious and implausible and unworthy of consideration by Tru connoisseurs of science fiction.

Consider this letter to the editor of Planet Stories written in 1946:

All stories concerned with interplanetary wars, space piracy, pioneering, racketeering, etc., are taking for granted that present economic operations will continue unchanged. But, even today, the advances of science and technology are bringing the day close at hand when the method of buying and selling goods for a price, using money, will have to be abandoned, with a scientific method of distribution taking its place. And what effect would this have on the future! War, with the elimination of buying and selling, would cease to exist. As money would no longer be used, space pirates, interplanetary police and what-have-you would also have to go. Consider the exploration of a new planet. With machines doing most of the work, let us take mining as a specific example. The rough-and-ready drink-hard, die-hard miner would cease to exist. Educational standards of the time would be such that the staff of trained technicians required to man the machines would not be the type to engage in drunken brawls and fist-fights.

At the risk of sounding like Jeffro, SOMETHING HAPPENED!

Short Reviews – The Martian Circe, Raymond F. Jones

The Martian Circe by Raymond F. Jones appeared in the Summer 1947 Issue of Planet Stories (Vol 3, No 7).

The more “old” science fiction I read, the further the scales fall from my eyes.  While I’m at the tail end of Gen X, I grew up on a lot of 60s and early 70s psychedelic music by way of my parents (my mom is more oldies & classic rock, but my dad is still all about the weird and out there stuff from that era).  So, needless to say, I’ve thought a lot of things in terms of “the psychedelic 70s”.  Yeah, I know the 60s had its share of drugs and psychedelic rock, but it was the SCI-FI psychedelic 70s!  Hawkwind was in search of space, Good Thunder’s moonships were spreading their sails, BOC (NOT Boards of Canada, mind you) were climbing a stairway to the stars, Bowie was praising the supermen of the stars, and Led Zeppelin were singing about Hobbits.

The shocking truth is that Rock & Roll was a good 20+ years behind Science Fiction in terms of psychedelia.  Where would we be if Glenn Miller had demanded of our grandmothers to not drop LSD under the Martian Sea with anyone but he?  The Martian Circe is the 3rd story I’ve read in as many months from the 1940s in which hallucinogenic drugs play a significant role.

Tell you what.  I’m not going to actually review or talk about this story.  I’m just going to show you this picture and tell you to read it.  NOW, GO READ IT NOW!

Martian Circe

Short Reviews – Moon of Danger, by Albert de Pina

Moon of Danger by Albert de Pina appeared in the Summer 1947 issue of Planet Stories (Vol 3. No 7).  Note that I incorrectly labelled Mo-Sanshon! as being in the Spring issue.  To avoid further confusion, I will be including the specific volume and issue numbers for future Planet Stories short reviews.

Albert de Pina’s novelette is by far the best written of the stories I’ve read in this issue so far; though some of the hallmarks of deadline writing can be seen in “Moon of Danger” (accidental or intentional repetition of adjectives close to one another, rushes through certain sections and flat characterizations), overall it’s a tightly written and evenly-paced story.  Frankly, I’m surprised Fox’s story was on the cover and not this one.

Moon of Danger has all of the hallmarks of classic early post-war space-opera: chemical and atomic weapons, dangerous radioactive materials and threats of large-scale devastation wrought by high-tech warfare.  Mars has been ravaged by a radio-active biological agent that can quickly corrode metal; the last of the Martians have decided to pack it in, hop on the refugee ship and head for Earth before the last “Ionization Towers” give out.  The Martian effort is threatened by an Earth faction, including a mutinous Fleet Commander, who’d rather blow the Martians out of space than risk letting the spore plague reach Earth.  In an early twist, it’s revealed that the plague was unleashed on Mars by the denizens of Phobos, thought long dead for hundreds of years, in retaliation for the genocidal wars between the planet and its moon.  The ruler of the Phobians doesn’t care that those wars happened centuries before he or the current Martian Queen were born, he will use the looming Earth civil war over the Martian refugee crisis to force full recognition of Phobos as a prime federation world or else unleash his plague on all the other worlds.

Phobos has been hollowed out, and a powerful reverse-gravity generator has been installed at its core.  So, in one of the coolest “George Lucas almost certainly read this” moments in sci-fi I’ve come across, the heroes end up flying two linked ships towards the core of Phobos, delink from the ship full of atomic bombs, and before the bomb-ship hits the grav generator, ride the gravity wave toward the moon’s surface before the plant, Phobos and all the Phobians are blown to hell.  That part was even better than when the hero had to keep killing drug-addict Phobians with his bare hands while working in the slave fields cultivating bio-weapon spores!

It’s crazy just how little I can find out about de Pina; there are only about a dozen stories to his name.  I’m hoping that out of the dozen issues of Planet Stories I now have that there are a few more by him.  If anyone has any info on this guy, let me know!  Sorry, I tried my best to find either a scan or transcript of this one, but it looks like you’re going to actually find a copy of the 1947 March-May issue if you want to read it.  The awesome page & a half illustration showing Ric (the hero), Tal (a Martian scientist) and Praana (Queen of Mars) fighting their way through a crowd of Phobian slave-workers who are rioting because the rulers have been sitting on a huge stockpile of drugs sadly is also unavailable online.

batman diversity

In other news, in the last 24 hours, I may have convinced at least two people to check out Leigh Brackett!