Monday, March 28, 2011

Sensitive Artists vs. Astronauts: I Would Not Greenlight That Pitch

Back when science fiction needed to be justified as a pastime worthy of serious people, historian Robert Conquest did so passionately. Beginning in 1962, he edited several volumes of the sci-fi story anthology Spectrum with Kingsley Amis; he was a member of the British Interplanetary Society; and, I discovered when his New and Collected Poems (1988) came recently into my possession, he wrote light verse about it:
I. ‘SF’s no good,’ they bellow till we’re deaf.
‘But this looks good.’ — ‘Well, then it’s not SF.’

II.      Space exploration is not yet emotionally permissible. . . . To find the advent of the space age premature, and therefore alien and repulsive, is the proper reaction of any sensitive man.      (An intellectual, writing in Encounter.)

All systems Go! The countdown starts!
A universe attracts our arts.
Three . . . Two . . . But stop! He might get hurt
— That poor sod of an introvert.

III. These cardboard spacemen aren’t enough,
Nor alienate monsters, sketched in rough.
Character’s the essential stuff.

The truest fiction of our age
Spreads subtler psyches on the page:
Half-witted pimp, blind coprophage.

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