Alexei Panshin's The Abyss of Wonder



    George Price: I found the values of Starship Troopers repugnant in themselves, but my main objection to it was that it reminded me of a Victorian children's book.  I mean, it was as much of a tract as it was a novel.  I'm pretty certain that the situation depicted therein could work; it's a very close analogy to a couple which have -- Nazi Germany and Stalin's Russia -- in that power is confined to members of an elite that is small compared to the population at large.  In fact, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union provides an extraordinarily close parallel, the main difference being the qualifications required for membership -- in Heinlein, military service, in Russia service to the Marxist-Leninist cause.  You can argue along Heinlein's track, certainly.  I think, though, you invalidate your premises in referring to aliens as "skinnies" the way Koreans were referred to as "gooks."  Implicit in this is primarily the preconceived intolerance which has given the Communists one of their major paths of infiltration into Asia, and at one remove the positively Nazi brutality which -- again -- was manifested in Korea.  A friend of a friend of mine was in the French contingent of the UN army out there and claims to have witnessed the herding into a cellar of orphan children who were making themselves a nuisance, and their burning alive with a flame-thrower.  (He's been jailed since then, for refusing to participate in something similar in Algeria, and is still inside.)

    On the question of objection to propaganda per se, in question-answer 1 of George Price's letter, I think the point is this (and mustn't be bypassed).  Militarism and racial intolerance have given rise to demonstrable evils, defined in terms of the values we officially subscribe to in a democratic society, and must be considered as having failed to prove commendable.  Propaganda against them complies with our official values.  This does not mean that official values are necessarily best or even good; merely that our ideals must be regarded as worthwhile.

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Originally published in The Proceedings of the Institute for Twenty-First Century Studies #138, December 1960.

Graphics by Kelly