Magicians are not supposed to say how their tricks are done, and writers are always boring when they talk about their writing, but I hope I have so few readers of this blog that no one will notice if I break that rule a tiny bit.
A reviewer called Math Guy (not his real name. Er, I hope) thought it odd (perhaps sexist) that your humble author portrayed a future where the first interstellar manned expedition contained no female crew. While technically not breaking the rule against arguing with reviewers, especially kind reviews, I did in my lawyerly way inch as close to the prohibition as possible, discussing the question in the abstract and inviting readers to comment.
A reader with the tumultuous yet iatric name of Doc Rampage, says this:
In most of human civilizations since the dawn of history, a dangerous exploration mission would have been staffed only by men unless they took along disposable women slaves. There wouldn’t even have been any discussion about it.
Math guy is just a product of his school system which teaches the socialist idea of history as an upward trend where each generation is more moral and closer to the socialist ideal than the last. Count To A Trillion clearly begins with a rejection of that idea, describing a future that looks a lot like history actually suggests it will look.
In the book, the modern Western mores have clearly died with Western society, so why would you expect that one particular more, sexual egalitarianism, would survive when it (1) is controversial even today, (2) is against the instincts of the sort of men who take power in anarchy, (3) produces a relative disadvantage for the culture that embraces it due to less population growth, and (4) is difficult to maintain in poor societies where no one can pay someone to raise their children?
Still, don’t blame math guy for the propaganda he was fed in school.
My comment: Let no one think I have anything but respect for Math Guy! He was kind enough to review my book rather than ignore it.
But I also welcome any reader who wants to comment on that one odd paragraph in the review, which reveals a widespread misconception, even a parochialism, that the classical liberal values in our society can exist without the conservative values which underpin them and gave rise to them.
Maybe I was being too subtle, but Math Guy and every other reviewer, all got that the cartoon my protagonist watched when he was a kid was an optimistic upbeat STAR TREK type show, which portrayed the future as one of shining jetpacks and a Gene Roddenberry view of life — progress and Progressive politics.
Now, whether you are a fan of Progressive Startrekianism or not, my humble book quite clearly in the opening scene, indeed in the opening line, establish that the harsh postapocalyptic hardscrabble existence of 23rd century Texas is not that.
The promises of science fiction were not kept.
Ergo the first interstellar expedition is not a comfy ship like the Enterprise, complete with good-looking astronautrices in miniskirts, but something more like a cramped submarine crossed with a meatlocker for storing people-popsickles. Worse, the expedition ends in disaster and mutiny — whether the mutiny was justified or not I leave as an exercise for the reader to decide.
I will at this point add an entirely gratuitous shot of a good-looking she-astronaut:
Make that two gratuitous shots:
In the interests of space-fairness and balance, I should add a photo or two of a real she-astronaut, just to demonstrate that the real ones are a good looking as the make believe ones.
You have probably noticed something odd about the above pictures of astronauts! Yes, it is true that in the future, all spacemen will be good looking and trim. Fat people and tall will cost too much in fuel mass to lift into orbit. Also, no guys will be allowed in space. We are too smelly and we litter, which is deadly in space. The innate male desire to cook outdoors turns deadly in a vacuum.
What? Were you only thinking of the race of the young women pictured here? Don’t be so PC, racist swine! Learn to judge people by the content of their character like Americans do!
(I should write a yarn where, in time to come, the orientals may provide the overwhelming majority of spacemen in years to come in much the same way that the overwhelming majority of brewers are German (or haven’t you notice that beers are named things like Stroh, Schlitz, Schlitz, Pabst, Blatz, and Miller?) without there being any sinister systematic oppression at work. And I bet I would still be called a racist by the PCniks if I wrote that story, because PCniks cannot help but attribute their bizarre race hate to others; moreso if I used clear and traditional word like ‘oriental’ instead of using a jabberwocky like ‘Asian American’ to describe a character who is a Nisei from Alice Springs or Equatorial Guinea.)
Back to the topic:
So, now matter how odd it seems to modern eyes to have a space expedition not be coed, surely it would have been more odd, given the grim theme of the space yarn, to assume the progress made by suffragettes and feminists would stay in place during the Hegemony of the West waned, an after a world war, the jihad, a plague, a dieback, global freezing, and a little Dark Ages?
The idea I want to emphasize as false and dangerous is the idea that egalitarianism can exist without republicanism or without some Abrahamic faith that all men are created equally as Son of Jehovah or equally Slaves of Allah (the same equality Christianity preaches, it gets from Judaism, and donates to Islam.) But even this idea is beside the point of the book, even trivial. The point of the book is that we are not going to have flying cars, not now, not ever, unless…
Ah! Unless what? What is required for the future to be better than the past? What is the source of progress? Maybe free energy is the key, or a world government that would outlaw wars. So I portray both those things, and yet, the price seems (at least to my viewpoint cowpoke gunslinger with the big nose) to be too high. Maybe high intelligence is the key, downloading the brain into a computer matrix whose intelligence can be expanded infinitely! So I portray two different forms of high intelligence, or even three, and yet the price, at least to the cowpoke gunslinger with the big nose, seems even higher. Perhaps, taking a page from Arthur C Clarke, the Monolith of Tycho can help us! Perhaps we can be Uplifted to become the Starchild! And so Rania by hook or by crook gets the resources she needs to go confront the ultimate intelligences beyond the galaxy. However that turns out, the cowboy is not happy with that price either. How will it turn out? Stayed tuned for the sequel, Eschaton fans! Things get worse before they get better.
I am hoping kindly readers will root for my (perhaps somewhat unlikable) hero, if for no other reason than he is not willing to let the optimism of the Startrekian future die off, merely because it has not happened yet. Indeed, he is willing to bet his sanity on his dream. I don’t know if that comes across to the reader in the book or not.
He thinks that the future is an adventure without an end.