the man behind the curtain of sci-fi

‘echo round his bones’ by Thomas M. Disch (1967)

“And it was all fakery, mere public relations and stagecraft. The jump to Mars could have been made with the equivalent of four tin cans of electronic hardware and a power source no greater than would have been available from a wall socket. The lights winked only for the photographers from Life; the air hummed so that visiting Congressmen might be persuaded that the nation was getting its money’s worth. The whole set had been designed not by any engineer but by Emily Golden, who had also done the sets a decade before for Kubrick’s Brave New World.” (p. 18)

I found the above quoted passage interesting because it felt like there was someone (Disch?) behind the curtain manipulating the story for his own purposes rather than letting me better understand how certain technical things I was interested in worked; but maybe that’s any author’s prerogative. I didn’t feel manipulated, just occasionally lost until I went back and reread certain parts so that I could pull the science out of the action that was taking place to try to better understand it.

Set in 1990 with a backdrop storyline of tense, nuclear brinkmanship type relations between the U.S. and Russia, the fictional mention of what has to be a Stanley Kubrick 1980 movie version of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World seemed humorous. Kubrick had made Dr. Strangelove by the time Disch wrote ‘echo round his bones’.  Learning Disch’s hero in this novel was a Vietnam veteran haunted by recurring nightmares, I thought about Kubrick’s two real projects in the 1980’s – The Shining and Full Metal Jacket.

Besides the already mentioned Kubrick the list of real-life character Disch refers to or attempts to quote in his novel is impressive: Oswald Spengler, Albert Camus, Dean Rusk, Offenback (Tales of Hoffman), Hemingway, A.A. Milne and Shakespeare. (not that I recall them all)

“before we can talk about right and wrong we must learn about true and false” (p. 83)

“the greatest guarantee that a thing will be done is simply the knowledge that it is possible” (p. 97)


About Marcus

Who me? Introverted, neurotic, self-absorbed, increasingly cynical observer of human nature and part time social critic in hiding. Most of my life spent avoiding growing up. The naive idealistic passions of youth have evolved into the eclectic eccentricities of adulthood. Northeast Florida small-town native, related to people I can't relate to. Simultaneously my own best friend and worst enemy. Politically and spiritually unaffiliated, my personal ideologies put me all over the map or off it completely.
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