14 October 2013


Sliders: Small Town San Francisco

Am I the only one who feels uncomfortable when a lottery plays a part in a plot? Reading Shirley Jackson's famous short story as a child must have something to do with it, though I think Jackson simply tapped into something that has always been a little scary. Luck is so capricious that we often fear, with good reason, that it comes with a sting in its tail.

So where do we find our sliders this time?

And 9 cents for the celery!

The main cast seem to have slid into the ideal world promised by Quinn's double in the Pilot: there is no war, no poverty, no sickness, no pollution, no scarcity . . . The previous episode was about one person's ideal world; this one is more of a universal paradise.

There's got to be a catch, right? Well, there's definitely a cause, which is that the world's population is significantly smaller. There are fewer people on that entire alternate earth than there are in our China. And everyone seems really happy about that.

Now, the idea that having a smaller population (and therefore more resources to go around) would solve a great deal of our problems is iffy at best--but then again, this isn't what the show's writers are arguing for. What they are doing is pointing out that every great gain comes at a great cost--which is something for us to consider, inasmuch as many of us want to turn our world into this one.

We have pills; they have pops:
not much of a difference

Basically, you can't idealise zero population growth without saying that some people need to die. And if death is a condition of your perfect society, you may start admiring . . . and even rewarding . . . those who are willing to lay down their lives for everybody else. But it would have to be a very big reward, in which case more people than you really want to lose would volunteer, and then you'd have to be selective. Finally, to make this as fair as possible, you'd probably leave the decision of who get to live and who get to die entirely up to chance. You know, like in a lottery.

So let's say all that social infrastructure is already in place. If you knew for a fact that your death would mean a lifetime of benefits for all your next of kin (or a huge donation to the charity of your choice), would you try to win the government's offer of assisted suicide?

Or would you insist, as we do to desperate people in our world, that death is never the answer, no matter how bad things seem?

They're called "Pro-Lifers" in this world, too

So ends Season 1 of 90s SF series Sliders! I will start blogging about Season 2 after I'm done with my October/November Horror radio project, which gives you a lot of time to answer our latest discussion question . . .

Your Turn to Slide: Would you be willing to live in this world?


Belfry Bat said...

No, I don't think I would choose to live in such a world; though of course if I found myself in such a world, I wouldn't choose to not-live, either. Do I really have a choice in the matter?

I think the world we live in shows how poor the fanatical resource/population estimates really are. And after all, resources are worthless if no-one is willing to work them into goods; goods are worthless if they can't be used before they spoil/break.

Enbrethiliel said...


You're a slider! Of course you have a choice. ;-)

I remember reading an article which said that the best agricultural land on the planet is in Africa, which means that Africa should have the least number of starving people. I'm not sure if that is true about the quality of the soil, but it's an illustration of your first point. As for the second, it makes one wonder how many resources actually end up going to waste in a world of great abundance.

Belfry Bat said...

Oh, as for the quality of Africa's soil... Well, I don't know, but there's all sorts of other things for them to contend with — seasonal extremes, the largest herd migrations anywhere, the largest land animals, a huge variety of infectious diseases... all that before we get into human difficulties.

But we can be more specific. The best soil for agriculture anywhere in the world is in Rwanda. Or it used to be, anyway, before the Scientists had their scientific way with the stuff... it might still be good, who knows? But it's a mixed blessing. On the other hand, the best weather for agriculture is in the lowlands of India, and it shows in the way the grass grows. Some of it you could hide elephants in. Some do.