Locus Focus: Take One Hundred Twenty-Three!
Welcome to Sightseeing in September!
As I type this, it is raining and thundering outside. Anyone trying to see the sights in my city this evening isn't having a very pleasant time, I'm afraid! But even Manila in the rain is superior to the setting I've selected for you today.
This isn't the most positive note with which to begin a new series, but it's the note of the only post that wanted to be written today. So I'm going with it.
The Marching Morons
by C.M. Kornbluth
There was the expected momentary discomfort at takeoff and then two monotonous days of droning travel through space to be whiled away in the lounge at cards or craps. The landing was a routine bump and the voyagers were issued tablets to swallow to immunize them against any minor ailments. When the tablets took effect, the lock was opened and Venus was theirs.
It looked much like a tropical island on Earth, except for a blanket of cloud overhead. But it had a heady, otherworldly quality that was intoxicating and glamorous.
The ten days of the vacation were suffused with a hazy magic. The soap-root, as advertised, was free and sudsy. The fruits, mostly tropical varieties transplanted from Earth, were delightful. The simple shelters provided by the travel company were more than adequate for the balmy days and nights.
It was with sincere regret that the voyagers filed again into the ship, and swallowed more tablets doled out to counteract and sterilize any Venus illnesses they might unwittingly communicate to Earth.
For an undeveloped planet that has only recently been opened to tourists, Venus isn't too bad. What it lacks in attractions and amenities, it makes up for in atmosphere. And isn't the feeling of being somewhere foreign one of the great allures of travel?
There doesn't seem to be much to write Earth about, but the travel company doesn't need to worry about word-of-mouth when it has got a huge PR machine humming steadily in the background. Indeed, all it took to make Venus the hot vacation spot of the year were a few casual placements in TV scripts and credible articles in widely circulated magazines. It seems that people will believe anything the media tells them!
Never mind that the media's last word on Venus, before this new barrage, was that it was beyond the powers of the space program. Rockets had been crashing on the moon--and you can't land on the moon, how could you hope for Venus? But apparently, you still can. When the characters of the most realistically-written dramas go on Venus runs, credible authors you've never met share fascinating stories about Venusian encounters, and your own doctor insists that "everyone knows" a trip to Venus is the best sort of rest cure, then you probably just hallucinated everything you think you know about those failed rockets. Yeah, that must be it.
But Mrs. Garvy is one Earthling who has to see Venus for herself, before she will believe that she has been remembering things wrongly. And though the text doesn't tell us how she resolves things in her mind, we know that the majority of her fellow passengers and the rest of the tourists who follow are convinced enough--and convincing enough--for hundreds of thousands of other Earthlings to fight for spots when Venus is opened for colonisation. And so the "march" into space begins . . .
C.M. Kornbluth's short story The Marching Morons is set in a future when the vast majority of people are so stupid that the only thing the remaining intelligent people can do to protect themselves is to provide endless bread and circuses to keep the mobs pacified and at bay. But Venus isn't a circus. It's a new idea. And a desperate one.
The Marching Morons is an SF classic, but I didn't discover it until this year. It makes quite the counterpoint to what is on the news these days, aye? I'll bet it wouldn't take much to get us to believe in "Venus." And no, I'm not talking about us as morons. I'm talking about us as the elite thinking class.
Question of the Week: Have you ever read or heard a description of some place that made you feel you needed to see it to believe it?
Image Source: The Marching Morons by C.M. Kornbluth