Sunday, September 4, 2016

Science-fiction predicts Trump's wall (sort of)

Science-fiction generally does a fairly poor job of literally predicting the future, Arthur C Clarke aside. However, as a literature of ideas, it throws out so many possibilities that eventually some of them wind up coming true in unexpected ways.

Take Donald Trump's proposed wall across the US/Mexico border: yep, SF got there first in 1973.

John Sladek's intention in his short story The Great Wall of Mexico (included in the anthology pictured above) is clearly satirical. The only reason this fictional President approves the proposed wall is to placate a General with no sense of humour. The story itself is a bureaucratic farce encased in a dystopian future gift-wrapped in Lewis Carroll non-sense, which having read the whole collection may well be Sladek's default mode.

At one point, a captain in the military is wheeled on stage to explain the rationale for the wall. He talks of immigrants 'stealing away American jobs', explaning 'that the Wall was a population barrier. While our own population was increasing at a reasonable rate, that of Mexico was completely out of control.'

He continues: "Poverty and its handmaidens, crime and vice, are spreading across the nation like cancer. They have one source: Spanish America!"

Let's be clear that Sladek's work is no exercise in precognition. And that noting similarities in and differences between fictional and actual rhetoric around the wall would be another post in its own right and an exercise I have no appetite for today. 

So I'll simply express both my wonder at the potential of science-fiction and my sorrow that yesterday's satire finds unexpected currency today.

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