Not This August (Christmas Eve) (1955) by C. M. Kornbluth

NotThisAugust1Russians don’t scare me any more,” he announced. “You know what I mean. I thought it was the end of the world when they came, but I learned. They’re G.I.s, and so what? (150)

Even the most right-wing of jaded veterans will tell you the U.S. military is one of the most Communist* establishments in existence today. Voluntary enrollment aside, the culture of state paternalism, restricted freedoms, communal living, and shared provisions differs greatly from the capitalist values espoused by the U.S. government. While not a perfect parallel, it’s a sharp observation, and a good reminder that no system is ever “pure,” nor even true to textbook definitions, but it’s an even better reminder that the boundary between the war machine and totalitarianism is a very fine line.

M. Kornbluth’s 1955 Cold War satire Not This August, also titled Christmas Eve, illustrates this idea by depicting a cold-war-turned-hot on the US-Mexico border, where a combined Russian-Chinese army ambushes the overwhelmed American military. The U.S. surrenders, but not before we catch a glimpse of pre-surrender American life, where occupations are assigned, production quotas are enforced, produce is redistributed, and all of American existence is devoted entirely to national priorities.

So, basically, the U.S. has gone all commie in order to fight the commies. Continue reading

The Space Merchants (1953) by Frederik Pohl and C. M. Kornbluth

TheSpaceMerchants1It’s a jarring experience to read ‘50s SF after devoting a month to the ‘70s. After a set of socially critical, sometimes psychedelic reads with Pohl, Silverberg, Dick, and Farmer, even a sophisticated 1953 satire like The Space Merchants feels stodgy and quaint. I often turn to ‘50s SF when my brain is tired of broody and sullen plots, because that Golden Age lightness feels fresh and inviting in comparison… especially when you recognize that every decade (even our own, omg!) has its own brand of whitewashed, gender neglect. Continue reading