Tuesday, November 10, 2015

I like this post because it references an obscure Heinlein short story...

//I was fifteen, it was 1968, and seeking refuge from adolescence and the turmoil of the times, I often curled up with science fiction. When your world spins apart, you can find some respite in alternate worlds. And so I did – until one story wrenched me back to the chaotic present.

It was “The Year of the Jackpot,” in which Robert A. Heinlein stunningly foresaw it all.

The story had been published in 1952, but it conjured up the annus mirabilis/horribilis that I could see flashing before me every day: nudity in public, nudity in the churches, transvestites, draft-dodgers, cigar-smoking feminists, bishops promoting sex education, ludicrous lawsuits, a “startling rise in dissident evangelical cults,” and the Alabama state legislature proposing to abolish physics (not the teaching of physics, no, they wanted to repeal the laws of nuclear physics). Heinlein even predicted that weird antiwar protesters would be arrested in Chicago and disrupt their subsequent trial. In the story, a bespectacled statistician (they always wear glasses) discovers that all varieties of human behavior move in waves, and now (as he plots on graphs) all the waves are cresting at once. “It's as clear as a bank statement,” he warns. “This year the human race is letting down its hair, flipping its lip with a finger, and saying, 'Wubba, wubba, wubba."'

If “The Year of the Jackpot” resembled 1968, it also anticipated the crises we face today. Heinlein imagined a world where the climate is shifting, Californians water their lawns in spite of a historic drought, the government is broke and the loans are coming due, “zombie-like professional models become accepted ideals of American womanhood,” the Republican and Democratic parties split asunder, the old anti-immigrant Know-Nothings make a comeback, Russia and America are on a collision course while an “undeclared World War continues its bloody, blundering way at half a dozen spots around a tortured globe.”//

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