Monday, 30 April 2012

Influences on "SPECTRE"


The word "spectre" has a literary history. Marx and Engels famously wrote, "A spectre is haunting Europe - the spectre of Communism." (1) Echoing this Marxist literary flourish but from elsewhere on the political spectrum, James Bond fought both SPECTRE and Communism. Ian Fleming, apparently fascinated by the word "spectre," used it three times. One criminal organization was based in "Spectreville," an American ghost town. Another was called SPECTRE, an acronym for "Special Executive for..." etc. A deciphering machine was called the SPEKTOR.  In Fleming's novels, the SPEKTOR pre-existed SPECTRE but, in one film, was re-named LEKTOR to avoid confusion with SPECTRE because that organization planned to steal that machine. SPECTRE wanted the SPEKTOR/LEKTOR.

My proposed SPECTRE is, like Marx's "spectre," Communist in the original meaning of the word and, like Fleming's SPECTRE, an organization to be regarded as evil at least by some. In this case, an appropriate acronym was easy to construct. Fortunately, "Socialist Party," or "Parties," is SP and it is easy to list the names of a planet and several moons: Earth, Callisto etc. The question of the precise meaning of the acronym gives some scope for deliberate misdirection about the location of Party cells. There is a moon called Enceladus and an asteroid as well as a moon called Rhea.

Future Histories

In Robert Heinlein's Future History, The Man Who Sold The Moon and The Green Hills Of Earth show the capitalist development of Earth and the Solar System, Revolt In 2100 shows a successful revolution and its aftermath, Methuselah's Children shows the flight of the persecuted Howard Families from the Solar System and Orphans Of The Sky shows a human community that has traveled far beyond the Solar System. My proposed future history is derivative both in concept and in content.

Poul Anderson's Harvest Of Stars future history shows the flight of free humanity from the Solar System when Artificial Intelligence takes over the System. In American science fiction, flight to the stars is the ultimate symbol of freedom although long periods inside a metal spaceship might be seen as the antithesis of freedom and it is no longer regarded as likely that habitable environments will easily be found on arrival. However, a community that crosses an interstellar distance must take its environment with it. I imagine the capitalist exiles as finding energy sources and constructing vast structures in the Outer System and in interstellar space. If they do reach a nearby System, then they are unlikely to find there either habitable or inhabited planets.

Heinlein's story about interplanetary exploitation is called "Logic of Empire." Asimov's characters experience the Fall of one Galactic Empire and aim to build a Second. Anderson's Dominic Flandry delays the Fall of a Terran Empire. Brian Cox in "The Wonders of the Solar System" on British television, poetically described the Solar System as the Sun's Empire. "Solar Empire" is an appropriate name for the capitalists opposed by SPECTRE.

Asimov's Second Foundation, building his Second Empire, applies a science of society to populations and a science of mind to individuals. In A SPECTRE Is Haunting Europa, the "science of society" is Marxism and the "science of mind" is either yoga or Zen. In the Foundation Trilogy, the psychohistorical Plan worked only if the population was unaware of its details whereas Marxists envisage the laboring population as becoming actively aware of its own historical role. The Second Foundationers' mental powers enabled them to control others whereas yoga is control of the yogi's own thought processes.

The future histories were presented as versions of our future. Space travel began in the twentieth century and continued in the twenty first. Since this has not happened, I envisage A SPECTRE Is Haunting Europa not as a possible future but as an alternative past. It is, or would be if it were written, a critical re-examination of earlier future histories.

(1) The Communist Manifesto. 

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