SF from the past

As some of you know, “Guaranteed Delivery” was posted to Splinter Universe in September. It’s a story about leadership, and fame, among other things, and generated a comment from od_mind, over in the Splinterverse discussion group, in which he comments that the story reminds him of Walter Jon Williams’ Drake Maijstral novels, which also deal with leadership, and fame.

First, if you haven’t read the Drake Maijstral series, you should do so — most especially you should do so if you’re a fan of Alexei Panshin’s Anthony Villiers’ novels. Walter’s books are just newly available as ebooks from Amazon and BN.

Second, the notion of a society that runs on fame and ratings and an aristocracy that is more or less always on camera. . .isn’t original with Walter, either. (This isn’t a complaint; it’s an observation. It’s not at all uncommon for writers to riff off of each other’s ideas, or for authors to be caught by the same phenomenon, and to write a story about whatever it is. The stories will be different, even very different. It’s only part of what makes the writing gig so much fun.)

Anyhow. Back in the late sixties and early 70s, when I was stuffing my head full of every bit of fiction I could put my eyes on, I read a whole run of older SF stories about what we would now call Reality TV. A young woman — usually it was a young woman — was followed constantly by a camera, her life projected for millions to watch.

Some of the stories questioned the ethics of the show’s producers introducing “plot devices” in order to shore up sagging ratings when life got too placid. Other stories wanted to talk about what happened to a star when she got old, (and of course ugly) and had to be replaced by a younger (prettier) girl, in order for the show to hold audience interest.

Then, of course, there was Isaac Asimov, who posited “dreamies” — movies made by recording the thoughts and sensations of coherent dreamers, which were then mass produced for public consumption.

Moving up in time, now we actually have Reality TV, and Facebook, and Twitter and the rest of the social media, which encourages people to live publicly.

It’s interesting when science fiction is almost right.

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