Post by Dan Tilque Post by James Nicoll
Armageddon--2419 A.D. by Philip Francis Nowlan
I had not read this story before. But because of James' review, I
decided to try it out. I made it to about halfway through the second
part before giving up. And that was after mostly skipping the info dump
about how the tech works in that future near the beginning of part 2.
There's absolutely no character development, even though there were
several places where there should have been some. There's one place in
particular where he gives what would have been a bombshell for 1929
audiences to Wilma and absolutely nothing was done with the line. There
should have been an argument between Tony and Wilma about it and there
wasn't anything. Perhaps he didn't write it or the editors ruthlessly
removed it. Whatever the reason, it really degrades the story.
Conclusion: this story is exemplifies why people who read literature
disparaged SF. With very good reason.
To each his own. "One man's trash is another man's treasure."
You lost me in regards to the degrading thing that should have been
a bombshell for 1929. Do you care to elaborate?
You're in good company, or at least /literate/ company, with your
need for character development. _The Art of Dramatic Writing_ (Egri)
also values character development.
The info in _The Airlords of Han_, the part the bored you enough to
make you skip it, is valued by me. This part of the story in particular
the atomic laboratories hidden beneath the forests, had
outdone themselves in [inerton rocket] construction.
Their release of atomic force was nearly one hundred
percent, and each one of them was equal to many hundred
tons of trinitroluol, which I had known in the First
World War, five hundred years before, as "T.N.T."
The "Trinity" nuclear explosion, which occurred in 1945, achieved
18-20 kilotons of TNT equivalent. _Airlords_, which appears 1929, does a
fairly decent job of predicting nuclear yields that were achieved
sixteen years later, under Top Secret conditions. Nowlan also specifies
an /atomic/ bomb rather than a /radium/ bomb. Radium seems to appear
more often in the science fiction of Nowlan's era.
Accurate prognostication is one of things the specifically draws me
to science fiction rather than the great literature that develops
(Great literature that develops character in more ways than one? As
in "eat your spinach it's good for you?" LOL.)
Science fiction's political discourse is another thing that draws me
in. This part of _Airlords_ provides me with food-for-thought:
"The Heaven Born has had a whim."
"And who," I asked, "is this Heaven Born?"
"San-Lan," he replied, "misbegotten spawn of the late High
Priestess Nlui-Mok, and now Most Glorious Air Lord of All the
Hans." He rolled out these titles with a bow of exaggerated
respect toward the West, and in a tone of mockery. Those of
his men who were near enough to hear, snickered and giggled.
I was to learn that this amazing attitude of his was
typical rather than exceptional. Strange as it may seem, no
Han rendered any respect to another, nor expected it in
return; that is, not genuine respect. Their discipline was
rigid and cold-bloodedly heartless. The most elaborate
courtesies were demanded and accorded among equals and from
inferiors to superiors, but such was the intelligence and
moral degradation of this remarkable race, that every one of
them recognized these courtesies for what they were; they
must necessity have been hollow mockeries. They took pleasure
in forcing one another to go through with them, each trying
to outdo the other in cynical, sardonic thrusts, clothed in
the most meticulously ceremonious courtesy. As a matter of
fact, my captor, by this crude reference to the origin of
his ruler, was merely proving himself a crude fellow, guilty
of a vulgarity rather than of a treasonable or disrespectful
remark. An officer of higher rank and better breeding, would
have managed a clever innuendo, less direct, but equally
"No respect for rivals?" Gee, that sounds identical to sarcastic
Anglo-spherical discourse. Science fiction often disguises political
plain talk as applicable to The Other in order to prevent the status quo
from getting its fragile ego bruised. That tactic ensures plausible
In regards to the above excerpt, how does an officer of higher rank
and better breeding say it? "Dropped from the clouds spawn" perhaps?