A Science Fiction Story That Predicted the Manner of Western Suicide
For years I've been trying to find a science fiction story I read a long, long time ago which describes the contemporary situation in Western civilization. And now, thanks to a helpful reader, I can tell you about it.
The story was written by the great Philip K. Dick, who has managed to become famous posthumously for his books made into films — Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report -- without people understanding his genius. War Game was published in Galaxy Science Fiction magazine’s December 1959 issue.
Now, tell me if you think Dick predicted his future, our present.
Here's the plot: The aliens on Ganymede want to invade and conquer the Earth. They have a clever plan for softening up the target. The main character, an Earth Customs Service investigator, is called in for an important assignment.
Ganymede, his superior tells him, wants to export three toys to earth. According to Earth Intelligence, one of them — they don’t know which -- is a deadly weapon. But Earth people are crazy for Ganymede novelties so the political pressure is on to import anything that isn't threatening. The investigator's assignment is to discover which toy is the dangerous one.
Most of the story is about his trying to figure out the answer. One toy is a virtual reality set -- pretty clever of Dick to imagine that in 1959 -- so that a child can wear goggles and equipment to believe, for example, that he's a cowboy.
The second toy is a set of toy soldiers and a castle. The soldiers advance carefully and eventually capture the castle, and it is transformed into something else.
The final toy is a board game, like Monopoly. The investigator seems to dismiss it as the suspect weapon pretty quickly.