Ed Driscoll

City on the Airstrip One of Forever


After paraphrasing Harlan Ellison’s classic “Demon with a Glass Hand” Outer Limits title for the headline of my recent blog post on the petulance of NBC, yesterday I watched the clip of the conclusion of that episode on YouTube, and came across, in the sidebar of related videos, this clip of Ellison on a Chicago talk show in early 1984, talking about if, as Apple said back then, 1984 would resemble Orwell’s 1984.

Of course Ellison said it would. America’s been a colony of Oceania since the early 1950s, explained Ellison, ever since Hollywood blacklisted pro-Communist screenwriters, followed by Tonkin Bay and Vietnam. (Lyndon Johnson had no idea what a hardcore guy he was.)

Since Orwell intended Airstrip One in 1984 to resemble a Stalinist England, Ellison’s statement is quite an interesting tautology. America became the equivalent of Orwell’s 1984 when its filmmakers chose not to offer jobs to those who desired the most to transform America in Orwell’s 1984.

Catch-’84. It’s the best catch there is:

Flash-forward from 1984 to 2014, and as Glenn Reynolds writes in USA Today, there was a time when intellectual openness “characterized much of American intellectual life. That time seems to be over, judging by the latest science fiction dust-up:”

That’s certainly been the experience of Larry Correia, who was nominated for a Hugo this year. Correia, the author of numerous highly successful science fiction books like Monster Hunter International and Hard Magic, is getting a lot of flak because he’s a right-leaning libertarian. Makes you wonder if Robert Heinlein could get a Hugo Award today. (Answer: Probably not.)

“Purging the heretics, usually but not always from the left, has become a popular game in a lot of institutions. It just seems worse in science fiction because SF was traditionally open and optimistic about the future, two things that purging the heretics doesn’t go with very well.”

It will be fascinating to see how those such as Ellison and others who thumped the hardest against Hollywood blacklisting pro-collectivist writers in the 1950s look back on the current period of anti-collectivist authors (and actors and CEOs) being blacklisted today. Perhaps their hysteria today might lead them to understand the hysteria of the early 1950s, and the backdrop of the nascent Cold War it was taking place in.

Just kidding, of course. We already know the answer will be a shrugging, “Hey, it’s different when we do it. Why? Just because. And while we’re on the subject, just…”

Oh, and speaking of Catch-’84:

Update: World’s Longest Modified Limited Hangout Concludes.