Thursday, June 12, 2003

50s science fiction

I reread First Lensmen by E. E. "Doc" Smith because I wanted to know what appealed so much to me when I was a teenager (in the 1970s--it was old already). The plot turns around a device provided by a superior race than can only be used by people who are absolutely incorruptible. I think the idea of a world where you knew who could be completely trusted was tremendously appealing. There is plenty of sexism, but at that time I identified easily with male characters. The device (the lens of the title) also makes possible mental telepathy, and the idea that what was hidden inside me could be known was appealing. Reading the book from my current perspective it is very funny from the perspective of the history of futurism--in the spacefaring world of the future the engineers still whip out their slide rules, and in fact "a computer" still refers to a person who does computations.

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