The Jailer Mentality and Alternate Histories

One of the oldest entries in my “Commonplace Book” is from an article titled simply “Science Fiction” in the small but wonderful book Of Other Worlds by C.S. Lewis. I still own that book, but have decided to quote a passage via internet; I originally typed it on an Underwood manual typewriter in 1974 (it’s one reason for my deformed fingers).

people are so ready with the charge of ‘escape.’ I never fully understood it till my friend Professor Tolkien asked me the very simple question, ‘What class of men would you expect to be most preoccupied with, and most hostile to, the idea of escape?’ and gave the obvious answer: jailers. The charge of Fascism is, to be sure, mere mud-flinging. Fascists, as well as Communists, are jailers; both would assure us that the proper study of prisoners is prison. But there is perhaps this truth behind it: that those who brood much on the remote past or future, or stare long at the night sky, are less likely than others to be ardent or orthodox partisans.

A Pilgrim in Narnia reflects my own lifelong role as pilgrim and longer for other worlds. It feels like that “visit to the deck” when I go there. Science Fiction brought me instantaneous wonder one summer in Northern Michigan: 1963. In the checkout aisle next to the Snickers was this:

case.of.identity
Looking at the calendar to discover that it is the present year. Modern telephone on the wall.

It turned out to fit right in with Davide Mana’s Karavansa. Certainly recommended for those who have read this far.

Alternate histories locked in as a theme the moment I saw the calendar on that seemingly medieval wall. May 1964.

H. Beam Piper’s Gunpowder God provided precise detail on combining sulphur, charcoal and sodium nitrate. I was already combining every household chemical available to discover what the periodic table let me know about free ions, so I was among kindred.

gunpowder_god-schoenherr
Looking at the calendar to discover that it is the present year. Modern telephone on the wall.

Within the next month I had found a brown-paper wrapped Analog and the first printing in magazine form of Frank Herbert’s Prophet of Dune series.

It was in this mailbox on 315 Glenroy for firsthand accounts from the 50’s and 60’s. I still have the large-format magazines in mylar sleeves. They’re over there in the dining room. Make yourself comfortable.

Language, geography, literature and wonder.

And a recognition that our record-breaking incarceration economy and military armament madness destroys far more souls far more innocent than me.

An alternate history that does not press world armament manufacture and mega prison complexes loom in my mind 53 years hence.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s