I listen closely but I hear no evil.
Just the sound of cities crashing as they fall into the ocean…’
- 'Hear No Evil', Hunters and Collectors
Happy 37th birthday to Sandor! And happy 100th birthday, wherever you are, to Robert Heinlein!
I like the way Heinlein was game enough to build The Green Hills of Earth around a bit of Kiplingesque poetry.
We've tried each spinning space mote
And reckoned its true worth:
Take us back again to the homes of men
On the cool, green hills of Earth.
The arching sky is calling
Spacemen back to their trade.
ALL HANDS! STAND BY! FREE FALLING!
And the lights below us fade.
Out ride the sons of Terra,
Far drives the thundering jet,
Up leaps a race of Earthmen,
Out, far, and onward yet ---
We pray for one last landing
On the globe that gave us birth;
Let us rest our eyes on fleecy skies
And the cool, green hills of Earth.
I have just made, as far as I know, the first ever translation of this verse into Australian, which goes like this:
Earth! Earth! Earth! Oi! Oi! Oi!
I tried making a Gysin/Burroughs-style cut-up of Friday once. And I have managed to successfully forget the twist at the end of The Puppet Masters at least twice. But I admit that overall my grasp of Heinlein’s oeuvre is not what it could be. As his books get longer and longer and the characters spend more and more time talking about what they are going to do instead of doing it (Number of the Beast, what is that book all about? It is like a faculty meeting that just goes on and on and on) I grow less and less likely to finish them.
And I am ashamed to say that I have never read Starship Troopers. I have seen the movie, which I understand is something like saying to a fan of the original Thirtysomething Mutant Ninja Turtles comics that I’ve eaten the TMNT breakfast cereal. I did like the movie. I think I have written somewhere on this blog that it is the first great movie of the 21st century. In the director’s commentary on my DVD the director- a Dutch guy who has not been decapitated- is quite adamant that he didn’t set out to glorify miltarism. I think he is being a bit disingenuous. It doesn’t matter what he set out to do. His movie offers a very sympathetic and attractive portrait of a militaristic society. Salman Rushdie says The Satanic Verses was never intended to blaspheme Islam. Eugene Terreblanche says the logo of the AWB wasn’t intended to be reminiscent of the Nazi flag. My 2003 NaNoWriMo novel wasn’t supposed to be pro-euthanasia. But once you create something, you are not just responsible for the reading you intended it to have, but for any other obvious readings it might have. What you intended is neither here nor there. Works of art are like wandering livstock.
Unfortunately, Mr Verhoeven does not seem to be one of us ‘Earth! Earth! Earth! Oi! Oi! Oi!’ types. He is that sad thing, a self-loathing human. On my DVD he argues, apparently sincerely, for moral equivalence between Mormons and the murderous insect hordes:
The screen shows ‘before’ pictures of a shiny Mormon settlement with a golden
angel on top, then ‘after’ shots with lots of dismembered corpses scattered
Federal Announcer: Mormon extremists disregarded Federal warnings
and established Fort Joe Smith, deep inside the Arachnid quarantine zone. Too
late they realised that Dantana had already been settled by other colonists-
Paul Verhoeven: The rest of the scene is very interesting …
What it says, of course, in this scene, was that the war was not started by the
bugs. Like that is a very interesting political situation because in politics in
general, especially in American politics, there is a tendency to take a part of
history but not acknowledge what happened before.
See, we humans started it by constructing settlements. Boo, hiss. Bad humans.
Silly Mr Verhoeven! The bugs don’t hate us for what we do, they hate us for what we are. A race without a hivemind is like a body without a head, a shambling zombie horror lurching about erratically. Humans are the antithesis to bugdom. Our very virtues are abominable vices to them. Our decadent individualism revulses them. Our pasty mucilaginous flesh, daubed pathetically over our flimsy endoskeletons, makes them want to vomit up gouts of insectoid phlegm. They get queasy just thinking about us. Eugh, so do I. Must… destroy… humans.
No! That way lies madness.
Earth! Earth! Earth! Oi! Oi! Oi!