Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Dark Side


The downside of doing journalistic-type media reviews is that every time I promote a book or a movie I enjoyed, I get an onslaught of suggestions for other books and movies. Don't get me wrong, I love the email.... It's just that I get all bummed out that I don't have time to see even a fraction of what is available out there. Every now and then, however, something stands out for sheer shock value.

Alert longtime reader and friend Julian Rueben of London, England recommended Gerard J. DeGroot’s Dark Side of the Moon: The Magnificent Madness of the American Lunar Quest.

Was the end of the Space Age the best thing that ever happened to science fiction? When the space age ended, DeGroot argues, the age of imagination began: warp speed, unlikely (and immune-to-zero-gravity) spacecrafts, exotic aliens, and fantastical laws of not-physics.

Science Fiction
Also Not Real

We haven't gone anywhere beyond low Earth orbit for decades. When we stopped being pioneers into the great unknown, it became easier to invent extravagant tales of that great unknown. All the major movie studios, Disney in particular, are unequivocally on board. And IO9 just came right out and said what these geniuses were thinking: "Space Is More Fun Without Space Travel."

Somewhere, Buzz Aldrin's head just exploded. And I think he'd be more than happy to detonate DeGroot's for him too, given some of the book's choice excerpts:

"American people were fleeced - persuaded to spend $35 billion on an ego trip, being told that a step on the lunar surface was a giant leap for mankind."

"NASA's public relations machine portrayed astronauts as wholesome all-Americans, even as many behaved like rutting frat boys when off duty."

"Expressed in terms by the Soviets and Americans, the lunar race was shallow and trivial. The two superpowers behaved like two bald men fighting over a comb."

Pretty rough stuff. But is abandoning actual space travel for space fantasy the answer to the questions deep in our minds and souls?

Star Trek
"So what happens when the audience catches
on that we are completely full of it?!"

Somehow, I don't think so. I disagree with DeGroot's fundamental premise that the heavens are always more impressive in the imagination than in reality. Had we as a species, in our quest for cultural development, ever truly listened to cynics along the way, we'd all still be sitting around a bonfire and sharpening spears.

I might still buy the book, since I appreciate healthy doses of humorous sarcasm. Call it a weakness, inflicted by early exposure to Oscar Wilde.

Here's my problem, Jules... when I go to Amazon to read the reviews and details about this book, it shows that used copies are available from various sellers for seven cents. That's right, SEVEN CENTS. Let me put that in your cross-the-pond Brit lingo: Um, FIVE CENTS.

Dude, seriously.