Posted by Bob Wallace, who's never read the book but will real soon.
Spinrad published it in 1967, when he was 26 or 27 years old. I probably read it in '69, and recently picked it up again.
Spinrad says he is an anarchist, but in this, his second novel, he comes across about as conservative as Joseph Conrad is in The Heart of Darkness.Spinrad's novel has a lot in common with it.
I originally started reading science fiction because of the sense of wonder and awe that I felt from it. I certainly didn't get any of those feelings from The Men in the Jungle, which is about how power intoxicates, and immunity corrupts. It's also about murder, cannibalism, genocide, slavery, and rape. Did I miss anything? Probably. Somehow, I don't think it matters.
This novel remains the bloodiest, goriest, slice 'n' dice novel I have ever read. Even today, I have never read anything that even comes close to the horrors in this book. And yet, oddly, enough, I can't say it is a horror novel, just a science-fiction one.
Horror can be defined as evil attacking good, or chaos attacking order. None of those definitions really apply to Spinrad's novel. There isn't any good in it, or any order for that matter, not if order means "harmony." It's more like bad attacking evil, or chaos attacking something even more chaotic.
The novel is set some few hundred years in the future, on the planet Sangre, which had been ruled for the past 300 years by the Brotherhood of Pain. These several thousand human monsters enslave some 15 million people, torturing them for fun, eating them since there are no animals on the planet, and raping them. "Fun and games," as one character comments.
The whole planet is as close to a Hell as I have ever read, far worse even than Dante's Inferno.
The Brotherhood of Pain live as the Marquis de Sade philosophized: self-willed, with unfettered free choice, committing hideous and irrational acts in their attempts to live as gods, lacking any moral sense in relation to other people, and, of course, sadististic and murderous. Nihilists, really, ones who worship themselves.
Into this mess drops one Bart Fraden, along with his girlfriend, the improbably-named Sophia O'Hara, and his partner, Willem Vanderling.
Fraden sees the revolutionary potential on the planet, which he plans on exploiting to take the place over. That's not what exactly happens.
I won't spoil the novel, but I will point out what Spinrad is saying.
One, there are no good Revolutions, and I mean revolutions with a capital R. That is the kind of revolution in which people think they can destroy a society and rebuild it from the bottom up. The Nazis and the Communists tried it, and it lead to the deaths of some 100 million people.
Two, society is but a thin film holding down a lot of nasty human nature. When societies are destroyed by revolution, what you get is not all the inherent goodness of human nature popping up, but oftentimes a lot of destruction and genocide. Think the French Revolution, in addition to the Nazis and the Communists.
Also think Pol Pot and the "Cultural Revolution" in Red China.
Three, those who direct violent, bloody revolutions almost always lose their souls. They become corrupted and intoxicated by the blood and the power, and after that happens, find it nearly impossible to repent. Dostoevsky, in his The House of the Dead, put it this way: "Blood and power intoxicate; coarseness and depravity are developed; the mind and the heart are tolerant of the most abnormal
things, till at last they come to relish them. The man and the citizen is lost for ever in the tyrant, and the return to human dignity, to repentance and regeneration becomes almost impossible."
Dostoevsky also noted that humanity's worst failing was a "constant lack of moral sense." To this I'll add that people rationalize they do have a moral sense no matter what perversion they use it for, because when people do evil they must convince themselves it is good, and people can deceive themselves into believing anything.
One of the most horrible thing about The Men in the Jungle is that the ghastly society destroyed is immediately, literally in the blink of an eye, replaced by something much worse, what Russell Kirk called "Chaos and Old Night."
Those three characteristics above I would call "conservative," in the sense that true conservatives believe in flawed -- sometimes terribly flawed -- human nature, as opposed to liberals, who usually believe in the essential goodness of human nature, almost always to be developed by the government. However, it is the "government" that has bought three centuries of horror to Sangre. On this planet, our own
Earth, it has also always been government which has murdered the largest number of people throughout history, without fail. One only needs to be The Gulag Archipelago to understand that.
The Men in the Jungle is a horrible and awful novel, not in the sense it is poorly written, but because it is about horrible and awful things. In a word, people.
The whole novel can be summed up in the dying Kurtz's last words in The Heart of Darkness: "The horror! The horror!" When it comes to the bad people can do, truer words were never spoken.
Posted by Bob Wallace, who is now going to go read some Edgar Rice Burroughs.
Tarzan was raised by talking apes; Mowgli was raised by talking wolves. Each ultimately had to return to his own kind.
Kipling was a far better writer than ERB, but ERB was fun, and Kipling was not only not-fun, he was deadly serious, even though The Jungle Books is much more for kids than adults.
By the way, the animated version is fun, although not exactly true to the source material.
Posted by Bob Wallace, who can dance like Baloo!
I tried to teach myself to read when I was four, but didn't have any help.
I picked it up so fast in first grade the teacher put me in charge of the class.
And what was used to teach us to read? "Dick and Jane."
"See Spot. See Spot run. Run Spot run."
To these day I can remember the boredom and disappointment I felt being forced to sit down and chant "Watch Jane play with Dick."
Thank God these horrors are no longer used in school. Why couldn't the schools have given me Edgar Rice Burroughs to read?
Posted by Bob Wallace, who wanted to machine-gun Dick, Jane, Sally, Spot, Pony and everyone else in those books.
E. E. "Doc" Smith was the inventor of Space Opera, and was so prolific and visionary the military thanked him for solving some of their problems,.
Such thanking, among other things, is why I consider science fiction to be the only truly visionary and prophetic literature than exists.
Here are some of his imaginary invention:
Ablative Heat (Reentry) Shield
Drop Shaft (Neutralization of Inertia)
Matched-Frequency Separable Units
Mother Ship - first use of expression
Moving a Planet
Pentavalent Nitrogen - most powerful chemical explosive.
Platinum Alloy Disc - first CD or DVD?
Pressor (Pressor Beam)
Protective Shield - personal force field
Posted by Bob Wallace, who always found Smith unreadable because I wasn't 12 years old in 1930.
I don't have any use for any dystopian fiction at all. One only needs to read The Gulag Archipelago to be cured of that.
I do have a fondness for some of the old Space Opera stuff. The good stuff, I mean. I never could get through E.E. "Doc" Smith, for an example.
But some of the stuff is just great. Terry Carr's analogy, Planets of Wonder, is a perfect example of what I'm talking about. Every story in it still has that Sense of Wonder about it.
Science fiction is supposed to be fun. That's why I like Edgar Rice Burroughs. Heck, I like Harry Potter. But if I want dystopia, I'll take a walk down the street.
Posted by Bob Wallace, who doesn't wear sunglasses at night.
I rented the DVD of The Gospel According to Philip K. Dick a few days ago. It's a step in the right direction, but PKD deserved better than this. The whole movie is unending interviews with several people who knew him -- and some who didn't. There's not one picture of Dick in the whole movie, and no information at all about his life beyond some snippets about his drug use and how he was essentially a really disturbed guy. Anyone who didn't know anything about Dick would come away mystified aftering watching this. Basically, it's for Dick's fans, who are the only ones who can make sense of this.
Posted by Bob Wallace, who liked Dick's stories from the '50's, until he went really crazy.
"The Marching Morons" is a science fiction short story written by Cyril M. Kornbluth, originally published in Galaxy in April, 1951. It was included in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume Two after being voted one of the best novellas up to 1965. The story is set hundreds of years in the future: the date is 7-B-936. John Barlow, a man from the past put into suspended animation by a freak accident, is revived in this future. The world seems mad to Barlow until Tinny-Peete explains The Problem of Population: due to a combination of intelligent people prudently not having children and excessive breeding by less intelligent people, the world is full of morons, with the exception of an elite few who work slavishly to keep order. Barlow, who was a shrewd conman in his day, has a solution to sell to the elite.
In the "Introduction" of The Best of C. M. Kornbluth, Frederik Pohl (Kornbluth's friend and collaborator) explains some of the inspiration to "The Marching Morons". The work was written after Pohl suggested that Kornbluth write a follow-up story that focuses on the future presented in "The Little Black Bag". In contrast to the "little black bag" arriving in the past from the future, Kornbluth wanted to write about a man sent from the present to the future. To explain sending a man to the future, Kornbluth borrowed from David Butler's Just Imagine science fiction film in which a man is struck by lightning, trapped in suspended animation, and reanimated in the future. Indeed, after the character John Barlow is told how he had been in a state of suspended animation in "The Marching Morons", Barlow mutters, "Like that movie."
There are three million highbred elite and five billion morons: the "average" IQ is 45. (In the real world, an IQ score of 100 is average, by definition.) Several generations before the onset in the story, geneticists, after being ignored by the general public about the impending population problem, banded together to preserve "the breed". The elite work feverishly like slaves in order to keep the morons productive.
The elite have had little success in solving The Problem for several reasons: 1) the morons must be managed or else there will be chaos and inevitably there would be five hundred million tons of rotting flesh left over 2) it is not possible to sterilize all of the morons, there are not nearly enough elite to do the job, and 3) propaganda against large families isn't working because every biological drive is towards fertility (the story predates the development of hormonal contraception).
The elite had tried everything rational to solve the population problem, but the problem could not be solved rationally. The solution required a way of thinking that no longer existed: Barlow's "vicious self-interest" and knowledge of the distant past history (using elements of lemming behavior and Hitler's Final Solution).
Harnessing his experience in scamming people into buying worthless land and knowledge of lemmings dying in a mass migration futilely trying to swim across the ocean, Barlow finds a solution to The Problem. Before giving away his solution, Barlow secures promises of money, fame, and political power, including the title of World Dictator.
Barlow reveals his Solution: convince the morons to travel to Venus in unsafe spaceships -- built by morons -- that will kill their passengers. (The story predates the Moon landing, and the safety of future space travel is summed up in a description of a rocket that crashed on the moon.) Propaganda depicts Venus as a tropical paradise, with "blanket trees", "ham bushes", and "soap roots". In a nationalistic frenzy, every country tries to send as many of their people to Venus as possible to stake their claim.
Barlow helps with his knowledge of Hitler. Fake postcards are sent from the supposedly happy new residents of Venus to relatives left behind, describing the wonderful, easy life--in the same way as fraudulent postcards were sent to relatives of those imprisoned in the Nazi work-camps.
In a twist of irony, Barlow, a conman, is conned by his erstwhile assistants. Kornbluth describes the con: "It was a wonderful, wonderfully calculated buildup, and one that he [Barlow] failed to suspect. After all, in his time a visitor from the past would have been lionized." Barlow does not realize that the elite despise him as they despise all people from the past for not solving The Problem earlier. In the end, Barlow is placed on a spaceship and sent to share the fate of his billions of victims.
* Efim Hawkins. Potter owning a shop near a lake. Often goes for walks through the woods while waiting for his kilns to cool. An "all around man." Reanimated Barlow with 60cc of "simple saline in the trigeminal nerve."
* John Barlow. Real estate agent from the past (1988). Put in a state of suspended animation after a freak dentist accident involving an electrical shock and the "experimental anesthetic Cycloparadimethanol-B-7" (known as "Levantman shock" in the future").
* Tinny-Peete. Psychic.
* Hawk-faced man. Meets with Tinny-Peete and Barlow.
Relation to other stories
The novel Search the Sky, by the same author, is a series of vignettes of odd cultures seen through the eyes of an explorer from one of the cultures trying to find out what has happened to the others. The final section involves a visit to Earth, which has succumbed to the "Marching Morons" effect. Eventually the explorer contacts the "elite" who are actually running the society, but in this story the elite are unwilling to take any kind of drastic action to reduce population (including withdrawing so everyone else starves).
The title, "Marching Morons" is derived from a population theory referred to as "The Marching Chinamen". According to this theory, if all the people in China were forced to march in ranks through a gate, the column would never end. The story has been told in various ways, sometimes with people marching in single file, two by two, or in ranks up to 10 at a time, and changes as the Chinese population grows. Obviously this makes a difference to how long it would take for all the people in China to march through one gate. The rationalization for the claim, that the marching would never end, comes from the fact that babies are being born while their grandparents are marching through the gate, those children would get in line with their parents, and grow up while waiting in that long line for a chance to march through the gate. Eventually the next generation will also marry and bear children before they reach the gate. Thus, it's theorized that the population is increasing too quickly for that entire population to perform the prescribed task. The best known illustration of the concept was the "Marching Chinese" cartoon published in the Ripley's Believe or Not newspaper cartoon, which claimed four abreast and specified the calculation was based on US Army marching regulations.
A similar plot appears in The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams. The Golgafrinchans have tricked the most useless third of their population to get on a spaceship and leave their home planet Golgafrincham; unfortunately, since the Golgafrinchans included janitors(Telephone hygiene engineers) on their list of most useless people, no one was left behind who was willing to do any cleaning, and the rest of the planet was killed by contagious disease contracted from a public telephone.
Posted by Bob Wallace, who is brilyunt, as we all know.
Even though I am more fond of ERB's "Mars" novels, since "A Fighting Man of Mars" is the first one of his books I read, I've always thought his trilogy, "The Land Time Forgot," "The People Time Forgot," and "Out of Time's Abyss," was his best work.
ERB really wasn't much of an artist, and most definitely was a workman-like writer, but dang, he could tell a hell of a story. That's why he was as popular in his day as Stephen King is now, and ERB wasn't nearly as verbose as King. He also appeared to the young, much like J.K. Rowlings and her "Harry Potter" books these days.
This particular trilogy, I've found, actually appeals to adults. Forget the "science" in it -- ERB sure did. But it sure is a heck of a lot of fun.
Posted by Bob Wallace, who still wonders how humans and Martians could have kids when Martian women laid eggs.
That's the answer to the question, "Who is your favorite cartoonist?"
This is a panel from his series, "Nuts," which was about growing up. Everyone should have it, so buy it. Or you'll be sorry.
Posted by Bob Wallace, who dissected a lot of stuff in middle school, although none of it was any of the teachers, dammit.
When I was a tiny kid my parents took my sister and me to see Goldfinger. I remembered two things: the laser that was going to split Bond in half, starting with his crotch, and Oddjob, who whirled his hat through the air and killed people with it.
Years later I found out Oddjob was played by Harold Sakata, who was 5'9" and 284 pounds, and decidedly sinister-looking. Ironically, Harold did not like hats in real life and never wore them.
Of all of Bond's villains, I always found the scariest. I'm waiting for him to show up in a film again, the way Ernst Blofeld was turned into Dr. Evil.
Posted by Bob Wallace, who sez, don't mess with me, I've got a Frisbee, and I'll use it.
I made a post below about reading The Vengeance Trail of Josey Wales, one of the best Westerns I have ever read. The author, Forrest Carter, wrote a novel called Gone to Texas, and sent it to Clint Eastwood. It was filmed as The Outlaw Josey Wales.
When I looked up who Forrest Carter was, this is what Wikipedia had to say about him:
Asa Earl Carter (September 4, 1925–June 7, 1979) was a speechwriter for segregationist Governor George Wallace of Alabama, whom he later turned against by running his own unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign. Under an assumed identity as 'Forrest Carter,' he published Westerns and a fake autobiography, The Education of Little Tree, in which he portrays himself as having been orphaned into the care of Cherokee grandparents. The publisher's remarks in the original edition describe him (inaccurately) as "Storyteller in Council" to the Cherokee Nation, but in 1976, as the book became a huge success, Forrest Carter was revealed to be Asa Earl Carter.
Asa Carter was born in Anniston, Alabama in 1925, the eldest of four children. He was raised in nearby Oxford, Alabama by his parents, Ralph and Hermione Carter, both of whom lived into Carter's adulthood.
Carter served in the United States Navy during World War II and attended the University of Colorado. After the war, he married India Thelma Walker. The couple had four children and settled in Birmingham, Alabama.
Asa Carter was an active participant in several white supremacist organizations, including the Ku Klux Klan and the White Citizens' Council. He was also a speechwriter for governor of Alabama, George Wallace, and is credited with what many say is Wallace's most infamous slogan, "Segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever". Although Carter claimed to be part Cherokee, he ran for governor of Alabama in 1970 on a white supremacist platform. However, he came in last of five candidates, winning only 1.51% of the vote in an election comfortably won by George Wallace.
After losing the election, Carter relocated to Florida and then Texas, where he reinvented himself and began his career as a novelist. He distanced himself from his past, began to call his sons "nephews" and renamed himself Forrest Carter, in honor of Southern Civil War general Nathan Bedford Forrest.
Carter's best-known fictional works are Gone to Texas: The Rebel Outlaw Josey Wales (1973) and The Education of Little Tree (1976). Clint Eastwood directed and starred in a 1976 film adaptation of the former, retitled The Outlaw Josey Wales. In 1997, The Education of Little Tree was adapted into a made-for-TV movie but was instead given a theatrical release.
Carter completed one more novel, Watch for Me on the Mountain, a fictionalized biography of Geronimo. He was working on The Wanderings of Little Tree, a sequel to The Education of Little Tree and a screenplay version of the book when he died in 1979 from injuries he received, apparently in a drunken fistfight, allegedly with his son.
Carter spent the last part of his life concealing his background as a Klansman and racist speechwriter, claiming categorically in a 1976 New York Times article that he, Forrest, was not Asa Carter.
In 1985, the University of New Mexico Press bought rights to publication of Carter's book The Education of Little Tree, which had been the focus of considerable controversy since shortly after its 1976 publication.
The story (originally to be called "Me and Grandpa", according to the book's introduction) centers on the relationship between the boy and his Scottish-Cherokee grandfather, a man named Wales (an overlap with Carter's other fiction). The fictional memoir is written from the perspective of a boy orphaned at age five, as he becomes accustomed to his new home in a remote mountain hollow with his "Indian thinking" 'Granpa' (sic) and Cherokee 'Granma', who call him 'Little Tree.' Granpa runs a small whiskey operation during Prohibition, the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression. The grandparents and visitors to the hollow expose Little Tree to supposed Cherokee ways and "mountain people" values. The state eventually removes him to an orphanage, where he stays for a few months until an old Indian friend intimidates the Reverend in charge into allowing Little Tree's release.
Carter claimed that he was Little Tree and the events of the book were autobiographical. The book was first marketed to young readers as a "memoir" with "a true story" printed on the cover. When Carter's background was revealed, the book was reclassified by the publisher as fiction, although the publisher never amended the introduction or book jacket with explicit caveats to that effect. Despite controversy surrounding the author's identity and legitimacy, The Education of Little Tree was critically acclaimed and won the 1991 American Booksellers Book of the Year (ABBY) award.
In his personal life, even before his name and identity change, Carter often claimed that he had distant maternal Cherokee ancestry. The now-defunct Delacorte Press, original publishers of "Little Tree", referred to Carter as a Cherokee "Storyteller in Council." However, members of the Cherokee nation have disputed this claim, saying also that so-called "Cherokee" words and customs in "The Education of Little Tree" are inaccurate, and that the novel's characters are stereotyped.
Several scholars and critics have agreed with this assessment, adding that Carter's treatment of Native Americans plays into the romantic but racist concept of the "Noble Savage".
After Carter's death, the fact that Forrest Carter was actually Asa Earl Carter was again exposed (following the original 1976 New York Times expose) by Dan T. Carter, a distant cousin and history professor. The supposed autobiographical truth of The Education of Little Tree was revealed to be a hoax.
Posted by Bob Wallace, who sez, dang, a modern-day Jay Gatsby.
Forrest Carter once wrote a novel called Gone to Texas, then sent it to Clint Eastwood. It ended up being filmed as one of my favorite movies, The Outlaw Josey Wales.
I haven't read that particular book, but I did read the sequel, The Vengeance Trail of Josey Wales.
Carter was a natural-born writer, and a hell of story-teller. Lots of times I give a novel one page to interest me, and Carter did it.
Vengeance is what this novel is about, although Carter makes you think it is the same thing as justice. Heck, maybe it is. Whatever, Carter grabs your attention right at the beginning and keeps it through the entire book. Highly recommended.
Posted by Bob Wallace, whose last name is a version of "Wales," and is from Missouri, just like Wales.
There are other writers, though, not as good, but they still have novels worth reading.
Mickey Spillane is one of them. Personally, I think his first Mike Hammer novel, I, the Jury, is his best.
The mommy types to this day gnash their teeth and moan about the "sexism, racism, homophobia, violence," etc. They don't get this book at all.
It's not to be taken seriously. It's completely over-the top, vaudeville, Grand Guignol. Hammer is forever beating people up, pistol-whipping them with his .45, turning down an ever-growing number of hot, slinky, barely-dressed babes who fall out of their clothes five minutes after they meet Hammer....come on, only someone who has absolutely no imagination can think this book is to be taken literally. Lighten up, folks, it's just a fairy tale.
Posted by Bob Wallace, who sez, "It was easy."
I finally got around to reading the last of John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee novels -- The Lonely Silver Rain.
I won't spoil any of the plot, but will only say that as usual it involves boats, Florida, mayhem and violence. And it is very good, as are most of the Travis McGee books.
MacDonald was a far better stylist and storyteller than the vast majority of detective novelists. He always took a philosophical turn, too.
If you're never read any of the McGee books, don't start with this one, since it is the last of the series. Actually, read it last.
Posted by Bob Wallace, who lived on a cabin cruiser but it wasn't "The Busted Flush."
I remember that many years ago when I started reading Sherlock Holmes I found in some of the stories Sherlock injected cocaine. I remember thinking, "Huh?" Later I found out not only was cocaine legal in those days, but some people, like Sigmund Freud, thought it was great stuff -- at first, until he started suffering the awful side effects.
Well, guess what -- it turns out injection kits were available over-the-counter back then. Parke-Davis, which was a subsidary of Pfizer, used to sell them. Here's a picture of one.
Sherlock used to have awful problems with his addiction, too. Dr. Watson used to give him a hard time about it, telling him it would warp his brain, until finally Holmes quit.
Posted by Bob Wallace, who don't trust no corporations at all.
Of course he's got that lantern jaw, but then there's the fact he has no eyes -- just that squint. And that mouth! He looks like he gritting his teeth.
I thought, what kind of personality would such a guy have? He'd be in a rage all the time. He looks like he's ready to pop.
Supposedly he was married to Tess Trueheart and even had a daughter. Good thing he's a comic -- in real life this guy would go postal.
Posted by Bob Wallace, who once saw a woman who looked like Mumbles, smoking a cigarette.
While wandering through a used-bookstore a few days ago, I ran across a Big Little Book from 1967, about the old Invaders program.
Being that it was only $2.50, I picked it up. I noticed that on the spine it read "12." When I checked on Google, I found there are 11 other in the series. So, maybe I'll pick them up.
I did have some Little Big Books as a kid, from the '40s. My dad found them in a house he was rennovating. I have no idea what happened to them, but I'm sure they'd be worth a lot today.
Posted by Bob Wallace, who never understood why the Invaders had that crooked-finger thing going for them.