Monday, August 3, 2015

Robert Beckhusen on Ghost Fleet

Here's a mild example of the encroachment of progressivism on the territory of science fiction.

A couple of weeks ago, Robert Beckhusen of the website The Week reviewed Ghost Fleet, a new science fiction novel by P. W. Singer and August Cole. The review, entitled "Could China Defeat America in World War III?" and dated July 15, 2015, came out of an interview with the book's authors. You can read it here.

Ghost Fleet is about a future war between the United States and China. The first quote worth noting refers to Mr. Singer: "According to him, we need to get used to the idea that our technology won't save us . . . ." That would seem the first sign that the Golden-Age idea that science and technology will be our salvation is in trouble.

Anyway, in Mr. Beckhusen's words: "The Communist Party no longer rules China. In its place is a plutocratic-military regime known as the Directorate." In other words, a leftist government has been replaced with what some people would call a right-wing or fascist government. That may be a plausible extrapolation. Not being a sinologist, I can't say. On the other hand, it may be a politically motivated decision on the part of the authors. I don't go in for conspiracy theories, so that explanation doesn't seem like a very good one. Whatever it is, it's curious. Is a plutocratic-military government, like Jack London's Iron Heel, really very plausible? And is the idea that communists would start a war so very implausible? Maybe so. After all, other than taking over or invading every country they have ever touched and murdering countless millions of people in the process, communists have been pretty peaceful throughout the last century.

That's not really my point here, though. This isn't exactly my point, either, but I'll mention it. Mr. Beckhusen writes:
I realized after reading it that this is the only cyberpunk war novel I've read. In a way, I hesitate to use the term cyberpunk, but the description fits. Cyberpunk novels, such as William Gibson's Neuromancer and Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash, depicted a near-future world transformed by computers and information technology--and not always for the better.
A few days ago, a man named Howard left a welcome comment on this blog mentioning Neal Stephenson and his new book Seveneves. You can read his comment by clicking here. By coincidence, I wrote about Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman a couple of days later. Both books describe a society without men [please see the correction in the comments below], a society that perpetuates itself through parthenogenesis. As for William Gibson and Neuromancer--both are on the way, so stay tuned.

Finally, after many, many more paragraphs, Robert Beckhusen closes his article with these needless and condescending (if not insulting) words:
The future U.S. military in the book is also a more diverse place, such as regarding gender and sexual orientation, at the command levels. But the authors present it as simply a matter of fact, much to their credit.
In other words, the authors have shown themselves to be on the right side of history by submitting to or internalizing a progressive diktat. Mr. Beckhusen of course approves and lets us know that we are permitted to read and enjoy Ghost Fleet without fear of committing a thoughtcrime. He might as well have stamped his review copy of the book: Nihil Obstat.

Copyright 2015 Terence E. Hanley


  1. Please don't characterize "Seveneves" as "describ[ing] a society without men". In fact there is a segment of the novel where this seems to be true. However, SURPRISE! Not really! The human race turns out to be a little more robust in its survival abilities.

    I urge every SF fan to read the book. It's great.

    1. Okay, Howard,

      I take it back. I'm at a disadvantage here because I haven't read the book. Instead, I misinterpreted the review I read. Thanks for the correction.