Okay, it’s been a busy weekend here at Chez Dean, what with Lil Buddies birthday, Dark Souls 3 and finally getting around to playing the latest MTG release Amonkehet. The birthday went well, Dark Souls is ridiculously hard and I’m quite liking the graveyard recursion in Amonkehet. Which brings me around quite nicely to the above tale. Weinbaum is yet another writer that I’d never heard of. He was apparently Quite A Big Deal© back when he was working that has since disappeared into obscurity. It shouldn’t feel like I’m resurrecting the dead when you read a writer as good as he is.
Everything about A Martian Odyssey is good. A solid plot, a likeable hero with an interesting companion. Clear motivations and vivid descriptions. The dialogue clips along and although Weinbaum indulges a penchant for accents it’s not so frequent that it’s annoying. Where Weinbaum stands out is in the pure imagination stakes. There are aliens on Mars and they are exactly that. Alien. They do not think like us, they do not act like us and they are not motivated as we are. They can be described, but they cannot be understood.
It wasn’t until I was in bed last night, mulling the story over in my minds-eye that I realised just how groundbreaking this must have been. Hell, let’s be honest here, still is. I watched and enjoyed Star Trek Beyond not too long ago. Great entertainment, but the aliens are us with funny coloured skin. Same goes for Star Wars Rogue One. They could rock up tomorrow and the only problem politicians would have is how to tax them. They could all be easily understood.
You can’t say that about Weinbaums’ aliens. They are different because they think differently, are made differently and see the universe differently. His creations are solid and consistent but not us. It’s been preying on my mind all day, wondering where I’d come across anything like that before.
So why is a writer, able to bring us such an amazing concept and write so fluently, on the Misplaced list? If his writing sucked I’d get it, but it doesn’t. If his ideas stunk I’d get that too. Maybe it’s because:
Think not what you can do for Mars, think only what Mars can do for you. (Sigh!) Yes, this is colonialist, imperialist and racist in equal measure, yet it’s probably not fair to condemn it for that since it was Written in 1934 and is of its time.
oh, my God. This story was disgusting. And I don’t mean gross. I mean an abomination of a tale. I know, I know…it was written in the 1930s. But I don’t feel inclined to give Weinbaum any slack for that. This story wasn’t only poorly written, cocky, highly- and offensively-racist, it was an imperial and colonial orgasm in the worst pornographic way.
Where to begin with all this stupid. Well, firstly if you insist on reading everything through the lens of the idiots teaching Cultural Studies you’re never going to enjoy another damned book in your life. You’re also unqualified to pass judgement on the writing quality as you’re not judging it on the ability to write a decent sentence, paragraph, scene or story but on how true to some idiotic concepts the same teachers had.
Want to broaden your mind? Then read Weinbaum, allow yourself to be immersed in an imagination that was truly groundbreaking. We all should be talking about this mans’ work, and it shouldn’t feel like we’re bringing him back from the dead.
Thanks for reading this guys.