Sunday, March 13, 2011


Via Talking Points Memo I came across a report of some crass eugenic-speak from a recently-elected New Hampshire State Representative, coupled with an unfortunate reference to a late SF author:
A 91-year-old freshman state representative has angered a Dover Community Partners staffer for his comments he doesn't support state funding for "the crazy people" who should be sent to "Siberia."...

Martin Harty of Barrington made the comments to Sharon Omand, a program manager at Community Partners, which provides behavioral health and developmental services for Strafford County. Omand had called Harty and other legislators to discuss measures in the proposed House Republican state budget that would make significant cuts to mental health services.

Omand told Foster's that Harty told her he disagreed with her about the need for funds for mental health services and he believed in eugenics.

"The world population has gotten too big and the world is being inherited by too many defective people," he told her.
Where does he get his ideas?
Explaining his thoughts, Harty said one of his main concerns is population explosion, and he is wary of funding a social issue that can't really be helped...
Harty referenced science fiction writer Isaac Asimov and his stories about a pending population explosion as someone whose messages he is "in tune with."
When I sent the link to a few usual suspects, Eileen Gunn pointed out that Harty was most likely channelling Cyril Kornbluth's satirical short story 'The Marching Morons', in which the US has become populated by lowbrows kept content by shoddy consumer goods and pointless jobs. In fact, Harty's idea about sending inverts Kornbluth's scenario: in 'The Marching Morons', the high-IQ elite have set up an Arctic retreat from the stresses of trying to run the US. As for Harty's claim of 'being in tune with' Asimov's messages about the population explosion, I really don't think so. Asimov, ever the rationalist, believed that the solution to over-population lay in promoting voluntary contraception, encouraging homosexuality, and world government. Not, I think, the typical views of a Republican - even of the New Hampshire variety.

Question - I have a vague memory, exclusive of title and author, of a short story in which criminals were sent to a walled territory to do as they would. Anyone know anything about this? Or of any SF scenario, apart from HG Wells' 'The Country of the Blind' or John  Varley's 'The Persistence of Vision' where the differently-abled have either volunteered for, or have been driven into, exile?


Blogger Henry Farrell said...

Richard Paul Russo's not especially good novel, "The Rosetta Codex" has a 'walled territory' for criminals set-up.

March 13, 2011 11:15 am  
Blogger Paul McAuley said...

Hi Henry, That's not it, but sounds very similar. Might check it out, even if not especially good...

March 13, 2011 1:27 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There was "Escape from New York," the movie with Kurt Russel, where New York became a walled city due to rising oceans and subsequently was turned into a prison. The screenplay was written in 76, movie released in 81.

The was a more recent movie with an island that was a prison, but I didn't watch it and don't recall the name or whether it was walled or not.

March 13, 2011 6:44 pm  
Blogger Ken Houghton said...

Ellison's "The Discarded" put all the plague-ugly people in space.

March 13, 2011 7:44 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's a Robert Silverberg story, the name of which I can't remember, involving sending convicted political prisoners sack in time to a temporal prison early in the earth's history.

March 13, 2011 10:45 pm  
Blogger Philip said...

Mr. McAuley,
I suspect that the story you are thinking of is Robert Heinlein's "Coventry," from 1940. This is part of his set of "Future History" stories, and a direct sequel to his prescient (for those of you living in the United States) short novel novel "If This Goes On--"

March 13, 2011 11:09 pm  
Blogger PeteY said...

Sheckley's The Status Civilisation deals with a prison planet. For that matter, I think Alien 3 does too. The Ellison story Ken Houghton talks about was also made into a TV programme in the Masters of Science Fiction series.

March 14, 2011 7:14 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The first story about a walled-in convict community is, I think, George Griffith's "Hellville, USA", included in his collection "Gambles with Destiny" (1899--as a public domain, this is available online).
Jean-Daniel Brèque

March 15, 2011 8:40 am  
Blogger Armitaj said...

Saintneko might be thinking of the Scorsese film Shutter Island as the recent one set on an island prison. There was a mental health aspect central to the storyline.

March 15, 2011 2:59 pm  
Blogger Paul McAuley said...

Thanks for the various recommendations. Philip - think yr dead on about 'Coventry', which I must read 30 yrs ago and haven't reread since. I don't think I've read the Ellison story, but now I sort of want to see the TV version, at least. Jacques - have never before heard of 'Hellville USA' - as it's online will definitely take a look. Wufnik, the Silverberg yr think of is Hawksbill Station; D.G. Compton used Mars for the same purpose in Farewell Earth's Bliss.

Lots of prison planet/reservation stories I see, but no other stories about rounding up and exiling the weak and helpless and differently abled. But the first are direct extrapolations from the every day, and the second do touch on the Holocaust, and so can't be used as frameworks for, say, action/adventure stories like the silly but fun 'Escape from New York'. Does Michael Chambon's The Yiddish Policeman's Union fall into the first or second category?

March 16, 2011 7:29 pm  

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