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What Star Trek Owes To Robert Heinlein 180

HughPickens.com writes: As we come up on the 50th anniversary of the original Star Trek, Manu Saudia, author of Trekonomics, has an interesting article on BoingBoing about how according to Gene Roddenberry himself, no author had more influence on The Original Star Trek than Robert Heinlein, and more specifically his juvenile novel Space Cadet. That book, published in 1948, is considered a classic. It is a bildungsroman, retelling the education of young Matt Dodson from Iowa, who joins the Space Patrol and becomes a man. (In a homage from Roddenberry, Star Trek's Captain James Tiberius Kirk is also from Iowa.) The Space Patrol is a prototype of Starfleet: it is a multiracial, multinational institution, entrusted with keeping the peace in the solar system. In Space Cadet, Heinlein portrayed a society where racism had been overcome. Not unlike Starfleet, the Space Patrol was supposed to be a force for good. According to Saudia, the hierarchical structure and naval ranks of the first Star Trek series (a reflection of Heinlein's Annapolis days) were geared to appeal to Heinlein's readers and demographics, all these starry-eyed kids who, like Roddenberry himself, had read Space Cadet and Have Spacesuit -- Will Travel. Nobody cared about your sex or the color of your skin as long as you were willing to sign up for the Space Patrol or Starship Troopers' Federal service. Where it gets a little weird is that Heinlein's Space Patrol controls nuclear warheads in orbit around Earth, and its mission is to nuke any country that has been tempted to go to war with its neighbors. This supranational body in charge of deterrence, enforcing peace and democracy on the home planet by the threat of annihilation, was an extrapolation of what could potentially be achieved if you combined the UN charter with mutually assured destruction. "The fat finger on the nuclear trigger makes it a very doubtful proposition," concludes Saudia. "The Space Patrol, autonomous and unaccountable, is the opposite of the kind democratic and open society championed by Star Trek."
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What Star Trek Owes To Robert Heinlein

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  • by Steve1952 ( 651150 ) on Friday June 10, 2016 @11:05PM (#52293491)
    Another Heinlein influence, if second hand, is via the 1950 to 1955 television show "Tom Corbet Space Cadet". This was also based on Heinlein's novel "Space Cadet", and established that there was TV interest in this sort of thing.
  • by SeattleLawGuy ( 4561077 ) on Friday June 10, 2016 @11:12PM (#52293509)

    Shines the name, shines the name of Rodger Young.

    Heinlein's The Long Watch is well worth a read. A quick story, but powerful, if you appreciate the implications of technological power and in particular of atomic fission for human society and for the human condition.

    The original Day the Earth Stood Still came out just a few years later and also embraces the concept of absolute power used to prevent the ultimate war. There is a wisdom to it. "We do not claim to have achieved perfection. But we do have a system. And it works."

    Trek was more hopeful than Heinlein about the institutions of mankind, about building a society stronger together than apart. But there is a strong streak of Heinlein in it, especially in TOS.

  • by thinkwaitfast ( 4150389 ) on Saturday June 11, 2016 @12:12AM (#52293607)
    Every specieces in Star Trek seemed a little (or lot) racist. Even the Vulcans.

    Also this fact was explicitly called out in ST V: The Undiscovered Country..."If you could only hear yourself. 'Human Rights.' "

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Humans are inferior weaklings when compared to Klingons, Vulcans/Romulans, Andorians, and Tellarites. All of the solids are clearly inferior to Changelings. All of the corporeals are clearly inferior to the Organians.

      Is it racism when it's true?

      • It's not racism. These are separate species. "Race", here on Earth, is used to differentiate between humans who have slight external differences but are genetically (mostly) the same. Is it raciest to say a gorilla is stronger than a chimpanzee? Or a cheetah can run faster than a lion? Don't forget, in the beginning of Star Trek species inter-breeding wasn't normal except for Spock and it required actual genetic manipulation.
      • by shmlco ( 594907 )

        In this case, the more correct term would be "species", not race.

        And it might also be more correct to qualify what you mean by "superior". Strength, just to pick a single aspect, may be a gauge to rank Klingons, Vulcans, Humans, and so on, but meaningless if you're interested in relative intelligence or even something as small as eyesight or hearing.

        Human "racism", OTOH, is usually claiming across-the-board superiority based on something as insignificant as the amount of pigmentation in your skin...

    • Every specieces in Star Trek seemed a little (or lot) racist.

      I like the way the international crew was commanded by a benevolent American captain who had to jerk the unruly Russian's chain now and then.

  • by mykepredko ( 40154 ) on Saturday June 11, 2016 @12:17AM (#52293609) Homepage

    Manu Saadia, the writer of the article, clearly has not read a lot of late '40s, 1950s or even early 60's science fiction.

    In the books of the early nuclear age, it's not unusual to read about individuals and organizations having control over nuclear weapons or "radioactive energies" that are derived from them. Along with Heinlein (don't forget Johnny Rico carried nuclear weapons in "Starship Troopers"), Frederick Pohl, A.E. van Vogt, Andre Norton, H. Beam Piper and others all wrote stories about various organizations (governmental and otherwise) building, storing and using nuclear weapons. A lot of these authors have stories that would be considered appalling in their use of nuclear weapons when read through today's eyes - in them, they generally are seen as part of an arsenal, very efficient compared to other weapons, but not see with the same feeling of horror that we have now.

    To be fair, a number of the authors of the time (notably Asimov, Clarke and Bradbury) saw nuclear weapons as being world/civilization/life enders and wrote stories with these themes at the same time.

    • by DNS-and-BIND ( 461968 ) on Saturday June 11, 2016 @02:32AM (#52293865) Homepage
      In the 1930s, chemical warfare was looked on the same way. It was just assumed that the next war would be chemical. Remember all the gas masks that were issued during the London Blitz? It looks bizarre to modern eyes as chemical weapons were not used during WWII but everyone certainly expected it. The only ones who actually used chemical weapons were the Italians invading Ethiopia, a conflict mostly forgotten today. To the extent the 30s are remembered, it is for the Spanish Civil War and little else.
      • by AthanasiusKircher ( 1333179 ) on Saturday June 11, 2016 @08:36AM (#52294575)

        In the 1930s, chemical warfare was looked on the same way. It was just assumed that the next war would be chemical. Remember all the gas masks that were issued during the London Blitz?

        I don't know why this belief seems "bizarre" at all.

        Given the widespread use of chemical weapons during WWI [wikipedia.org] (despite the fact that the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 [wikipedia.org] prohibited them and made their use a war crime), I think it was pretty reasonable for people to make preparations that assumed they might be used in a future war.

        It looks bizarre to modern eyes as chemical weapons were not used during WWII but everyone certainly expected it.

        Huh? The Japanese made widespread use of them in WWII, just not against Western troops (for fear of retaliation). But in their invasions of Asian countries (particularly China), they used them on a number of occasions... so much so that FDR threatened [history.com] that America would use chemical weapons against Japan if they kept doing it. Note that the U.S. also had NOT ratified the Geneva Protocol prohibiting use of chemical weapons. (Just the number of unused abandoned chemical weapons shells the Japanese left behind in China probably number in the millions [fas.org]. Australia was so concerned that they'd be used in a Japanese invasion that they secretly imported and stockpiled nearly a million chemical munitions [fas.org], since the Australians knew the only reason Japan targeted China with them was because the Chinese had none and couldn't retaliate with them.)

        And both the Germans and the Allies seriously considered deploying them -- but unlike in WWI (where a gradual escalation of their use against treaties by both sides eventually led to open warfare -- at first the Germans merely opened up gas canisters when the wind was favorable, arguing that the international law only prohibited chemical shells) in WWII neither side was willing to be "the first." Instead they took up firebombing and other new methods to intimidate the enemy.

        • At the end of the war, the US even whisked the head scientist of the Japanese Chemical Wars unit, Unit 731 [wikipedia.org], to the US to avoid having him prosecuted and executed. He became a key scientist in the US chemical war research effort. This after it had been well documented that this scientist's unit had even engaged in chemical weapons experiments using US POWs as subjects (along with many, many more Chinese civilians). The US military really, really wanted the results of these war criminal's research, and to

        • And both the Germans [and the Allies] seriously considered deploying them
          That is incorrect, the germans did not even have them in quantity. Plenty of the military was strictly against their usage. I doubt there was a production line set up for them.

      • Remember all the gas masks that were issued during the London Blitz?

        Not to pick nits, but I imagine that 99.999% of /.ers (may) "know of" rather than "remember" them - The Blitz ended 75 years ago.

        • I used the eyepieces from my father's gas mask to make my first set of eclipse-watching goggles, and I still use the gas mask bag to carry my camera (because it looks scabby, tattered and not worth stealing). Is that close enough to "remembering" for you?

          There are probably (it's still classified) some tens of thousands of tonnes of very old, tired, sweaty and unstable chemical munitions buried near where Dad (and the "eclipse mask") still lives - they used American troops to bury them on the ground tht th

      • Remember all the gas masks that were issued during the London Blitz?

        Which were actually issued around 2 years before the Blitz, which affected far more of the country than just London.

        Yes, there were gas masks, issued to every man, woman and child (including babies) ; no, the issue only had an accidental temporal relationship with the "Blitzing" of London, Swindon, Southampton, Bristol, Coventry, Birmingham, Nottingham, Glasgow, and Edinburgh. (To name just the cities I know suffered heavy bombing. And I f

    • And don't forget Dune, where the great landed estates had their "family atomics".

      • Like the Queen of the UK?

        Sorry, in Dune there were two "parties" having nuclear weapons. The Emporer and the Peers (Landsraad). No private organization had them, and likely even cults like the Bene Gesserit or the Ixians had none. (At least not to the lore in the books)

        And the prime doctrine was: "if anyone uses nuclear weapons against a civilian population: his planet gets annihilated", hence Paul Atreides used nukes only to destroy the shield wall to get the sand worms in.

        • And the prime doctrine was: "if anyone uses nuclear weapons against a civilian population: his planet gets annihilated", hence Paul Atreides used nukes only to destroy the shield wall to get the sand worms in.

          It would have been quicker to re-classify them as "enemy non-combatants, to whom the Laws of War don't apply.

  • by steveha ( 103154 ) on Saturday June 11, 2016 @12:52AM (#52293659) Homepage

    Heinlein wrote a very far-sighted story -- in 1941! -- called "Solution Unsatisfactory" [wikipedia.org] that imagined a deadly weapon, "nuclear dust". Just drop the dust from an ordinary bomber, and anyone who breathes or touches the dust dies. All the animals and plants die too; the land becomes uninhabitable until the radiation dies away after many many years. Such an awful, ultimate weapon posed a grave threat to all of humanity; the solution was to form the "Peace Patrol" and recruit its members from all around the world. And if any country became a threat to world peace, the Patrol could bomb with radioactive dust; the Patrol was specifically created as a neutral and accountable organization with no specific loyalty (as an organization) to any single country. The climax of the story was when a new President of the United States wanted to use the dust to conquer the world, and the Patrol was ready to dust-bomb Washington D.C. (or in other words, treat the USA exactly as any other threat to world peace would be treated). The bombers were already in the air, ready to drop dust, and the crew of the bombers contained only non-Americans, specifically to avoid asking any Americans to bomb their own country. (Standard operating procedure for the Patrol; no English would be asked to bomb England, no Chinese would be asked to bomb China, etc.)

    The story presented this Patrol as an unsatisfactory solution to the problems caused by the existence of "radioactive dust" weapons, but no better solution was available.

    The Space Patrol being discussed here was invented by Heinlein as a direct descendant of the original Peace Patrol, but now patrolling in space. (As was typical of SF from that era, Mars and Venus were imagined to be habitable and contain alien races.)

    So, the Space Patrol "is the opposite of the kind democratic and open society championed by Star Trek"? Considering that it was explicitly a military organization devoted to peacekeeping and given a monopoly on the most awful destructive power available, it's hardly a surprise that it was neither democratic nor a society.

    Gene Roddenberry loved a Utopian vision of the future. In Star Trek: The Next Generation the characters claimed that the Federation no longer needs or uses money, which seems unlikely in the extreme to me. Heinlein had a more libertarian and much more individualistic bent than Roddenberry, and his Utopias were different from Star Trek.

    However, a major theme of the novel was to respect the culture of others. There was an entertaining subplot where one cadet wanted to eat pie with his hands, and was ordered to eat with a fork, and it was intended as a small lesson toward learning the big lesson that manners vary according to where you are, and respecting the local culture wherever you are. There are obvious parallels with "the Prime Directive" but I can't imagine Heinlein ever going so stupid as some of the Next Generation Prime Directive episodes. ("Oh no, this planet is about to be destroyed and all the intelligent native people will die. But we can't save them without violating The Prime Directive!" "Guess we'll just have to let them die, then." Okay, they didn't, but they felt the Prime Directive was more important than saving the native people. Lucky for them there were so few natives that they were able to fit them all into the Holodeck and convince them they were still on their own planet!)

    The other major theme, which this novel shares with Starship Troopers, is that it is a highly moral act to put the needs of others above your own needs. It's easy for people to look out for themselves; it's not much of a stretch to look out for your own children. It's higher morals to put the good of your country above your own good, and even higher morals to put the good of humanity above the good of any single country. The Space Patrol was entrusted with the most powerful weapons and expected to use them only to preserve the peace, and to preserve it no matter who was threatening it.

    • by MrKaos ( 858439 ) on Saturday June 11, 2016 @02:02AM (#52293791) Journal

      Heinlein wrote a very far-sighted story -- in 1941! -- called "Solution Unsatisfactory" [wikipedia.org] that imagined a deadly weapon, "nuclear dust". Just drop the dust from an ordinary bomber, and anyone who breathes or touches the dust dies. All the animals and plants die too; the land becomes uninhabitable until the radiation dies away after many many years.

      It's not very far away from fictional. You might be interested in [pdf warning, 2 pages] Project Pluto [doe.gov] which was a supersonic nuclear powered ramjet cruise missle. Essentially the reactor that powered the missile was also the warhead.

      Part of it's offensive plan was to simply fly, supersonically, at low altitudes where its shockwave would destroy anything underneath it and the radiation from its engine exhaust would also cause death to anything that survived its multi mach wake. It could effectively fly for weeks doing damage until it ran out of enough engine power to maintain altitude and it would then hit it's target with the now highly radioactive contents of its engines and explode.

      Fortunately plans were shelved for this truely diabolical weapon as it would "deafen, flatten, and irradiate" allies enroute to the target.

    • In Star Trek: The Next Generation the characters claimed that the Federation no longer needs or uses money, which seems unlikely in the extreme to me.

      The moment you invent a replicator, money becomes worthless -- both because you can replicate any denomination of money in any amount and because you can replicate products instead of buying them.

      • by steveha ( 103154 ) on Saturday June 11, 2016 @03:24AM (#52293959) Homepage

        The moment you invent a replicator, money becomes worthless

        Not so. A replicator would certainly render coins and paper money worthless, and would as you note mean that people could make many things rather than buying them.

        The future of money may well be Bitcoin and such, but money there will be.

        Suppose you want to build a house on a plot of land right on a beach with a view. Other people would like to build there too... who gets it? That's easy: someone buys it, with money.

        Suppose you want to go to a concert, in person, rather than watching it in your personal holodeck or whatever. There are a limited number of seats. Who gets those seats? That's easy: tickets cost money.

        Suppose you want a human being to come and watch your pets while you travel, and you don't want to impose on your friends all the time. Why would a person take their valuable time to do you a favor? That's easy: you agree to pay the person.

        There will always be things and services that cost money, even in a post-scarcity civilization. The replicators may mean that common items are so inexpensive that everyone can have them, but they can't make everything. (We don't even have to imagine Star Trek-style replicators... molecular nanotechnology may make it easy to create things out of carbon: carbon fibre and diamond and such. Imagine a world where brass was more expensive than diamond. I wonder what the feedstocks are for replicators, but it's certainly easy to get carbon.)

        P.S. Elf Sternberg wrote a bunch of NSFW science fiction, and I think some of his world-building ideas were spot on. In particular, he imagined that young people would wear replicated or mass-produced clothes and shoes, but as people got older they would accumulate more and more unique things. For example, you might get a present, a nifty hand-made leather jacket, and start wearing that rather than a replicated jacket. This was especially likely as he imagined the whole economy running mostly as a gift economy. In a society that has defeated aging, all the adults look about 20 years old; you may spot the older people more by their unusual hand-crafted items than by their appearance. I think he may have underestimated how diverse the young people might look though, as even today clothes are inexpensive enough that even teens can dress themselves up in ways to stand out.

        • >The moment you invent a replicator, money becomes worthless

          Not so. Money is at the bottom of all equations and that becomes the fundamental currency evaluation.

          • >The moment you invent a replicator, money becomes worthless

            Not so. Money is at the bottom of all equations and that becomes the fundamental currency evaluation.

            Money is simply a common proxy (or abstract) for other things of value -- those things may vary from person to person.

        • by drsmithy ( 35869 )

          Where does the money in your examples come from ?

          • A reference of some nature to your unique input into society much like your bank account does today - you do something worthwhile for someone and they credit you for it. Many scifi stories use "credits" in the abstract this way.

            • by drsmithy ( 35869 )

              A reference of some nature to your unique input into society much like your bank account does today [...]

              No, my bank account is a record of my money transactions.

              Many scifi stories use "credits" in the abstract this way.

              Who creates these "credits" ? Who accounts for them ? Who uses them ? Why do they have value ? Why would anyone exchange them for real goods and/or services ?

              • Why would anyone exchange them for real goods and/or services ?
                Wrong question.

                Correct question: Why wouldn't everyone exchange them for real goods and/or services ?

                You exchange money ... because everyone else does. You seem not to be bright enough to grasp the concept behind it. It is called: dept. Or: you owe something to someone.

                The paper dollar in your hand is not your property. Read the fine print, it is property of the national fed or of the state or of the nation. The bill is only a declaration that

                • by drsmithy ( 35869 )

                  Why wouldn't everyone exchange them for real goods and/or services ?

                  Because they can walk up to a replicator or a robot and get either whenever they want. Without money.

                  Money is a legal construct. It only has value and utility because of the law. Take away that legal construct - the hypothetical Federation that doesn't use money - and...?

        • Suppose you want to go to a concert, in person, rather than watching it in your personal holodeck or whatever. There are a limited number of seats. Who gets those seats? That's easy: tickets cost money.

          That exact situation is a major plot thread in Iain M Banks' Look to Windward. Banks' "Culture" is a galactic post-scarcity civilisation (and far more technologically advanced than the Federation in Star Trek), but that doesn't mean that they don't need money.

          • Suppose you want to go to a concert, in person, rather than watching it in your personal holodeck or whatever. There are a limited number of seats. Who gets those seats? That's easy: tickets cost money.

            That exact situation is a major plot thread in Iain M Banks' Look to Windward. Banks' "Culture" is a galactic post-scarcity civilisation (and far more technologically advanced than the Federation in Star Trek), but that doesn't mean that they don't need money.

            also, star trek uniforms don't have pockets.

        • Suppose you want to build a house on a plot of land right on a beach with a view. Other people would like to build there too... who gets it? That's easy: someone buys it, with money.

          Well, if we're talking about ST:TNG, you build a holographic environment that looks like your beach house. So, when I'm done with work, I can go out back and sit in my hammock on the beach.

          But if I'm looking for the real thing, well, you're right. There's a finite amount of beachfront property...on Earth. But with a large number of habitable planets, there's plenty of beachfront property out there.

          Suppose you want to go to a concert, in person, rather than watching it in your personal holodeck or whatever. There are a limited number of seats. Who gets those seats? That's easy: tickets cost money.

          In person? You mean at a particular time that someone else chose? Like Mom and Dad did? What a marvelousl

          • I could sell 200,000 tickets a night in such a virtual arena and make more money! And who gets the good seats and who gets the bad seats? Well, I can shuffle my viewers around instantaneously, so people could be moved around between every song! Maybe do it at random, so everybody/registered group of everybodies has a chance to be in the front row for a song.
            Actually in a VR everyone would be in a front seat (with his friends around him) and the other seats where just simulations.

            Astonishing that as soon as

            • Actually in a VR everyone would be in a front seat (with his friends around him) and the other seats where just simulations.

              Well, there are some interesting angles to this.

              You're right--as a performer, I could just get up and perform my song once and be done with it. And everybody could watch that concert from wherever in the virtual venue they wanted. Heck, they could be right up on stage. And, yes, there is certainly a market for that.

              But there is something to do be said for a "live" performance--despite the inconvenience of having to be somewhere at a certain time so you don't miss anything. The performer feeds on the exc

          • You mean, like, travel somewhere and play in a 60,000 seat stadium? It'd be far more convenient to do it from my home. I could sell 200,000 tickets a night in such a virtual arena and make more money!

            Speed of light and the simultaneity problem get in the way if you want to go to really large audiences. But the same is true for "live" performance, just ask Hotblack Desiato [wikipedia.org], who couldn't even share a planet with his PA system.

            • Speed of light and the simultaneity problem get in the way if you want to go to really large audiences.

              Well, if we're assuming a Star Trek:TNG universe, that seems to be pretty well solved. How many times did we see Picard have a real-time conversation with Admiral Whatsisface at Starfleet? I doubt there'd be much of an issue.

        • Suppose you want to build a house on a plot of land right on a beach with a view. Other people would like to build there too... who gets it? That's easy: someone buys it, with money.
          Suppose people finally realize the value of such a property, and you can only rent it for a limited period of time. So every human has the right and opportunity to live in such a property. Without the need to destroy the landscape and put up properties like that avery where.

          Suppose you want to go to a concert, in person, rather

        • Not bitcoin. Replicators don't run on bitcoin.

          In a replicator society, the value of things becomes related to the energy and time it takes to make them, not in the scarcity of the materials and labor. Let's assume our replicator can transmute elements, so the main feed stock is water, split into hydrogen and oxygen, then transmuted into whatever elements are needed and assembled atom by atom. I'm sure some of the nuclear physicists here can calculate the minimum energy needed to do all the transmutations.

          S

        • by Toshito ( 452851 )

          Suppose you want a human being to come and watch your pets while you travel, and you don't want to impose on your friends all the time. Why would a person take their valuable time to do you a favor? That's easy: you agree to pay the person.

          Why pay for someone to watch your pet, when you can just toss it in the trash when you leave and replicate another one when you get home?

      • Right, the workaround was that replicators couldn't reproduce "Gold Pressed Latinum" which is a 23rd+ generation currency.

        The greater obstacle is that, even before that, humans had to already have eliminated religion, wealth inequality, corruption, nationalism, racism, otherwise even the first step would be impossible, and the real fantasy is that even one of those things is achievable.

        Heinlein had a grasp of human nature, Roddenberry not so much.
        • Indeed. The comment I remember (and shared view with) when TNG came out was from TV Guide. The critic made a number of observations but was struck by the way The Federation dealt with people who didn't share it's views by "wanting to fix them". They had no problem whatsoever with having a mind reader (empath really) on board to invade your private thoughts and if you weren't available for their use, they would simply create a holodeck simulacrum of you and exploit you without your knowledge.

          TNG alway
        • by lgw ( 121541 )

          As far as I could tell from just the TV shows, "Gold Pressed Latinum" was only a Ferengi currency, really (though currencies are of course exchangeable). They were obsessed with the stuff (really, could a racial stereotype caricature be any more blatant? I guess big noses instead of big ears would have been too much, but still, it always seemed creepy to me). The federation sort of shrugged at the whole notion.

          The greater obstacle is that, even before that, humans had to already have eliminated religion, wealth inequality, corruption, nationalism, racism, otherwise even the first step would be impossible, and the real fantasy is that even one of those things is achievable.

          Most of the is believable - it just moves up a level. Just as nationalism replaced tribalism (

      • by tengwar ( 600847 )
        We already have high resolution colour photocopiers, but there is no great problem with them being used to duplicate paper currency, partly because of the EURion constellation [wikipedia.org] printed on the originals. This does rely on the manufacture of the photocopiers being "trusted".
        • Getting paper of appropriate quality - and the foil films and holograms and transparent panels add to the complexity too. Or ... do you use a plain paper currency? In these decades?
          • by tengwar ( 600847 )
            We have several security measures, so it is not possible to make a good forgery. However a significant proportion of our £1 coins are conspicuous forgeries and still circulate, so a forgery doesn't need to be good to be viable. I'm pretty sure that starch-free paper with the same handling feel would be enough to pass muster for many purposes, if you could get a photocopier to work with them.
      • by swb ( 14022 )

        Paper currency is worthless, we only pretend it has value. It wasn't until the last 100 years that currency wasn't tied to the market value of a precious metal, demand-convertible into precious metal or actually made out of precious metal.

        It's debatable whether a Trek-like society would even use a typical currency. They would probably use a form of electronic currency that couldn't be replicated and if they had a physical currency, it would somehow be physical representation tied to some electronic accoun

        • by lgw ( 121541 )

          It wasn't until the last 100 years that currency wasn't tied to the market value of a precious metal

          Less than that. Nixon officially took us off the gold standard (which is one reason there was so much inflation in the Carter years). FDR effectively did, by outlawing possession of gold by citizens so that you couldn't legally redeem the note.

          But none of that matters: as soon as you have fractional reserve banking, the currency stops being tied to whatever underlies it, not in any real way.

          You don't need anything to back currency, you just need social acceptance that this specific thing mediates barter.

      • In Star Trek: The Next Generation the characters claimed that the Federation no longer needs or uses money, which seems unlikely in the extreme to me.

        The moment you invent a replicator, money becomes worthless -- both because you can replicate any denomination of money in any amount and because you can replicate products instead of buying them.

        bitcoins!

  • "The Space Patrol, autonomous and unaccountable, is the opposite of the kind democratic and open society championed by Star Trek."

    What? You spectacular idiot. Clearly you skipped Enterprise, in which it is revealed that Starfleet is neither democratic nor open. I understand, a lot of people did that, but it's still stupid. Also, even in TNG, during time of war with the Borg (and the prelude to same) Picard is always getting secret orders to go manipulate some situation.

    Starfleet has its secret, unaccountable core, and you can only conclude otherwise by ignoring whole story arcs.

  • I read it first time at age 12, but forgot the ending. Then was pleasant thrilled when Inhad reread it as a MIT student. I dont know why this was never made into a movie. The Mother Thing whom I picture as a Star Trek Horta may have been hard to do before computer F/X. They could have done it as a pixie pupput like E.T. Or Yoda. The closest movie plot to this novel was the 1980s Last Starfighter. It was also about a bored small teen catapulted into a galatic war.
    • by VAXcat ( 674775 )
      They recently were plans to make it into a movie - but it was going to star WiIl Smith as Kip. In which case, I'm glad it fell through.
    • I read it first time at age 12, but forgot the ending. Then was pleasant thrilled when Inhad reread it as a MIT student. I dont know why this was never made into a movie. The Mother Thing whom I picture as a Star Trek Horta may have been hard to do before computer F/X. They could have done it as a pixie pupput like E.T. Or Yoda. The closest movie plot to this novel was the 1980s Last Starfighter. It was also about a bored small teen catapulted into a galatic war.

      i still think "The Puppet Masters" was underrated as a movie.

  • I don't remember ever seeing elections on earth in the series. We see some big councils, but the current state in the Soviet Union, I mean Russia, shows that councils aren't necessarily voted in democratically.
  • But it doesnt matter due to the story telling and quantum leap in space battle scenes. You see elements of Kurosawa movies, Flash Gordon, Dune, etc. This was covered by an online book about the writing of StarWars in slashdot around six years ago.
    • by VAXcat ( 674775 )
      Start Wars also borrowed from Keith Laumer's stories - thecantina scenes were pure Laumer, and C3PO's behavior was pure Magnan.
  • That phrase came from "Starship Trooper" - the marines had suits that let them make huge leaps into the air.
  • "The Space Patrol, autonomous and unaccountable, is the opposite of the kind democratic and open society championed by Star Trek."

    Star Trek's society is neither democratic or open; citizens seem to have a lot of restrictions on what they can do. After the founding of the Federation, there are almost no examples of major research or exploration efforts outside Star Fleet; the only Federation citizens who seem to do anything outside Star Fleet either do so in collaboration with outsiders, or are in self-impo

  • [quote]This supranational body in charge of deterrence, enforcing peace and democracy on the home planet by the threat of annihilation, was an extrapolation of what could potentially be achieved if you combined the UN charter with mutually assured destruction. [/quote]

    They bomb you into democracy.

  • ... Space Patrol controls nuclear warheads in orbit around Earth, and its mission is to nuke any country that has been tempted to go to war with its neighbors.

    Because nuking them from orbit is the only way to be sure. (or so I've heard)

    • ... Space Patrol controls nuclear warheads in orbit around Earth, and its mission is to nuke any country that has been tempted to go to war with its neighbors.

      Because nuking them from orbit is the only way to be sure. (or so I've heard)

      wouldn't work well for civil wars.

  • by ooloorie ( 4394035 ) on Saturday June 11, 2016 @12:59PM (#52295617)

    Roddenberry's Star Trek was "above all, a critique of Robert Heinlein"

    Heinlein's early books just took big government and big military as a given and explored ideas about how they might function; I don't think that means that he viewed such societies as desirable. Heinlein's main body of work clearly advocated and favored individualism and self-governance, and describes it as far superior to the large hierarchical organizations and bumbling militaries of Earth's nation states. Roddenberry, on the other hand, places little value on individualism: Star Fleet is rigidly hierarchical, free enterprise doesn't seem to exist in the Federation anymore, and the few misfits and individualists we encounter have usually turned their back on the Federation, often in pursuit of nefarious or at least dangerous goals. Other than that, we learn little about how Roddenberry envisioned Federation society would actually function, other than that elections are somehow involved, resources appear to be allocated centrally (rather than through trade and money), and that it magically makes Earth extremely wealthy.

    So, yes, Star Trek was a "critique of Heinlein": Roddenberry envisions technocratic, non-capitalist, hierarchical societies as being highly successful, tolerant, and stable and probably hated Heinlein's characterization of them as unfree, imperialistic, and doomed to failure. These visions are diametrically opposed, and I think Heinlein got it right. But that doesn't keep large numbers of idealistic people from following Roddenberry's unrealistic dream.

    • by DarenN ( 411219 )

      Most people seem to think of "Starship Troopers" when they think of Heinlein, or the incest focused subplot of Farnham's Freehold but he was a seriously prolific writer and it seems that his real schtick was challenging assumptions about society and government - in 1960 he wrote an essay with the sentiment that "Maybe we should let women rule the world - they can't do worse than men have, and might do better".

      He explored collectivism in "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" along with polygamy, he explored militar

    • ...and a very wrong understanding of Roddenberry. Roddenberry's utopia was for cops, not people.

      Roddenberry was a cop long before he was a TV producer, and he was a military pilot before he was a cop. TOS is exactly what a soldier-turned-cop would dream the future is like. Walking a beat for eight hours in the 'hood became a five year mission in a space-going B-17. Instead of thieves, punks, and whores, which Roddenberry encountered every day on the beat, we have (Lord!) Garth, Klingons, and Orion slav

      • Roddenberry's Federation-dominated universe that he created in middle of the 20th century was just an extension of America's manifest destiny campaign a century earlier. [...] That Utopia only works if you think your version of law and order is the only right one, and that you are therefore justified in imposing it on people if they think differently than you do.

        So, you agree then that Roddenberry was a technocrat and a progressive.

  • by rocket rancher ( 447670 ) <themovingfinger@gmail.com> on Saturday June 11, 2016 @03:53PM (#52296389)

    Heinlein did not like the counter culture that he helped create. In fact, he went out of his way to distance himself from it. He was a crypto-fascist at heart, and would have been right at home in today's American Tea Party. He would denounce them for their racist and sexist morality, to be sure, but their idea of a society ruled by elites that use their economic and politcal power to maintain control over their society is something he would have heartily agreed with. His novels are rife with that kind of elitism, and there are echoes of it in Trek, especially in TNG.

    Heinlein was a great story teller, and his stories helped elevate SF from the pulp ghetto to mainstream literature, especially novels like SiaSL and ST. But don't be tempted to think Heinlein the political man is the same as Heinlein the author. I grew up on a steady diet of Heinlein's juveniles, and was blown away by SiaSL when I read it for the first time at the ripe old age of twelve. I was (and still am, to a large extent) a Heinlein fan boy, but I've learned that my politics and Heinlein's are not equivalent, and are in fact diametrically opposed. It's tempting think that an author who entertains and delights you shares your politics, but that is not the case with Heinlein. There is no way Heinlein can be expected to rationally hold the opposing ideologies that permeate some of his best work. He was embraced on the left (over his strenuous and public objections at the time) by counter culture hippies who saw in Stranger in a Strange Land a blueprint for a better human civilization. But the same Heinlein that taught the human race how to grok also was embraced by libertarians who saw his novel The Moon is a Harsh Mistress as a part of their Ayn Rand wet dream. There is no way Heinlein the man could champion both of these ideologies simultaneously and be taken seriously by anybody.

    As I've come to understand them, the only novel that really reflects Heinlein's personal politics is Starship Troopers. It distills Heinlein's fascism and reflects his very real political conviction that the State is the only thing that stands between civilization and chaos, and that the only way to deal with an enemy is to destroy him, if you think you can't win him over to your side. Detente was not in his book of tactics, nor was the idea of live and let live. Check out his speech to the 1960 WorldCon in Seattle if you need further evidence of Heinlein's real politics.

    ST was a morality play about duty, and a call to arms, and it was a doozy. No wonder Paul Verhoeven, when he was looking to skewer the reflowering of Euro-fascism in the 1990s, chose ST for its very fascist themes.

    Even before that infamous speech, Heinlein was involved with rightwing politics in the US, even forming the "Patrick Henry League" to counter calls for nuclear disarmament. After that WorldCon, he became a vocal supporter of Barry "We can win a nuclear war" Goldwater for president in 1964, hosting a number of fund raising dinners for him. For Heinlein, the US not using their nuclear capability to finish off the Soviets after Nazi Germany had severely weakened them and the US had it's only window of nuclear superiority was a far greater sin than any fallout (pun intended) resulting from turning Moscow into a glow-in-the-dark parking lot.

    So be careful lionizing somebody for the politics they espouse in their fiction -- Heinlein's gift as a writer was in knowing his audience and knowing which levers he needed to pull, and which ones only needed a nudge. His politics are more in line with the junta that seized control of Earth's governments in ST than with the free-love anarcho-messiah Michael Valentine Smith in SiaSL.

  • to nuke any country that has been tempted to go to war with its neighbors.

    So if we have some despotic power that deny democracy to its population and starts a war, the idea is to nuke the population while its leader hides in its bunker. That looks smart, but I am certain a 6 years old children would have drafter a less stupid scenario.

  • "The Space Patrol, autonomous and unaccountable, is the opposite of the kind democratic and open society championed by Star Trek."

    And that sort of Space Patrol is the sort of authoritarianism of which Heinlein would have heartily approved.

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