Kellerman’s character, Dr. Elizabeth Dehner, and Gary Mitchell, the ship’s helmsman, acquire psychic powers when the Enterprise hits a mysterious force field in deep space. Mitchell, Captain Kirk’s close friend, gradually transforms into a god-like being who increasingly shows contempt for his crew mates, whom he now regards as weak creatures who only get in his way. Worse, Dr. Dehner begins a similar transformation.
It’s one of the original series’ best stories. The theme of how power corrupts was explored further in other Star Trek episodes. In “Plato’s Stepchildren,” Kirk & Co. confront humans who have acquired powerful telekinetic abilities. Their powers have turned them into sadistic bullies. At the story’s end, the chastised leader of the superhumans admits, “Uncontrolled, power will turn even saints into savages, and we can all be counted upon to live down to our lowest impulses.”
In “Patterns of Power,” the Enterprise finds a planet that’s transformed into Nazi Germany, complete with SS uniforms and calls for a “final solution” against its enemies. Turns out a Federation observer, determined to speed up progress on the planet, had introduced the population to National Socialism, thinking he could curb the movement’s nastier tendencies. But as Dr. McCoy observes, “A man who holds that much power, even with the best intentions, just can’t resist the urge to play God.”
Sounds like a timely message to me. In a confused and frightening time when both political parties threaten to bypass traditional constraints to get what they want, these old episodes have something to say.
The latest Rebel Wisdom features a thought-provoking interview with writer Damien Walter. Science fiction, says Walter, can replace “society’s central source of meaning,” which has traditionally been religion. As Walter puts it: “Science fiction is essentially the attempt of science… to create a mythos for itself. Because science damaged the previous mythos, the Christian mythos, for most of Western society.”
It’s a fascinating idea, one that every writer can relate to. I believe literature is inherently spiritual, exploring and ruminating on our connections to others and the universe. Anyone who wrestles their thoughts onto paper has a view of the world they yearn to share. Science alone, I realized long ago, is no substitute for a well-rounded world view. However, it can not only inspire great stories, but also deepen and broaden our perspective.
After all, ideas have consequences. A valid philosophy of life must begin with an accurate understanding of human nature. Look at the horrors spawned by the ideologies of the last century, all based on noble-sounding assumptions which turned out in practice to be false. Writers, I think, have a duty to diagnose, advise, and heal while we entertain.
The unspoken component of that duty is to constantly revise and strengthen our world view. As E. O. Wilson tells us, science can give the humanities “more solidly grounded answers” to life’s mysteries. And boy, does this society need grounding. That’s why I’ve long been fascinated by science fiction.
Now this is an unexpected surprise. TheYear One Anthology for Hexagon Speculative Fiction Magazine features all 20 pieces from Hexagon’s successful and groundbreaking first year. There are bonus pieces as well, such as author interviews and new cover concept art.
The anthology includes my flash fiction story Mirrors, which was published in the magazine’s premiere issue. I wrote it after re-reading Dr. Lewis Thomas’ book,The Lives of a Cell, which made me realize how an alien species would marvel at how cooperative humans are despite our aggressive tendencies. I was pleased atDidi Oviatt’s review: “Tuggle’s story of an insight about predatory creatures is a thought-provoking read.”
The year: 2030. Zach Martine is a prisoner in the Alzheimer’s pod at a maximum security unit. A former soldier, his crime was to tell the world what he’d witnessed on the battlefield. He followed his conscience and now pays the price.
Hated by the other prisoners, he spends his days dodging deadly attacks. Nights find him unable to sleep, haunted by a relentless guilt for his past actions. Martine knows he deserves punishment, but not for the reason he’s in jail. Day after day, the injustice tears at him.
But he finds a way out, a way that allows him to escape while remaining true to his conscience.
The inspiration for this story hit me when I read about prisoners volunteering for medical experiments. One of the prisoners told the reporter he’d agreed to the program because he felt it was a way to atone for the harm he’d done.
I could not get the prisoner’s statement out of my mind. This story grew out of that unforgettable confession.
I’ve been fairly productive lately. I have four manuscripts looking for love in various slush piles on the internet, and two have found a home. Yay!
I’ve signed a contract with Murderous Ink Press, a new mystery publisher in the UK (and who knows more about murder mystery fiction that the Brits?). They’re going to publish my short story “The Tell-Tale Armadillo” in an anthology entitled The I’s Have It. My story is the latest exploit of chief medical examiner Treka Dunn, whose first adventure appeared in Mystery Weekly Magazine last month. A house has blown up, victims want answers, and Treka discovers it wasn’t an accident.
Also, my dark sci-fi story “Days to Remember” will appear in the next issue of Idle Ink, a spunky online magazine specializing in “genre fiction that’s too weird to be published anywhere else.” Sounds like a perfect home for my story.
“The most central and irrational faith among people is the faith in technology and economical growth. Its priests believe until their death that material prosperity bring enjoyment and happiness – even though all the proofs in history have shown that material prosperity doesn’t bring anything else than despair. These priests believe in technology still when they choke in their gas masks.”
Pentti Linkola, Can Life Prevail?
I view technology the way George Washington viewed government — like fire, a dangerous servant and fearful master. Used with wisdom, it can produce good things. Misused, it — or should I say we — can botch up a perfectly good planet. Hunting Ground, one of my published stories I’m most proud of, took a humorous but serious look at what happens when we imagine we can endlessly exploit nature without consequences.
English professor and writer Charles French founded The Underground Library Society, inspired by Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. In Bradbury’s dystopian novel, books have been banned and the subject population submits to a crushing conformity. A handful of rebels “become” books by memorizing them in the hope that one day, books and free thought will again thrive.
Members of The Underground Library Society will have the opportunity to publish a guest post on French’s blog and reveal what book they’d “become” and why. In my post, I make a case for memorizing and preserving Beowulf. Why that particular work? Check it out!
The story that inspired the cover, “The Calculus of Karma” by M. C. Tuggle, leads off the Mystery Weekly Magazine: June 2020 issue. Deputy Marshal Malcom Lamb has to deal with a body in an alleyway of the asteroid’s main camp. The miner is dead because of the crack in his visor that allowed the vacuum of space to enter his helmet. Whether it was an accident or murder by way of another turf war between groups of miners is up to Deputy Lamb to figure out. He better do it fast as trying to keep the peace on the asteroid near Jupiter is not easy.
In this 1st edition there are five quick science fiction reads by authors Mike Tuggle, Evan Marcroft, John Grey, Michael M. Jones, and Nicholas C. Smith. I’ve read work by Mike Tuggle before and really enjoyed his style, so I knew going in that this edition had potential.
Many, many thanks for the kind thoughts and gracious reviews.
This is a fantastic resource for readers and writers of speculative fiction. It provides links to directories of authors and publishers, as well as a comprehensive magazine database. You’ll also find links to a gold mine of bibliographic research for all types of speculative fiction, including sci-fi, fantasy, and horror.
Each day, the home page features a listing of international authors born and deceased on that date. Great fodder for blog posts or Tweets!