Storm Warnings: Science Fiction Confronts the Future

By George E. Slusser; Colin Greenland et al. | Go to book overview

Aliens for the Alienated

Kenneth V. Bailey

Constance Irwin opens her book Fair Gods and Stone Faces with a description of the approach in 1519 of Cortes's conquistador ships to the eastern coast of Mexico. "The Indians," she writes "looked out over the 'waters of heaven,' and noticed some peculiar objects out to sea. [They were] floating towers . . . which grew larger, and larger, swept in towards shore and anchored." The men who emerged from them were white faced and black bearded. "To the beardless yellow- brown Indians," she says "the newcomers seemed as alien as creatures from space." Yet there was at that time expectation among the Aztecs of salvation coming from "the waters of heaven" out of which the sun rose each day, a tradition inherited from the conquered Toltecs. A stressful, warring, military race, the Aztecs in the person of Montezuma welcomed the alien gods. This quite quickly led not only to Montezuma's destruction but to that of their entire culture. The reality did not live up to the myth of redemption projected onto it.

This fragment of history incorporates a motif which, in various guises, repeats itself in troublesome times, particularly in times of social and cultural disintegration, discord and schism. Central cores of belief having been eroded, there then appear, and are reflected in popular lore and literature, two distinct, though complementary trends. A. J. Toynbee in A Study of History defines them as archaism and futurism; and both are recognizable as symptoms of the human condition of alienation. When Marx used this concept to indicate the separation of the proleterian producer from the products of his work, his corollary was that the product thus objectified was of no interest or concern to those in this way alienated. In its more extended sense the term now implies a fissure between personality and. environment,

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