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Elliot: Skin of science fiction

BY BEAU ELLIOT | MARCH 12, 2013 5:00 AM

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Sometimes, on late-night cable, there’s this “Star Trek” episode in which Republicans and Democrats join together to save the planet, and everyone lives happily ever after.

Yeah, I know. Science fiction is great, isn’t it?

Wasn’t that genre invented by H.G. Wells? And he was a socialist, right?

Well, yeah, according to William Hyde in the April 1956 edition of the Journal of the History of Ideas, published by the University of Pennsylvania Press. The socialist part, is more or less correct.

Apparently, though, while Wells’ War of the Worlds is quite famous, science fiction was invented not by Wells (with The Time Machine [1895] or The War of the Worlds [1898]) but by the Sumerians with the Epic of Gilgamesh, circa BCE 2000 (or 2150, give or take a Sumerian, a unit of measure we no longer use).

(Yes, Martha, I actually do know that Sumerians were people, not units of measurement. Gimme a break; I’m not a Republican.)

And yes, that would be H.G. Wells, not Vernon Wells, a pretty-much broken-down outfielder for the LA Angels who makes more money per year than you or I will ever make in our lifetimes. That should probably be “you and I,” but who quarrels about conjunctions these days?

For that matter, these days, who knows the difference between a conjunction and, say, an intersection?

(Don’t raise your hand; I can’t see you.)

Actually, I can’t see much these days; broken glasses will do that to you. But my vision is still clear, even though the world pretty much looks like Van Gogh’s Starry Night (play another “Starry Night” Joni Mitchell says on stage and laughs), and that vision says that Democrats and Republicans getting together, saving the world, then singing “Kumbaya” is pretty much science fiction.

Take last weekend. While in this corner of the universe we were riveted by the Hawkeye men hoopsters nailing down their 20th victory (a feat that felt exactly like science fiction in the glory days of the Lickliter Era), Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., was busy demonstrating that the GOP won all the elections in 2012.

(Remember 2012? Me, neither.)

As Greg Sargent of the Washington Post points out, Ryan, Mitt Romney’s running mate in 2012 (no wonder we don’t remember that year), said on Fox News that his budget would kill off Obamacare.
Wait a minute. Who won?

But, as Sargent notes, Ryan’s budget would maintain the Obamacare’s $700 billion in Medicare savings.

So let’s get this straight. You’re going to ax the plan, but you’re somehow going to keep the savings that the plan entails. Did somebody say science fiction?

I thought so.

Ryan’s budget would also, he claims, erase the deficit in around 10 years, which would mean the sort of spending cuts that have made Britain’s economy hum and purr. (And if you believe that last bit, you really have to cut down on your intake of science fiction.)

(No, seriously.)

Speaking of which, sometimes, on late-night cable, there’s this “Star Trek” episode in which Republicans and Democrats join together to save the planet, and everyone lives happily ever after.

Yeah, I know. Science fiction is great, isn’t it?

Such as this:

“The joyful will stoop with sorrow, and when you have gone to the earth I will let my hair grow long for your sake; I will wander through the wilderness in the skin of a lion.” 

― Michael OndaatjeIn the Skin of a Lion, from the Epic of  Gilgamesh.


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