Perhaps the most intriguing thing about science fiction is what it says about the era and culture in which it’s written. Look no further than Jules Verne to view more about the past and Victorian ideals than glimpses into the future. Here, Hubbard’s 1949 tale reflects WWII and his particular pride in the US Navy in which he served.
Protagonist, Admiral Barnall, has received one final order before he is forced into retirement. He is to ensure the scrapping of the final bevy of US Navy ships and the decommissioning of the final Naval base. The US Navy has not fought for centuries and finally has outlived all government appropriations. As human expansion has taken people to hundreds of planets beyond the solar system, the navy remained mired in Earth’s oceans while the Army provided protection everywhere else.
The Admiral rallies the president to the Naval cause after pirates target outlying settlements with atomic attacks. Only the US Navy can handle the interstellar ships needed to guard the terrestrial colonies from pirates and disruption of commerce . . .
Noticeably absent from this tale are women–any women. No officers, congresspersons, cabinet secretaries. All are male. It’s both sad and funny that Hubbard could envision travel and commerce expanding to thousands of star systems, but not a woman in the military or government despite clear inroads throughout WWII.
Framing the tale around the navy handling what the army cannot seems to reflect Hubbard’s personal Navy-pride. Having the US Navy and not some Earth or alliance navy handle the space pirates also seems to lack vision. Then again, maybe this isn’t about space and a distant future at all. The pirates are Germans that had fled to Argentina, and when the US army, and everyone else for that matter, fails to put down the atomic bomb-wielding Germans, it’s the US Navy that comes to save the day. That’s one skewed way to retell WWII . . .
This tale appears in Writers of the Future 32 edited by David Farland. It’s illustrated by artist, Irvin Rodriguez. I received this new anthology from Netgalley.
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