Hard to Be a God by Arkady & Boris Strugatsky

Hard to Be a GodI’ve read so much more science-fiction these past few years and it’s been a real pleasure to both jump around culturally and in time with the genre. I really need to go back to Asimov now, I think it’s time–I digress.

Arkady’s Russian science-fiction from the 60’s is a culture and technology timepiece. Another Earth (like?), earlier in time, going through its own rise and fall–revolution–ignorance–religion–budding sciences. With these may be meddlesome future Earthlings that have come to observe, but as we know its hard to be an observer if you are in the experiment.

The technology Arkady brings to this dimensional, shuttle, traveled to (?–I’m still not fully clear on how they got here..) but they have a helicopter they exfil people, they want to save. A machine for gold from sawdust–what an alchemist! Pills that revitalize.

It’s kind of comical when compared to some quantum-filled-dreams of the day–which as another digression I wonder how well they will hold up in another 60 years.

It’s an interesting tale. Something like the Musketeers, but not quite, definitely during some renaissance movement. It reminds me of an early Culture novel on some backwater world with people trying to watch and do-no-harm but inevitably has to get involved or lost themselves trying.

Born in an era when Stalin & Khruschev struggled, it’s not hard to imagine what was rolling around these future intellectualists.

Arkady-Strugatsky“And no matter how much the gray people in power despise knowledge, they can’t do anything about historical objectivity; they can slow it down, but they can’t stop it. Despising and fearing knowledge, they will nonetheless inevitably decide to promote it in order to survive. Sooner or later they will be forced to allow universities and scientific societies, to create research centers, observatories, and laboratories, and thus to create a cadre of people of thought and knowledge: people who are completely beyond their control, people with a completely different psychology and with completely different needs. And these people cannot exist and certainly cannot function in the former atmosphere of low self-interest, banal preoccupations, dull self-satisfaction, and purely carnal needs. They need a new atmosphere— an atmosphere of comprehensive and inclusive learning, permeated with creative tension; they need writers, artists, composers— and the gray people in power are forced to make this concession too. The obstinate ones will be swept aside by their more cunning opponents in the struggle for power, but those who make this concession are, inevitably and paradoxically, digging their own graves against their will. For fatal to the ignorant egoists and fanatics is the growth of a full range of culture in the people— from research in the natural sciences to the ability to marvel at great music. And then comes the associated process of the broad intellectualization of society: an era in which grayness fights its last battles with a brutality that takes humanity back to the middle ages, loses these battles, and forever disappears as an actual force.” ― Arkady Strugatsky

Pretty light, a bit whimsical, a bit dark, and some drama. Nothing tricky and a quick moment between here and there. Enjoy it and ponder.