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|A good old fashioned future. But whos?||
I wrote this article more than two years ago and submitted it to New Pravda and Singularity on a freelance basis. With the recent tragic and untimely loss of Comrade Y- from illness and corresponding topical interest in his achievements I have pulled it out of my drawer, dusted it off and made a few minor edits and present it here in a spirit of remembrance of the man and his legacy.
Last week I had the opportunity to visit Captain Sergei Y------- at the Korolev home for Aging Heroes of the Soviet Republic in Moscow. Captain Y- was a noted space-traveller and astronaut in days gone by and he visited many other planets in the course of his travels.
Many will remember the newsreels and telecasts of his triumphant return to Earth, over a decade ago. The images of Captain Y- striding down the ramp of his battered space capsule in the full glare of the world’s publicity, his hair greying, his figure haggard and travel-worn yet still powerful, an Odysseus for the modern age, only his eyes hinting at the depth of the abyss upon which he had looked. For months his picture graced all of the papers and then he dropped from view.
A decade later I found Captain Y lying on his bed I a tiny dark room in the stifling heat of a Moscow summer. Hunched, white haired, prematurely aged, he seemed much more than a decade older than the man in the newsreels. Only the eyes were the same. He coughed and spat, his voice soft and weak, an old man’s voice.
I explained who I was and my purpose in visiting. He seemed happy to talk.
Y- on Space
"Space is not a distance to be covered or a battle against the elements, that is where the Americans go wrong. Space is a journey of the spiritual dimension. To travel through space is to travel into yourself. This is what one must understand in order to travel in space. That is why the Americans will never succeed in space travel. They approach the adventure as an obstacle to be overcome. This is the wrong attitude."
I ventured that they seemed to be doing alright, as far as I could see.
Captain Y muttered that appearances can be deceptive.
On Other Planets
"The sky is full of other planets," Captain Y told me. "Many of them are almost identical to our own. There are people living on then whose lives are almost indistinguishable from yours or mine. Of course these are still alien worlds, products of a different, if inevitably similar, process of planetary evolution. Sometimes the results of this process were surprising and unusual."
The Planet with no Women
One of the many planets the Captain visited was occupied entirely by men, with no women visible at all. "Does this make things very hard?" he asked the inhabitants. "Without any women to provide a gentler, more feminine view on life? In fact how do you survive at all? How can you reproduce without women? Isn't life here in fact impossible?"
"No," he was reassured by the inhabitants. "In fact it has it's advantages: We can leave the toilet seat up all the time!"
The Planet of the Lotus Eaters
Captain Y visited the famous planet of the Lotus Eaters and partook of their unusual flower based drug. He told me that this was quite pleasant and for a long time he thought about nothing at all. Finally however he was moved to enquire of the lotus eaters: "This is quite pleasant, but doesn't it get a bit boring after a while?"
The Lotus eaters looked off into the middle distance on their planet where it is always about mid-afternoon and made no reply whatsoever.
The Planet with Statues of Lenin
The Astronaut visited a planet where every surface was covered with statues of Comrade Lenin, big and small. It seemed that the people's only occupation and industry was making more statues of the great leader.
“How could this be?” I asked. “On a planet millions, billions of kilometres away from Earth. So far away that it even takes light years or centuries to travel the distance in between. How could the people have even heard of Lenin?”
Captain Y glared at me. “Do not interrupt. The theory of Socialist Dialectic shows that every planet has it’s own Marx, it’s own Lenin. It is inevitable.”
“Oh.. I see.”
"I asked the people: How do you survive?" he
asked. "How do you provide bread and milk for your children if all you do
all day is carve more statues of Comrade Lenin?"
"Comrade Lenin shows the way," I was told.
One day Captain Y landed on a planet that seemed the perfect example of the socialist ideal. People lived in small communities where the labour was shared collectively. Nobody had more or less than anybody else. Everybody was provided for according to their needs, and everybody laboured according to their abilities. There was no Class system and no struggle or conflict between individuals.
The people had some high technology, particularly in the fields of communication and transport, but this was mostly used to coordinate relief efforts in case some unusual natural disaster should strike one region of the globe.
“Why that’s marvellous,” I exclaimed. “How had such a state of affairs come about?”
“I visited their archives and saw records showing a past filled with states and wars and class struggle much like that on Earth. But gradually a single socialist state had prevailed and it had gradually faded away to leave a condition of perfect socialism.
“That is amazing. I am surprised that you could bear to leave such a wonderful place. Even on Earth, despite all our struggles and victories we have not yet achieved perfect socialism.”
The Astronaut shrugged. “It was alright for a week or two. But then the days all started to seem the same. I returned to my capsule and continued my quest to find new worlds.”
"The return to Earth was very difficult," the
Astronaut informed me. "The navigation equipment was faulty and it was not
possible to retrace my path exactly. There are many parallel Earths exactly
identical to the original except in one tiny but critical detail - such as the
colour of the flag or the number of feet that people possess. I had to visit
and reject several possible alternative Earths before I arrived here."
"Are you sure that you got the right one in the end?" I asked.
"I arrived here, didn't I?"
To this statement I could find no possible objection.
On leaving Comrade Y and making my way out of the home I chanced to meet the Director of the institution Comrade Galena I-.
"Oh you have been meeting our famous Astronaut Captain Y," she noted. "I do hope that you had a pleasant visit?"
"Why yes, the Captain was most pleasant and informative about his travels."
"That is good, still, I should take anything that he told you with a pinch of salt."
"Oh, why is that?"
"The stress of space travel has affected the old Captain's mind, you know. I believe it was something to do with the isolation and the vast distances travelled in those early expeditions. Unfortunately the Captain has become an incorrigible liar, especially about his travels. You really shouldn't believe a single word that he has told you.".
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