Mars Is

Sci-Fi then and now.


I’m no philosopher. I aint got no meaningful insights. I can’t see into the heart of darkness and illuminate what lies there. I’m just a poor dumb white boy what knows what he likes. But I do know that what I like. And I damned well know what I don’t. I aint into navel gazing, trans-testicle, non-binary gender froo froo. I get enough of that shit in the real world.

When I read, I read to escape this here mundane life. I read to see new vistas, new horizons, and to escape the mundane world.  I just finished a book that did that. It aint a new book by any measure. Damned thing was published back in 89, when I was but 12 years old. And somehow, despite a lifelong love of Sci-fi, I had never even heard of the author.

That book was “Prison Ship” by a Mr Martin Caidin. How I missed this mans work I can’t imagine. But this book was a damned engrossing read. Violent, compelling, beautiful, tragic, heart wrenching, horrifying and utterly fascinating. The authors career, as wiki just informed me, stretched from the 50’s till he died in the early 90’s. He was the man responsible for the “Six million dollar man” series by way of his book “Cyborg”. I didn’t know that either.

What I do know is that I found this tattered old paperback in a second hand bookstore in manila and snapped it up for the low price of forty pesos (roughly eighty american cents at this moment in time). What I know is this story kept me awake far longer than I should have been for several nights in a row. What I know is that it made me look up the author just as soon as I finished it, and upon realizing he was no longer with us it made my world just a little bit bit dimmer.

In my google search for info about this brilliant author I followed a link to goodreads, and the reviews just made me sad. Not because I disagreed with them, but because of how skittish, soft, and weak it made the reviewers seem. Don’t get me wrong there is definitely what you might call graphic violence, and adult subject matter in this here story. Hell the very first page contains the following publishers note.

As Martin Caidin’s dedicated readers know, there are no compromises in his work; it is his specific pride as a storyteller to render faithfully the reality which he describes. In this novel featuring convicted felons of Earth and Beyond, the explicitness of language and the graphic violence of certain scenes may well startle or even offend some readers. Therefore we have, with the author’s approval, flagged particularly graphic scenes so that readers who wish to may avoid them. The start of these scenes is indicated * * * by open stars and the end * * * by filled stars.

On the other hand, this aint exactly the novelization of “Cannibal Holocaust” neither. Of course if a writer were to submit this exact manuscript today I’m not sure any publishing house, not even Baen (who were the ones who published the paperback I bought) would accept it. And if a writer had self published it, it would only take about two point three femtoseconds  for the self righteous legions of the perpetually outraged to descend howling and frothing at the mouth to electronically eviscerate the poor dumb bastard what dared to write it.

I aint kidding. Not even a little. There are multiple uses of the word “nigger” (many of which are said affectionately by a white man to a black man), first person accounts of attempted prison rape, multiple scenes involving the rape of women by men, extraterrestrial men, and men using foreign objects. Scenes involving cannibalism (well not technically), murder, mass murder, the use of the word “faggot” as a pejorative, and the few female characters are either “fridged” love interests or supporting accessories to the main male characters. And yet, because of all that it is an engrossing fucking story.

Go find a copy of “Prison Ship” by Martin Caidin. Read it, enjoy it, and then read the lifeless, bloodless, pap that is being peddled by most Sci-fi writers today. But then that’s the difference between Sci-fi then, and Sci-fi now. Back then Sci-fi still had fucking balls.