<D <M <Y
Y> M> D>

...In Popular Culture: Not sure where I found out about Tielhard-influenced SF writer George Zebrowski, and did not expect to find out (while researching this entry) that he sometimes collaborates with Pamela Sargent. Last year I picked up his novel Macrolife and a short story collection, The Monadic Universe. I read Macrolife back in May: I was hoping to like it, and it certainly had epic scope, but I found it pretty dull, so I didn't have high hopes for TMU.

But, I read through it today, because it's one of a dwindling number of books that I didn't pack into boxes, and it wasn't too bad. Most of the stories were 1970s New Wave fables of pollution and overpopulation, but the title story was very good, as was "Heathen God". But I read a lot of books, and apart from the yearly nostalgic look back (coming soon!), I don't mention them here unless I have some interesting tidbit to convey. Preferably something that's not already on the Web.

And so I do about "Assassins of Air", the most 1970s story in TMU. The protagonist steals old pollution-spewing cars and sells them for scrap, the illicit face of an economy that's going to great lengths to undo enormous environmental damage. And what does he do with his money?

"I need it now," Praeger mumbled. "I have to pay for my PLATO lessons. I gotta have it, honest."

What? That couldn't be the ahead-of-its-time PLATO time-sharing system, could it?

PLATO the sign read: PROGRAMMING LOGIC FOR AUTOMATIC TEACHING OPERATIONS. Once the facility had been free, just like chest X rays. Now students had to pay to milk the machine, twenty dollars a rap; but it was a good teach if you wanted to learn a skill.

Wow! PLATO became big in 1972 (insofar as it became big at all), and Assassins of Air was published in 1973. Zebrowski clearly had his ear to the ground. The technical details of PLATO don't exactly play a major part in the story, but it's still very impressive.

It made me wonder about the first pop culture references to the Internet or ARPANET. According to Wikipedia, the very first was either the 1969 Disney movie The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, or a 1985 episode of Benson, the sitcom whose intro seemingly gives you permission to laugh at black people being chased by attack dogs. Google Book Search reveals an ARPANET reference in Theodore Roszak's 1983 thriller "Bugs". Not really sure where else I'd go for this information--TV Tropes has nothing--but it seems likely that there are multiple ARPANET references in early-1980s print science fiction, given how the damn thing was full of SF fans.


Unless otherwise noted, all content licensed by Leonard Richardson
under a Creative Commons License.