Saturday, August 03, 2013

16. Broke Down Engine and other troubles with machines by Ron Goulart

Another find from the back alley pile of apartment stuff that just keeps on giving, this is a collection of short stories by Ron Goulart, a prolific writer from the 60s and 70s and onwards about whom I knew nothing until now.  The cover just intrigued me at the time.  The style of these stories makes me think of Omni and Playboy rather than science fiction magazines and rightfully so as several of these stories were published in Playboy.  Theys tend to be of two types, either taking place in some kind of dystopic near-future LA where machiness and man combine to make nightmarish bureaucracies (hospitals that don't let you leave, food agencies that decide who lives and dies) or in far off galaxies and futures.  In both cases, the tone is similar, light, wry and not taking itself too seriously, despite often fairly nasty situations.  At first, I found myself a bit disconnected (which is not unusual for me with short stories), but as I worked my way through, I enjoyed the read more and more.  The themes here, though based on very primitive extrapolations of technology, age well.  Human stupidity tends to get magnified rather than mitigated by more powerful tools.  Cruelty is a truism and not worth making a big moral stink about (though defnitely worth avoiding).  We get so caught up in the moment, especially in today's media environment, that we tend to think that all the issues we are freaking out about now are new.  Reading a book like this reminds me that they are not new at all and that guys like Ron Goulart were pointing them out to the rest of us decades ago.  Good stuff.

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