storm troopersI read two interesting article in wired.com recently (it is a magazine for nerds, so if you don’t know about it, that’s fine); one titled The Man Who’s Trying to Kill Dark Matter, and the other called Here’s What Sci-Fi Can Teach Us About Fascism. The first is a story about a Dutch theoretical physicist, Erik Verlinde, arguing that dark matter does not exist. (Actually, he posted a 51-page paper about it online.)

Whoosh! That flew right past me. I’m no physicist, just a nerd with some peripheral interest in the going-ons in the scientific community, but dark matter was the limit. “Dark matter is not itself a substance, but rather a placeholder name for something we don't quite understand yet.” Huh? I read that somewhere and I still don’t understand, but fortunately for the rest of us, Dark Matter, the TV series is on Netflix (if you can stream or torrent it). Thank God for sci-fi nuts.

Which brings us to my second story. While general literature is (and has been) always somewhat political, often exploring the inner workings of our dark side (like Lord of the Flies, Blindness, Dorian Grey, etc, etc), sci-fi is almost permanently resident in dystopia, and is fascinated by it. And about fascism.

In a Wired podcast (reported in wired.com), in Episode 238 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy, Bruce Sterling (known for his futuristic science fiction, and author of a new novella Pirate Utopia, an alternate history set after World War I -- I have not read him, but now I want to) answers questions on the ‘allure of fascism’. Here are excerpts:

(If you are outside the fascist tent) “... you’re under fascist occupation, there’s very little question that you’re suffering a lot and that they’re really bad ... their racial contempt for you and their cultural contempt for you ... is so overwhelming ...”

“But if you’re inside the fascist tent, it’s all about patriotism, and the allure of self-sacrifice, and how we’re bringing civilization to other people, and we’re resolving age-old conflicts in our own society by uniting around our great leader, the Duce or the Führer, and it’s actually exciting, it’s thrilling.”

“You go out into the square and there’s like a hundred thousand people all around you, they’re shouting for the same thing, they’re making the same arm gestures. There’s tremendous light shows, fantastic music. The women are excited, even the five-year-old child thinks it’s great, your grandparents are overwhelmed by the pageantry. You really feel like your civilization has gotten up on its feet and achieved something fantastic.”

Listen to the podcast here.

Well, the “hundred thousand people all around ... shouting for the same thing ... making the same arm gestures”, railing against the pendatang during the US elections (notwithstanding that the railers had too arrived in boats not that long ago) did feel somewhat surreal. What? In the US?

Don’t scoff at sci-fi. Read or wait for the TV series.