I love a good dystopian tale. I also love reading things in Charlton Heston’s voice. So I am looking forward to finally reading the book that inspired Soylent Green. Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison.
In 1798 Thomas Malthus published his Essay on the Principle of Population. And then, 160 years later, it scared all the sci-fi writers. There was something about the fear of too many people that made for some fantastically bad ideas on how the world might address it. William Nolan’s Logan’s Run, Phillip Jose Famers Dayworld. For the movies, we got Death Race 2000. So we had no one lives past 21, everyone only lives one day a week, and we run people down for points in a game. All unique ideas and all requiring dystopic governments to make it happen. And there’s never a better villain to rebel against than an overbearing government. Especially in the 60’s.
But these books were written with a very real fear. Even in the dedication to this book, Harrison says “I hope this proves to be a work of fiction.” Thankfully their fears proved to be unfounded. Surprise surprise, Malthusianism didn’t account for advances in technology or food production. It’s easy to excuse Malthus for this, he lived in the 18th century. But science fiction writers in the 60’s were watching the world advance in leaps and bounds. And I think it’s great that they saw the potential advances in science as a means to freeze people 6 days a week but not to grow more corn. In retrospect, it was a weird paranoia, but it made for some great reading.