The Space Merchants

The Space MerchantsOriginally written in the fifties, this version was updated in 2010 In comparing the two versions together it is impressive to see how little was actually changed, mainly just trading out old company names with newer, familiar brands Like the original Blade Runner film, I find that the book s predictions of corporate domination and relentless advertising are moving ever closer to reality, even if many of the specific companies referenced did not survive the journey Which shows, it would seem, that it is easier to recognize overall social and market trends then to predict who will survive them. I first read this book for my German oral exam back in 1976, ah the English Summer of 76, what weather, what an idyllic Summer school holiday that was Maybe that s why I remembered the book with such fondness That said it certainly stood the test of time and will be one of my favourites of the year Great story telling, great characters and settings and just an all round excellent novel Whether one enjoys sci fi or not this novel is a classic and one that everyone should try 5 stars indeed Quando Questo Romanzo Fu Scritto, Nel , La Maggior Parte Degli Italiani Abbienti Andava In Giro In O In Scooter, E Dei Supermarket Si Parlava Come Di Una Novit Sospetta Oggi, Che Siamo Passati Anche Noi Per Il Grande Carnevale Consumistico, Di Cui Anzi Le Luci Cominciano Qua E La Ad Affievolirsi, Le Grottesche Anticipazioni Di Pohl E Kornbluth Acquistano, Col Senno Di Poi, Un Valore Veramente Classico La Forza Del Libro Sta Senza Dubbio Nella Sua Incalzante Vivacit Di Ritmo E Di Ricchezza Di Sorprese Ma Pi Ancora Nell Aver Evitato Le Facili Prediche, Le Invettive, I Vacui Moralismi Pohl E Kornbluth Questa La Loro Geniale Intuizione Satirica Non Gridano Al Lupo Ma Cedono La Parola Al Lupo Stesso, Cio A Mitchell Courtenay, Alto Funzionario Di Un Onnipotente Agenzia Pubblicitaria, Contentissimo Di S , Del Suo Lavoro, Della Sua Vita, Perfettamente Integrato Nel Sistema E Stanno A Vedere Quello Che Gli SuccedeCopertina Di Karel Thole I was becoming the kind of consumer we used to love Think about smoking, think about Starrs, light a Starr Light a Starr, think about Popsie, get a squirt Get a squirt, think about Crunchies, buy a box Buy a box, think about smoking, light a Starr And at every step roll out the words of praise that had been dinned into you through your eyes and ears and poresThe Space Merchants is a different spin on the dystopia subgenre, it posits a near future where society is ruled by mega corporations and governments play a supporting role Earth is severely overpopulated, polluted and short on resources, including clean water Real meat is a rarity and the most common type of meat comes from genetically engineered creatures called Chicken Little , which are basically gigantic living meat with no brain or limbs Coffiest , made from yeast, have taken the place of coffee, which appears to be extinct There are two main social classes, the executives, and the consumers You can imagine which one is lording over the other.The narrative is told in the first person by Mitchell Courtenay, one of the top advertising executives of Fowler Schocken Associates, an advertising agency and one of the ruling giant corporations Courtenay is put in charge of a new project to induce the public to emigrate to Venus as colonists Unfortunately, Venus is an inhospitable planet with very high temperature and uncomfortable climate Courtenay s job is to make Venus sound attractive to the masses with promises of a better life, space to live in, and good career opportunities Rivalry within the company caused Courtenay to be abducted, his identity stolen and sent to work as a laborer for the United Slime Mold Protein Workers of Panamerica in Costa Rica Here he learns how the consumers live, and comes into contact with the notorious underground organization, the World Conservationist Association, generally referred to as the Consies As an executive Courtenay despises the Consies and everything they stand for, but in his predicament, he sees them as a ticket out of the lowly consumer class, back to the executive life The Space Merchants was first published in 1954 It is something of a minor sci fi classic, though some of the concepts, science or even characterization may seem a little dated today but a great story will always stand the test of time This is a heavily satirical book, often funny but the underlying theme of consumerism gone mad is always near the surface Unscrupulous advertising agencies manipulating gullible, unsuspecting consumers still exist to this day Besides the social satire the novel is also a competent espionage thriller, with a few exciting moments My only complaint is that the book seems to lose steam a little toward the end and the pacing slackens than it should The writing is very good, with some sharp irony and satirical bite the characterization is also done well the romantic relationship between Courtenay and his fianc Kathy is quite complex and interesting The ending is quite satisfying, though not entirely unpredictable.Definitely recommended to readers who want to be well versed in sci fi history For basic leisure reading it passes the time nicely, though only seems like a page turner in the middle section the Costa Rica part Certainly, I am glad to have read it.QuotesIncrease of population was always good news to us More people, sales Decrease of IQ was always good news to us Less brains, sales The gap between executive and consumer could not be bridged by anything as abstract and unreal as friendship Reckless exploitation of natural resources has created needless poverty and needless human misery It believes that continued exploitation will mean the end of human life on Earth It was an appeal to reason, and they re always dangerous You can t trust reason We threw it out of the ad profession long ago and have never missed it I swear, the whole damned Government must be infiltrated with Consies You know what they ve done They outlawed compulsive subsonics in our aural advertising but we ve bounced back with a list of semantic cue words that tie in with every basic trauma and neurosis in American life today They listened to the safety cranks and stopped us from projecting our messages on aircar windows but we bouncedback Lab tells me, he nodded to our Director of Research across the table, that soon we ll be testing a system that projects directly on the retina of the eye Soyaburgers and regenerated steak there wasn t a man around the table who didn t shudder at the thought of soyaburgers and regenerated steak are packed in containers the same shade of green as the Universal products But the candy, ice cream, and Kiddiebutt cigarette ration are wrapped in colorful Starrzelius red When those kids grow up he lifted his eyes exultantly from his notes According to our extrapolation, fifteen years from now Universal products will be broke, bankrupt, and off the market entirely , 50 , SF 2018 the place to be ,. I was blown away by this satirical and cynical novel I couldn t believe how fresh it felt, even sixty years after it was originally published, it s still so pertinent, so topical I would not have been surprised to find out it was written twenty years after it was.Reading up about the origins of this novel, I was amazed to discover that Pohl actually decided to get a job in advertising just so he could know the industry better and write about it with authority And yes, one certainly feels that he knows what he s talking about when reading this.This is a dystopian, consumerist future in which it is considered un patriotic not to like advertisements and to be a fully participating consumer in a society of stark wealth inequality and acute shortages of basic things such as fuels, non synthetic food and fresh water It is the consumer s duty to consume, not for his own benefit, but for the benefit of production machine, and the star class executives at the top.We are introduced to this world through the eyes of one of these star class executives, Mitchell Courtenay, a masterful copywriter who is appointed to run the next big project but things start falling apart as he is caught up in a deadly game of industrial espionage with one of their rivals and the seemingly deluded ideologues the Consies conservationists.I notice that Pohl and Kornbluth collaborated on several other novels and I will definitely be interested in reading them. Never have I read such a marvelously plausible work of Science Fiction There are many prophetic works, and plenty of works of farther distant futures that I can see being possible, but The Space Merchants is mostly here right now, and everything else if you exchange Mars for Venus is merely moments away And that is a scary fucking proposition Pohl Kornbluth s world is an overpopulated mess, where food and water are at a serious premium and the super rich dominate the use of goods and services And that world is ruled by the all powerful ad agencies, who just happen to have overtaken every industry There is a President who is no than a useless figurehead There is martial law that everyone happily accepts There are Orwellian levels of thought control without any need for thought police because advertising and media do the job quite nicely And there is the usual group of revolutionaries working clandestinely for the good of all The Space Merchants has been on one of my must read lists for twenty years, and I ve only now gotten around to it because I tracked down a two part radio play of it on Relic Radio s Sci Fi podcast I ll be giving it a listen tonight, but I am not sure how close to the book a sixties CBS radio play can be, especially considering the damning criticism of America s consumer culture, and its ambiguously depressing ending I imagine it is going to end about halfway through Mitchell Courtenay s journey, when his capitalist dreams are complete I m kind of stoked, regardless.One last thing, if you are looking for a classic work of Sci Fi to turn into a mini series SyFy, this is the the work for you Mitchell Courtenay could easily be the Don Draper of Sci Fi pop culture And there s even a part for Peter Dinklage and a damn good one.Charles, you had it absolutely right I am so glad I got around to this. A satire of the future where commercialism is king, the raison d etre Unfortunately, the 1950s vibe set several centuries in the future heavy handed treatment made it too slapstick for me most of the time Also, the main character certainly no hero was just too conveniently clueless brilliant too often It was well narrated, so I stuck through it had a few laughs that I m not sure the author intended For instance, the blatant sexism is leavened by the obvious superiority of one of the female leads.The best part for me were the obvious historic parallels with United Fruit s role in Central America company store scams They were well updated with addictive alkaloids dovetailed in note how it is harvested with lab grown meat based in part on Carrel s chicken heart which was used by other SF authors at the time such as Robert A Heinlein in Methuselah s Children.This is supposed to be one of the classics of SF, but it wouldn t make a top 10 or even 25 list of mine I think the original title, Gravy Planet , of the serialized version fit better This edition was published prior to Pohl s update in 2011 which I m not sure I d want to read, but am curious about If you ve read both, I d love to know what you think. I like Frederik Pohl the of his books I read.Space Merchants, first published in 1952 is a science fiction gem Telling the tale of a capitalistic anarchic society from the perspective of an advertising executive, Pohl describes a world where ancient maxims have been turned upside down such as Power enables, and absolute power enables absolutely Our hero is living the dream amidst a world of over population and contract labor consumerism Then corporate espionage and the nefarious Consies Conservationists this world s boogeymen step in to make things very interesting.Somewhat dated, this is told with humor and intelligence and was no doubt wildly influential on the genre That s true of much of Pohl s work, he was an underrated master. We hear a lot about fake news today, but it s been around for awhile The protagonist here, Mitch Courtenay, a top notch copywriter for a futuristic ad agency, sole job is to convince consumers that they need things exactly opposite of what they actually need, and he s very good at it This future world is run by several large corporations, primarily ad agencies, and based entirely on the idea of consumerism The novel is of course satire, an exaggerated satire that almost reaches the level of comedy It was published first in 1952 and it contains the typical male misogyny female subservient attitudes seen in that era Also, casual public smoking was still around which is an irony in itself because of the success that tobacco advertising had on that generation They had trouble finding a publisher originally until Ballantine agreed to do it The rest is history It has now sold over 10 million copies in 25 languages and is considered a science fiction classic.

Frederik George Pohl, Jr was an American science fiction writer, editor and fan, with a career spanning over seventy years From about 1959 until 1969, Pohl edited Galaxy magazine and its sister magazine IF winning the Hugo for IF three years in a row His writing also won him three Hugos and multiple Nebula Awards He became a Nebula Grand Master in 1993.

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  • Mass Market Paperback
  • 184 pages
  • The Space Merchants
  • Frederik Pohl
  • Italian
  • 24 March 2019

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