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Fritz Leiber

{ n a v i g a t i o n   m e n u }

I figure that I'm just supposed to talk until you get quieted down for the Business Session; so as soon as I see that everybody is fast asleep, why then I'll cut it short.

Now, when I first heard that I was going to speak, I thought it was going to be the first day and I figured that I'd be subbing for Robert Bloch. Now, to have me subbing for Bloch is just about as if you thought you were going to a special performance of Charlie Chaplin and out on the stage stepped Herbert Hoover. So, I won't make any efforts in that direction, though as far as Bloch is concerned, knowing him, I think that in commemoration and in honor of him I really ought to ask you all to rise and stand for one minute on your heads. I know he'd like that. However, since we're supposed to be quiet, I won't pull that.

Along with the Herbert Hoover idea, it occurs to me that every convention, every meeting, has to have a parson somewhere. Somebody with a little serious reminder. Even Congress, I understand, keeps a couple of gentlemen with their collars turned around to say a few words now and then. Along with that line, I think that this will quiet you faster than almost anything else would. I'd like to bring up this one point: There's the fact that Stf. is entertainment and we get a great kick out of it all the time. There is one side, however, and this is almost, I'd say, a responsibility that the people who read, write, and publish Science Fiction do feel........

And that's this: Science, and the ideas about life that have come out of science, are not particularly welcome throughout the world. Human beings are culture-bound. They have been culture-bound for centuries; for well, as far back as you want to go in the evolutionary process. They find it difficult to look beyond the walls of their own habits, the customs they've been brought up to, and that has a profound effect on the world today. A very profound and sometimes very dangerous effect. I was looking up some of the things recently, Stuart Chase, the Semanticist, has been doing lately, and one of them is that he has been making a popular study, though a very thorough going one, of the work that's being done in Anthropology today. One of the big jobs they're on, is called The Cross Index of Cultural Traits. I believe that it's set up at Yale, but there are people working on it throughout the country and throughout the world. The idea there is to find, and state, the customs and habits of every separate culture that exists in the world today and has existed; with the idea of finding out what's common between those cultures, so there will be some idea what can be built on in making some type of one-world government or federation in the future. For instance, one of the things that's been pointed out is that it's found practically everywhere government grows out of the war-making committee. In other words, the power behind the government, right from the start, is generally the war making power. There are ideas like that, that have some very interesting suggestions to them.

Now the point I want to make, however, is that Chase was pointing out how culture-bound we all are; how unable we are to look over the fence at the other fellow's habits and customs of life, without criticizing them of failing to understand. He was pointing out that the idea of culture-binding was probably the most important idea where war and peace are concerned in the world today. And, he was saying, that he didn't think there was one major statesman in the world who had a clear idea of this concept. Statesmen don't have time to get a background yet, on the whole. Neither does the public at large. Even the scientists themselves, are likely to come from highly conservative, even narrow minded home backgrounds which makes them -- although scientific principles influences their lives -- have a hard time; their whole personalities aren't remade. They're apt to be tolerant, and understanding, and farseeing in their own home field; but rather prejudiced in other fields. I do think that science and the fans can play a part -- that's where Science Fiction comes in. As a group, they are people who have accepted science, who have tried to build their lives and beliefs to some extent around science. There are exceptions, of course, but I think on the whole that can be stated. That puts all of us into a little more responsible position than it seems on the surface. We have a chance to help people of our times with the application of science to Social and Political problems throughout the world ; and to show the need of running our lives and our countries according to the findings of the Socialologists and Anthropologists, instead of according to inherited prejudices. We have a chance to put in a good word for science -- all of us.

I was just writing a book review, recently, of that anthology THE BEST STF. STORIES - 1949; and it occurred to me in re-reading those stories that the majority of them are Superman stories. Then it occurred to me further that the Superman idea has a wider application than I ever realized before. There is a sense in which all of us are called upon to be Supermen today. You can't do it in the sense of the super-high IQ. We can't do it in the sense of the rigorously and scientifically worked out training and discipline. But, it is possible today for everyone to be a Superman in the sense of adopting the scientific principle of being a Superman of Understanding, Tolerance, Vision, Judgement, and Justice. Those aren't things which necessarily require high IQ. Personally, I have never seen it proved that a high IQ is required there. And personally, I don't believe that a Democracy or any other form of Democratic government will work in the long run, unless every person is to some degree, a true Superman. In other words, a person who to some degree has gotten beyond himself, who can see a bigger picture, who isn't culture-bound, who isn't solely the victim of his habit and his inherited prejudices. And so, in that sense, I wrote in that review that -- well, I have to write something! I believe that in the middle of the last century, Karl Marx or Engels wrote something to the effect that: "There is a specter haunting Europe today, the specter of Communism." Well, today I'd say that there is a Superman awaiting at everybody's elbow. He's invisible, and he's waiting there; ready to be embodied.

Thank you.

{ t o p   o f   p a g e }

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