Thursday, April 19, 2012

Isaac Asimov Rips Ronald Reagan from Beyond the Grave

From Isaac Asimov Rips Ronald Reagan from Beyond the Grave
Never underestimate the ability of an author to get in the last word. Famed science fiction author Isaac Asimov feuded with former President Ronald Reagan over the Star Wars program in the late 1980s. Though both men have since passed on, Asimov found a way to make his opinion known 25 years later.

In 1987, the organizers of the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future contest asked 20 of the biggest names in science fiction to write predictions for the year 2012. The predictions, sealed in a silver time capsule for 25 years, were unveiled at Sunday's 28th Annual L. Ron Hubbard Achievement Awards. Asimov's read: "Assuming we haven't destroyed ourselves in a nuclear war, there will be 8-10 billion of us on this planet -- and widespread hunger. These troubles can be traced back to President Ronald Reagan who smiled and waved too much."

Asimov was a vocal critic of Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative, the missile shield program known as Star Wars in the popular press. Asimov decried the program as too expensive and short-sighted, telling fellow writer Robert J. Sawyer, "They're talking about spending $33 billion on research related to Star Wars. We're going to withdraw money from needed aspects of developing knowledge in order to set up something that probably won't work and even if it does work, won't do us any good." And if the program did work, Asimov feared that rendering Soviet missiles obsolete would give the U.S. a bully pulpit from which to enforce Reagan's Republican ideals.

Asimov, who abhorred violence as the last refuge of the incompetent, believed that good leaders could achieve their goals peacefully, a theme he wrote into "Robots and Empire," the novel that bridged his popular Robots, Galactic Empire and Foundation series.

Asimov wasn't the only sci-fi author to have strong opinions on Star Wars. Author Arthur C. Clarke was against the program, while writers Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven were pro-Star Wars Reagan advisers. Norman Spinrad suggested in 1999 that Pournelle had written part of Reagan's famous Star Wars speech, an allegation Pournelle denies.

Unlike Asimov, Pournelle's time capsule prediction aimed for whimsy, rather than controversy, with its assertion that a computer virus would win all three of science fiction's literary awards. Niven's predictions bemoan the demise of the U.S. space program while rejoicing that at least it ensured that World War III could never happen on Earth's surface.

The predictions by Asimov, Pournelle, Niven and 16 others can be read at The Writers and Illustrators of the Future Facebook page (login required).

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