Thursday, November 17, 2022

The Sheep Look Up

 The Sheep Look Up by John Brunner

NY:   Ballantine Books, 1972
ISBN 0-345-24948-8-195

(frontispiece) Please help
Keep pier clean
Throw refuse overside
sign pictured in God's Own Junkyard edited by Peter Blake

(page 14-15)  Sharp on nine the Trainites had scattered caltraps in the roadway and created a monumental snarl-up twelve blocks by seven.  The fuzz, as usual, was elsewhere - there were always plenty of sympathizers willing to cause a diversion.  It was impossible to guess how many allies the movement had;  at a rough guess, though, one could say that in New York City, Chicago, Detroit, LA or San Francisco people were apt to cheer, while in the surrounding suburbs or the Midwest people were apt to go fetch guns.  In other words, they had least support in the areas which had voted for Prexy.

"Next, the stalled cars had their windows opaqued with a cheap commercial compound used for etching glass, and slogans were painted on their doors.  Some were long:  THIS VEHICLE IS A DANGER TO LIFE AND LIMB.  Many were short:  IT STINKS!  But the commonest of all was the universally known catchphrase:  STOP, YOU’RE KILLING ME!

"And in every case the inscription was concluded with a rough egg-shape above a saltire - the simplified ideogrammatic version of the invariable Trainite symbol, a skull and crossbones reduced to

(291)  At the big Georgia paper mill the saboteur was obviously a chemist. Some kind of catalyst was substituted for a drum of regular sizing solution and vast billowing waves of corrosive fumes ruined the plant.  Anonymous calls to a local TV station claimed it had been done to preserve trees.

The same day, in Northern California, signs were posted on a stand of redwoods that the governor had authorized for lumbering: about 200 of the last 600 in the state. The sign said: FOR EVERY TREE YOU KILL ONE OF YOU WILL DIE TOO.

The promise was carried out with Schmeiser machine-pistols. The actual score was 18 people for 17 trees.

Close enough.

(291-292)  But the most ingenious single coup was later laid at the door of a Chicano working for the California State Board of Education. (Prudently he wasn't behind the door at the time; he'd emigrated via Mexico to Uruguay.)  He'd used the computerized student records to organize a free mailing of literally thousands of identical envelopes, every one addressed to somebody receiving public education in the state. They never did find out exactly how many there had been, because although they were all postmarked July 1st the mails were so lousy nowadays they arrived over a period of a week, and by the end of that time parents alert to protect their kids from commie propaganda had been warned to destroy the envelopes before the intended recipients could open them. But they guessed that 50,000 did get through.

On each envelope was printed: "A FREE GIFT FOR YOU ON INDEPENDENCE DAY, COURTESY OF THE "BE A BETTER AMERICAN LEAGUE." Inside there was a handsome print, in copperplate engraving style, showing a tall man at a table with several companions handing pieces of cloth to a group is nearly naked Indians of both sexes.

Underneath it was the caption: First in a Series Commemorating Traditional American Values. The Governor of Massachusetts Distributes Smallpox-infected Blankets to the Indians.

(320)  … Prexy said quote, Well, you don’t have to go abroad to know our way of life is the best in the world.  End quote.

(351-352)  … unanimously ascribed to fear of Trainite atrocities by traffic experts across the nation.  In many places the car per hour count was the lowest for 30 years. Those who did venture out this Labor Day often did not meet with the welcome they expected. In Bar Harbor, Maine, townsfolk formed vigilante patrols to turn away drivers of steam and electric cars, persons carrying health foods, and other suspected Trainites.  Two fatalities are reported following clashes between tourists and residents. Two more occurred at Milford, Pennsylvania, when clients at a restaurant, angered at not obtaining items listed on the menu, fired it with gasoline bombs. The owner later claimed that supplies had been interrupted by food-truck hijackers. Commenting on the event by the shore of his private lake in Minnesota, Prexy said, quote, Any man has a right to his steak and potatoes, unquote. California: experts at assessing mortar damage to the bay bridge…

(369-370)  reading, as you might say, from the top down:

Dead satellites.
Discarded first and second stages of rockets, mainly second.
Fragments of vehicles which exploded in orbit.
Experimental material, E. G. reflective copper needles.

Combustion compounds from rocket exhausts.
Experimental substances intended to react with the stratospheric ozone, EE., sodium.
Very light radioactive fallout.


Aircraft exhaust.
Medium fallout.
Rainmaking compounds.

Sulfur dioxide.
Lead alkyls.
Mercaptans and other bad smells.

Car exhausts.
Locomotive exhausts.
More smoke.
Local fallout.
Products accidentally ventilated from the underground nuclear tests.

Oceanic fluorine.
Nitric acid.
Sulfuric acid.

Industrial effluents.

Selenium and cadmium from mine tailings.
Fumes from garbage incinerators burning plastic.
Nitrates, phosphates, fungicidal mercuric compounds from "compacted soils.”

Oil derived insecticides.
Defoliants and herbicides.
Radio active this from aquifers contaminated by underground explosions, chiefly tritium.

Lead, arsenic, Oilwell sludge, fly ash, asbestos.
Polyethylene, polystyrene, polyurethane, glass, cans.
Nylon, dacron, rayon, teryline, stylene, orlon, other artificial fibers.

Concrete and cement.
A great deal of short-wave radiation.
Carcinogens, teratogens and mutagens.
Synergistic poisons.
Hormones, antibiotics, additives, medicaments.
Solanine, oxalic acid, caffeine, cyanide, myristicin, pressor amines, copper sulfate, dihydrochalcones, naringin, ergot.

Mustard gas, chlorine, Lewisite, phosgene, prussic acid. 
T, Q, GA, GB, GD, GE, GF, VE, VX, CAA, CN, CS, DM, PL, BW, BZ.

- to name but a few.

(409-411)  Thank you. Friends and fellow Americans, no president of the United States has ever had a more melancholy task than I have at this moment.  It is my sad duty to inform you that our country isn't a state of war. A war that is not of our choosing. And, moreover, not a war with bombs and tanks and missiles, not a war that is fought by soldiers gallant on the field of battle, sailors daring the hostile sea, airmen streaking valiant through the skies – but a war that must be fought by you, the people of the United States.

We have been attacked with the most cowardly, most monstrous, the most evil weapons ever devised by wicked men. We are the victims of a combined chemical and biological attack. You are all aware that our crops have failed disastrously last summer. We, the members of my cabinet and I, delayed announcing the truth behind that story in the van I hope that we might contain the threat of the jigras. We can no longer do so. It is known that they were deliberately introduced into this country. They are the same pest which ruined the entire agriculture of Central America and led to the sad and unwished-for conflict in Honduras.

That by itself we could endure. We are resilient, brave, long-suffering people, we Americans. What is necessary, we will do. But alas there are some among us who bear the name ”American" and are traitors, determined to overthrow the legitimate government, freely elected, to make the work of the police impossible, to denigrate and decry the country we love. Some of them adhere to alien creeds, the communism of Marx and Mao; some, detestably, adhere to a creed equally alien yet spawned within our own borders - that of the Trainites, whose leader, thank God, is safely in jail awaiting his just punishment for kidnapping an innocent boy and imprisoning him and infecting him with foul diseases that endangered his life.

We are fighting and enemy already in our midst. He must be recognized by his words as well as his deeds. One of the great cities of our nation today writhes in agony because the water supply, the precious diamond stream that nourishes our lives, has been poisoned. You may say: how can we resist an enemy whose weapon is the very faucet at the sink, the very water-cooler we go to for relief in the factory or the office? And I will say this! It is you, the people of our great land, who must provide the answer!

It is not going to be easy. It is going to be very hard. Our enemies have succeeded in reducing our stocks of food to the point where we must share and share alike. Following my speech, you will be informed of the emergency arrangements we are putting in a hand for equal and fair distribution of the food we have. You will be informed, too, of the plans we have for silencing known traitors and subversives. But the remainder is up to you. You know who the enemy is – you met him at work, you heard him talking treason at a party, you heard about his attendance at a commie-front meeting, you saw the anti-American books in his library, you refused to laugh at his so-called jokes that dragged the name of the United States in the mud, you shut your ears to his anti-American propaganda, you told your kids to keep away from his kids who are being taught to follow in his traitor's footsteps, you saw him at a Trainite demonstration, you know how he lied and slandered the loyal Americans who have built our country up until it is the richest and most powerful nation in history.

My friends, you elected me to lead you into the third century of our country's existence. I know you can be trusted to do what is right. You know who the enemy is. Go get him before he gets you!

(427)  Commenting on the speed of this return to more-or-less normal circumstances in Denver, the President said, quote, It will be a source of dismay to our enemies to see how rapidly we can get the ship upstate back on an even keel. End quote.  Pockets of Trainite and black militant resistance in city centers up and down the nation are collapsing as hunger and cold take their toll, and the illnesses which are everywhere rife. New smallpox warnings have been issued in Little Rock and Charleston, Virginia. Pressure to put Austin Train on trial continues to grow, as the long delay has encouraged his supporters who eluded the mass roundup of subversives to resume their sabotage attacks and propaganda. Jigra [an invasive worm devastating crops] infestation has been reported in Canada and Mexico today. Now the weather. Over much of the West and Midwest acid rain has been falling, the result of atmospheric action on smoke containing sulfur, and…

(442-443)  “Thank you, my sick friends," Austin said as the cameras closed on him.  “Poisoned, diseased, and now about to be starved as well…  No, I'm not joking; I wish I were. And above all, I wasn't joking when I spoke of the people who have put me on trial as being stupid.

"That is the worst thing they have done to you:  damaged your intelligence. And it's small consolation that now they are doing it to themselves.

“Those charges that the intelligence of people in this country is being undermined by pollution are all true – if they weren't, do you think I'd be here, the wrong man, the man who didn't kidnap Hector Bamberley? Who could have been so silly?”

There was laughter. Nervous, drive-away-the-ghosts laughter.

“And because of that"– he drew himself up straight –"At all costs, to me, to anyone, at all costs if the human race is to survive, the forcible exportation of the way of life invented by these stupid men must… be... stopped.”

His voice suddenly rose to a roar.

"The planet Earth can't afford it!”

He's got them, Peg thought. I never believed he'd do it. But he's got them. Christ, that cameraman: he shaking, shaking from head to foot!  In a moment he's going to weep like Petronella did!

“Our way of life," Austin said, resuming a conversational tone.  ”Yes…  You're aware that we're under martial law? It's been claimed that we're at war, and that at Denver we suffered a sneak chemical attack. As a matter of fact, the stuff that caused the Denver Madness is a military psychotomimetic based on the ergot that infects rye, known by the US Army code ‘BW,’ manufactured on an experimental basis at Fort Detrick, Maryland, from 1959 to 1963, stored at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal until the latter year,and then disposed of in steel drums in an abandoned silver mine. Are you interested in hearing what happened to it?"

(445)  “When did you last bask in the sun, friends? When did you last dare to drink from a creek? When did you last risk picking fruit and eating it straight from the tree? What were your doctor's bills last year? Which of you live in cities where you don't wear a filtermask? Which of you spent this year's vacation in the mountains because the sea is fringed with the garbage? Which of you right now is not suffering from a nagging minor complaint - bowel upset, headache, catarrh, or like Mr. Bamberley there” - he pointed - "acute claudication of a major artery? Someone should attend to him please he needs an immediate dose of a good vasodilator.”

(445-446)  "In Europe, as you know, they've killed the Mediterranean, just as we killed the Great Lakes. They're in a fair way to killing the Baltic, with help from the Russians who've already killed the Caspian. Well, this is living organism we call Mother Earth can't stand that treatment for long – her bowels tormented, her arteries clogged, her lungs choked… but what happened inevitably as a result? Such as social upheaval that all thoughts of spreading this – this cancer of ours have had to be forgotten! Yes], there's hope! When starving refugees are besieging frontiers, armies can't be spared to propagate the cancer any further. They have to be called home – like ours!”

Again his voice rose to that pitch that commanded total attention.

"Keep it here! For God's sake if you believe in Him, but in any case for Man’s sake, keep it here! Although it's already too late for us, it may not be too late for the rest of the planet! We owe it to those who come after that there never be another Mekong Desert! There must never be another Oklahoma dustbowl! There must never be another dead sea! I beg you, I plead with you to take a solemn oath: though your children will be twisted, and don't waited, and slow of speech, there will remain somewhere, for long enough, a place where children grow up healthy, bright and sane! Vow it! Swear it! Pledge it for this species we have so nearly – Yes?”

Blinking at the cameraman with tear-wet cheeks, now sniveled, " I'm sorry, Mr. Train, but it's no good!" He tapped the earphones he was wearing. "The president has ordered you to be cut off!”

There was total silence. It was as though Austin were an inflated dummy and someone had just located the valve to let the gas out. He seemed inches shorter as he turned aside, and scarcely anyone heard him a mutter,”Well, I didn try.”

“But you mustn't stop!" Peg heard herself scream, leaping to her feet. "You –“

The wall behind him buckled and the ceiling leaned on his head with the full weight of a concrete beam. Then the roof began to cascade down on everybody in a stream of rubble.

(456)  We can just about restore the balance of the ecology, the biosphere, and so on  - in other words we can live within our means instead of on an unrepayable overdraft, as we’ve been doing for the past half century - if we exterminate the two hundred million most extravagant and wasteful of our species. [The approximate population of USAmerica at the time the book was written was 200,000,000.]

(456-457)  Opening the door to the visiting doctor, also to apologize for the flour on her hands – she had been baking – Mrs. Byrne sniffed.  Smoke! And if she could smell it with her heavy head cold, it must be a tremendous fire!  

"We ought to call the brigade!" She exclaimed. “Is it a hayrick?”

"The brigade would have a long way to go," the doctor told her curtly."It's from America. The wind's blowing that way."

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