Thanks to George Orwell, the year 1984 was synonymous with authoritarianism. Then 1984 came about and it was not as bad as had been predicted (though in some cases it was pretty bad). So what's a science fiction writer and/or editor going to do? Push the date up a full century an compile an anthology about the politics of the future, of course.
Martin H. Greenberg was the king of anthologists, having edited (by Wikipedia's count) 1298 anthologies and commissioned more than 8200 original stories, and founded Tekno Books, which has packaged more than 2000 books. Asimov, of course, was...well Asimov. He co-edited 127 anthologies with Greenberg.
Political science fiction was no stranger to Greenberg; his first anthology was Political Science Fiction: An Introductory Reader (1974) -- five of the twenty-seven stories in that first volume also appear in Election Day 2084. Greenberg was also a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin - Green Bay.
Politics has now become a national obsession with the country fractured between the blue and red. After voting this past Tuesday in the Florida Primary (I voted for the good guys,IMHO), and in anticipation of the November mid-term elections, I thought it was a proper time to take this book off the shelves and read it. Turns out, as with most Asimov/Greenberg anthologies, any time is a good time to dip into this book. The seventeen stories are all winners, from the unexpected sentimentality of Arthur C. Clarke, through the sly sarcasm of Ward Moore and the outright dizziness of R. A. Lafferty, to Barry N. Malzberg's sardonic talents.
The stories, with the themes listed taken from the introductory notes to each story:
- "Franchise" by Isaac Asimov (from If, August 1955; suggesting "an alternative way of electing the president of the United States")
- "Death and the Senator" by Arthur C. Clarke (from Analog Science Fiction>Science Fact, May 1961; examining "the ever-important issue of public versus private interests"; the story received an Honorable Mention in the Best Short Fiction category for the 1962 Hugo Awards)
- "Committee of the Whole" by Frank Herbert (from Galaxy Magazine, April 1965: carrying the concept of balance of power to its logical conclusion)
- "Political Machine" by John W. Jakes (from Amazing Stories, March 1961; concerning "one of the nastier side-effects of politics -- the manipulation of people and ideas")
- "The Children of Night" by Frederik Pohl (from Galaxy Magazine, October 1964; about "an 'advance man' in a political campaign of the future")
- "2066: Election Day" by Michael Shaara (from Astounding Science Fiction, December 1956; extrapolates the Platonic idea of "a system in which leadership goes to the best qualified")
- "On the Campaign Trail" by Barry N. Malzberg (from Future Corruption, edited by Roger Elwood ; "one of his best, most bitter, and least known stories")
- "Hail to the Chief" by Randall Garrett (from Analog Science Fact>Science Fiction, February 1962; "What constitutes 'good' government? and Is this the result of having the right structure or the right people?")
- "A Rose by Any Other Name..." by "Christopher Anvil" (Harry C. Crosby) (from Astounding Science Fiction, January 1960; taking "a wry look at the importance of language in international politics")
- "Beyond Doubt" by Robert A. Heinlein (and Elma Wentz); (from Astonishing Stories, April 1941, as by "Lyle Monroe" and Elma Wentz; giving "us a satirical look at one of the great weapons of modern political campaigns -- the political cartoon")
- "Frank Merriwell in the White House" by Ward Moore (from Galaxy, July-August 1973; a perhaps exaggerated [or not] look at "American political culture and the role of 'progress' in our electoral tradition") *
- "Hail to the Chief"** by Sam Sackett (from Future Science Fiction, June 1954; plays "with the idea of a 'captured' president, one who is secretly controlled by forces unknown to the public")
- "Polity and Custom of the Camiroi" by R. A. Lafferty (from Galaxy Magazine, June 1967; speculates on "what kind of society would exist if any three people could form a government?")
- "May the Best Man Win" by Stanley Schmidt (from Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, March 1971; shows how technology and space travel can affect "the age requirement for public office")
- "The Delegate from Guapanga" by Wyman Guin (from Galaxy Magazine, August 1964; "about a political convention of a most unusual sort")
- "The Chameleon" by Larry Eisenberg (from The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, March 1970; focusing "on the role of the media in political life, a subject growing in importance by the day"***)
- "Evidence" by Isaac Asimov (from Astounding Science Fiction, September 1946; a Robot/Susan Calvin story "about an electoral contest and the charges, countercharges, and mudslinging that often accompany this type of competition")
Good stories all, most of which remain relevant in 2018.
* I feel a strong connection with story, having first read it while reporting on a group of Nixon supporters descending on Washington, DC, and just two days before my first (and only) visit to the White House.
** Same title as the Randall Garrett story, but it's not the Garrett story. According to ISFDb, this title has also been used on stories by Lucy Cores, Robert Silverberg, Allen Steele, Ray Bradbury, and Stan Swanson, as well as an essay by Fred Lerner.
*** This introductory note was published 34 years ago, remember.