by Grady L. McMurtry
The craters on the other side of the Moon have become vast, teeming arsenals. On their flame seared firing grounds stand rows of gleaming projectiles poised to blast high into space and then to come rocketing down through the night sky of Earth like a shower of vengeful meteors. Their objective is a point deep in the crust of the planet where the simultaneous fission of their atomic war-heads will cause earthquakes that engulf the subterranean cities of warring nations. Thus vengeance follows retaliation until the very air of our little world has become so radioactive that nothing can live and, as the last strongholds of our boasted civilization crumble into dust, so does Mankind become only a promising memory on the dark scroll of the ages. Wars have always been destructive but never before has the future of our race been threatened. We can meet this menace in two ways; we can fight a war, and die in the atom shattered wrack of an insane world, or we can fight a peace. When we mobilize for war we throw everything we have behind our effort, and no nation can stand against us. Let us mobilize for an aggressive peace and no nation will stand against us.
The weapon of War is Ordnance; the weapon of Peace is Education. We must educate. The film industry is our secret weapon in the arsenal of peace. By means of their productions men of all languages can visualize the effects of an atomic war, and equally they can see the effects of an atomic peace. It must be understood by everyone that atomic fire is a slave as well as a tyrant. Like Alladin holding the power of the Genii in a Lamp, so will the engineer of tomorrow hold the power of the atom in nuclear energy plants.
To explore the possibilities of atomic power for peace let us suppose that one of the major Hollywood companies has released a production, Space Tides, which we are previewing. As the scene opens we find ourselves standing on the flight deck of a great space ship that is driving into the scattered edge of the galaxy. The myriad stars are cold and diamond hard against the black emptiness of space. Streaming out behind us come other speeding ships, sleek greyhounds of the stellar deeps. Our destination: Polarion, last outpost of the Galactic Fleet, to which this expedition is returning with a report on the “weather” conditions in those immense empty reaches between the galaxies. Space ships that travel at the speed of light are subject to the great gravitic storms that roar between the suns as the galaxy slowly wheels across the heavens. Polarion is a city with a crystal dome, one perfect jewel set on the rim of a black, airless rock revolving around a giant red sun. Through its cargo ports pass the merchant argosies of many worlds laden with the commerce of the suns. Here we see the space-tanned mariners of many races stretching their legs as a change from the more confining metal decks of their ships. In air conditioned vaults far below the city giant banks of calculating machines have integrated the meteorological report, and now a solitary cruiser slides out through the air locks and sweeps majestically upwards and out. The pilot caresses the keys of his console control board; the navigator feeds the course data into the sidereal computer; the engineers stand by the atomic pile in the engine room, and, when all is in readiness, the Captain of the ship pushes the little metal stud on a small black box prominently stenciled INFINITY DRIVE. The men at their posts feel a twisting lurch as the ship wavers and then streams out in a vast arc that will intersect the course of the nearby galaxy somewhere in the depths of space.
For our purposes this movie can end right here for it has illustrated the point. The conquest of space must be a common effort. No one nation can raise Mankind to such a peak of achievement by its own genius. We have only this one planet from which we can send our space ships rocketing out to the Moon, to Venus, Mars, Mercury, Neptune, Saturn, Jupiter, and when we have exploited the resources of this planet we must turn elsewhere for our raw materials. We must mine the red deserts of Mars for iron; we must survey the tidelands of Venus for oil; we must colonize the planet-sized moons of Jupiter when the Earth has become too crowded. We can only do this if all nations are united in a common government with sovereignty for none and freedom for all.
As long as we have the projector set up we might as well run off another reel, another visualization of the progress possible under the Pax Atomica. This time our scene of action has rolled back from the rim of the galaxy to the family of stars nearer Earth. Our immediate interest is a group of young colonials inbound from Fomalhaut aboard the Shuttle. For two weeks they will be soaking in the golden sunlight of the blue skies and green hills of the Mother Planet. When Sol himself is a blazing glory against the diamond dust of the Milky Way, the vacationers step into the small escape craft that will ferry them to Earth, for the Shuttle is merely a series of gigantic space barges that has been set in vast, looping orbits between certain of the nearer stars as a convenient schedule for passengers and freight. As they come racing in under the Moon the visitors have time for a quick glimpse of its ancient, pockmarked face before the great, green Earth comes rushing up at them and they find themselves suddenly slicing in through its atmosphere. After circling the plant once they come skimming in for a landing at the base of a mountainous skylon, a gigantic cylinder of a city thrusting its great domed head up into the lower reaches of the stratosphere. Overhead pass streams of traffic as the commuters from the surrounding countryside and the flagships of many nations pass to and from this great center of commerce that men call Nuyork. Some of these skylons are centers of government, other specialize in education, research, and entertainment. All of them are self- sustaining units in the atomic powered economy of Imperial Earth. All of them have been made possible by a combination of electron strengthened metal and gravitic nullification support, the products of atomic science applied to engineering physics.
Peace, as a concept, is entirely negative since it merely implies the cessation of action. The positive approach to Peace is to establish a definite goal, the attainment of which will insure a period of tranquility. Unity was achieved when the United Nations had a common enemy, and was lost when that enemy disappeared. Unity will be regained when the United Nations again have a common goal. This goal must be extra-terrestrial in nature, because as long as we have only this one small world to fight over, we will fight each other. It is perhaps unfortunate that one of the other planets in the solar system is not inhabited, for alien hostility would be a more than adequate incentive to unification. Since this incentive which would assure a world government is not available, an adequate substitute must be found. The conquest of space is the only common goal in which all men can submerge their differences. “To unite a divided nation, invoke an outside power” is one of the oldest axioms of statecraft. Our world is like that divided nation today, and we must have an enemy that is outside our own petty interests before we will unite to conquer. The rewards of this conquest will be twofold, the consignment of the material wealth of the other planets to Earth, and the union of all nations under one flag, that of the United Nations.
Before such a goal can be agreed upon, however, it must be presented to these nations of the world, and the best method of presentation, one that everyone understands, is that of visual representation, i.e., the motion picture. Nor is this contemplated as a gift for sweet charity’s sake. It need hardly be mentioned here that people will pay, and pay well, for the privilege of being educated in this manner if the emphasis is on producing a good picture. As for source material, the subject matter is not even limited by the sometimes stereotyped imaginations of script writers. We can start off with the war films; rocket bombs, submarines, desolated cities, and great clouds of radioactive gases that destroy all life as they swirl and drift across the continents. These should be followed by the films depicting the glories of peace, with giant skylons for commerce and trade, the open countryside for homes and parks, the Lunar bases with great space ships taking off for the far planets, the colonies on worlds that circle the nearer stars, and the outposts on planets halfway across the galaxy. This is the broad, general outline. We must first convince those nations who are politically aggressive that no one can win an atomic war; we must then give them an incentive to unite for an atomic peace.
There is no reason to suppose that any of this will be less lucrative than Hollywood productions usually are. The old formulas that have made money for years are always applicable: the war theme, exploding comets in the deep night sky as space-borne fleets maneuver; the adventure theme, exploring the lost cities of Mars, or building pressure domes under the sea-thick atmosphere of Jupiter; the triangle theme, boy meeting girl on a vacation cruise around the rings of Saturn; the gangster theme, piracy in high space, or smugglers trying to run the Space Guard blockade; and the murder mystery — who left Mr X to fry like a mackerel on the sunward side of Mercury? All of these are merely the old stand-bys transplanted to new backgrounds and therefore capable of much greater variety in presentation. In one respect the only real difference between the old and the new is this new background. The mere visualization of the riches to be had for the taking by those who have the courage to pioneer the way should be a powerful inducement to the conquering of the space barrier. California’s Gold Rush will look like a gathering of the clan compared to the scramble to stake out the uranium mines of Mercury unless we have a unified form of control.
Our purpose must be to bring the glory of the stars into the hearts of men, not to produce a few shoddy pieces of glitter and tinsel. The films that are to sell the idea of world unity through concerted action towards a common goal must be the best that can be produced. Hollywood has the industrial capacity and the film making technique for such an assignment, but whether or not it has the imagination and the moral integrity that is necessary to complete the job remains to be seen.
The nations of the Earth must have an incentive to attain unity. This incentive can be supplied only by a common goal, not some undefinable idea of Peace, and this common goal can be best presented through the medium of motion pictures. Whether from the point of view of making a profit or from the long range concept of Peace for ourselves and our posterity, it is definitely good business for private enterprise to sell the idea of world unity. We must have One World or we will have none.
Note: This particular six page typescript is found amid other essays which date from Grady’s senior year at UC Berkeley on the G.I. Bill, circa 1947 e.v. It was probably written for submission in classes that he was taking, mainly in the Political Science department. … Regarding the ‘Hollywood production’ titled ‘Space Tides’, this is based on a lengthy sci-fiction poem written by Grady. … In a letter to Aleister Crowley dated September 2nd 1943 Grady writes – “… here is a fragment that may give you some idea of what I mean by ‘around the bend’.” Here Grady is referring to an earlier comment that he made in the letter when discussing some of his poetic theory. The poetry fragment begins, “As men marooned, On racing meteors have gazed, With fevered eyes – their brains attuned, To dusky phantoms on the glazed, Backdrops of stars – in dream they see, The sleeting comets crash and burn, And gaunt ribbed worlds flap hopelessly, About a guttered sun.” These verses, although unidentified here, would later be slightly altered and incorporated in a poem titled Space Tides: A Prophecy. All future versions of this poem remain ‘undated’ but we know that it was begun around this period in Grady’s life.