Robert Silverberg’s Reflections: August 2015


‘Where Silverberg goes today, the rest of science fiction will follow tomorrow’

Isaac Asimov

Reflections is a regular column by multi-award-winning SFWA Grandmaster Robert Silverberg, in which he will offer his thoughts on science fiction, literature and the world at large.

This month: Reunite Gondwanaland!

I live in the intensely political San Francisco Bay Area, where nearly everyone holds some passionate position about the condition of the world and wants you to know all about it (although around here nearly everybody does know it already, anyway, and probably agrees with you.)

One of the most popular ways of making one’s opinions known is to affix a bumper sticker to the rear bumper (and sometimes the front one, too) of one’s car.  Thus, as I drive around, I am urged by the driver in front of me to FREE TIBET!, something I have no serious way of doing, since it would involve launching a war of liberation against China, and that’s too big a job for a civilian like me.  Inasmuch as the Bay Area is heavily pacifist, too, I don’t know who else in the neighborhood is going to  launch that war, either.  There’s definitely some cognitive dissonance here.  (Wars aren’t favored in my area.  It’s common to see faded stickers demanding NO WAR ON IRAQ, which must go back to 2004 or so, or U.S. OUT OF AFGHANISTAN, and there may be some older model cars on the road whose stickers decry our involvement in the Spanish-American War. And yet – how else are we going to free Tibet?)

Stickers advocating same-sex marriage are common here, too, though that is hardly a live issue in this area any more, and there’s a lot of stuff opposing global warming, another case of cognitive dissonance, since the car to which that sticker is affixed is burning petroleum even as it delivers its little lecture about my car’s carbon footprint.  (My car, by the way, is a politically correct hybrid. But the lecture is aimed in my direction anyway.)

Whether or not I agree with the positions being advertised, these bumper stickers annoy me.  It’s hard enough getting around on our chaotic freeways without having the driver in front of me harangue me on this or that hot-button issue.  Almost everybody here already shares the position being pushed, and the rest aren’t going to be converted by a peremptory demand on the rear end of the car just ahead.  But there’s one bumper sticker that I find utterly charming, and it always gets a smile and a thumb’s-up from me:



You can read the rest of the column here, and find Robert Silverberg’s eBooks here – including Reflections and Refractions, a collection of his non-fiction columns. Please note: each column will remain on the site for one month only.